Saturday, December 20, 2014

Beat the Bloat, Trim the Trimmings

Avoid Digestive Dilemmas this Holiday Season - new recipes & holiday post ideas

The holidays can quickly go from “ho, ho, ho” to “ho, ho, oh no!!!” for all of us. This holiday season let’s trim down the trimmings, beat the belly bloat, and avoid digestive dilemmas with healthful, delicious recipes and entertaining tips from Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery and their award-winning product lines: Redwood Hill Farm goat yogurts, kefirs and artisanal cheeses, and Green Valley Organics Lactose Free yogurts, kefirs and sour cream. Redwood Hill Farm and Green Valley Organics make the only kefirs with Flourish - a custom blend of 10 live active probiotic cultures for optimal digestive tract and immune system health. 
  • Creamy Parsnip & Potato Mash with Garlic & Rosemary
    • Who says holiday side dishes can’t be healthy? By adding fiberful parsnips to traditional mashed potatoes your guests will enjoy up to a whopping 10 grams of fiber per serving without missing a beat. A tummy-taming pour of Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Kefir adds creaminess, a delightful tang and beneficial bacteria to boot. For a lactose free option use our Green Valley Organics kefir. Try our tempting add-ons to take this showstopper over the top!
  • Holiday Brunch Egg Strata:
    • Sweet or savory, gluten-free or not, our basic brunch strata recipe satisfies everyone at the table with easy-to-digest Green Valley Organics Plain Kefir and loads of flavor from endless combinations of fruits, veggies, nuts, herbs and spices. Can be prepped the night ahead leaving you more time with your guests.
  • Gluten-Free Lactose Free Holiday Brunch Blintzes
    • If you're hosting a holiday brunch or lunch for a crowd, how about including a festive dish that everyone can enjoy? Here's a delicious solution to your holiday brunch dilemmas
  • Honey Lemon Yogurt Gluten-Free Gingerbread Trifle 
    • Made with Redwood HIll Farm or Green Valley Organics Wildflower Honey Yogurt, this delicious dessert is sure to get your holiday guests buzzing

You'll find healthy holiday entertaining tips from Registered Dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman below. Tamara’s NYC private practice is affiliated with Eric S. Goldstein, MD, a leading internist and gastroenterologist. In addition to her clinical work, Tamara is a gluten free blogger for US NEWS & WORLD REPORT’S new health page eat + run and hosts a popular blog devoted to healthy eating and gluten-free living at
  • Beat the Holiday Belly Bloat: ‘Tis the season for heavy, multi-course meals; too many fatty and sweet desserts; and one too many cocktails spent toasting the holidays. It’s a lot for a tummy to handle all at once, and for the digestively sensitive, it can produce a state of virtually perpetual bloating from November through January. Most attempts to remedy the side effects of too much cheer come after the fact, and may be too little, too late.  This holiday season, why not take a more proactive position in trying to prevent the bloat to begin with? According to Tamara:
    • "You can help keep belly bloat under control this holiday season by adding 1-2 doses daily of cultured, probiotic-rich dairy products to help boost the population of friendly bacteria in your digestive system. The diverse population of bacteria in your gut appear to have a hand in everything from how you metabolize sugar to manufacturing key vitamins."
  • A Host’s Guide to Entertaining the Digestively Diverse: As if the holidays weren’t fraught enough with issues of finding the perfect gift for each person in your circle, holiday menus are now becoming increasingly individualized affairs as well. Gone are the days when all a host had to worry about was having something to offer the lone vegetarian in the crowd.  Now, there are gluten-free diets to consider, lactose-intolerant guests, diabetic relatives and a variety of other dietary restrictions that a thoughtful host needs to consider. But as complex as this all may sound, following a few simple strategies can help streamline holiday menu planning and ensure a festive, delicious holiday meal that everyone around the table can enjoy. Tamara's tip:
    • "Replace all dairy ingredients with lactose-free versions: From the sour cream in your crudités dip to the heavy cream in your pumpkin pie, lactose-free versions are finally available and your dairy-friendly guests won't notice any difference in taste or texture, but your lactose-intolerant and no gluten guests will appreciate being able to partake in the full meal without paying for it later. For recipes that call for cheese, hard aged cheeses like cheddar or Parmesan are virtually lactose-free and shouldn't be a problem for lactose intolerant guests in small quantities."
  • Trimmed Down Trimmings: According to the American Council on Fitness, the average adult consumes 3,000 calories (229g fat) in one Thanksgiving meal. Tamara recommends “you won’t taste the difference” swaps using lactose free, real dairy products. Lactose intolerant? According to Tamara:
    •  "You can swap in plain kefir ounce for ounce in your recipes that call for heavy cream (Green Valley Organics makes the only lactose-free version on the market).  It’ll save you at least 90 calories per slice of pumpkin pie and help lighten up everything from mashed potatoes to eggnog." 
Last but not least, we wanted to share some of the Bice family's favorite holiday recipes - we'd love to send you free product coupons or samples so you can give them a try and share them with your readers and loved ones:
  • Redwood Hill Farm Owner Jennifer Bice's recipe for Old Fashioned Brandied Pumpkin Pie which she makes with either Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Kefir - or her Lactose Free Green Valley Organics Kefir in place of heavy cream
    • One cup of Green Valley Organics Plain Kefir has 90 calories, 2.5 fat grams and 10mg cholesterol compared to one cup of heavy cream with 821 calories, 88 grams of fat and 325mg of cholesterol. Go Kefir!
  • Sharon Bice's Lemon Kefir Cookies recipe - perfect to leave out for Santa with a cold glass of goat milk kefir! Here are 4 reasons to go goat from RD Tamara Duker Freuman:
    1. Goat’s milk is naturally lower in lactose than cow’s milk, making it easier to digest for people who are mildly lactose intolerant.  In addition to its lower lactose content, goat’s milk is also widely regarded as being more easily digested than cow’s milk for other reasons. Scientists are still trying to figure out why this seems to be the case; some research points to a possible role of anti-inflammatory carbohydrates called oligosaccharides that are present in goat’s milk dairy, or to differences in the protein and fat structures.
    2. Goat’s milk contains more of the amino acid tryptophan than cow’s milk, making it a great bedtime snack. Tryptophan is the precursor for serotonin, the neurotransmitter produced by our brain that trigger feelings of calm and sleepiness. Instead of a glass of warm cow’s milk before bed, why not try out a glass of Redwood Hill Farm goat milk kefir?
    3. Goat’s milk dairy is as good of a source of calcium—if not better—than cow’s milk dairy. Not only is dietary calcium important to protect bone mineral density as we age, but it seems to have a preventive effect against colon cancer.
    4. Unlike other calcium rich foods, goat’s milk actually seems to enhance iron absorption!  This may make goat’s milk dairy a good swap for cow’s milk dairy among people who suffer from chronically low iron levels or anemia.
  • Pumpkin (or Butternut Squash) Soup With Kefir
    • Delicious and creamy made with one quart of Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Plain Kefir (360 calories and 10 fat grams vs. 3,284 calories and 88 grams of fat in one quart of heavy cream)
  • Red Onion and Russet Potato Latkes with Cinnamon Apple Sour Cream - as well as its savory alternative with lemon dill sour cream, thin slices of smoked salmon and a dollop of caviar. Serve left over (or make extra) Cinnamon Apple Sour Cream on pancakes, French toast, poached pears; rolled in crepes with sautéed apples; or mixed with fruit and granola. Make delicious Latke Benedicts for breakfast or use any leftover latkes as a gluten-free alternative to flour tortillas in Mexican dishes as a different way to enjoy this traditional treat for Hanukah that's moving into the mainstream.
  • Green Valley Organics Eggnog offers a lactose free variation on the classic recipe made with creamy lactose free kefir. Safe to drink because the eggs are cooked and lower in fat with more health boosting probiotics than traditional eggnogs.
  • Carmelized Onion and Sherried Mushroom Dip made with Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Sour Cream is an elegant and earthy holiday classic. Serve with an assortment of crackers, crudités, breadsticks, crostini and chips for dipping or, for a one-bite, ‘wow’ appetizer.
  • Balsamic Strawberry  Preserve and Creamy Yogurt Cheese Crostini is a classic pairing of tangy meets sweet and creamy meets crisp. Or use fresh or frozen peaches simmered with apricots, figs, honey, cinnamon and walnuts. For a savory herbed spread add fresh garlic and a mixture  of chopped rosemary, thyme, basil and lemon zest. The balsamic strawberry preserve also adds festive flair to a holiday pork loin roast and makes a great glaze for ham.

