7 Tips For Stress Free Holiday Cooking

December 2013
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(I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom It Forward Blogger Network for National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association. I received compensation as a thank you for participating) 

Now that the Christmas season has begun in earnest, it is time to start planning your annual Christmas Party(s). Whenever I plan a party I first decide who I am going to invite. Next I plan the activities. Last but certainly not lest comes the Food. Even though the food is the last thing I plan, I know it is also one of the most important. It is true the food you serve can make or break you Holiday party. 

Now, I love to cook, so the prospect of making delectable morsels for my guests is something I usually enjoy. The Challenge comes with how busy my December’s usually are.  I just don’t have the time I would love to spend cooking from scratch everything I want to. I have come to a satisfying compromise with my party food. Where I still love to make family favorites at holiday times, I also buy already made delectables from the frozen section of the store. These tend to be items like shrimp platters, egg rolls, Rhodes Dough Rolls, Cheese Cakes, Chicken Wings etc. All of which I just need to thaw out and either bake, or just serve.

Now you might say, “That’s cheating” or “Yes but the quality just isn’t as good.” My reply is that in most cases my guests either don’t know or don’t care. After all, these frozen foods are made with real and fresh ingredients, and prepared by expert cooks for the best end result. Add to that there are so many varieties of Frozen foods I can choose from that I can have ready to serve in a jiffy to supplement my made from scratch family favorites. They are already proper portion sized and easily customizable with what I am already making. 

As you get ready for your holiday parties this Christmas season, here are a few tips to make your holiday party a smash hit in the food department without having to slave away for days in the kitchen.

1-Try to make items that you can prepare in advance like cookies, pies, candies or bars etc that you can store in containers on the shelf in the cupboard or in your freezer. This will cut down on prep time the day of your party. 

2- Always use real butter, whole milk, and quality cream when baking it totally makes a difference.  When it comes to baking substitutes just don’t cut it. Make sure you buy the real stuff. Luckily refrigerated foods are made from real, simple, fresh, farm-grown ingredients and can be customized to fit within a well-balanced lifestyle. Not only are these wholesome ingredients nutritious, they taste delicious and leave everyone at mealtime feeling satisfied.

3-Don’t be afraid to try new things. If you need some inspiration, then look through the dairy aisle of your local grocery store. With a variety of foods and beverages, the refrigerated dairy aisle is home to endless mealtime possibilities. From using Greek Yogurt for a soup or creating a minty cookie with coffee creamer, the refrigerated dairy aisle is a destination for culinary inspiration. 

4- If you are in need of ideas for what to make then check out EasyHomeMeals.com. They have some great recipes that your friends and family will love. 

5-If you are planning on buying some already prepared food, then make sure you look at the preparation information to make sure you set yourself enough time. 

6-Even if you are planning on making a majority of the food for your party, buy one or two back up appetizers from the frozen foods aisle for just in case. After all if you end up not needing it now you can use it later, but if you find you do need something more (like in the case of unexpected guests) then you have something that can be ready in a jiffy. 

7-Know your budget and shop wisely. It is sooo easy to spend a lot on food at this time of year. However on the other hand this is also the time of year when many stores have food on sale. Make a shopping list before you go, and then look through the adds to decide where to go. 

Most of all have fun. If you aren’t having fun and you find yourself getting too stressed this holiday season, then take a step back, drink some egg nog, relax and reevaluate what you are doing that is causing you too much stress. And if needs be recruit some help.

Disclaimer

Squatty Potty : Health and Comfort Meets Modern Convenience

December 2013
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When I was asked to try out the Squatty Potty, I must admit my eyebrow quirked a bit. I won’t tell you the images that instantly popped into my head. Probably in response to the look on my face, my friend showed me this video explaining what the Squatty Potty was all about. 

Come to think of it, I had learned years ago that it is better to squat then sit upright when going to the bathroom. However, since I live in America and have a standard toilet I had pushed the information aside since there wasn’t anything I could do about it. After watching that short video and seeing how simple the solution was, I became intrigued at the why's behind the product and agreed to try it out.

