Popcorn: 5 Ways to Spice It Up

Plain or buttery. Kettlecorn or extra salt. There isn’t a bad way to enjoy popcorn! But the same old method can get, well, old! In honor of National Popcorn Day today, we’re sharing five simple ways to spice up your popcorn routine. Let’s get popping!

Popcorn is a mom’s best friend. Having it on hand makes a quick after-school snack, makes an easy treat for that play date, and makes that Friday night movie a little more special.

While microwave popcorn is a quick option, we love an air popper like this one. It pops 30% faster than the microwave with virtually no unpopped kernels. Plus since it doesn’t use any oil, you can make your toppings as healthy (or unhealthy—ha!) as you want. Here are five must-try toppings, recipes and photo sources, below:

Brown Butter and Parm – Browning the butter gives it a nutty nuance while grated parm on the popcorn makes everything better. Simple, delicious, sophisticated.

Pseudo-Caramel and Almond – Popcorn gets covered with a caramel-y sauce made from blending together coconut oil, dates, vanilla, and almonds. Sounds strange—tastes delicious. And waaaaay healthier.

Spicy Cilantro Lime – Who says popcorn has to be sweet or salty? Satisfy your savory tooth with this spicy blend of cayenne pepper, garlic, cumin, cilantro and lime. This one is begging to be paired with a margarita!

Tastes-Like-Cheese (but it’s not) – Stay with me here….have you heard of nutritional yeast? I know, I know…it sounds kind of scary. But it’s a dairy-free way to give your popcorn a cheese-like flavor! Plus, it’s nutritious (hence the name). The flakes are high in B vitamins, nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA and RNA) that promote cellular repair and regeneration, and they contain no gluten, no dairy, and no MSG. Try some nutritional yeast here.

Buffalo Ranch – Superbowl is coming….just saying. This Buffalo Ranch popcorn might be just the thing to make in bulk and add to your appetizer buffet.

What’s YOUR favorite popcorn flavor?

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Holiday Hot Cocoa Variations

Between the cold weather, holiday music on repeat, and all the lights and decorations, I swear that every morning feels like a morning worthy of hot cocoa with the kids! Today, in celebration of National Hot Cocoa Day, we’re sharing some of our favorite hot cocoa recipes – a basic (but oh-so-decadent) recipe from our upcoming Family Ski Guide plus four other variations to mix it up a bit. (And a bonus hot cocoa topper at the end that is sure to excited the kids!)

First, let’s start off with a pretty basic hot cocoa recipe if you’re not feeling too adventurous. The talented Catherine from our sister site, The Shopping Mama, came up with this hot chocolate recipe that is decadent, delicious and made with dark chocolate – my fav!

European-Style Hot Cocoa

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1.5 cups heavy cream
  • 1 large dark chocolate Hershey’s bar (4.25 oz)
  • vanilla – 1 tsp
  • spices as desired: nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne etc
  • salt – dash
1. Chop your Hershey’s bar into small shavings.
2. In a saucepan over medium-low, heat your milk and chocolate pieces. *Do not boil*
3. Whisk your heavy cream (or use a stand mixer) until thickened slightly.
4. Add in your vanilla, salt and spices to your chocolate mixture.
5. Whisk the thickened cream into your chocolate mixture. (Leaving a little for topping) Heat through *Do not boil*
6. Ladle into mugs and enjoy!
Ready to mix it up a bit? Try these hot cocoa variations for a little something different!

Add Some Spice: Mexican-Style Hot Chocolate

Looking for a little extra spice? I love the added heat and spice that Mexican hot cocoa has. This recipe relies on chopped up Mexican chocolate and a cinnamon stick for added spice.

Make It Minty: Peppermint Hot Chocolate

‘Tis the season for mini candy canes! Put those red and white treats to good use in this festive peppermint hot chocolate that uses peppermint extract and candy canes to make it minty.