Sangria Day--Gateway to Holiday Festivities!

December 20th is Sangria Day and the gateway to holiday festivities!  Kick off the season with some delicious holiday punch ideas that make entertaining a snap.  Whether you’re looking for just the right recipe for the office holiday party, fun with friends, or family night before the big day, we’ve got what you need:

DiamanteWhite Sangria
Christmas 3.jpgUSA Diamante Blanco Semi Sweet.jpgIngredients:
1 chilled bottle of Bodegas Franco Españolas Diamante Rioja White Wine
2oz Brandy
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 Sliced apples
2 slides peaches
1 sliced orange

Add sugar to brandy and stir to dissolve. Add in fruit and Diamante.  Refrigerate and let sit for 2 hours to meld flavors. Serve over ice and top with a splash of seltzer.

Royal Red Sangria
Christmas 5.jpgIngredients:
2 bottles of Bodagas Franco Españolas Royal Red Rioja
2 cups of Orange Juice
3oz Triple Sec
4oz Brandy
1/4 Cup Sugar
Tsp Ground Nutmeg
3 Cinnamon Sticks
2 sliced Oranges
1 Lemon Sliced
1 Lime Sliced
3 Green Apples thinly Sliced

Combine the Triple Sec, Brandy, Franco Españolas Royal Red wine and sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add orange juice, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and sliced fruit.  Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.  Serve over ice

1-2-3 Prosecco Punch
For holiday entertaining, Carpene Malvolti Prosecco DOCG is the perfect ingredient for countless cocktails. Mix two 750 ml bottles of Carpene Malvolti Prosecco with three 16-oz bottles of: cranberry juice, orange juice, and apple cider. Garnish with cranberries for a Prosecco punch as easy as 1-2-3. (Makes twelve 8-oz cups).
Recipe created by Jonathan Pogash, the Cocktail Guru

P3 Punch (Prosecco, Peach, Pomegranate)
Christmas 6.jpgServes 10 to 15 ppl:
2 Magnum bottles Angelini Estate, Carpene Malvolti Prosecco DOCG
2 cups Spiced Rum
1/4 cup lemon juice
Wash and slice 1lb peaches / 3 cups
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
4 cinnamon sticks
Place all ingredients except rum and Prosecco in a sauce pan. Over low heat stir until sugar is dissolved and peaches become soft.

Place in a plastic or glass container and refrigerate overnight.
In a punch bowl place a large block of ice (I like to put the punch bowl 1/4 filled with water in my freezer overnight)

Take your punch bowl out and let sit till you can remove the ice block.

