Category Archives: Bella Features

Veggies, Vitamins & Kids

There is no denying that most kids cringe at the mention of anything healthy. Since this is often the case, it is difficult to find the necessary balance between pleasing kids and giving them a healthy diet at the same time. Below are some tips to get your tot on the right track:

1)  Appearance, appearance, appearance!

Make fruits and veggies look fun. Every now and then it’s okay to play with food and if kids can have fun with it, then they’re more likely to want to eat it.

2)  Let them help.

“Mommy’s little helper” is a merit badge of awesome for kids. If they have a part in making the meal, then they will be excited to eat it.

3)  Show ‘em how to shop.

Kids like to feel independent; show your children fruits and veggies and let them pick the ones they that the think are “cool.” This way, it won’t be as much of a struggle when the food is on the plate.

4)  Make it easy.

One reason junk food is so popular is because it’s quick and kids can grab it easily in their downtime or between activities. Simple changes like making healthy fruit smoothies and having them ready and accessible can drastically improve kids’ diets. Also, small vegetables (like mini carrots) that have been pre-portioned are great for a kid on the go.

5)  Don’t make junk food an option.

The occasional Oreo is okay, but leaving cookies, chips, and other unhealthy foods around conditions kids’ pallets to crave that type of food. By feeding kids healthy things from the start and limiting the amount of junk food that they’re allowed will help them become familiar with healthier foods, thus training their pallets to crave what’s good for them.

Is Organic Food Really Better for You?

As women we are constantly looking for ways to boost our health and the health of our loved ones. A recent trend is the demand for organic foods, especially produce. But does organic actually mean healthier? And is the product worth the price?

The difference in organic versus non-organic foods is simply the methods in which they are grown. Organic farmers use fewer pesticides, and those that are used are naturally occurring.

While many non-organic farmers use growth stimulants and hormones, organic farmers are closely watched and must be given certification to farm according to USDA organic standards which does not allow artificial hormones. The products are more expensive because farmers go through various assortments of certifications, guidelines, and natural methods to produce a back-to-basics product. Sounds great, right?

Make sure to be careful when buying organically. Check for spots and holes on produce because sometimes the lack of pesticides means small creatures burrow into the product.

Also, be mindful that USDA organic does not mean 100% organic; it just means that at least 95% of the product came from organic methods, and that 5% can make a big difference on some items. Unless the product is considered USDA organic or 100% organic, chances are only 70% of the original material is organic. Be mindful that organic foods do not have synthetic preservatives and thus can go bad quicker.

Basically, organic foods do have their benefits and can be much safer than synthetically produced items. However, just like with any trend, there are many foods made to look organically produced that aren’t and there are some organic foods that are produced using the same methods as the one without the sticker.

Remember to shop smart and know your facts before being lured by the organic kick!

 

Sip in Style

Hand-painted wine glasses are the trendy DIY project this season and are perfect gifts for any occasion including birthdays, bridal showers, and many other holidays.

All you need are small bottles of acrylic paint, small to medium paint brushes, a plain wine glass, and an index card.  I recommend purchasing quality wine glasses because dollar-glasses tend to break even if you’re not the Hulk, and you certainly wouldn’t want to break your work of art!

Before you begin, draw the design on the index card or print out a design from your computer.  This trick is especially handy for names.

Directions:

1)  Ensure that your glass is clean and dry.

2)  Tape the index card with your design to the inside of the glass.

3)  Load your brush and begin painting the glass, carefully tracing over your design.  (Practice using your paintbrushes on a spare sheet of paper to see the full range of strokes.)

4)  Allow the glass to dry for 1 hour.

5)  Place the glass in a COLD oven, and then preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  The bake time is 30 minutes, but remember to add the preheat time into the bake time.  Leave the glass in the oven until it’s completely cool.

6)  Voila!  A customized, hand-painted, unique work of art.

For simple designs, polka-dots are versatile (not to mention easy), swirls are always stylish and animal prints are chic.  Complex designs such as flowers and animals can be tricky, so practice on paper before painting the glass.  Note that acrylic paint dries quickly but it’s forgiving when wet, so if you make a mistake, have damp paper towels or Q-tips on hand for a quick clean-up.  Don’t forget to decorate the stem!  If you don’t want to paint it, a pretty ribbon quickly adds that final, feminine touch.