Chilled-Out Hot Cocoa: Cookies & Cream Frozen Hot Chocolate

Who said hot chocolate had to actually be hot? This frozen hot cocoa from A Beautiful Mess is pretty much a milkshake but doesn’t require that you have ice cream on hand. It does require a cookies and cream chocolate bar though you might be able to get creative with a regular chocolate bar and some Oreos too. A fun way to shake up traditional hot chocolate.

Adult-Only: Aztec Slugger

This variation is only for the over 21 crowd. Hot chocolate. Coffee. Bourbon. Oh my! Just opt for decaf in this Aztec Slugger if you’re having this after 4pm. And take the advice of some of the reviewers and cut the booze in half. You want this adult hot cocoa to warm you up – not knock you out.

BONUS Best Topping Ever: Marshmallow Whipped Cream

Do you ever have the debate with your kids (or yourself) – do I top my hot chocolate with whipped cream or marshmallows? Now, you don’t have to choose. This decadent hot cocoa topper combines homemade whipped cream WITH mini marshmallows folded in. It’s practically a present in a cup.

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Our Favorite Make-Ahead Party Appetizers

Holiday party season is here – whether you are hosting just a few or a large shindig, the last thing you want to do is to be sweating and stressing in the kitchen over your appetizers. So we’ve rounded up some of our favorite, make-ahead apps that are delicious and won’t have you stressing when your doorbell rings.

After too many parties where I was frantically trying to finish plating individual butternut squash and cranberry brushcetta toasts for a crowd (really, what was I thinking?) or cooking up the filling to this endive stuffed with warm pears and blue cheese, I’ve decided stress is not a good party look for me. So I’ve been compiling a collection of party appetizers beyond the traditional dips and cheese platters that I can prep ahead of time and take no or minimal work in the kitchen minutes before guests arrive. Here are a few of my favs –  but I’m always looking for more! Share your favorite make-ahead apps in the comments below.

Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Garlic Aioli – this is my new favorite app of the season. I can’t say that I’m a Brussel sprout lover, but I could eat an entire bowl of these. Granted, it’s probably the yummy garlic-y aioli sauce. The sprouts are easy to cut into quarters and roast in advance – this recipe is best room temp. I’ve also added some halved baby potatoes which are also quite tasty in the aioli too. (Photo: Costa Kitchen)

Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon – this is a classic and delicious flavor pairing that is easy for the kids to help with (melon ballers make it fun!). Wrap honeydew or cantaloupe melon with a strip of prosciutto. Secure with a toothpick and pop in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. (Photo: Bellalimento)

Spicy Shrimp Tapas – while you do have to cook the shrimp, this appetizer comes together pretty quickly if you buy pre-cut mango and assemble ahead of time. (Photo: EatWell)

Holiday Bourbon Whiskey Meatballs – If you have the kind of crowd that is going to boo a veggie tray, you might want to consider these oh-so-tasty meatballs. I made them once and they were d-e-v-o-u-r-e-d. You use pre-made meatballs and put together a decadent sauce with just a few ingredients. Pop them in a crockpot and you have a delicious, hands-off, hot appetizer for your guests. (photo: MyHomemdelife)

Caprese Stacks – if you can still find tasty cherry tomatoes, this app comes together in a few minutes. Buy mozzarella balls and either wrap with a basil leaf as show in the picture or just add it to the toothpick. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar right before serving.

What are your favorite make-ahead appetizers?

And if you need help with your holiday shopping, check out our all inclusive gift guide!

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4 Delicious Ways to Use Fresh Cranberries

Thanksgiving may be over, but fresh cranberries are still in season. Relatively inexpensive, these ruby gems are a delicious and festive addition to the holiday season. Plus, they are healthy too – cranberries are low in calories and low on the glycemic index, loaded with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, help support a healthy immune system, and are a good source of vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. Here are four delicious ways to use cranberries all holiday long.

Fresh Cranberries

Look for fresh cranberries in your grocery store’s chilled produce section. Fresh cranberries can be stored in a tightly-sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two months!

