Celebrate America’s Birthday with a bang

Get your red, white and blue on for the holiday

Independence Day is around the corner, so get ready to celebrate in style and spirit. Be a star at your July 4th party with festive food, drink and Americana accoutrement made for entertaining and enjoying your holiday.

Hole-in-won!

You can’t miss with a flag themed bean bag toss game. This stars-and-stripes Americana Edition of the popular corn hole game comes with two 24″ x 35″ boards and red and blue bean bags for two or four players, with a built-in compartment to store the bean bags and Velcro fasteners to keep the boards together for easy storage and carrying. Available at TJMaxx for $79.99.

Spirit wear

Dress in indie spirit with patriotic themed Trucks Surf & Co. swim suit or a R, W & B Life is Good T-shirt ($7.99 – $14.99), available at TJ Maxx. Dress up or dress down with a versatile and comfortable Discovery skort from Royal Robbins ($55), with a zipper pocket, built-in UPF 50+ sun protection, and a wicking quick-dry fabric perfect for outdoor fun, trekking or travel.

 

Music go-round

Keep up the beat wherever you are, with the Yatra Aquatune 5712 ($34.99), a small but booming weatherproof wireless Bluetooth speaker that can jam up to 12 hours on a charge. It’s so compact it can clip on a belt or beach bag so you can bring along the tunes on the go. www.shopyatra.com.

A-la more

What’s more American than apple pie and ice cream? Scoop on the red, white and blue with Turkey Hill All Natural ice cream in pure vanilla bean and new flavors of raspberry chocolate chip and blueberry.  Like all 20 flavors in the All Natural line-up, all flavors are made with only milk, cream, sugar, and natural flavors, and they include no artificial colors and no stabilizers. Available at select grocers and convenience stores wherever Turkey Hill products are sold.

Not your grandma’s camp chair

Rock out while you view the fireworks in a GCI Outdoor FirePit Rocker ($60) that will make you the envy of everyone sitting stiff in their old-school camp chairs. This low-ride spring-loaded rocking camp chair lets you lean back and look up at the fireworks, and for camping it’s the perfect height for an evening around the campfire, with a mesh backrest and padded armrests for cool comfort, and a beverage holder to keep your drink close-by. Available at national sporting good retailers.

Take out the sting

Keep the skeeters and other pests from biting at your picnic or fireworks party with Nobitech insect-repellent performance wear. Their collection of Skintex-treated T-shirts and long-sleeve pullover sand hoodies ($19-$35) are suitable for the sports-minded athlete but also stylish enough for regular folk and can help ward off Zika-carrying mosquitos and Lyme-disease carrying ticks.

Pop star

Break out the Popcornopolis and make your Fourth of July party really pop.  Popcornolpolis chef-designed artisan popcorn one-ups America’s favorite snack food with decadent gluten-free, non-GMO confection varieties like Zebra, drizzled with premium chocolate; Chocolate Stripe carmel corn drizzled with dark and white chocolate; Chocolate Peanut Butter caramel corn; and White Chocolate Macadamia; or try the Popcornolpolis new line of organic popcorn Nearly Naked; Herbed Butter; Three Cheese; Pesto Mozzarella; Avocado Lime; Kettle Corn; Karamel Kiss; and Chocolate Macaroon. Available at Popcornopolis stores, grocery and club stores, sports stadiums, movie theatres and at www.popcornopolis.com.

Mix it up

 

When it’s hot as a firecracker outside, quench your thirst with a sparkling refreshing beverage from Zevia.  The zero-calorie, zero-sugar Zevia drink varieties include flavored bubbly waters, like Cucumber Lemon, Lime and Mandarin Orange. If you want a little punch in your drink, add your favorite spirits to Zevia mixers, perfect for cocktails or mocktails in Dry Lemon Lime

Ginger Beer, and Tonic flavors. If old-school pop is more your style, step up your health game with Zevia’s sodas, naturally sweetened with stevia, exploding with taste in flavors beyond cola including Black Cherry, Grape, Grapefruit Citrus, Lemon Lime Twist, Mountain Zevia, Orange and Strawberry.

