Tag Archives: Family

Travel like a local

Americans are on the move: logging two billion business and leisure trips of 50 miles or more from home for at least one night last year alone, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Today, more people are looking for authentic travel activities – ones that are outside the traditional museum or monument visit. To get more out of your next vacation, consider expert advice on how to break out of the tourist rut and have a truly authentic local experience.

“The single biggest thing you can do to trigger these experiences is to talk to people – talk to locals,” says Reena Ganga, Gadling blogger and Wanderplex Founder. “But since that’s easier said than done, I think there are several ways you can try to foster interactions with locals and put yourself in a position to create great travel memories.”

Hyatt House, an upscale extended stay hotel brand located across-the United States,-has teamed up with Ganga and America’s favorite lifestyle maven, Martha Stewart, to help vacationers learn the tricks of travelling like a local with the following tips:

Reena Ganga’s tips:

* Trek like the locals. Don’t limit yourself to sightseeing buses or taxis. If the locals travel in communal mini-vans or via bike, do it too. Locals who aren’t used to seeing tourists take that form of transport often find their tenacity endearing and will make the effort to talk to them.

* Go off the beaten path. Make time to head to the smaller, secondary cities when you travel. These are often the places that feel the most culturally distinct. If you’re in a big city, head outside the tourist zones and into interesting neighborhoods where the locals spend their time.

* Choose a place that feels like home. Instead of staying in a traditional hotel, think about staying in a serviced apartment or an extended stay hotel like Hyatt House, where you have a living room and kitchen. Then head out to the local market and talk to the vendors. You’ll discover the produce and products that are special to that area, and you never know where the conversations will lead.

* Eat with the locals. Don’t just eat at chain restaurants that you’re familiar with or that only have English menus. Go where the locals congregate. Whether it’s a mom-and-pop restaurant or a street stall, local eateries are likely to have more authentic food and the locals are often eager to tell you about the food, how to eat it, etc.

* Put away technology. If you find yourself lost while traveling, don’t immediately refer to maps on your phone – stop and ask a shopkeeper for directions. If you need a restaurant recommendation, don’t just search online. Ask locals for their tips – it’s a great excuse to strike up a conversation.

Keep in mind, traveling with a local mindset means taking a new approach to packing, too. Stewart offers these smart packing tips:

* Distribute weight evenly. Pack the heaviest items, such as shoes and toiletry bags, at the bottom. Pack socks inside shoes to prevent footwear from getting squished.

* Skip checked baggage. A canvas bag with a sturdy strap is great for packing for any length of trip. Remember, if you forget something, often hotels can help. Hyatt House has the Hyatt Has It – Borrows program, which can supply everything from a phone charger to yoga mats.

* Carry-on with care. Because you never know when weather or unforeseen events will cause travel delays, pack a carry-on bag containing items you would be very unhappy to lose, such as medications and toiletries.

* Stay clean on the run. Travel-size packaged antibacterial towelettes are great for keeping your hands and face clean.

* Regulate wrinkles. Use large drycleaner bags to pack bulky sweaters or cardigans. The plastic helps prevent wrinkling.

* Secure belongings. If you’re traveling a long distance, use a lock and key or combination lock to protect your belongings.

These simple tips make it easy to travel like a local and get the most out of your next vacation. You’ll be delighted by the unique memories and wonderful stories you get by traveling with a local mindset.

Sources: Martha Stewart Living, June 2003; Martha Stewart Digital, Article: Smart Packing Tips; Martha Stewart Video – Organizing: Helpful Tips for Packing Travel Bags; The Martha Stewart Show, Season 7, Episode 7099 (How to Pack a Suitcase Lightly for Easy Travel)

Unique & nutty twists on holiday recipes

With the holidays fast approaching it’s time to enjoy some of the season’s tastiest foods. Small twists can turn a traditional dish into a holiday classic.

The good news is it’s simple to add a fresh twist to holiday favorites with easy additions like Fisher Nuts.