Fresh CranberriesBaked Brie with Balsamic Rosemary Cranberry Sauce –  I recently found this appetizer on Sarcastic Cooking and pinned it for an upcoming holiday party. I tried it out last night at a belated family Thanksgiving and it was devoured before I could snap a picture of my own! It’s simple, delicious and oh-so-pretty for a party. The final results looks like a cheesy present just begging to be bitten into.

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Merry Cranberry MargaritaI know margaritas might make you think of warm summer days by the pool, but this winter version with fresh cranberries will make you want to bring your margaritas with you right into the holidays. This simple cocktail relies on blended fresh cranberries as well as cranberry juice and looks extra festive when the glass is garnished with some sugared cranberries on a toothpick across the rim.

Fresh Cranberries

Cranberry Harvest MuffinsThese cranberry muffins have all the flavors of the season – cinnamon and ginger, cranberries and toasted nuts. Skip the sifting to make this recipe even quicker and swap out any additions your kids won’t eat. A tasty treat for lunch boxes, an after school snack, or for unexpected overnight visitors.

Fresh Cranberries

Homemade Cranberry-and-Orange VodkaLooking for an easy and delicious homemade gift to give this season? With less than an hour and a few pretty bottles, you can create these containers of homemade cranberry-orange vodka to give to family and friends. Wrap them up with the cute printable hangtags found in our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide and consider adding an accompanying recipe for a festive cocktail.

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MOMS HOLIDAY PREP

MOMS HOLIDAY PREP

Most of us tend to forget the spirit of the season because we get lost in the hustle and the bustle that is inevitable this time of year. The Holidays are all about spending time with family and friends so make sure to keep that in mind when planning for the season ahead. I’ve got some tips to make entertaining easier.

My focus is always on three areas of the house: the kitchen, the pantry and the dining room. Keeping your pantry, kitchen and fridge stocked with the essentials is key.

MOMS HOLIDAY PREP

One of my favorite entertaining essentials is stocking a bar cart like this Threshold Metal & Stone Bar Cart and matching Barware Tool Set with festive beverages and mixers. That way, your guests can have fun mixing their own cocktails and you’re not stuck behind the bar all night.

Pre-Mix one custom cocktail and set out wine, beer, sodas and a big bucket of ice and it’s totally self-serve. Another time saver? Pre-washed and pre-cut Archer Farms Veggies ready to go as soon as you open the bag. Need to freshen up your snack rotation? Try Archer Farms holiday trail and snack mixes that are available for just a couple of weeks during the holiday season, so grab them while you can!

Cranberry Rice Pilaf Recipe

Another tip? Don’t sweat the menu. Sure you want some wow-factor (like a great turkey stuffed with sage and basted with Madeira), but you need some easy go-to recipes. Success® Rice takes just 10 minute to make and can be a key ingredient in some tasty recipes. like this  Cranberry Pecan Brown Rice Stuffing. It’s tasty, elegant and effortless. It’s a great classic recipe with a modern twist that will wow your guests. And there’s a variety of products available including White, Whole Grain Brown, Jasmine and Basmati. Everyone in the family will love it. Success is in the Bag.®

Cranberry Pecan Brown Rice Stuffing

2 bags Success® Brown Rice
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp dried orange peel
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp margarine
1/2 cup celery, finely sliced
2 Tbsps shallots, finely chopped (may substitute onion)
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Prepare rice according to package directions. In a medium microwave safe bowl, mix cranberries and orange peel with chicken stock and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Set aside. Heat a large sauce pan over HIGH heat and add margarine. Stir in celery, shallot and poultry seasoning and sauté 3 minutes. Stir in cranberry mixture, pecans, parsley and rice and cook over medium heat for 3 more minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

To toast pecans: Pre-heat oven to 350ºF. Place pecans on a small cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn pecans. Cool.

For more recipes head to https://www.successrice.com/en-us/recipes/search/default.aspx

Hope these tips help to make your season more fun and let you actually enjoy hostess duty this year.

