3 Ways to Be Confident in Your Food Choices

According to the 12th Annual Food and Health Survey released by the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), 78-percent of Americans encounter a lot of conflicting info about what to eat and what foods to avoid. More than 50-percent of those polled say that this conflicting info makes them doubt their food choices. Here are 5 ways you can be confident in the food decisions you make.

Stop Making Assumptions

The survey also found that many consumers are making incorrect assumptions about certain foods, including fresh verses frozen and canned. Consumers are almost five times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than canned and four times as likely to believe a fresh product is healthier than frozen.

Take fresh fruits and vegetables, for example. They’re a healthy part of a well-balanced diet, but canned and frozen are just as healthy. Some studies say that they may even be healthier because canned and frozen produce are packed at their peak of ripeness.

You can feel confident when you buy fresh produce, but also be aware that canned and frozen are just as good for you. The only thing you want to pay attention to is that no butter or cream sauce was added to frozen veggies or sugar to frozen fruit, and that the sodium is low is canned food (or rinse it off before eating).

Feel Good About Your Choices

The survey found that 56-percent of women care about food being produced in a sustainable way, verses 42-percent of men. I myself am “pro-choice,” meaning you should be proud of whatever food choices you make, whether that means local,  organic or conventional. Nobody can dictate if you should choose organic, or grass-fed, or GMO-free. Everyone has their own reasons for purchasing certain foods. What you do what to make sure is that you’re choosing healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats.

Look for Credentials

Most folks rely heavily on information from their friends and family, including nutrition information. About 77-percent of survey participants said they rely on friends and family at least a little for this type of information. The survey also found that 59-percent of participants rated friends and family as their top influencers for what they choose to eat or the diet they choose to follow.

To get reputable information, seek the recommendations of a credentialed individual. Registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) have been specially trained in food and nutrition. You may also find someone who has a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics, or a diet technician (DTR)- all who can provide science-based information and recommendations.


Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Chatting with Alex and Jeff, the Mentors of Star Salvation

Star SalvationNearly four weeks into the Food Network Star competition, several finalists have already experienced the sting of elimination and left the contest in defeat — but perhaps they’ll be back. Starting Sunday night immediately after the new episode of Food Network Star, which premieres at 9|8c, Alex Guarnaschelli and Jeff Mauro will come together to mentor those ousted competitors on Star Salvation. This web-exclusive series on FoodNetwork.com will feature six weeks of challenges for the finalists eliminated along the way, and in the end one hopeful will earn the ultimate redemption: a chance to return to Food Network Star and rejoin the competition.

We checked in with Alex and Jeff on the set of Salvation about what they’re looking for in a Star hopeful and their own roads to Stardom on Food Network. Read on below to hear what they had to say.

You’ve both mentored on Star Salvation before. What have you learned before that you’re bringing to the competition this year?
Alex Guarnaschelli: My co-hosts always went to the culinary school of Food Network, so to speak. I think I bring the street smarts half, which is someone who offers advice about how to do a few fundamental things in front of the camera without having gone through this exact process. Plus a few totally impossible things that I actually learned from working with Bobby Flay: “Hey, relax and be yourself. Hey, if you don’t like the shirt you’re wearing, change into one that’s comfortable. Hey, if you make it like that at home, chances are you should have the nerve to make it here, in this competition, the exact same way.”

Jeff Mauro: Follow my instincts and look for the complete package, and look for somebody who is maybe looked over because of a bad day or a bad dish, and see through that one flub.

What makes someone worthy of a second chance in this competition specifically?
AG: I think Food Network has always been a place that grows its own flowers and grows its own talent, and that takes time. Sometimes you get a little too much rain going on, and the flower can’t breathe, so in all honesty, you need at least two times. Everybody deserves a second chance, in my opinion, and I don’t mean that in a hokey or corny way like let’s all be goodhearted. But sometimes when you get eliminated and you have a chance to sleep and drink water and reflect for a minute on whether you really, really want it, then this is the place where you come. And if you do really want it, then you win this thing.

JM: It’s hard being kicked off anything, so you’ve got to come in to this with twice as much passion to win, and that’s got to convey on screen and in the food.

Given your places in the Food Network family — Chopped judge, Iron Chef, Star winner, co-host of The Kitchen — what do you have to teach the finalists? What can you offer?
AG: I think if you really want a career in this, I hope you have a decently think skin. There have been so many moments where I’ve just said: “Boy, that really wasn’t good. Gee, that’s not how I wanted to act. Boy, I could have played that differently. Boy, that was dumb.” If you don’t have an auto-edit and an auto-forgive button — you need both, because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. But, hopefully, like Julia Child or anybody else — Emeril, Mario, any number of other people that anybody’s involved in seeing — it’s the humanity of those stars that makes you go back time and time again. The question is can you be charming enough in your humanity and your mistakes that I want you? Will I download your eggplant parm [recipe] and make it, or not? Chances are, I might not.