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, an Iron Chef and expert on Food Network , says that nuts are one of the most versatile ingredients to use when reinventing dishes. Here are her top five tips for cooking with nuts:

1. Cranberry sauce with a tiny grate of orange zest and a handful of toasted almonds stirred in at the last minute puts a simple but tasty twist on a staple Thanksgiving side dish.

2. Want rich, thick gravy with no lumps? Thicken gravy with ground nuts instead of flour. Simply separate a little of the gravy in a bowl and blend with ground walnuts until smooth. Then just whisk it back in the pot with the remaining gravy.

3. Spruce up holiday side dishes by stirring in some toasted pecans or almonds. Top gratins with a thin layer or stir a handful into sauteed or braised vegetables. The nuts bring out the earthy flavors of vegetables, adding richness without making dishes too heavy.

4. Stir together melted semi-sweet chocolate and a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts. Add a pinch of cinnamon and roll into bite-size candies. It’s an easy way to have something different than a pie or cookies for the holidays. Plus it’s gluten free.

5. Make nuts part of any season by toasting them in a little warm olive oil over medium heat. When the nuts are toasted and coated in the oil, stir in any fresh herb (for example, rosemary for winter or basil for summer) and allow the herbs to gently crisp up and meld with the nuts. Serve as is with a pinch of salt.

These five tips can help you transform traditional holiday fare into instant classics. To “wow” guests, try this tasty recipe from Chef Guarnaschelli at your next gathering:

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

Sweet potatoes are at their best when combined with something sweet. This recipe blends flavors reminiscent of a cinnamon-infused pecan coffee cake topping and pairs them with sweet potatoes for a change from the more traditional marshmallow topped casserole. Plus, it’s perfect for busy cooks because the potatoes can be microwaved in just 15 minutes. (Prep Time: 25 minutes. Cook Time: 15 minutes Yield: 8 servings)

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Ingredients:

4 large sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon orange zest, packed
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 cup Fisher Pecan Halves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Pierce sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave on high for 15 minutes or until completely cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle.

3. Topping: Meanwhile, combine the pecans, flour, sugars, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to blend. Mix in 1/4 cup butter. The topping should form sandy clumps. Refrigerate.

4. Split the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the flesh inside. Arrange the sweet potato “halves” on a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potato flesh with the remaining 1/4 cup butter, orange zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spoon the filling back into each potato half and top with the topping on a baking tray. Place the tray in the center of the oven and bake until the topping browns, 15 to 20 minutes.

Serving seafood this Holiday Season

When you’re brain-storming holiday menus, do lovingly roasted turkeys with all the trimmings and decadent cookies dance alongside the peppermint and sugarplums in your visions? Certain flavors and foods are strongly associated with the holiday season – seafood, however, isn’t always among those favored dishes. But it could be! The right seasonings and a dash of creativity – along with historically low prices on well-loved options like lobster – could make seafood a centerpiece of your holiday menus.

Serving seafood can allow you to combine both the “wow factor” your family and guests crave in a holiday meal with the nutritional benefits they deserve. Nutrient-rich seafood is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. Plus, with a wide variety of textures and flavors to choose from, you’re sure to find a type of seafood that appeals to every person at your table.

Here are three secrets to incorporating seafood into your holiday entertaining:

1. Buy as close to fresh as possible.

Unless you live in a fishing village, it’s almost impossible to get truly fresh fish. Most seafood will have been refrigerated and/or frozen at some point in its journey from the water to your grocery store – and that’s perfectly fine. In fact, if the seafood were left unfrozen, it could easily spoil by the time it reached the market, so don’t discount a selection because you suspect, or are sure, it’s been frozen. Instead, consider how the fish or shellfish looks and smells – and in the case of live shellfish, how it acts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says fish should smell fresh, not “fishy.” The flesh should be shiny, firm and free of slime for both whole fish and fillets. Uncooked shrimp should be translucent and shiny, with no strong odor. If you’re buying live lobster or crab, avoid ones that appear lethargic, and instead look for ones that show leg movement. For live shellfish, tap the shell before buying. If the animal inside is alive and healthy, the shell should snap shut.