Add your refrigerated apple peach/lemon pomegranate mixture.
Add rum and stir
and two Magnums of Carpene Malvolti Prosecco

Replace your block of ice to keep cool.  (The larger the block, the less time it will melt thus not watering down the punch.
Recipe created by Anthony DeSerio, Professional Bartender/Mixologist and USBGCT Secretary 

Highland Smoked Punch

2 parts Ardbeg 10 year old single malt scotch whisky
1 1/2 part apple cider
1/4 part maple syrup
1/2 part fresh lemon juice
dash pumpkin pie spice (1 tsp. for every 3 cups of punch)
Carpene Malvolti Prosecco DOCG

Add ingredients to a punch bowl with ice and stir to dilute and chill.  Ladle out into glass with ice and top w/ prosecco and pie spice.
Garnish: fresh apples and lemons
Recipe create by Jonathan Pogash, The Cocktail Guru

Christmas 1.jpgCranberry-Pear Royale
1 oz. pear nectar
8 cranberries (frozen or fresh)
1 tsp. maple syrup
splash of fresh lemon juice
3 oz. Carpene Malvolti Prosecco DOCG

Muddle the cranberries in the maple syrup and lemon juice.  Add pear nectar and prosecco and stir briefly.  Strain into chilled champagne flute.
Garnish: floating cranberries and pear slice on rim of glass

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tips for Beating the Bulge this Christmas

Ho! Ho! Ho! The holidays are here. Happiness and Joy aside, this season brings a little extra bulge to many a belly. Luckily, LIVESTRONG.COM  has easy tips from our Nutrition Advisor, Alyse Levine M.S., R.D, for staying trim this winter.

While Attending Holiday Parties..
•           Go for what you really want and skip what doesn't look amazing! Eat mindfully, slowly and away from the table of food - this will help you to really TASTE the food and fully enjoy it

When Hosting Your Own…
•           Give all your guests a goodie bag to take home with them of leftover foods from the dinner so you are not left with 1/2 a pie, a dozen brownies, cookies and stuffing to finish off yourself

While Lounging at Home…
•         Make sure to focus on your self-care: getting enough sleep, having down-time to recharge your battery, engaging in regular physical activity - this will help to prevent you from reaching for food for non-physical hunger reasons

When Preparing for Parties
•         Portion out a healthy snack to eat one hour before you leave; this will help prevent you from eating every crabcake in sight

When Cooking…
•         Drink water and chew gum to avoid snacking, which can add up to hundreds of extra calories you aren’t able to truly enjoy

When It’s Time for Dessert…
•         Steer clear of treats and sweets made with artificial food dyes

Visit LIVESTRONG.COM for more great fitness and nutrition tips to keep you healthy all year round.

Holiday Recovery Recipes - Drink up!

The holiday season can be a particularly stressful and exhausting time of year.  Work becomes demanding with end of year reports and projects, weekends become packed with family get-togethers, and shopping for the perfect gift can leave anyone exhausted! Holiday parties at the workplace are often held on weeknights and then you are expected to come in bright and early the next morning looking your best (the nerve!) And even if a party is held on a Friday or Saturday you might not have the option to “recover” by sleeping it off – life goes on, even after a fun party!

For an energy boost that will keep you going longer than a breakfast of coffee and leftover apple pie, Omega Juicers has put together two recipes to help fight the common signs of a rough night - specifically fatigue! Juicing after a long night allows the body to take in an abundance of valuable vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that the body needs to recover.  Omega’s “Green Goddess,” below, will offer natural energy, oxygenating the blood and creating increased brain function and physical energy. Additionally, Omega Juicers have been fueling pro athletes during training and competition since 1985, with one of the most popular recipes featuring the lesser-used beet! The nitrates in Omega’s “On Your Beet” have proven to boost endurance and hydration, keeping you energized and productive.

Green Goodness

  • ½ cup of broccoli
  • 1 green apple
  • ½ cup of spinach
  • 1 leaf Kale
  • 1 kiwi
  • ½ inch of fresh ginger
  • ½ lemon (peeled with most of the white rind still on)

Juice together in the order given with an Omega Juicer. Stir the juice to mix the flavors and pour over ice. Enjoy!

*For this recipe, Omega recommends using a masticating style juicer like their Vert VRT330 HD or Vert VRT350 Low Speed Juicing System to give you the highest degree of extraction and the healthiest possible juice.

On Your Beet

  • 1 small beetroot (the small ones are sweeter!)
  • 2-3 medium sized carrots
  • 1 stalk of celery

Juice together in the order given with an Omega Juicer. Stir the juice to mix the flavors and pour over ice. Enjoy!

A Last Minute Gift to Get Students

Give the Gift of Better Term Papers (And Maybe Even Better Grades) This Holiday Season

Are you still wondering what to get for the college student in your life? Children often grumble at educational gifts the way they would at receiving socks for Christmas, but college students welcome any gift that saves them time and money at school. Getting them a subscription to Questia (, the premier online research tool for students, will help them write better research papers, faster. Plus, gifting a subscription couldn’t be any easier. Sign students up online, and they’ll receive their subscription and access to Questia all online—no delivery required!