 

Come share the wine

Invite friends over and chill out with your Little Black Dress on the table. No, not with a lampshade on your head, but with LBD wines. For a refreshing summer wine, try LBD Pinot Grigio, with aromas of apple, melon and lemongrass before a zesty tangerine finish; or for something a bit more complex, there’s the Pinot Noir, with layers of cherry and clove with soft floral notes, hints of strawberry jam and pomegranate; or everyone’s favorite party wine, the LBD Chardonnay, a crisp and fruit-forward wine with flavors of apple and pear, and creamy accents of vanilla and oak.  Available in wine stores, bars and restaurants and select grocers including Safeway, Wegmans and Harris Teeter.

Sit a little

When America’s poor tired huddled masses come to call on the Fourth, be ready with a little extra seating.  Sit in style with Dar Living Folding Stool, in red, blue and other colors. When your guests leave, the chairs fold up compactly for quick storage, and the built-in handle makes for easy carrying. Get the stools in a four-pack ($35) so all your company has a place to rest their laurels. Available on Amazon and home goods retailers nationwide.

The sweetest bribe ever, with powdered sugar on top

img_4708Just like the old punishments are not working anymore – my son scoffs at time-outs these days – the former perks of points and stickers don’t have the same motivating effect either, so our family has a new reward system. Donuts.

For each A grade, chore completed without asking, extra kind gesture to a family member or friend, it’s a donut of his choice at Dunkin Donuts. Considering my son has a weekly spelling and math quiz, along with random pop quizzes, and a list of weekly tasks around the house, his chances are good to bring home a cool half dozen to share with family and friends each week.

I had tried other bribes, even dollar bills, but when my son says things like, “It only cost a thousand dollars, get it!” the value of money is lost on him. Likewise, the dollar bins at Target have lost their appeal, as there’s only so many bags of marbles, sling shots, rubber balls and harmonicas that a boy wants.

Donuts are a special treat around our home, so this reward is something he is excited about, and since he can share his bounty with friends, he can be king among the neighborhood gang.  The other great thing about donuts is they go quickly, so he needs to earn them again.

Like most kids, half the fun of donuts is choosing them, so he relishes going to the shop to see all the varieties; and very sweetly he selects specific ones for me and his grandmother, since he knows our favorites are eclairs and cream filled varieties.

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Since we have a Dunkin Donuts near our house that we pass every time we go grocery shopping, it’s a constant reminder for him to do well in school and play nice. The other great thing is that local Dunkin Donuts shops are always doing something charitable, so it’s a great learning opportunity to see the displays and talk about giving back to the community.

And of course, Mom doesn’t mind a weekly trip to the donut shop either!

IHOP all you can eat pancakes for kids of all ages

img_4591“I don’t want a huge stack of pancakes,”  said no kid ever. And IHop listened. For kids of all ages, IHOP is holding its much-anticipated annual promotion of all-you-can-eat pancakes, through February 12.

Our family headed out to our neighborhood IHOP to indulge. The promotion features one price for a stack of five of IHOP’s famous original buttermilk pancakes, and then you can order more pancakes to your heart’s content.

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Another option is to order a combo with favorite breakfast sides like sausage, bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns, which come with a two-stack of pancakes, which can be replenished on demand.

The only thing kids love more than a great stack of pancakes in front of them is pouring on flavored syrups, like good old-fashioned maple flavored syrup or more exotic varieties, like blueberry,  strawberry, or butter pecan.

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IHOP has been a family favorite of ours since I was a little kid, and in fact they’ve been doing this for nearly 60 years, so they pretty much have gotten this down pat.

Here’s a fun fact: The IHOP original buttermilk pancakes, which happened to be one of the most popular menu items, selling more than 700 million each year at the chain’s more than 1,700 restaurants across the world.

Here’s an even  more meaningful statistic: since 2005 IHOP as raise more than $24 million for cherries that focus on the well-being of families and children and address critical issues like health and hunger.

So take your family, take your appetite, and hurry to get all you can eat pancakes before the promotion runs out; but  even if you can’t get there before the promotion ends, no worries, IHOP will never run out of pancakes.