2. Variety is the spice of life.

Let’s be honest – even people who eat a lot of seafood often reach for the same old seasoning week after week, regardless of the time of year. Traditional seafood seasoning is flavorful, appealing and versatile – hence its popularity. But if you would like that flavor in organic versions with a more robust taste, maybe a Cajun twist, or even a version with less salt, try something new.

Frontier Natural Products offers three organic seafood seasonings – Original, Reduced Sodium and Blackened – that enhance a variety of seafood dishes. Made with certified organic, premium spices, all three flavors use real sea salt rather than evaporated table salt. Kosher-certified by KSA, the seasonings also help restore America’s wetlands – 1 percent of sales of the spices goes toward wetland preservation and restoration.

Mix up your approach with these seasonings. Sure, they’re great sprinkled atop a grilled or baked fillet, but how about as an ingredient in lobster macaroni and cheese? Or as the flavor that gives an extra zing to a crab dip?

3. Par for every course – and time of day.

Some people only feel confident serving fillets as an entree. Others can manage a crab dip appetizer but can’t envision basing an entire meal on seafood. Still others would never dream that seafood could work well on their breakfast table. Because of its variety and versatility, seafood can be great for any – or every – course and served at any time of day, from breakfast to a late-night snack.

Can’t imagine how seafood fits into a breakfast? Try incorporating leftover lobster in your scrambled eggs, a la Seinfeld’s George Costanza. Or, substitute a crab cake for the English muffin and give traditional Eggs Benedict a whole new appeal. An updated tuna salad or well-seasoned chowder is always great for lunch. And dinner can be a seafood extravaganza with appetizer and entree both going swimmingly with the holiday season.

You’ll find plenty of seafood recipes at Frontiercoop.com. Here’s one that echoes the holiday season’s blend of comfort and excitement by using lobster to give classic macaroni and cheese a sophisticated, celebratory flair:

Smoked Gouda Lobster Macaroni and Cheese  (Prep time: 20 minutes. Cook time: 35 to 40 minutes. Serves five)

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

3 teaspoons Frontier Original Organic Seafood Seasoning, divided

1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

8 ounces uncooked rotini (or other pasta)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups 1 percent milk

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 cup sour cream

4 ounces smoked Gouda cheese, grated

6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

6 ounces raw lobster tail meat, cut into pieces (thaw if frozen)

1 1/2 teaspoons medium grind black pepper

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, melt one tablespoon butter. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, 1 teaspoon Seafood Seasoning and bread crumbs. Set aside.

Add rotini to the boiling water and cook until al dente, according to package directions. Drain pasta and reserve.

In a large saucepan, melt four tablespoons butter and add flour. Cook over medium heat, whisking, three to four minutes, until golden. Gradually add milk to flour mixture, whisking. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat to low.

Add the heavy cream, lemon juice, sour cream, Gouda cheese, cheddar cheese and two teaspoons Seafood Seasoning, stirring until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth.

Spray a 9-by-9-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and place cooked pasta and lobster in pan. Pour cheese sauce into pan and mix everything together.

Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of macaroni and cheese, and then bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the breadcrumbs are browned. Sprinkle final dish with black pepper.

Cooking with Kids

Once temperatures start to drop, keeping kids active can be a difficult task as weekends migrate away from park visits and Little League games to more time spent indoors. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do in your own home to keep children engaged and help limit their video game and TV time. One of those things is cooking together, which reinforces math, science and reading comprehension skills while building great memories.

Keep your household free of the winter blues by following these simple steps to a successful and fun time with kids in the kitchen:

Establish good habits

Set good habits for your children by teaching them to wash their hands before, during and after cooking. Kid-friendly tools, like a small step stool or high-tech faucet, can help make reinforcing these habits even easier. Let your little sous-chefs know that they should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, by helping them count or singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Remember to set a good example by washing your own hands before and after eating and during the cooking process, as needed.