JM: You know what, if I can do it, anyone can. I set my sights on this goal 15 years ago, and I orchestrated my life to get to this point, and I never gave up. And to me, Food network Star was the ultimate job interview. I only had one shot at it, and I wasn’t going to screw it up. So, if I can be any inspiration — I mean, I’m not saying I did it perfectly. There was a lot of stumbles on the way, but I think what I can advise is know your food, know who you are, but also be a pleasure to work with. Ultimately, you could have all the talent in the world, but if you’re difficult to work with, people aren’t going to want to work with you

Like on Food Network Star, many of the Salvation challenges feature a digital component: Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat top snaps, etc. What should finalists be thinking about when trying to hook an online audience specifically?
AG: If [fans] have a question, are you going to answer it? They’re going to either start to develop or not have confidence in you as a food authority in those really static, quick-moving places right away. What if you don’t win Star Salvation? You can still theoretically build a really good platform off participating in this competition, and you’re going to do that on social media. So, if anything, the stakes are higher, because you want to retain that platform building no matter what. Every split second, every decision you make now can so much dictate what goes on beyond this competition. It’s quick. It’s 140 characters. It’s 15 seconds. For TV, we can shoot you slicing a tomato for 45 minutes and cut it down to 10, 20 seconds. You don’t get that forgiveness here on social media. You’re also dealing with it for a different audience. The demographic of social media is different. Can you relate to that demographic? Do you know what a 14-year-old wants to make? Do you know what a 17-year-old is interested in learning? Do you know what a 22-year-old wants to do with her life? What if you don’t? You’re gonna find out in 140 characters and 15 seconds.

JM: It’s a constant job. It’s one that maybe I’m not the best at, because I’m a daily poster, not a minute-by-minute or hourly poster, because I’m busy living life, but you have to adapt with the times. Between my TV career and my restaurant career, my third career is social media. You’ve got to stay on it, you’ve got to post what you’re eating, you’ve got to be funny, you’ve got to give a little insight into your life. You can’t sustain a career in this business without being social media savvy.

Star SalvationThinking back to your early days on Food Network, what do you think you came in with on Day 1 versus what you learned along the way through mentoring?
AG: I had a lot of cooking chops. I’d cooked for many years, so I came in my first day on Food Network, and I really felt like I had a good command of cooking. But it was a trap, because then I thought: “Well, what do I have to do? Nothing, I‘ll just be myself.” And that wasn’t entirely true. There’s more to this, unfortunately, than cooking. Being able to look up while you’re cooking, being able to answer someone’s questions, being interactive. This is a time when you can’t afford not to be. That was something I was able to learn over a little bit of time. There’s no learning curve like that anymore for interactiveness. I can’t cook without braising, and I can’t make a dish without tasting it, and I think that that was really to my advantage, because I immediately connected with the food. Any flaws you might have seen in my character development were overshadowed by the fact that clearly I knew how to cook, and I knew how to connect with food. I learned that simple is better. I learned that 400 ingredients does not a great dish make. I learned that just because I’m a professional chef and I have many skills, doesn’t mean a home cook can follow me so quickly. Do less more carefully. Be fun.

JM: I came in here with a young energy that needed to be groomed a little bit, maybe a bluer sense of humor that’s maybe not as appropriate for our viewer — which I still get to crowbar in here and there when it’s rightly timed. I was willing to be malleable and grow, and I grew in this business.

When you look at the finalists and perhaps see in them the same flaws that you may have started with, do you tend to forgive them more quickly because you know what they’re going through?
AG: Totally. I totally forgive their flaws. It’s very intimidating, and if I had never met Giada and Bobby before, that would really freak me out. Anybody who’s ever turned on Food Network, if you lived under a rock for 20 years, you know who the two of them are, and those are intimidating mentors. I don’t know if I would be able to hear them.

JM: Totally. I’m too forgiving maybe. You want to vote for everybody, give everybody a second shot, but that’s just not how it works. I’m here to judge and to give one more chance to that willing person. There’s always going to be a winner and losers.

Do you still have mentors in this industry today?
AG: I do. I don’t think you’re ever without mentors. In fact, my last mentor — my last male mentor — is Bobby. He’s probably been my mentor for the past five or six years, which is interesting, because we’re not that different in age and whatever else. We grew up in the same place, but I have so much respect for the way he straddles being both a professional chef, really cooking and being a food authority, and also being on television. So, I definitely look up to him. I have many mentors though. Many.

JM: Of course I do. I’d say Geoffrey Zakarian is my biggest mentor, just because we spend so much time together, and he’s — I’d like to say — the hardest working man in this business. I don’t think anybody works as hard as him. I consider him not only a mentor, but a friend and a part of my family. He helps guide me through the business end, which is a whole other animal of this Food Network business, and he helps me make the right decisions. So, GZ for the win. Sunny Anderson too.