Ingredients for quick-fix smoothies for healthy families

When parents or kids need a quick pick-me-up, but there’s no time for cooking a meal,  smoothies to the rescue! Smoothies are quick energy food packed with nutrition, and kids will think they are getting a milkshake that tastes great, and they don’t even have to know how healthy it is for them. for a delicious smoothie treat that isn’t fish sticks or chicken nuggets, try these great ingredients for keeping it fresh, delicious, healthy and energy-packed.

Bring on the protein

When you want to add in some protein to your smoothie, but you don’t want a load of sugar, cholesterol and artificial ingredients like those found in a lot of protein supplements, scoop in in heaping helping of Protein Plus Energy Powder. Made from protein in peanuts, this plant-based protein is great tasting, contains 17 grams of protein per serving, is high in fiber, low in sodium, and cholesterol free. It contains no GMOs or artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners. Protein Energy Power comes in four flavors including original, chocolate, honey and banana, and is available online and at select retail locations including Publix stores and at http://www.proteinplusflour.com. $28.99 for 20 ounces  (including shipping).

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Feeling Juicy

High pressure processing is the best way to preserve the nutrients and flavor of fruits and vegetables when juicing, making cold pressed juices excellent bases for smoothies. Pressed Juicery makes approximately 30 varieties in the categories of greens, roots, citrus, fruits, coffee, refreshers and classics, and with their subscription service you can have fresh bottles delivered to your doorstep, so you can be stocked up anytime you want to blend up a nourishing smoothie chock full of antioxidants, phenolic compounds and loaded with health benefits. Bottles around $6.50 each.  Delivery subscriptions being as low as $160 for 12 juices a month, with free shipping.

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Smoothie in a box

Keep your smoothie recipies and ingredients fresh with a subscription to Green Blender, a Southern California based home delivery service that delivers a box of just-picked fruits, veggies and other ingredients to your door along with recipies.  Each week, you’ll get five new smoothie recipes and all the pre-portioned ingredients you’ll need to make 10 smoothies.  The hand-crafted recipes are designed to provide a balanced menu, packed with flavor and nutrients; and all the produce and superfoods in the kits are sourced from organic and local farms. Subscriptions begin at $3.90 per smoothie, with free shipping.

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Daily dairy

Yogurt gives smoothies their creamy consistency and bulk, but not all yogurts are created equal.  Clover Yogurt uses premium organic fruit and lots of it.  Their yogurt was the first to be American Humane Certified, and contains no synthetic growth hormone rSBT and is USDA Organic Certified and Non-GMO Project Verified. Their Clover Organic Greek Yogurt gives just the right tartness to smoothies and comes in a six flavors – blueberry, strawberry, peach, black cherry, vanilla, and plain, available in a 32-ounce family size ($8.29) great to stock up with to blend up daily smoothies.  Sold in local independent grocers, Whole Foods Market,  and Safeway Inc.

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A dollop of peanut butter is the gold standard ingredient for a protein-packed smoothie, but for extra deliciousness, try a cocoa or hazelnut spread instead. Escape the ordinary with Rigoni di Asiago Nocciolata chocolate hazelnut spread, made with healthy and environmentally responsible cold-pressed sunflower oil. Nocciolata dairy-free, organic hazelnut and cocoa spread does not contain palm oil contained in other popular hazelnut spreads, which is potentially carcinogenic when heated above 200 degrees Celsius. This low-sugar, vegan spread is completely free of GMO’s, preservatives, artificial colors, additives, or artificial sweeteners – just hazelnut, cocoa and cocoa butter, natural vanilla extract, raw sugarcane, and skimmed milk.  Available at grocery stores nationwide, or on Amazon, $6.49 for 9.52-ounce jar.

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Sometimes you feel like a coconut

Coconut water has become the elixir du jour for health aficionados, and now ZICO brand has done coconut water one better, with the infusion of juices, perfect for mixing in smoothies. For a lighter smoothie, blend in ZICO Chilled Orange Juice Blend, Chilled Pineapple Mango Orange Juice Blend, and ZICO Natural Chilled Coconut Water Zico.  These juice blends have nearly half the calories of regular fruit drinks and all the hydration benefits of coconut water, including five naturally occurring electrolytes and is much potassium as a banana. Available in the refrigerator aisle at major grocery stores in select cities. 1.5L carton, $7.99.