Different stages for different ages

Understanding which tasks your child is capable of doing is important. Children under 5 years old enjoy observing how recipes are compiled and can help out with small tasks like setting the table, while school-age children can strengthen their math skills as they help combine ingredients for recipes and practice cooking basics, like cracking an egg. This stage is a great time to introduce the importance of choosing nutritious ingredients for everyday cooking, which can help lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle. Tap teenagers for help by encouraging them to choose the menu or explore new and exciting cuisines.

Timing is everything

Avoiding a tight schedule is important. Instead of involving children in the dinner rush, enlist their help on a weekend afternoon when there is plenty of time for questions, experiments or careful demonstrations. Choose a time when everyone is well-rested and not easily frustrated. Plan ahead when deciding what recipe you will cook together. For younger kids, consider starting with a simple dish that has fewer than five ingredients like a fruit salad or an easy muffin recipe. A pizza assembly line allows children to show their creativity by choosing their own mini-crusts, sauces, cheese and toppings.

And if nothing else, just enjoy these moments! They may be messy, they may (or may not) be fun… but above all else they will be memorable and cherished for years to come!

Fall Activities Your Family Will Love

Crisp air, changing leaves and cozy knit sweaters signify the return of autumn. Fall can be a busy time for most families, juggling back-to-school routines, carpools, homework, after school events and sports practice. Now is a great time to slow down, bring the whole family together and enjoy all of the exciting activities fall has to offer.

Here are a few fun ways to spend quality time with your family and relish in fall to the fullest:

1. Visit an apple orchard.

This is a great way to make the most of the beautiful fall weather and do something active with the family. Use apples to make apple sauce, a tasty tart or just slice them up for a great on-the-go snack. Try unique apple varieties you’ve never tried – they all taste a bit different! Pack a picnic for the orchard and make the most of the day!

2. Go for a nature walk.

With the vibrant, colorful leaves and the cool, crisp air, autumn is a great time to get your family outdoors and learn more about nature in a local nature preserve or state park. Pick up a few fall mementos along the way to integrate into crafts. For example, bring home some colorful leaves and decoupage them onto the outside of a mason jar to create a seasonal fall candle holder, or create a lively fall-inspired canvas incorporating several different leaf shapes and colors.

3. Gear up for Halloween.

Host a Halloween themed get-together by incorporating fun foods the kids can help prepare and will love to eat! Use a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter to create cut-out cookies and involve the kids in decorating – with everything from sprinkles to frosting. Or, for a quick and easy themed treat, try making marshmallow lollipops drizzled with chocolate or caramel dip, then use chopped nuts or candy bits to make ghoulish faces.

4. Visit a local farmers market.

Fall offers a whole new repertoire of amazing fresh fruits and vegetables. Encourage your kids to try new items like figs, acorn squash or cauliflower. If they find samples that they enjoy, purchase a few and find a way to incorporate them into your next meal. You can also buy items such as tomatoes and pickle peppers in bulk, and then can at the end of season to store for the long winter ahead.

5. Have a bonfire.

As the weather cools down, bonfires are a great way to stay warm at night and make lasting family memories. Gather everyone together and reconnect by huddling around the fire in cozy blankets. Pour mugs of warm apple cider and munch on Nutty Caramel Popcorn while swapping ghost stories over the glow of the fire.

NUTTY CARAMEL POPCORN

1/2 cup caramel dip (We like Marzetti Old Fashioned Caramel Dip, but you could easily make your own!)

2 tablespoons butter

8 cups popped microwave plain popcorn

1/2 cup peanuts

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set it aside. Melt butter in small saucepan. Stir in dip; simmer over low heat five minutes, stirring frequently. Pour mixture over popcorn and peanuts in prepared dish. Stir until evenly coated. Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely in dish on wire rack, about 45 minutes.

No Tricks Here!