Questia provides 24/7 access to the world's largest online collection of over 77,000 books and 4 million articles that are hand-selected by librarians. Members can search and read every word in the collection plus use exclusive tools that create footnotes and bibliographies as well as organize research, all for just $99.95 for a yearly subscription. Looking to spend a little less? Quarterly subscriptions are also available for $44.95 or monthly ones for just $19.95. Students can even access information on-the-go using the Questia app right from their iPhone or iPod touch. The best part is that you can avoid long lines and large crowds and purchase it right from the comfort of your home, just in time for the holiday and back-to-school seasons


About Cengage Learning and Questia
Cengage Learning is a leading provider of innovative teaching, learning and research solutions for the academic, professional and library markets worldwide. Questia, part of Cengage Learning, is an online library that provides instant access to the world’s largest online collection of books, magazines, journal and newspaper articles with a focus in the humanities and social sciences.  For more information, visit or

Thursday, December 18, 2014

8 Toddler Pitfalls to Avoid on Christmas Morning

Regardless of your nostalgic, Christmas-morning-frenzy memories, you'll quickly learn that a no-holds-barred approach doesn't go over well with your toddler -- especially on the most anticipated morning of the year. Don't wing it Christmas morning. Get a game plan together now so that your entire family can enjoy the holidays without going into meltdown mode.
1. Decide on a number of sweet treats allowed.
With the font of sucrose flowing throughout the holidays, be a sugar-monitor fiend and make sure other house visitors know your rules. If you have a struggle with, ahem, I-want-to-be-the-favorite grandmothers, get it out in the open first rather than commencing a power struggle on Christmas. According to the American Heart Association, children should limit their intake to about 4 teaspoons of added sugar each day.

2. Get to bed early the night before.
While establishing family traditions for Christmas takes precedence over toddler routine, make your plans reasonable for the younger crowd. Try to wrap up Christmas Eve activities early and give plenty of down time before going to sleep. Junior needs good rest to enjoy the following morning. He won't get it if he stays up until 10:00 with out-of-town visitors.

3. Limit gift opening to a small number.
Three is good. This will be the hardest part of your holiday experience. Regardless of your convictions, the gift-giving fever kicks in at Toys 'R Us and you go crazy buying, wrapping--and still more buying--several days ahead of Christmas. Even this late in the season you can nab holiday coupons from sites like for one or two special gifts -- open them earlier in the week rather than all at once on Christmas morning.

4. Wrap up the morning with quiet time and a nap.
After opening a few presents and enjoying time with visiting family, give your toddler plenty of time to decompress alone in a quiet space. Review the fun times of the morning with her and read a special book to help calm her down. Be on the lookout for overstimulation -- nasty meltdowns, hyperactivity, and avoiding eye contact should be a red flag to flee the scene and recover.

5. Plan a Christmas morning activity.
In the throngs of gift-wrap thrashing, laughing and emotion, kids with a typically predictable routine can become stressed out by the absence of normal. If your toddler is particularly sensitive to big events, make sure you have a small, soothing activity planned -- like watercolor Christmas trees or lacing boards of holiday characters -- to keep your little one anchored.

6. Space out opening gifts throughout the morning.
You'll probably feel enormous pressure for your kid to open every gift, respond with enthusiasm and then give a huge, grateful "thank you" to the recipient. It just won't happen if you rush through the gift opening. Some moms, like Mae at What To Expect, prefer to open one gift every other day for the week leading up to Christmas--a godsend when winter storms hit and the family is stuck indoors. Bare in mind that your preschooler will enjoy his offerings much more if he has time in between opening to play with the goodies.

7. Construct all disassembled toys the night before.
Most parents learn this the hard way after their first Christmas with kids. Kids don't want to open up a box, especially the preschool crowd. They will either get frustrated while you sweat over a screwdriver and instructions written in Mandarin or lose complete interest. Skip the $5.99 for wrapping paper and tie a simple bow on your ready-to-play toys. Start putting them together now so you aren't up past midnight, bleary eyed with a wrench, on Christmas Eve.

8. Don't barrage your kids with posed pictures.
Get candid with these fantastic tips from Photography Blog! A surefire way to send your toddler into defiance is demanding he smile in a picture with his hand-knitted sweater. Even though Aunt Jean may get a little ticked off that she can't see Junior with her woven creation Christmas morning, it's not worth the struggle. Opt instead for unposed, spontaneous smiles.

Photo by Joe Green

Ashley Grimaldo comes from a long line of penny pinchers and enjoys blogging on money-saving tips and advice for frugal-minded parents. She lives with her husband and three children in Bryan, Texas. Ashley has been featured among such media outlets as Redbook, The Chicago Tribune,, and CBS News-Houston.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top workout tips for your busy holiday schedule!!!

The Holidays here with New Years closely behind, they are a time of joy and happiness. However, it is during this time that most people tend to forget about their workouts and do not have time to go to the gym.  Here are three easy tips that anyone can do anywhere and stay fit. It is a great cardio workout, and if done properly, it will keep you looking great during your busy holiday schedule!

Holiday Belly Dancing Tips:

Shimmy shoulders: Place your hand on the table while you are sitting down on onto a door or walk to start shimmy shoulders, make sure you bend your elbows. Bring your right shoulder forward, back to place bring your left shoulder forward and back to place. And slowly speed up the shimmy.  Bring your shoulders forward one at a time. Do not move your lower body (I suggest sitting down if your hips moves or holding a solid object). This move come to some people simply easy and to some can be more challenging. The idea is to RELAX your shoulders.

Shimmy Hips: Stand up with your feet about 8 inches or less apart. Toes directed straight forward.  Tummy tucked in and your torso lifted up.  Bend your knees slightly. And shift your hip side to side Right. Left. Right. Left. And slowly shift faster and faster until your reach shimmy. Have fun. Start each move slowly and try to FEEL your hip stretching your Glutes get tight and relax. Get in touch with your body.

Abs: Stand straight, tuck in your tummy and relax your shoulders. Lift your chest up and down and repeat.  Make sure you are only lifting your chest- do not lift your shoulders or elbows or move your lower body. Lift your chest up and hold and drop again repeatedly. You can also make it more challenging by lifting your chest to the upper left and upper right in a “V” shape.