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Yes Brainer

Talk about adding a boost, BrainGear memory drink will not just punch up the flavor of your smoothie, but it is formulated to enhance brain performance. The pineapple Mango drink is naturally flavored and contains no GMOs, artificial colors or preservatives and contains only 2 grams of sugar. Add it into your smoothies daily to support memory, mood stability, restful sleep and brain health.  Available at select grocery stores in limited cities, or online at braingear.com, $9.99 for three 4.5 fluid ounce bottles.

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National Taco Day – it’s a thing

I’ve heard many people frustrated with the election chatter saying they are  just going to vote for tacos, well, a month before Election Day, it’s National Taco Day, October 4, so enjoy tacos early and often.

 

Here’s some recipes from the fine olive oil folks at Gaea.

 

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Grilled Chile-Lime Flank Steak Soft Tacos with Charred Pineapple Salsa

Spoon up a juicy, colorful pineapple salsa next to these easy-to-grill soft tacos and you have a delicious dinner with some style and flair.

Chile powder and lime give an inexpensive cut of meat a lot of flavor. Then, when you spoon up a tangy, color pineapple salsa next to these soft tacos, you have a delicious dinner with style and flair. Every part of the meal can be done on the grill, but using a stovetop works just as well.

You can brown the pineapple slabs on the grill or leave the fruit on the grill until one side of the pineapple is truly black, 4 to 5 minutes. Some people prefer the charred look and love how it tastes in the salsa, but taste and see what you like. The pineapple needs a few minutes to cool when you take it off the grill, so you might want to grill the fruit first and use the time while it’s cooling to cut up the remaining vegetables for the salsa. This recipe makes a lot of salsa, but it’s good to have on hand in your fridge for a few days, ready to liven up simple quesadillas.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons of Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Charred Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 small pineapple, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
  • 1 small red onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of Gaea’s Kalamata D.O.P. Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ fresh jalapeño or serrano pepper, scraped of seeds and minced

16 6-inch corn tortillas

For the Steak Marinade:

In a small bowl, mix all spices, salt, pepper, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and blend well to make a paste. Place the meat in a shallow dish and rub the paste evenly over both sides. Cover the steak and let it marinate for 1 to 4 hours.

For the Charred Pineapple Salsa:

When the steak is done marinating, preheat the grill; you’ll cut and grill the pineapple first and then put the steaks on the grill when the salsa is ready.

To cut the pineapple, slice off the leafy top and just enough of the bottom of the fruit so it rests flat on a cutting board. Slice off all the skin with a sharp knife, cutting from top to bottom and taking off as little of the flesh as possible, rotating the pineapple as you go. Discard the skin. Cut out any “eyes” with a paring knife and discard. Slice the fruit away from the core in four or five grill-friendly slabs.

When the grill is hot, place the pineapple slabs on the hot grill and grill quickly until the fruit just begins to show some browning, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. (If you want one side to be truly charred or blackened, let it go for 4 to 5 minutes on one side only.)

Take the fruit off the grill when it’s as browned as you like. Set it aside to cool for a few minutes and then dice the pineapple for the salsa. In a medium bowl, mix the diced charred pineapple, red onion, cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, vinegar, remaining olive oil, salt, and minced hot pepper and blend well.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To cook the steak:

Place the steak on the grill and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes on each side or slightly longer if you like it more well done. Remove the steak from the grill and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. While the grill is hot, place the tortillas on the grill and grill for 10 seconds on each side then wrap in a linen napkin for serving.

Slice the steak into 1/2-inch slices, place on a platter, and spoon over the charred pineapple salsa. Place the tortillas on the table and serve family style.

 

Another donut day, for real

OMD, (Oh My Donut!), it’s another donut day!  Not to be confused with National Donut Day in June, September 14 is National Cream-Filled Donut Day.  Okay, does anyone else have the feeling that the donut people are behind this?

Putting aside the blatant commercialism of the observance driving us to think about and crave donuts, the reality is everyone loves a donut, and so here are some fun products, besides the delicious doughy ones, to celebrate, brought to you by BigMouth Inc., available nationwide at Nordstrom and online at AlwaysFits.com. Forget that most of these products have donuts with holes, versus those that are cream-filled, and that most are for summer activities for this early fall celebration.  Just go with it!