Alex, you’re going to offer finalists a series of Mentor Moments throughout the competition. What key learnings and advice do you want to impart on them?
AG: I don’t think you should be in a hurry to know exactly how you want your food to be through 20 episodes [on your would-be Food Network show]. You should focus on making good food first. I think Giada’s really about personality and being genuine and smiling, because that’s infectious. I think even she would recall her first day as a Food Network star and admit how nervous she was. The other thing is, if you left the competition, there was a reason why you were eliminated, and that doesn’t get forgotten just because you magically reappear like the winner of Star Salvation. They still remember what they thought your flaw was that left you eliminated, and so it’s not like you go back in there with a completely blank slate. You’re still fighting the same thing you were before, and the question is, how do you do that? You find some confidence within you, mix it up like a salad with a drive to win and a desire to have your whole life change, your career change, your visibility, your profile – it’s a lot of things that change when this happens.

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12 Ways to Enjoy Strawberries All Summer Long

Strawberry-Lime Stuffed CupcakesSummer means tons of fresh fruits and vegetables showing up at the grocery stores and farmers markets, but if we’re totally honest, strawberries make us giddy for the season and gets our creative cooking juices flowing. While frozen strawberries keep our cravings at bay throughout the year, there are some things that are just better with super-sweet fresh strawberries. Take a look at some tasty ways to get your fill while strawberries are in season.

Strawberry-Stuffed Cupcakes (pictured above)
They look like standard cupcakes from the outside, but take a bite and you’ll be surprised with a mouthful of strawberry baked right in!

Strawberry FoolStrawberry Fool
Quite possibly the easiest recipe of them all, strawberry fool is essentially just strawberries and whipped cream, mixed together. Sunny Anderson brings out the natural sweetness of strawberries by macerating them with some orange juice and a bit of sugar before folding them into homemade whipped cream.

Strawberry Ice CreamStrawberry Ice Cream
Pre-packaged strawberry ice cream is a far cry from the fresh stuff. Break out the ice cream maker and find out what you’ve been missing.

Strawberry ShortcakeStrawberry Shortcake
Depending on where you grew up, shortcake can either mean a biscuit or cake-like dessert topped with whipped cream and strawberries. This variety is the biscuit-type and makes for picture-perfect individual servings.

Classic Strawberry ShortcakeStrawberry Shortcake
The cakey variety of shortcake is perfect for those who love cake but don’t love a thick, heavy layer of frosting.

Green Salad with Strawberry Balsamic VinaigretteGreen Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
This healthy side salad gets a sweet kick from strawberry jam in the dressing and fresh strawberries tossed right into the mix. Add in some grilled chicken to make it a light meal.

Strawberry MuffinsStrawberry Muffins
No one can justify skipping breakfast when it tastes this good and takes less than an hour to have a fresh batch out of the oven.

Strawberry JamStrawberry Jam
The ultimate way to preserve the flavor of fresh strawberries? With preserves! Stock your pantry with strawberry jam and reap the benefits all winter long.

Balsamic StrawberriesBalsamic Strawberries
Boil balsamic vinegar with some honey to dress up fresh strawberries for a light dessert that’s not overly sweet but still satisfies your after-dinner craving. Mascarpone whipped cream makes this super simple dessert dinner party-worthy.

Chicken Tacos with Strawberry SalsaChicken Tacos with Strawberry Salsa
Taco Tuesday just got better. This summer edition of everyone’s favorite Tuesday treat features marinated and grilled chicken topped with fresh strawberry salsa.

Strawberry Pie CakeStrawberry Pie Cake
Get the best of two classic desserts with one simple mashup. This strawberry-filled dessert is a breeze to make thanks to store-bought cake mix and refrigerated pie dough.

Strawberry Orange DaiquiriStrawberry Orange Daiquiri
No summer party is complete without a beverage, and you’re only four ingredients away from this tropical daiquiri.

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Chatting with Natalie Sideserf, a Star of the New Series Texas Cake House

Natalie SideserfLet’s just say that Natalie Sideserf isn’t your everyday cake decorator. While many bakers look to a sheet of fondant and a few roses to craft a birthday cake, Natalie pushes the limits of what you know cake to be by building from the base up hyper-realistic designs that are as much works of art as they are desert. Together with her husband and business partner, Dave, Natalie will offer fans an insider’s look at the start-to-finish process she and her team employ on their all-new series, Texas Cake House. The show premieres on Monday, July 10 at 9|8c, but we caught up with Natalie ahead of time to learn more about her style in the kitchen and the business she and Dave run, Sideserf Cake Studio.

How did you get started in this business? 
Natalie Sideserf: After graduating from the Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, my friend Kelsey suggested I try to make a sculpted cow skull cake for our friend’s upcoming birthday. I gave it a try and immediately realized I had found the thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Being able to combine my love of food and art is a dream come true.

Where did you learn to sculpt cake?
NS: I learned the basics of cake decorating while working at local bakeries, but I taught myself how to create elaborate cake sculptures by experimenting at home. It has taken me many years of practice, and I still learn something new with every cake.

