Monday, October 26, 2009

Happy Halloween!

It’s amazing how all of a sudden one day you wake up and its fall! The leaves start falling and the weather shifts and changes to brisk mornings and cooler afternoons. You can even almost smell the difference in the air. The coming of fall also brings one of my kid’s favorite holidays — Halloween. Ever since my son was little we have made a special trip to the pumpkin patch a week or so before Halloween. It is a great time to get out in the cool autumn weather and share some wonderful moments with our kids. Riding the tractors, picking out their perfect pumpkins and enjoying the fall harvest festivals is something that we all will cherish for many years. Halloween has become an event not just focused around trick-or-treating, but a time to enjoy special moments with our family. Our lives are so busy these days — sometimes we need to just slow down and spend some quality time with each other and relish in the kid that exists within each one of us. Here are some fun ideas to make your Halloween unforgettable:

Plan a trip to the pumpkin patch:

Check your papers for fall festivals and pumpkin patches open to the public. Often there is much more to do at these farms then just pick out your pumpkins. The farms we have found have had tractor rides, music, pony rides, games, corn mazes and so much more. Make sure you bring lots of film!

Pumpkin carving night:

Choose a night a week or so before Halloween and plan a pumpkin carving party for friends and family. Kids too young to carve can use tempera paint and create their own crazy faces and/or give your young child glow in the dark stickers they can apply to their pumpkins. Make goofy pumpkins by attaching small gourds as ears or noses.

Pumpkin carving safety tips:

  • Don’t let children under 5 handle knives
  • Keep seeds away from younger children — possible choking hazards
  • Choose a flat, sturdy surface for carving
  • Don’t let younger children handle lit candles
  • Don’t place lit jack-o’-lanterns near curtains or other flammable material
  • Don’t leave a lit jack-o’-lantern unattended

And don’t forget the food. A pumpkin carving party would just not be a party without great food. Here are some great ideas for Halloween party fare:

Spinach & Artichoke dip with Tortilla chips
Hurricane Chili
Perfect Cornbread
Mini Chocolate Cup Cakes

Halloween night:

Make sure your children get a good balanced meal before they go out trick-or-treating. They will be less apt to eat tons and tons of candy and they will feel better all around. On the morning of Halloween start a stew like our Country Beef Stew and some delicious cornbread (try our Perfect Cornbread). No need for dessert — they’ll get plenty of that with all the candy.

Once your child brings home the candy, make sure to inspect the candy. Discard any candy that appears to have been tampered with or unwrapped or look suspicious in any way. Throw away treats that aren’t commercially wrapped or are known to contain gluten (unless you know the giver — and you trust that the treat is gluten-free). Call the manufacturers to verify that the candy is gluten-free. Keep in mind that manufacturers can change their processes at any time, so it is always a good idea to double check.

We hope you and your family have a safe and memorable Halloween!


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Make Ahead Meals

These days most families are extremely busy. Whether you have school aged children or a busy work schedule you are most likely too busy throughout the week to find time to make a wholesome nutritious meal. With a little prior planning and some extra plastic containers or zip lock bags you and your family can eat wonderful meals through the week with little effort whatsoever. Spend some time on the weekend making a few one dish meals (perhaps double the servings so you can enjoy it the day it was made as well but still have left-overs). Freeze or refrigerate your meals for later on in the week. Here are some of our favorite meals that can easily be made ahead.

Meals that can be made and refrigerated for up to 2 days:

Braised Beef Shanks & Macaroni (Prepare the beef shanks ahead of time. Right before serving make the macaroni.)
Sausage Stuffed Chicken (Prepare the chicken. Remove from braising liquid, reserving liquid, and refrigerate until ready to eat.)
Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce
Enchiladas Verde
Green Chile Casserole
Asian Chicken Casserole
Turkey Casserole

Meals that can be frozen for up to 2 weeks:
(Note: To freeze these meals place in a heavy freezer bag, remove all the air and seal. To defrost, place bag in cold water — rotate the bag periodically until food is defrosted. Alternatively, open the bag and defrost in the microwave — be sure to place the bag in a bowl to prevent spillage as it defrosts.)

Minestrone Soup
Hurricane Chili
Chicken Stew & Pasta & Beans
Potato & Leek Soup
Country Stew
Chicken Chili
Chicken Juan de Fuca (Colorado)
Turkey & Rice Soup

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

10 Great Potato Recipes

No matter how you slice them, potatoes are just about everyone’s favorite in one form or another. Great accompaniments to just about any entrĂ©e, potatoes can be elegant or casual to suit any menu.

Mashed potatoes, one of our favorite quick meal accompaniments, can be completely changed meal to meal just by adding different ingredients to the same mashed potato technique. Make mashed potatoes with cream, or milk for a lower fat version, half & half or buttermilk. As toppings, add chives, sweetened nuts, fried shallots or any other interesting topping that will give mashed potatoes a brand new taste.

Roasted potatoes can be altered in the same way. To a regular roasted potato recipe add garlic, onions, red peppers, hard cheeses, and any assortment of herbs that strikes your fancy. Try mixing different kinds of potatoes together for a pretty and different presentation like Yukons, Reds, Whites and Purples.

Need more ideas? How about french fries, potato gratins, potato pancakes, potato soup, scallop potatoes, potato salads, potato skins, stuffed potatoes, or baked potatoes.

Need more ideas? Try these ten great potato recipes, we’re sure they’ll become your favorites too!

  1. Champ (Mashed Potatoes with Green Onions)
  2. Mashed Potatoes w/Glazed Nuts
  3. Parmesan French Fries
  4. Pear & Potato Gratin w/Horseradish
  5. Baby Red Potatoes Stuffed w/Roasted Garlic & Herbs
  6. Mushroom Potatoes
  7. Parsnip Potato Pancakes
  8. Potatoes w/Garlic & Parsley
  9. Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes w/Fried Shallots
  10. Roasted Potatoes w/Pesto

For more great potato recipes, visit our Recipe Archives.