Finish off summer easing down a lazy river on top of a giant strawberry or chocolate frosted donut float. Or play beach volleyball with a giant donut hole beach ball!

The Donut Mug

Mmmm donuts… The cutest little donut shaped mug for any donut coffee lover ever!

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Price: $14.99

Pass The Donut Flying Food

It’s a bird, it’s a plane it’s- A DONUT! This flying food Frisbee is a great asset to any party! Let the food fight commence.

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Price: $10.99

Giant Donut Hole Beach Ball

This donut hole will bring fun to any beach or pool party, because the only thing better than small sweet donut holes are the big ones you can throw at the people you love… or hate.

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Price: $10.99

Gigantic Donut Pool Float

Take a moment and relax on this 4-foot donut. Take a dunk in the pool with this huge strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate frosted delicacy.

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Price: $19.99

 

Inflatable Pool Party Drink Floats

The only way to keep cool during those upcoming hot Summer days is to drink up! Have your drinks float right beside you in the mini donut drink float holders! Great for games and great for hydration!

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Price: $10.99

 

Gigantic Donut Beach Blanket

Lay down on the tastiest looking towel around! This durable lightweight 5ft X 5ft is cozy and comfortable weather it be at the pool or at the beach!

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Price: $43.99

 

Donut Hole Mug

Keep your donut hidden and super cozy with this super convenient mug! Donuts and coffee go together forever and ever.

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Price: $14.99

 

IHOP Teams up with No Kid Hungry for two-month campaign to help millions of children nationwide

A Special $1 Buttermilk Pancake Short Stack Day on August 23 Punctuates Efforts as IHOP and its Franchisees Aim to Serve One Million Pancakes in One Day to Benefit No Kid Hungry

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If your family loves IHOP for breakfast like mine, you will be happy to know that your next meal of short stack pancakes, until September 25, will not only make your own children happy but will help other children across the nation.

IHOP® restaurants and its franchisees proudly announced today that the Family Dining leader has again joined forces with No Kid Hungry in an effort to end childhood hunger in the U.S. The IHOP + No Kid Hungry campaign, which runs August 1 through September 25, invites IHOP guests and fans to join in the fight by donating to the leading non-profit on their check or through www.IHOP.com.

To amplify efforts, on Tuesday, August 23 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., IHOP restaurants will offer* guests a short stack of their world-famous Buttermilk Pancakes for just $1 with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting No Kid Hungry. The brand and its franchisees have set an ambitious goal: serve one million pancakes in just one day to help every child in America get access to the healthy breakfasts they need to start the day.

For close to six decades, IHOP has been the leader in bringing guests a freshly made breakfast served any time of day, every day ― but at least one in every five children across the U.S. struggles to get the food they need to grow and thrive. No Kid Hungry works to connect our future leaders with a healthy breakfast by delivering food to where kids live, learn and play.

“IHOP and our franchisees are passionate about helping build the overall well-being of the children and families in communities everywhere, including addressing the critical issue of hunger in the United States,” said Kirk Thompson, senior vice president, marketing for IHOP and Marketing Advisory Board Member for the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry platform. “Together with No Kid Hungry, we can enable the more than 16 million children across America who struggle with hunger to start each and every day with the strength that comes from eating a good breakfast.”

IHOP restaurants’ efforts will help kick off the Dine Out for No Kid Hungry campaign, which fully launches nationwide in September and unites the restaurant industry around a shared mission of helping end child hunger.

“We’re thrilled to have IHOP back for a second year supporting No Kid Hungry and extending to their guests the mission to end childhood hunger in America,” says Billy Shore, founder and CEO of Share Our Strength. “IHOP’s tremendous goal to serve one million pancakes in one day means that three million more breakfasts will be possible for kids in need. That translates into more kids doing better in class, missing less school, and becoming more likely to graduate high school. That’s a lot of potential in one pancake.”

To learn more about the IHOP + No Kid Hungry campaign and the fight against childhood hunger, including how to donate to the cause, go to participating IHOP restaurants and www.ihop.com starting August 1.