7 Wacky Ways to Ring in the New Year PLUS A Very Merry Party Manual!

Tired of the Times Square scene at New Year’s? Country Living checked out these US towns, where they drop something a little more unique at midnight than a crystal ball:

                -Mobile, Alabama:  A model MoonPie lit up by 1,200 LED bulbs
                -Vincennes, Indiana: 12 locally grown watermelons
                -Plymouth, Wisconsin: An 80-pound cheese wedge made of Styrofoam
                -Raleigh, North Carolina: A 1,250-pound copper-and-steel acorn
                -Pensacola, Florida: A 13-foot-tall aluminum pelican with 2,000 feathers
                -Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: A sheet-metal crescent wrench fit for a giant
                -Honolulu, Hawaii: A replica of a Smooth Cayenne pineapple, the state’s most
                                                  popular type


If you’re throwing a holiday bash of your own this season, you’re definitely going to want to check out Country Living’s Very Merry Party Manual! We’ve got top entertaining experts who share their brilliant decorating tricks, budget-friendly sources, go-to recipes, and more. From invitations to the perfect playlist, there’s advice everyone can use. Check it out, and then share your own holiday entertaining secrets.

How to set the scene:

“Wrap small bouquets in plain paper and group them in galvanized buckets, where they’ll serve as rustic decor and gifts for your guests.” –David Stark, event planner

“Select one affordable material and run with it. Right now I’m obsessed with burlap, using it to create wreaths and stitch up table runners.” –Libbie Summers, author of The Whole Hog Cookbook

“Rather than spend big on a fancy centerpiece, arrange inexpensive herbs like rosemary and mint in silver mint-julep cups, then line them down the center of a table.” –Lulu Powers, event planner

“Scatter tea lights everywhere to make an entire room glow. They don’t cost much but look magical.”  –Joanna Goddard, lifestyle blogger;

“At my New Year’s Day brunch, I fill vases with gorgeous bunches of collard greens!” –Virginia Willis, author of the cookbook Basic to Brilliant, Y’all

Start here for the perfect playlist:

Enter a single song into and you’ll be granted an endless party soundtrack. Our pros suggest beginning with these offbeat tunes.

John Denver and the Muppets, “Deck the Halls” –Mary Giuliani, event planner

Johnny Cash, “It Came upon a Midnight Clear” –David Guas, chef at Bayou Bakery in Arlington, VA
Bing Crosby, “Happy Holidays” (Beef Wellington remix) –Eddie Ross, style blogger;

Essential Party Props:

“ sells beautiful, inexpensive trays, lanterns, and dishes like gold-leafed bowls, terrific for holding candy.” –Lulu Powers (

“I stash a Votivo Red Currant candle in my powder room. Why? It looks pretty and smells divine!” –Tricia Foley, interior designer (

“Super-cheap wine glasses are more elegant, and eco-friendly, than disposable ones.” –Tricia Foley ( for stores)

“Prevent guests from having to dig through a mountain of coats by investing in a metal folding garment rack.” –Ted Allen, host of Food Network’s Chopped (

Always be prepared:

“If you’re able to fit it in your budget, pay for a cleaning service to come a few days before the party. That may sound extravagant, but it’s money well spent.” –Virginia Willis

“Clear any little accessories from your side tables, so guests have plenty of surface area to set down drinks.” –Libbie Summers

“Simplify your buffet prep by sticking Post-it notes on empty platters and bowls, indicating which finished dish goes where.” –David Stark

A relaxed (yet refined) approach to appetizers and drinks:

“Three words: pigs in blankets. The ones from Trader Joe’s [] are inexpensive and a surefire smash hit. I serve them on white trays next to ramekins filled with Dijon mustard.” –Joanna Goddard

“Vintage cookbooks can be fantastic resources for old-timey drinks, like the Apricot Nip, Raspberry Shrub, Currant Fizz, or Chocolate Highball.” –Serena Thompson, CL contributing editor and author of The Farm Chicks Christmas

“I go to so many parties where there’s no beer- and I’m a beer guy. Remember to stock up for folks like me!” –Marc Murphy, chef at Landmarc in New York City

“To whip up a quick dip: Defrost frozen spinach in a casserole dish, top with shredded Parmesan, and bake at 350 degrees until the top is golden brown.” –Mary Giuliani

“You can’t beat a country ham surrounded by a mountain of biscuits. And if you don’t want to make the biscuits yourself, just buy them from a local bakery.” –Virginia Willis

Drink in the Holiday Spirit with Specialty Cocktails to Match Your Favorite Christmas Tunes

The holiday season is in full swing and radio stations all over the country have changed their tune.  

Arguably the best part of the three-month long season is its music, and we’ve got some rockin’ cocktails inspired by the popular songs DJs will be playing to get listeners in the holiday spirit!

Below are some seasonal cocktails to match with your favorite jam in true holiday spirit! 

            You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft
LUCID_GREENLANTERN_LR_WhiteIt’s December and you’re not feeling the holiday spirit yet. Mr. Grinch would be proud. Make this simple cocktail that features Lucid Absinthe and maybe your tune will change.

1 oz. LUCID® Absinthe
1 1/2 oz. Midori® Melon Liqueur
Splash of ginger ale
2-3 lime wedges
                                    1 lime

In a rocks glass, muddle 2 lime wedges. Add ice, Midori Melon Liqueur and Lucid Absinthe. Shake vigorously and return to rocks glass. Add ginger ale and garnish with a lime spiral.

Spiced Rum Toddy 2Feliz Navidad by Jose Feliciano
Get a little Latin flair going while trimming the tree and rock out with Flor de Caña® Rum’s hot spiced toddy.