Your work transcends cake decorating and becomes pieces of edible art. How would you describe what it is that you do?
NS: Approaching sugar, chocolate and cake the same as I would traditional art media has allowed me to master my innovative techniques and style. With every cake design, I ask myself, “How can I take this cake to the next level?”

Who would you consider to be your culinary/professional mentor?
NS: As far as cake sculpting, I research hyper-realistic artists and special-effects makeup artists. I often borrow their techniques and find substitutes for their materials in food, sugar and cake. My go-to artist to reference is Ron Mueck. His work is absolutely insane.

Austin is a very unique food city. When it comes to the culinary side of Sideserf Cake Studio we are very much influenced by local restaurants whose food is also creative. Odd Duck has a chocolate layer cake with Mexican vanilla ice cream and chocolate potato chips that is amazing. And if you think my cakes are artistic, you have to try Texas barbecue! The smoking process is truly an art.

Do you enjoy eating cake as much as sculpting it? What’s your favorite cake-frosting combo?
NS: Sideserf Cake Studio is known for creating unique flavors that complement our cake designs. I love variety, but if I had to pick one go-to cake-frosting combo, I’d say chocolate cake with chocolate Swiss buttercream. Give me all the chocolates!

Texas Cake HouseWhat’s the process like to create a custom cake? Please walk us through the steps in as much detail as possible.
NS: My cakes are project based, so every cake is a little different. Typically I start by searching reference photos to influence the cake design. After drawing up a quick sketch of the cake, I build the internal structure that gives the cake its gravity-defying shape. After the structure is built and the cakes are baked, I stack, carve, ice, sculpt and paint the cake. The last step is delivery, which is always the perfect mix of stress and excitement.

What kinds of clients seek your cakes?
NS: I’ve had requests for cakes of a life-sized human bust to a unicorn farting a glittery rainbow. My clients are open-minded and order very unique cakes. Many of my cakes circulate online in blogs and news outlets all over the world, so a lot of my clients order from me because they see my work online first and become fans. In fact, I’ve had someone tell me they didn’t plan on having a party but did anyway just so they could order a cake. I was super flattered. I’m so happy my cakes have the power to initiate parties.

What are your favorite kinds of cakes to make, in terms of subjects, themes, genres or celebrations?
NS: Like most chefs, I specialize in a specific style. I prefer to sculpt organic cake designs (humans, animals), as opposed to mechanical objects (cars, buildings). My favorite cakes are when customers give me a theme and let me come up with a design completely on my own, because it allows me to design based on my strengths.

Are you ever bummed to see your cakes be eaten, given the amount of effort and time you invested in making them?
NS: Eating the cake is my favorite part! I love that scratch-baking ingredients can be transformed into an elaborate sculpture that people can eat. It is a really fun process and unique experience for the customers and myself.

What’s the most-unusual cake request you’ve ever received? Were you able to deliver? Please explain.
NS: The more unusual the cake, the more excited I am to make it. I had a really, really weird cake that I made for a film festival in Austin, but you will have to watch Texas Cake House to see it. No spoilers!

How long does it take you to create one cake, from start to finish?
NS: I estimate approximately 30 to 40 hours per cake, from design to delivery, but time varies. I always want the cake to be as fresh as possible, so there are a lot of long hours days before delivery.

What’s the most-rewarding part of this job for you?
NS: The most-rewarding part of this job is that I get to make cake sculptures that are incredibly personal. I have many customers become emotional as I drop off their cake — some even tear up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an emotional event; it is a matter of exceeding a client’s expectations.

What cake or project in particular are you most proud of?

NS: I will always be most proud of my own wedding cake. Dave and I were married close to Halloween in a famous movie theater, The Alamo Drafthouse, in downtown Austin. Dave loves film and grew up watching a lot of cheesy horror-themed B-movies, so I came up with a cake design of our severed heads. I thought of the cake as a Halloween prop and used special effects makeup techniques the same way they do in movies. The cake isn’t for everyone, but it was perfect for us, and Dave absolutely loved it.

Do you find yourself getting stressed or anxious over the amount of work that’s involved in each project, or are you used to the demands by now?
NS: I don’t think I will ever make a stress-free cake. I rarely sculpt the same cake twice, which means I am bound to run into a few unexpected surprises.

What do you think fans might not realize about what it takes to create one of your cakes?
NS: I think when people only see the finished product and miss the cake-making process, they think that everything went quickly and with ease, but that isn’t always the case. It takes a lot of time to make high-quality sculpted cakes, and sometimes things don’t go as planned. You wouldn’t believe how dramatic a cake delivery can be!

Tell us about your working relationship with Dave. What’s it like working with your husband every day?
NS: Dave worked from home for most of our relationship so we are used to being around each other, but now that Dave joined Sideserf Cake Studio, we are never apart. We occasionally argue, but working together allows us to understand how to handle our disagreements better. He’s really smart and business savvy, so I appreciate and respect his input. Also, he’s my husband and he’s funny and I love him, so there’s that.