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Yummy Recipes with Spiced Apple Cider

As the weather gets cool and crisp, the cold weather drinks in our house ramp up – mugs of hot chocolate, spiced apple cider, and tea start to appear to warm up hands and bellies. While I often make tea and hot chocolate in single servings, our apple cider usually comes from Trader Joe’s. In a bottle. That my kids always beg for and NEVER FINISH. It seems like for the entire winter, I have a half used bottle of apple cider always in my (now clean) fridge! So I’ve been on a mission to find creative ways to use up the rest of that apple cider.

Recipes with Spiced Apple Cider

Whether you have leftover spiced cider like I do in my house or just are looking for a few new ways to use this spiced beverage throughout the winter months, here are few delicious ideas.

For Dinner

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Apple cider and pork are an perfect pairing that come together nicely in this easy Cider Glazed Pork entrée (pictured). If you can plan ahead, make this Cider-Brined Pork Tenderloins with Roasted Apples instead that marinates overnight. Or put your crock pot to work with this Apple Cider Slow Cooker Pulled Pork that I’m trying tonight! Not into pork? Pair spiced apple cider with turkey instead for this Apple Cider Glazed Turkey Breast.

For Breakfast

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Truth be told, I’ve been a little over my go-to pancake recipe. So this Saturday, I’m spicing up our routine (literally!) with these Apple Cider Pancakes with Caramel Apple Syrup from Taste and Tell. Both the pancakes and the homemade caramel syrup get a dose of apple cider. I also would not be mad if you invited me over for a cup of tea and one of these Spiced Apple Cider Muffins. Just think of how good your kitchen would smell!

With Veggies

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While you might not think of apple cider pairing with vegetables, its appley spice can offer a nice complement to many fall side dishes like these Apple Cider Braised Greens or Roasted Acorn Squash with Cider Vinaigrette – both great options for the Thanksgiving holiday too!

For Dessert

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I really had to restrain myself here. As you can image there are way too many delicious ways to use spiced apple cider in desserts! I might start with this Apple Cider Bubble-Up Bake – with no pie crust to make, this apple-y dessert is easy to throw together for a crowd. Or this Apple Cider Cream Pie with an oatmeal cookie crust. But I’m also tempted by these Apple Cider Cupcakes and Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream. Don’t make me choose!

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that I won’t have to worry about having leftover apple cider any more. 😉

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6 Reasons to Make DIY Pizza With Your Kids

It’s National Pizza Month! An easy one to celebrate in our house. While takeout pizza might be a staple in your house on Friday nights or after a late sports practice, making pizza at home with your kids has lots of benefits. Here are six reasons you should plan a DIY pizza night now.

DIY Pizza with the Kids

It’s a great way to spend side-by-side conversation time. While many kids may be resistant to eye-to-eye conversations about their day, studies have found that engaging in discussion while doing a side-by-side activity can make kids more likely to share.

It can encourage kids to try new toppings. Kids are always wiling to try new things when they play a role in making them. Plus, when kids get to put the topping on themselves, it’s less intimidating to try a few bell peppers or olives on just one of their slices. Set a challenge for every family member to try one new topping.

6-reasons-to-make-pizza-with-your-kids-tonight

It can be as easy – or hard – as you want. If you have the time, making your own dough can be a fun way to get your hands dirty and talk with kids about mixing, measuring, and how dough rises. But you can also pick up some pre-made dough from your local supermarket or take-n-bake pizza place like I did. $2 for pre-made, pre-rolled out pizza dough? I’m sold.

It lets you have conversations about healthy eating. Ok, so pizza isn’t exactly a health food, but any time you are cooking with your kids, it provides opportunities to talk about healthy eating, portion size and eating a balanced diet.

DIY Pizza with the Kids

It’s a great way to clean out the fridge. Half a bell pepper left in your veggie drawer? Pre-chopped onion that needs a home? Last night’s chicken to use up? DIY pizza is a great way to make sure leftovers don’t go to waste.