3 oz boiling water
1.5 oz. Home-Spiced Flor de Caña® (spice recommendation: vanilla bean, nutmeg, cinnamon)
0.5 oz. teaspoon of butter
1 cinnamon stick
Fresh nutmeg for garnish
Instructions: In an Irish coffee mug, add boiling water, rum, and top with a small slice of butter. Stir with cinnamon stick and garnish with fresh nutmeg.

To make your own home-spiced, Flor de Caña rum:Take 2 oz. Flor de Caña and pour into a mason jar.
Add your favorite spices.
Cover and let sit for 24 hours.
Taste the rum daily and adjust accordingly.

Let it Snow by Dean Martin
In keeping with the holiday spirit, with a nod to a snowy Russian Christmas, toast with your friends and family with the Russian Court, featuring Russia’s number one premium vodka and some delicious sparkling wine.

 1 ounce Russian Standard Vodka
½ ounce Acacia Honey
4 ounces Chilled Prossecco
dash of Reagan’s Orange bitters
1 Orange twist, for garnish
Directions: Pour honey and vodka into a mixing glass and stir until honey has dissolved. Then pour into a champagne flute and carefully top off with Prossecco. Finish with a dash of orange bitters and garnish with an orange twist.

0U7G3749-viAll I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey
Inspire your inner diva: play this all-time favorite holiday song by Mariah Carey while offering your beau a Xanté Hot Apple cocktail.  

1.5 parts Xanté
3 Parts freshly pressed apple juice or apple cider
A cinnamon stick
Heat the freshly pressed apple juice together with the cinnamon stick. Add Xanté before serving.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town by Bruce Springstein & Bon Jovi
The German Black Tower Dornfelder Pinot Noir wine reminds us to be thankful for good ol’ Kris Kringle, the original Santa. Enjoy the deliciously smooth, velvety taste of this easy-drinking wine while making your gift wish list.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Frugal Gift Wrapping Tips

10 helpful hints to wrap your holiday gifts frugally and creatively

Use scraps of fabric to wrap presents: Apply puffy fabric paint to give the present a rich three dimensional look!
Paper bags or craft paper can be jazzed up as great gift wrap:  First wrap the gift and then decorate. This is a great way to decorate grandparents' gifts. Have your children place their hands in washable paint and decorate the package with their hand prints. *Helpful Hint*  Instead of wrapping paper, recycle brown paper bags, when you wrap the present use double stick tape and work the extra seams into the pattern.

Make a mosaic of wrapping paper.
Embellish the seams of the wrapping paper with ribbon, beads, or colored duct tape.

Use the Bowdabra to make beautiful affordable bows! For an additional frugal element, you can even repurpose scraps of different ribbon to create a unique bow.

Embellish the gift tags with buttons, candy, scraps of ribbon, or glitter.

During the holidays inexpensive vinyl tablecloths are very easy to find. Place your large gift in the center of the tablecloth and wrap the way you would a normal sized present. This is great gift wrapping option for children and young adults and is a gift in itself for those receiving the presents.

Purchase holiday wrapping paper and ribbon after the holidays when it is discounted. Store the wrapping paper in a cool, dry space for the following year.

Try using glue dots or colored duct tape.

Decorate with rope, colored duct tape, ribbon, or silk flowers. Not only is this a great gift wrap, it's a wonderful keepsake box!

"Gift wrapping does not have to be an expensive tedious process," Sandler says. "A little imagination and love is all that is needed."

Sandy Sandler, founder of non-profit Crafters 4 Kids ( and creator of the best-selling Bowdabra (, is seeing frugal, green and time saving tricks as holiday trends.

Activities for the Kiddie Table

10 ideas for getting kids to sit still and eat their dinner at the holiday table.

It might be Hanukkah dinner at the in-laws or Christmas at your sister's. No matter the holiday or the location, one thing is for sure: Neither the homemade cranberry sauce nor the bronzed and buttered turkey will keep the kids in their seats. So much for a family holiday!
But with a little creative planning you can keep the children entertained and hanging around the grown-ups for a wonderful intergenerational celebration. Who better to come to the rescue than the creative, playful, quick-thinking nannies and babysitters of We used the Facebook page to find great ideas for keeping kids engaged and behaved at the kiddie table. 

Here's what they said: 

1. Put on paper faces. Make a paper plate Santa (elf, turkey or silly face). Give each child a paper plate, cotton balls, washable glue and washable paint or markers. They can even try and make portraits or masks of family members at the table then use them to put on a play. 
- Stephanie H.

2. Sculpt the night away.
Stock the table with Play Doh and cookie cutters. If the kids are little -- and tend to eat dough instead of dinner -- make an organic version (recipe below). Provide cookie cutters and give kids the challenge of making holiday themed shapes and characters. The recipe: 1 cup water with food coloring added if you want, 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup of salt, 2 tsp cream of tarter, 1 Tbl. oil. Cook on the stove in a large pot till it forms a play dough consistency. For a no-cook, table side preparation, leave out the cream of tarter and oil.
- Kimberly V.

3. Construction zone.
Two words: Gingerbread house. Get a kit or just use graham crackers and marshmallow fluff and let the little ones build a yummy structure. Then create a game: Take a bite of food, add a piece of candy to the house. And repeat
- Melinda W.

4. Let them shine.
Use colored felt and cut out a variety of shapes that kids can decorate with sparkle glue. Instant ornaments!
- Miranda G., Houston, TX

5. Reusable table cloth.
Cover the table with long sheets of craft or butcher paper. Put cups of markers, glitter pens and crayons on the tables. And let them get to work on a masterpiece. Bonus: The end result can double as homemade holiday gift wrap.
- Michelle B.