How do you balance the professional relationship with Dave and your personal one?
NS: Dave and I are happiest when we strike a balance between our personal and professional relationships. We are very passionate about the business and are very hard workers, but we try to make time to go to dinner and events when we can. Having fun outside of work is really important to us.

Please fill in the blank: Dave doesn’t know this, but it really makes me happy when _____.
NS: [When] I am stressed while working on a cake and he cracks jokes. It lightens the mood.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself and Dave in working together?
NS: Dave and I complement each other really well. We both have different talents that we contribute to the business, so having him involved makes our cakes that much better.

What can fans expect from watching Texas Cake House?
NS: Along with watching the process of making cakes that I am really proud of, fans can expect to learn more about the people behind our crazy cakes. Dave and I are super goofy, and we have a lot of fun together.

What do you hope fans learn about you and your business?
NS: I hope fans will see how appreciative I am to have the opportunity to make cakes, and I hope that they feel encouraged to follow their talents too.

Mark your calendar for the premiere of Texas Cake House on Monday, July 10 at 9|8c.

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These Temporary Tattoos of Herbs Are Scented

These Temporary Tattoos of Herbs Are ScentedParsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are not only herbs you keep in your kitchen spice drawer and lyrics you sing in the shower (Are you going to Scarborough Fair?). They’re also artful temporary tattoos you can wear on your arm. In fact, you can wear them wherever you like. Oh, and also? They’re scented.

Temporary tattoo maker ­Tattly — which was begun by a Brooklyn blogger and designer who couldn’t stand the ugly clip-art temporary tattoos her children were presented with and decided to make something better — is now selling a package of eight meticulously detailed and delicately rendered fragrant herb tattoos based on original watercolor designs created by Lyon, France-based painter Vincent Jeannerot. (The artists who design Tattly tattoos get a cut of sales.)

The botanical temporary tats — sold as the BOUQUET GARNI SET — are definitely easy on the eyes. They’re designed to please the old sniffer as well, featuring a “unique and subtle” scent developed by fragrance producer Agilex Fragrances.

“The top notes include Red Thyme, Italian Bergamot, Sheer White Spice Accord; the middle notes feature Parsley Leaf, Moroccan Rosemary, Wild Sage; and the bottom notes contain White Musk, Clear Musk, and White Sandalwood,” the Tattly website asserts.

Safe, non-toxic, FDA-compliant and suitable for herb fans of all ages, the tattoos are printed with vegetable-based ink and made in the U.S.A. An eight-pack will run you $18. The tattoos apply with help from a damp sponge in about 30 seconds, are waterproof and last for about two to four days.

Just don’t blame them if you can’t get that Simon & Garfunkel song out of your head the whole time.

Photo courtesy of @tattly

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On the Longest Day of the Year, Achieve All of Your Food Goals

It’s here, folks — the season in which everything is a little bit brighter, life is a little bit breezier and the days are a little bit lighter. And to celebrate today’s extended hours of sunlight (woo-hoo!), we suggest you make some recipes that are just as festive as you feel today. These dishes are what your taste buds (and Instagram) were made for. And yes, we’re totally on board with a day that starts with a sundae and ends with shortcake.

Banana Ice Cream Sundae (above)

It’s not every day that we’d suggest eating ice cream for breakfast, but: A) This isn’t ice cream, it’s one-ingredient banana “nice” cream. B) It’s dressed up with all the good-for-you toppings you might put on yogurt (like berries and nuts). And C) if you can’t eat dessert for breakfast on the first day of summer, when can you?

Colorful Summer Rolls With Peanut Dipping Sauce

For lunch, make the happiest wraps we know. Translucent rice paper puts a rainbow of fresh ingredients (like candy cane beets, mint and peppers) on display.

Shrimp Scampi Pasta Salad

This bright and beautiful dish is proof that scampi can be a dish best served cold. And start celebrating summer’s bounty with crisp green beans, juicy tomatoes and sweet corn.

Fried Deviled Eggs

This twist on a classic is reason enough to throw a last-minute summer solstice shindig. Coated in panko and fried, the egg whites become crunchy and addictive — much more than just a vehicle for the creamy, yolky center.

Grilled Loaded Nachos

If you’ve waited for today to fire up the grill for the first time, make its debut a memorable one. Warmed on the grill, nachos (loaded with chorizo, refried beans and cheese) come out melty, smoky and perfectly crisp.

Cheese-Stuffed Burgers

Of course, we certainly suggest you make room on your grill for some burgers too. Trisha Yearwood’s are stuffed with whatever cheese you like (Blue cheese! Mozzarella! Pimiento!).

Sangria Slushie

Pour a bottle of wine into ice cube trays and freeze in the morning; by dinnertime you can whirl the cubes in a blender with brandy, orange-flavored liqueur and berries. It’s a delicious party trick you’ll pull out every weekend this season.