Treat guests to a hair-raising Halloween experience

Whether prepping for trick-or-treaters or hosting a party fit for Frankenstein, turning your home into a haunted house can be fun and easy. With these tips, before you know it, your home will be transformed into the spookiest house on the block.

  • Create terrifying tombstones. Set the stage before trick-or-treaters even hit the front door. Use wood, cardboard or thick Styrofoam to create tombstones that you can put in your front yard. After cutting out the desired shape, use a matte gray spray paint to cover the surface, and then use black paint to write creative epitaphs such as “Dare to Disturb” or “Happy Haunting.”
  • Get creative with pumpkins. Everyone enjoys a good jack-o-lantern, but why not choose to think outside the box when decorating with pumpkins this year? Instead of carving, try spray painting or using your favorite Halloween candy to decorate pumpkins in fun, spooky patterns. Plus, this is a project that even the littlest witch can enjoy.
  • Download a haunted playlist. Nothing is quite as spooky as the sound of doors creaking or ghosts shrieking. Put together a haunted playlist that you can listen to while guests arrive, or stick speakers near an open window to entice the nearby trick-or-treaters to stop by for some candy.
  • Serve spine-chilling treats. Use your free time on Halloween to make these simple but yummy treats designed to look like spiders. Serve them when guests arrive to kick-off the scary festivities.

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Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spiders  (6 Servings)

6 Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins

1/4 cup Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips

Large pretzel twists (2 -1/2 to 3 inches)

12 yellow Reese’s Pieces Candies

Line tray or cookie sheet with wax paper. Remove wrappers from peanut butter pumpkins and place alongside each other on tray leaving 1 inch of space between each peanut butter pumpkin. For each spider, cut 8 matching curved sections from pretzels which will form the legs. Set aside remaining pretzels pieces.

Place milk chocolate chips in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and smooth when stirred. Transfer to small heavy duty plastic food storage bag. Cut off one corner of bag about 1/4 inch from the tip.

Attach pretzel legs and yellow candy “eyes” to spider with melted chocolate; place dot of melted chocolate on each eye. Allow chocolate to set before moving spiders.

For more wickedly delicious recipes, visit CelebratewithHersheys.com.

DIY: Creative Kids’ Activities for Fall

Each year autumn marks a time for change – leaves turn colors, the air becomes crisp and parents everywhere prepare for their children to return to school. The new season brings with it a shift in rhythms and patterns, including a new weekly routine for families as children go back to school.

For young children starting school, it’s important to maintain a learning environment even after the last school bell rings and they return home. Spend this time building family traditions and making learning fun by incorporating some of these fun indoor and outdoor fall activities into your seasonal routine.

EXPLORE THE OUTDOORS

* Set up a scavenger hunt with your kids to teach them about the differences between the tree; this activity allows children to run around the neighborhood learning about the wide variety of living things in their environment.
*Collect fallen leaves to create a beautiful fall collage. This is a fun activity for young children as they can use their imagination and creativity to design a unique image celebrating the fall season.
*Use a metallic marker so kids can write on the leaves, creating patterns or images, then place the leaves on wax paper and apply Mod Podge to keep the design in place as it hangs.
*Visit a local pumpkin patch: One of the most cherished fall traditions for families is spending a day at a pumpkin patch. Full of fun and games, the pumpkin patch is a perfect place for young children. Whether you’re making your way through the corn maze, interacting with the animals in the petting zoo, or enjoying a hay ride around the grounds, your family is sure to have a blast.

HALLOWEEN PREP

*Use the pumpkins brought home from the patch to design a spooky Jack-o’-lantern with your children. Let them design a face on the front of the pumpkin and cut it out for them.
*As Halloween approaches your little one will need a costume. Whether it’s shopping for the perfect costume or making one from scratch, use this time to learn more about your child’s likes and dislikes while encouraging them to express their creativity.

Make this fall season unforgettable and continue to help your children grow by introducing these lifelong family traditions.