It’s fun! Slopping on sauce. Sprinkling cheese. Tossing on toppings. What’s not to love! If you are brave enough (and really want to have a blast with the kids), try tossing your own dough! (Just make sure you have some back-up. You know, just in case.) Check out this pizza throwing how-to video.

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Cooking with kids isn’t always easy (or clean or fast), but it’s most often a worthwhile adventure.

DIY Pizza with the Kids

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Pomegranate Chicken Salad Recipe #CookWithPOM

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Last night, Momtrends and POM Wonderful hosted an intimate group of New York City bloggers for an evening of cooking, cocktail-making, dining, and dishing with friends. ‘Tis the season after all–Pomegranate season! Those juicy ruby red delights are finally back, just in time for festive meals and holiday celebrations.

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While whole pomegranates are beautiful and bountiful, they can admittedly be a little tedious to work with–especially when you’re digging for those flavorful arils. And that’s why we’re so excited about POM POMS Fresh Pomegranate Arils. They are fresh, ready to go, and so easy to cook with. They come in a ready-to-serve package. My kids love snacking on them, and I love adding them to meals. In terms of nutrition, POM POMS Fresh Pomegranate Arils have vitamin C, fiber, and they are loaded with antioxidants.

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Bloggers were able to get a hands-on cooking lesson from the pros at Miette Culinary Studio. We whipped up some incredible apps, entrees, and a decadent dessert (that was actually pretty healthy!). I’m sharing three of my favorite recipes from last night’s event, below–and my own signature recipe for pomegranate chicken salad. For more inspiration and recipes, visit Pom Wonderful. Enjoy–and get your hands on some POM POMS while they’re here!

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Dapper Devil Cocktail
2 oz. POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
2 slices of jalapeño
1.5 oz. Aviation Gin
Club soda
Twist of lime
Ice

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Moroccan Shrimp With Pom Poms (10 appetizer servings)
1.5 cup Pom Poms Fresh Arils
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tails
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1.5 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups baby arugula

For the Sauce
4 cups POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
1.5 cups sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon jiuice

Directions:

  • For the sauce, in a pot over a high heat, stir together POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate JUICE, sugar, and lemon juice until the sugar dissolves. Boil util liquid thickens and is reduced to one cup (approx 45 minutes).
  • Toss shrimp in a bowl with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and olive oil and stirl to coat.
  • Heat a grill pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook two minutes per side until pink and opaque. Brush shrimp with sauce. Serve arugula on the side tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. Top shrimp and arugula with Pom Poms Fresh Arils for serving.

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Roasted Salmon With Pom Poms Salsa (6 servings)
8 oz. Pom Poms Freh Arils
1.75 lbs. salmon filet
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 lemon, zested and juiced

Directions:

  1. Heat broiler to high with rack 6 inches below the broiler. Season salmon with sea salt and pepper. Place salmon on a foil-lined pan and broil until cooked through.
  2. Stir together the Pom Poms Fresh Arils, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Spoon salsa over the salmon.

Pomegranate Chicken Salad Recipe

I make a salad for lunch almost every day. I’m sharing one of my new favorites my Pomegranate Chicken Salad Recipe. Trust me when I tell you it’s loaded with flavor.Getting variety and great flavors into each day can be a challenge. Lately I’ve been on the hunt for some inspiration and I found it with pomegranate arils.

Look at the gorgeous colors of the arils–POM POMS Fresh Pomegranate Arils totally inspired me. Not only do they look fantastic in a salad, they also add a great punch of flavor. Pomegranates have a combination of sweet and tart–making them perfect with greens.

Pomegranate arils

Pomegranate Chicken Salad Recipe

Serves 2

Salad Ingredients
1/2 cup POM POMS Fresh Pomegranate Arils
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced chicken
4 cups mixed greens (I like a little arugula mixed in)

Directions: Combine all ingredients, add dressing, toss, mix in dressing serve over greens.