Strawberry Shortcake Skewers

And because it will still be light out once dessert-time rolls around, fire up the grill again. Charred berries and pound cake take a traditional sweet treat to a whole ‘nother level.

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It Turns Out That Coffee Drinkers Get a Pre-Workout Caffeine Boost, Too

It Turns Out That Coffee Drinkers Get a Pre-Workout Caffeine Boost, TooThose of us who are big-time coffee guzzlers probably don’t need another reason to indulge in our favorite beverage, but science has given us one anyway.

Caffeine can give your workout a boost — this much has been known. But a theory has also held that, if you are a regular coffee drinker, the performance-enhancing effects of a pre-workout caffeine jolt is diminished. A new study indicates that may not to be the case.

A “double-blind, crossover, counterbalanced” study conducted by researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil and published in Journal of Applied Physiology suggests consuming caffeine about an hour before you exercise can enhance your performance regardless of whether or not you are a regular caffeine consumer.

The study examined the effect of pre-exercise caffeine ingestion on 40 endurance-trained cyclists who were either low (about a cup of a caffeinated beverage or less daily), moderate (about two cups a day) or high consumers of caffeine (three or more a day) in order to gauge whether the cyclists usual caffeine consumption reduced or otherwise altered caffeine’s known performance-boosting effects. It did not.

“Performance effects of acute caffeine supplementation during a ~30 min cycling TT performance were not influenced by the level of habitual caffeine consumption,” the study concluded.

The results will come as good news to athletes who have heretofore felt the need to lay off the caffeine in general in order to maximize the effects of caffeine before a race, game or athletic event.

But, the study’s lead author, Bruno Gualano, has cautioned that consuming too much caffeine can have perilous side effects – making you jittery or inducing a headache, upset stomach or even heart palpitations. Best to go easy, Gualano told The New York Times, suggesting that a single cup of coffee about an hour ahead of working out should suffice.

Alas, no scientific justification yet for loading your pre-workout coffee with cream and sugar, though.

Photo: iStock

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Chopped Grill Masters Is Back with Barbecuers, Grillers and Chefs Facing Off for $50,000

Chopped Grill MastersSixteen of the most talented grilling professionals are heading outdoors to get ready for a showdown in the return of Chopped Grill Masters, premiering Tuesday, August 1 at 10|9c. Hosted by Ted Allen, and featuring a rotating panel of Chopped judges and special guests, each episode sees four Grill Masters competing over three rounds — appetizer, entree and dessert — as they showcase their exceptional skills, with only charcoal and propane grills, and a smoker at their disposal. The goal, to create unique dishes utilizing the mystery basket of ingredients to impress the judges, while also battling the outdoor elements. The winner from each heat of the five-part tournament earns a spot in the grand finale, where they will compete for the grand prize of $50,000 and a Napa Valley dream vacation.

Grill Masters: Battle 1 —Tuesday, August 1 at 10|9c
Live-fire cooking, life-changing stakes! In this $50,000 five-part tournament, grilling’s greatest go big in a spectacular outdoor kitchen. First basket out of the gate challenges four determined competitors with a weird pie and a beautiful cut of pork. A vegan product counters the giant beef ribs in the entree basket, and the judges are impressed when they see a chef making a creative choice for their dessert basket, but will the innovative idea result in a tasty plate?
Competitors: Megan Day (Kansas City, Mo.), Laura Frazee (Dunnellon, Fla.), Andy Husbands (Boston, Mass.), Craig Verhage (Cleveland, Miss.)
Judges: Alex Guarnaschelli, Myron Mixon, Marc Murphy

Grill Masters: Battle 2 — Tuesday, August 8 at 10|9c
A second group of Grill Masters is in hot pursuit of the $50,000 grand prize. The chefs discover something stuffed and something smoked in the appetizer basket. Double proteins make the entree a carnivore’s dream, and the two competitors who make it to the dessert basket find ways to make beans the center of their sweet dishes.
Competitors: Jeff Bannister (Greenville, S.C.), Ro Daniel (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Richard Fergola (Gardner, Kan.), Joe Johnson (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Judges: Scott Conant, Tiffani Faison, Marc Murphy

Grill Masters: Battle 3 — Tuesday, August 15 at 10|9c
Four new Grill Masters are confident they can be the best and advance to the Grand Finale! In the appetizer basket, the party gets started with a frozen daiquiri and plating timing doesn’t work out well for one of the chefs. A fatty protein and an odd-colored ice cream are part of the challenge in the second round. In the dessert basket birthday cake is a festive find for the remaining competitors.
Competitors: Moe Cason (Des Moines, Iowa), Stephen Coe (Plymouth, Mass.), Lee Ann Whippen (Chicago, Ill.), Flip Wise (Aspen, Colo.)
Judges: Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy, Marcus Samuelsson