6. Set the table.
Provide each child with green circular felt (or paper) "placemats." Place colored tissue paper, glue sticks and other crafty décor on the table. After the kids eat, they can lift up their plates and make their own holiday wreaths.
- Katherine M.

7. Serve more bird.
Turkey is the highlight of many holiday tables. Ask the children to trace their hand with the crayon on a piece of paper and use varied materials to decorate their personal gobbler. Think feathers, pompom, plastic gems, stickers.
- Katherine M.

8. Let it snow.
You can never count on the weather forecast so let the kids help make it a holiday winter wonderland with paper snowflakes. Older kids can use scissors to cut into a folded piece of white paper that when opened is a unique flake. Younger kids can add the glitter and extra flair.
- Elly S.

9. Feed the "animals." Good eaters get to feed the reindeers. Prepare Tuperware full of oats, chocolate chips, sprinkles and glitter. Then full belly gets a plastic sandwich bag to fill with their own Reindeer Trail Mix concoction. Once everyone is done with dinner, the kids can lead the way outside and dust the ground for Rudolph and his pals to eat up. And with each turn, a child gets to make a holiday wish.
- Cassandra H.

10. Tasty tactic.
For kids who have made it through the meal, they get to participate in a "decorate your own cupcake" dessert. Give each child a plain frosted cupcake. Then deliver a tray of clear cups filled with sprinkles, M&Ms, gummy bears, crushed Oreos, etc. and let them go crazy with the decorations before enjoying the sweet ending to a peaceful meal.
- Margo B.

by: Alonna Friedman, Contributor 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dinner Diva: Creative ways to get more veggies into your kids

It's easy to get kids to eat fruit. Fruit is sweet and it comes in pretty colors. Getting kids to eat vegetables, though? Well that's a whole other story.

If your children are good little veggie eaters, there's a good chance you've exposed them to veggies from a young age so that they recognize them as part of the regular routine. If they balk at veggies the first, second and even the third time, do not give up! Research tells us that it can take six or seven times of trying to get your child to eat a vegetable before they finally will.

You will eventually wear them down so do not give in!

Don't be a tyrant, but keep the upper hand. You are the parent and YOU control what goes on your child's plate. Not your child.

I don't believe in hiding veggies in order to get them into our kids but it is a good secondary strategy. We should be teaching our children about the importance of vegetables from the time they're old enough to listen to us, but while you're training their palate to eat more of them, you do still have to keep them coming.

Puree vegetables into spaghetti sauce and soups. Put pumpkin puree in your beef stew. Grate beets into black bean and beef burritos. Keep veggies "omnipresent" with every meal whether they're seen or not and that's going to be a great strategy to get the kids to a place where they will finally eat them on their own without begging, coercion or bribery.

It also helps if they see you eat and enjoy your vegetables. You can't very well sit and choke down a plate of broccoli and expect your kids to then wolf theirs down!

If you're a little late trying to get your kids on the veggie bandwagon, you may have a tough road ahead, but don't give up! Food is medicine, I firmly believe that.

Let's look at a few more creative ways you can get more vegetables into your kids.

Make it fun. Serve snacks like ants on a log. Spread peanut butter or sunflower butter on a piece of washed, organic celery, and place raisins (ants) walking down the log. Place an assortment of sliced veggies in different shapes on a plate and encourage your children to make art out of their food. Who can make a funny face out of their veggies? Extra points for eating your own creation!

Offer veggies when kids are hungry. Sounds obvious, but kids will eat what they're offered when they're hungry. If you put out a bowl of chips, of course the kids will eat them. But if you put out a plate of veggies and celery sticks to snack on, they'll eat them too, if that's their only option!

Involve them. When you make a salad, instead of bringing it to the table in a big bowl, present your children with veggies in separate bowls and let the kids choose which they want.

Introduce new vegetables in foods they already love. If your kids love soup, make a big pot and add a new vegetable in there. If your kids go ape for pasta, add some broccoli to your next batch. If meatloaf is something everyone in your house loves, grate some veggies into it. Put pumpkin in your pancake batter. Yes, this sounds like hiding veggies, but there's nothing wrong with adding nutrients to dishes your kids already love. Just be sure and tell them while they're gobbling it up what's in there. That will make it more likely they'll try those veggies in other forms as well!

Let them drink it. You know how I feel about juicing! Toss some kale, carrots and any other veggies you have on hand into the juicer. For sweetness, add an apple. Toss in some fresh ginger for an added nutritional boost. Serve with a straw in a pretty glass and voila!

All of these strategies worked for my two kids (now young adults in their 20s) and they'll eat any veggie that's put in front of them!

What tips do you have to help encourage your kids to get more veggies into them?

Leanne Ely, C.N.C.

Your Dinner Diva at your service on

Copyright (C) 2010 Leanne Ely, CNC All rights reserved.

Tips to Teach Children & Teens the True Spirit of the Holidays

There is no a better time of the year than the winter holiday season to involve children and teenagers in charitable giving and teach them why the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive,” is true.  World Vision offers five great ways for parents to lead by example and teach their children the true spirit of the holidays:
-    Consider do-it-yourself gifts, like no-sew fleece blankets that you can make with your children. Donate those blankets to a local homeless shelter.

-    Cherish the stories of your family. Have your children talk to their grandparents and write down the stories of their past. Create a book to share with the entire family or record it online.