When the Squatty Potty (which is basically a special stool that you use while going to the bathroom to allow you to obtain that more natural squatting position on your toilet) arrived I was happy to note the simple and non obtrusive design and coloring of the stool. It was light weight, yet sturdy and stored easily against the toilet. Inside the packaging was a easy to follow instruction pamphlet with the hows and whys to use the Squatty Potty.

 

When I first tried it out I noted that the difference in sitting position though obvious was not uncomfortable at all. In fact with the extra support it was a lot more comfortable. I am happy to say that the first time I used it that it did what it said it would. Though I don't generally have problems going to the bathroom, it did make my whole going to the bathroom experience quicker and easier. What’s better it was just as easy for my 3 year old daughter to use as it was for me. I may just have to get one for every bathroom now.  

For those who want to learn more about the Squatty Potties like I did before using it, on their site they have some great informative Medical Cases, Doctors Endorsements, and other Success Stories.

Disclaimer

What is a good night's sleep worth to you?

November 2013
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Easy

 (I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom It Forward Blogger Network for Marpac. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating)

I have to admit that sleep is something I have always taken for granted. At least until it became on short supply. I know that you are warned that sleep deprivation goes hand and hand with parenthood, but really who could have imagined that it would be THIS BAD?!? 

Sleep deprivation for short periods of time isn’t too bed, but when it lasts for years, that is sooo not good. I know that in order to be the kind of parent I want to be, that sleep is a necessary ingredient. Yet everything I have tried hasn’t worked on my kids. And believe me I have tried a lot of things.  

Then one day a friend asked me, “Have you ever tried using a white noise machine?” I had to admit, that no I hadn’t. She told me about how well it had worked for her little ones and at this point I was willing to try anything. Especially, since it is my favorite time of year and I wanted to enjoy it instead of walking around in a sleep deprivation induced haze. 

After some research I learned about Dohmie the serious sleep baby bundle by Marpac that you can get right now at Toys-r-Us. After reading more about it, I just had to try it out myself. 

When my Dohmie sleep baby bundle arrived I couldn’t wait to open it up. Inside was the Dohmie sleep machine along with instruction for its use (which couldn’t be easier. It's basically a plug in and turn on unit), the cutest little baby book entitled “Buddy the Bee finds his Zs”, and a informational sleep publication that I found informative on tips for a better night sleep. 

Since my baby sleeps in a co-sleeper bed next to our bed, I plugged in our Dohmie in the master bedroom. As I did so I wondered, “Will it work?” “Will my children sleep better?” ‘Will I sleep better?” I am happy to share that the answer was YES! That night and each night since, my children have slept deeper and longer than ever before! 

So how does it work? Well according to Marpac’s website (they are the creators of the Dohm Sleep machines) “It creates the soothing sound of rushing air, also known as "white noise," which has been proven to effectively block noises at a broad range of frequencies. A uniform blanket of smooth sound masks disruptive noises.”

As a side not, the instructions warned that it can take a few days for adults to adjust to the white noise background if you aren’t used to sound while sleeping. It took about 2 nights for me, and now it doesn't bother me at all. As a plus now even my husband and I are sleeping better with it on!

I love how it is so simple to use. I just plug it in and choose which of the two speeds to turn on. That’s it! I am so thankful for my friend sharing this amazing product with me. I guess I know what I’ll be getting as Christmas presents for my two sister-in-laws who recently both had their first child! What better Christmas gift could I give a new parent than a good night’s sleep?

You can go to Marpac's Website as well as follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to learn more about their amazing sleep machines!

Disclaimer

FDA To Ban Trans Fats

November 2013

Easy

Heart-clogging trans fats have been slowly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is finishing the job.

The FDA plans to announce later Thursday that it will require the food industry to gradually phase out all trans fats, saying they are a threat to people's health. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.

Hamburg said that while the amount of trans fats in the country's diet has declined dramatically in the last decade, they "remain an area of significant public health concern." The trans fats have long been criticized by nutritionists, and New York and other local governments have banned them.

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5 Surefire Ways To Stop A Cold In Its Tracks!

November 2013
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Easy

We've all felt it... a tickle in your throat, an achy body. Yep, you’re coming down with something. But you don’t have to surrender.

Here’s how to stop a cold before it takes hold — and feel better fast.

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