Grill Masters: Battle 4 — Tuesday, August 22 at 10|9c
Just one spot left for the Grand Finale! A feisty group of chefs is trash talking from the start, but will the vibe change after somebody’s lamb appetizer lands on the chopping block? A “steak” made out of a vegetable is one of the surprises the chefs face in the entrée basket. The last two competitors are supremely confident, but their knowledge of dragon fruit and mesquite powder could play a role in who grills the best dessert.
Competitors: Joanna Dunn (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Nikki Martin (West Hollywood, Calif.), Marco Niccoli (Salt Lake City, Utah), Jim Stancil (Oxford, Ga.)
Judges: Maneet Chauhan, Aaron Franklin, Chris Santos

Grill Masters: Finale Battle — Tuesday, August 29 at 10|9c
Which of the four incredible Grill Masters champions will top all and score $50,000 and a Napa Valley vacation? Tiny, celebratory beers help kick off the first round of live-fire cooking, as well as a beautiful rack of boar. As the intensity heats up, s’mores and a delicate vegetable accompany a lean meat on the competitors’ entree plates. A giant sweet surprise in the dessert basket ensures that the final plates will be colorful and unusual. But whose will taste like 50,000 bucks?
Judges: Amanda Freitag, Marc Murphy, Chris Santos

Find out more about the Chopped Grill Masters tournament at http://ift.tt/1R5q98c. Join in on all the fun at #Chopped.

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 Trend Alert: the Urban Farm-to-Table Movement

Vertical aeroponic gardening at Tower Gardens.


Farms aren’t just in the country anymore. Rooftop gardens supply dozens of Chicago restaurants with just-picked veggies. In the lobby of Vin de Set restaurant in St. Louis, diners are greeted by tall white towers growing kale for salads that night. At New York’s Bell Book & Candle, the menu is set by herbs like chervil, Opal basil and sage, all grown several stories above the dining room. Today, chefs and consumers are tasting veggies picked mere hours beforehand from restaurant rooftops, and from the abandoned parking lot turned urban farm next door.


Aeroponic Farming

Jeff Seibel’s official title is Farm Manager, but his unofficial title is “Urban Farmer” in St. Louis. He oversees a commercial greenhouse that supplies all of the Bibb lettuce, Romaine, kale, arugula, kohlrabi, fennel, mustard and other greens for five Hamilton Hospitality restaurants. From March to December, restaurant owners Paul and Wendy Hamilton do not order a single green leaf for their growing restaurants. “We’ve even switched up our menus to add more greens to our dishes, including green-topped pizzas, braised greens pastas and creative salads. It’s a good dilemma, to have so much just-picked produce,” said Wendy.

To make the most of crowded city spaces, Seibel grows produce for the Hamilton’s restaurants in white vertical Tower Gardens. Last year over 10,000 pounds of produce was grown in just a ¼ acre plot of land. The Tower system is known as aeroponic farming and according to some calculations, farmers can grow 30% more food up to three times faster than traditional farming methods, using 98% less water and 90% less space.


Hydroponic Gardens

In New York City, students at the Food and Finance High School (FFHS) in collaboration with NYC Cornell University Coop Extension (CUCE) tend hydroponic gardens —soil-free plots that grow plants in nutrient-rich water. Students learn that the liquid nutrient solution requirements needed for young plants is different from that needed for mature plants, and that a controlled environment is needed to produce healthy vegetables and herbs.

Once harvested, produce like kale and Chinese cabbages are prepared by students in the school’s cafeteria, and in the culinary arts and catering programs. “Graduates of our programs are skilled in every aspect of growing plants hydroponically to marketing the mature vegetables in retail settings,” explains Professor Philson Warner, Founding Director of CUCE Hydroponics, Aquaculture, Aquaponics, Sustainable Agriculture Applied Research Teaching Labs.


Rooftop gardens

Over 10 million heads of leafy greens and herbs are grown year-round on the south side of Chicago at the Gotham Greens 75,000 square foot rooftop farm. It claims to be the world’s largest and most productive greenhouse. Not only can chefs get bok choy and Windy City Crunch lettuce blend, but consumers can find these greens at their local Jewel supermarket. Gotham Greens also partners with the Greater Chicago Food Depository food bank.

Baseball fans seated on the third base side of Fenway Park in Boston can view the Fenway Farms garden from which the kale on their Kale Caesar was harvested. Tomatoes, peppers, Brussels sprouts and other veggies grown in the rooftop garden are served at Red Sox EMC Club restaurant, for special events, and in concession stand favorites.


Tips for Finding Urban Farms in your City

Keep your eyes peeled for greens grown right in your own city above restaurants, at schools, in stadiums. Or search online for: urban farm, hydroponic, rooftop garden. Here are a few specific examples:



University of Southern California

Lindsey Pine, a Registered Dietitian at USC Hospitality, notes: “Students may see the lettuce they will have for lunch as they walk to class.” With 88 Tower Gardens, there’s a good chance if you eat at a restaurant, catered event, or dining hall on campus, you’re eating greens that are only a few hours old.