Of course, this DIY project isn’t limited to wineglasses!  Try painting margarita glasses, stemless wine glasses, and martini glasses.

 

Home Grown Herbs

While vegetables are the most popular container plants and flowers the prettiest (although not as useful), herb gardens can be both beautiful and delicious.

When deciding which plants you’d like in your herb garden, look first at the herbs you know and use the most (perhaps the most empty jar in your spice rack), but don’t limit yourself to that. You can look up herbs online (try Annette’s Herb Garden) and see which are most commonly used or simply go to your local nursery and pick out the ones that smell the best.

Here five of the most popular uses and some gardening tips (in order of my favorite to least favorite):

Rosemary – First, it’s delicious. It also dried wonderfully and can be used indoors. If you plant this herb, consider harvesting an entire stem at one time, freezing it, and using it as a skewer later.

Basil – Also, delicious. There are many varieties of basil so it is very customizable, but make sure to break off a leaf and smell it before you buy it. This herb likes a lot of water, but be careful because it can mildew.

Mint – My parents’ favorite use for mint is in a mojito, but we use it in several other things as well (probably because of, again, the bush). Be careful about controlling your mint. You can also pinch the buds off to keep it from cross-pollinating.

Thyme – This herb is great because it requires minimal watering and can grow little, purple flowers. However, it tends to get “woody” and may have to be replaced every couple of years.

Sage – Also needs to be replaced (usually every three years), but dries easily. It does, however require a lot of maintenance to keep it from getting “woody” too soon.

Of this list, thyme tends to be the least used (such a shame considering the wealth of puns it opens itself up to, of which I am resisting). If you’re thinking about planting thyme or even have thyme in your garden, but lack ideas, check out Home Cooking.

Lastly, here are just a few tips to maintaining a happy, healthy, herb garden:

Herbs need full sun, but don’t like to be cooked. Use good quality soil so the plants can drain properly. Go easy on the fertilizer or don’t bother with it at all. And finally, don’t be afraid to harvest a lot at once. The herbs are truly happier this way and you deserve to reap what you sow!

 

The Greatest Sandwich Ever

What is not to love about a grilled cheese?

Bread + butter + cheese = culinary genius. Not only is it more delicious than I can describe in words, but it’s easy. Whether it’s for an afternoon snack when your child gets home from school or second dinner at the college dorm, a grilled cheese can be made with practically no prep work, very little clean up, and with the most minimal amount of kitchen appliances.

Everyone has her own perfect combination of bread and cheese. For me, it’s sourdough and sharp cheddar – my mouth is watering already! For years I went through life believing my own humble cheese creation was the most delectable sandwich in existence. Then I was introduced to the gourmet grilled cheese.

My first gourmet grilled cheese experience was at Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego. I just wanted a plain, boring grilled cheese, but this is one of those places that write their prices without the dollar sign so you know it’s expensive before you even start looking. I’m telling you I ordered a twelve-dollar grilled cheese and mixed salad (that had edible flowers in it, I might add).

I ordered the aged cheddar grilled cheese, not knowing what to expect. All the description said was bacon jam / fresh tomato (yes, this place is too fancy to use the word “and”). I have to admit, I was a little skeptical about the bacon jam, but oh my word was it delicious. The bread was crunchy, the cheese perfectly melted and hinted with bacon, and the tomatoes sliced so thin they didn’t fall out when you bit into them.

My other favorite gourmet grilled cheese restaurant, however, costs almost half as much and isn’t nearly as, well, pretentious as my beloved Extraordinary Desserts. And it’s here in Roanoke! Don’t get confused by the name because Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar makes some mean gourmet grilled cheeses. And instead of a flower salad, they are served with popcorn! Also, the butter on these sandwiches is divine.

Now, I am not the only grilled cheese fanatic in search of the greatest sandwich ever. April 28th will mark the tenth annual Grilled Cheese Invitational in Pasadena, CA. There are four categories ranging from traditional American to dessert grilled cheese. Advertised as “the best thing to happen to sliced cheese since bread,” this even has officially been added to my bucket list.

In my journey to grilled cheese greatness, I’ve discovered that whether I’m at home with my sourdough and sharp cheddar with a cup of tomato soup or biting into some heavenly concoction at a five-star restaurant, grilled cheese is great, period.