-    As a family, select a charitable organization you'd like to support. Use online tools like Charity Navigator to find an organization that you trust. Give your children a budget and encourage them to decide how your family will donate to that organization this holiday. For example, flipping through the World Vision Gift Catalog will give children an idea of the difference they can make in other people’s lives.  

-    Work with your children to create a coupon book for your neighbors that might need an extra hand this year.  Coupons could include shoveling their sidewalk, watching their children or providing a meal.

-    Bake cookies or sweets with your children and deliver them to your local nursing home or school-in-need. Get started with this list of holiday recipes.

In addition to teaching children how to give during the holidays, it is equally as important but possibly even more challenging, to show teenagers the true spirit of the holidays. World Vision Teen Engagement Expert, Michele Tvedt has several tips for parents including:

-    Start with conversation. Watch the nightly news together, and take time to discuss stories that touch on people struggling with poverty, unemployment or other tragedies. Let your teen lead the discussion and listen for them to express interest or passion in a particular social issue.

-    Begin to give teens a voice in family giving. Let your teen know you would like to give a charitable gift as a family to mark the holiday season, but that you'd love to let them be the final decision maker.

-    Take advantage of volunteering requirements that your teen may have to fulfill at school. Offer to help your teen find an organization that fits their interest. Keep in mind that teenagers are eager for authentic, powerful experiences. They will respond best to opportunities that allow them to experience poverty firsthand.

"The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. There are gifts to purchase and wrap, cookies to bake, and family and friends to visit, but when we pause to help our neighbors in need, we all experience the holidays in a more meaningful way," said Traci Coker, charitable giving expert and national director of World Vision’s Gift Catalog.

For each item in World Vision’s Gift Catalog, the giver makes the purchase in the name of a friend, family member or business associate. World Vision then sends special cards to those individuals, describing the gifts and their impact. Last year alone, World Vision’s Gift Catalog raised $32 million and provided assistance to more than 800,000 people worldwide. The Gift Catalog launched in 1996, and while a goat ($75) is still World Vision’s number one seller, there are many affordable items for $35 or less.

8 Unconventional Shopping Tips for Parents on a Budget

Moms and Dads, you have fewer than twelve days to wrap up that Christmas shopping. You can't afford that iPad any more than twelve lords 'a leaping, but you don't want to disappoint Junior when he unwraps Santa's offerings. Just how much is this day going to cost you?

In 2009, Christmas gift shopping averaged nearly $700 per person, according to the National Retail Federation -- and numbers have only increased since then. In short, this holiday can send us into serious debt if we're not realistic with our budgets. We'd all like to be that person who thoughtfully buys gifts on sale throughout the year, but most of us are staring dumbly at our checking account a week and a half out wondering what to do.

Take comfort in knowing you're not alone. Get to work with these eight thrifty shopping (and swapping) tips and start a new Christmas tradition this year: staying in-budget.

1. Comb Craigslist.
If you're new to Christmas with kids, I'll let you in on a little secret: the preschool crowd doesn't know a new toy from a used one. You'll need to assemble all bikes, doll houses and train tables the night before anyway, so just find the beloved, sought after toy and buy it for less than half the cost on Craigslist from someone across town. Princess will love it just as much.

2. Check out online buys with free shipping.
Your favorite retailers have banded together--much like they do on the ominous Black Friday and Cyber Monday frenzies--to push Free Shipping Day, one of the last days to order online for delivery by Christmas Eve. So this Friday, December 16, you'll not only be treated to a host of free shipping offers, but many sales to go along with them.

3. Make your spending equitable.
Whatever amount you allocated for gifts, try to divide it appropriately for each child. Maybe one child receives two smaller gifts as opposed to the more expensive gift her brother got. Even if the dollar amount isn't fair, the coolness factor needs to be equal. Younger children don't analyze the amount spent as much as older children do.

4. Sell some older toys first.
It goes without saying that most children in the U.S. have too much stuff to start with. Add eighteen Christmas and birthday extravaganzas to the mix and you've got a packrat on your hands. Have your children select at least three or four playthings they don't use anymore and try to get cash for them at a children's resale store. Use the cash to buy one or two new gifts.

5. Focus on family fun activities rather than gifts.
Maybe your Christmas morning needs to be focused away from wrapped presents under the tree. Have several family-fun activities lined up for the day, not only to make great Christmas memories, but also to detract from opening presents. If money is tight this year, you can still make and decorate cookies on a dime as well as craft some awesome ornaments.

6. Make this Christmas a service holiday.
Pull all the stops and radically transform your Christmas! Whether you are financially able to buy gifts for your family this Christmas or not, take your family out to serve meals or volunteer for a local organization. You will make some of the best, lasting memories by giving rather than getting.

7. Wrap "unconventional" toys.
Ever wonder why Junior gets a brand new toy and just wants to play with the box? John Rosemond, psychologist and author of Making the Terrible Twos Terrific, has strong opinions about it. "Generally speaking, many store-bought toys are fairly worthless," he says in a Baby Zone article, and most seasoned parents would agree. Junior is playing with the box because it truly is the most interesting part of the gift. Find as many odd boxes, containers and utensils from your house and wrap them up for your littlest ones.

8. Find a parent in your same situation and toy swap.
Package up three of your child's better toys and exchange the same number with a like-minded friend. Make sure the toys are fairly newish looking to avert any suspicion. Since Junior wants that train set at his friend's house, it's exactly what he'll see under the tree. Check out other organized sites with more variety like Toy Swap.
Ashley Grimaldo comes from a long line of penny pinchers and enjoys blogging on money-saving tips and advice for frugal-minded parents. She lives with her husband and three children in Bryan, Texas. Ashley has been featured among such media outlets as Redbook, The Chicago Tribune,, and CBS News-Houston.