Bowdoin University

Even in Maine’s short growing season, vegetables, fruits and herbs from the Bowdoin Organic Garden are served in the school’s cafeteria.


Community Programs

Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture

This organization in Columbia, Missouri, is like gardening training wheels. Chefs, pharmacists and wannabe home gardeners can learn skills in gardens around the city.

Little Free Garden Project

In Moorhead, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota, you and your neighbors can share the fun of gardening together.


Supermarkets and Farmers Markets

Gotham Greens

Originating in New York City, their greens are in hundreds of NYC restaurants and at grocery stores around New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Rising Pheasant Farms

Farmers market shoppers in Detroit can pick up asparagus, sage and sunflower shoots grown on the East Side.


Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Photo courtesy of Tower Gardens

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10 Ways to Drink and Eat Lemonade All Summer Long

Raspberry LemonadeAll at once sweet, tangy and tart, there’s simply nothing so refreshing as a cold glass of lemonade. It’s basically the official drink of summer but that’s just the beginning. Behold, 13 ways to enjoy lemonade, from drinks to dishes, all summer long.

To Drink

Raspberry Lemonade (pictured above)
With only three ingredients, this is one of the simplest ways to make fresh berry lemonade.

Italian LemonadeItalian Lemonade
The addition of fresh basil delivers a subtle floral taste.

Watermelon Lemonade SlushyWatermelon Lemonade Slushy
A quick whirl in the blender is all that’s needed to turn frozen watermelon into a cool-down treat.

Perfect Homemade LemonadeRee Drummond’s Perfect Homemade Lemonade
Consider this your go-to lemonade recipe. It’s got that ideal balance of sweet and sour flavors, it’s simple to make and it delivers delicious results every single time.

Blueberry LemonadeBlueberry Lemonade
A sweet blueberry syrup adds bold color and flavor to this top-rated drink.

The Pioneer Woman's Ginger Lemonade FizzThe Pioneer Woman’s Ginger Lemonade Fizz
What a difference a splash of club soda makes!

To Eat

4-Ingredient Frozen Lemonade Pie4-Ingredient Frozen Lemonade Pie
This is one of those showstopper recipes that’s so secretly simple you’ll never believe you only need a few ingredients to pull it off. The secret? A ready-to-go graham cracker pie crust saves the day.

Fruity Lemonade Ice PopsFruity Lemonade Ice Pops
Simply put, this is the yummiest way to make fresh fruit last a few minutes longer.

Strawberry Lemonade BarsStrawberry Lemonade Bars
A tender, buttery crust form the base of these crowd-pleasing bites.

Crunchy Lemonade DrumsticksCrunchy Lemonade Drumsticks
Betcha didn’t know you could use lemons to make the best fried chicken of the summer.

Charity Curley Mathews is a contributor to InStyle, The Huffington Post and eHow Food and the founder of Foodlets.com, a food and parenting blog where every recipe is full of fresh ingredients, simple to make and kid-tested x4. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, four small kids, two puppies and 20,000 bees. You can follow her on Facebook.

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Star Report: 7 Key Takeaways from Finalists’ 5-Course Dinners

Food Network StarThe name of the game this week was experiential dining, and for one reason or another, the competitors indeed served up an experience—though for some it’s probably an experienced they’d like to forget. We’re looking back on the best moments (and the cringeworthy ones).

Food Network StarFirst things first: Jason’s a lil sassy today. Just saying.

Food Network StarTrace skips a pasta sauce because he likes sauces to swamps, and as he says, “Nobody likes a swamp.” Honestly, we’re not sure if the mentors intended for the finalists to get as literal about their experiences as Trace did, but we applaud his dedication to the challenge. (He’s right, though. We hate swamps.)

Food Network StarMatthew’s set on “directing” his teammates through their video segments, but Cao’s not having it, and she shuts him down in the nicest way possible. Made us chuckle.

Food Network StarRusty’s repping the jungle, but we’re not sure we buy it. Like, have you seen an actual animal make a face like this?!

Food Network StarAmy thinks she has about a 0 percent of beating Cory in the seafood course because he’s a pro chef and she’s not — but she does! This is the second week in a row that they’ve been paired up (remember when he spent a huge chunk of their budget on caviar last week?), so we’re calling this vindication for Amy.

Food Network StarIf there’s one thing Bobby hates, it’s bland food. We’re cringing for Cao here, because we’d hate to serve Bobby “Bold” Flay something that’s underseasoned as she’s done — two weeks in a row, no less!

Food Network StarOof. Poor Suzanne. She finally gets her way and is allowed to make dessert, but she has to do it against a certified baking champion, Jason. Her baklava is a flop for the judges, who aren’t pleased with her camera work either, and they send her home because of it. Let’s file this in the category: Can’t Catch a Break.

Tune in to Food Network Star on Sundays at 9|8c.

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