 

Dressing Ingredients
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/4 tablespoon honey
1/4 tablespoon mustard
pinch of salt

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously.

This makes two days of great lunches for me. The flavors are crisp and lively and not too heavy. I can definitely eat this two or more times a week and not get bored.

Don’t wait to try this! Now is the time to cook with pomegranates, they are only available from October through January. Look for them in the refrigerated section of your produce department then get creative in the kitchen. Here’s the quick and delicious recipe we put together to celebrate taste.

I know it’s sad to think you can only enjoy these for a few months a year. But I’ve got a TIP: Frozen pomegranate arils can last for many months in the freezer. To freeze pomegranate arils, spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Place in a freezer for two hours or until frozen. Transfer frozen pomegranate arils to a resealable plastic bag or container.

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After School Fuel Snack Ideas

“I’m hungry!” This is the refrain I hear every day when I pick up my three kids from school.  Sound familiar? It doesn’t matter if I’ve packed a 12-course meal in their Planetbox or sent them to school with peanuts, they are “starving” every afternoon at 3. The solution? The perfect snack equation.

After School Fuel - Best Snacks for Kids

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the ideal after school snack should meet the following requirements:

  • Make them small. Snacks are meant to fill the gap between meals, not become a whole meal in itself.
  • Protein + carb. Pair a protein-rich food with a carb-rich food. Including a healthy fat will quiet hunger pangs even more.
  • One or two a day. Depending on the child’s age and activity level, they may need one or two snacks a day.

after school snacks for kids

Here are 10 examples of health after school fuel snacks:

  1. Whole wheat toast + avocado + cucumber slices
  2. Apple slices + nut/seed butter
  3. Homemade trail mix – ¼ cup sunflower seeds or nuts, ¼ cup dried apricots, cherries, or raisins (with no added sugar)
  4. String cheese + grapes
  5. Greek yogurt + granola + frozen berries thawed
  6. Nut/seed butter spread on a small whole-wheat pita
  7. Carrot sticks or sliced veggies + hummus
  8. Rice cakes + nut butter + berries
  9. Smoothie with kale, banana, Greek yogurt, + blueberries
  10. Whole-wheat pita + guacamole + cucumber slices

And don’t forget water! Keeping kids hydrated is vital for keeping them ready for physical activities, helping them stay focused on homework, and balancing their moods. While the amount of water will vary based on your child’s age, gender, size and activity level, the National Academy of Sciences recommends between 7-14 cups of water per day, with the lower end for toddlers and the higher end for teenage boys. Make water more “fun” by using unflavored seltzer water or adding in frozen berries, limes or cucumber slices to infuse it with flavor.

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Want more information on healthy eating? Check out the Kid’s Healthy Eating Plate with tips and advice about fueling your kid with the right foods.

What are you favorite after school snacks to keep your kids fueled for the afternoon?

Momtrends was not paid for this post. Affiliate links included. Photo credit: Copyright © 2015 Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. For more information about The Kid’s Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/kids-healthy-eating-plate.

 

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4 Burger Riffs for Your Family to Try

Summer may be over, but the weather is still warm enough to fire up the grill for burgers. If your kids already like traditional burgers, you can use them as a gateway food to introduce your kids to new flavors and ingredients. Here are four burger riffs to help your kids try some new foods and eat a bit more adventurously.

4 New Burger Riffs for your Family to Try

Before you try these burger riffs, three tips to keep in mind.

Start with sliders. Trying a new recipe is always a risk. If you serve sliders (small burgers) instead of full size burgers, you can try out these burger riffs without wasting food.

Get the kids involved. Kids are always more likely to eat things they’ve helped make. Burgers can be especially fun because you can use your hands to mix ingredients together and make patties.

Allow for constructive feedback (and the possibility of failure). I’m not above sneaking in healthy food to my kids’ meals without telling them (hello kale smoothies!), but more often than not, I’m upfront about a new recipe. I tell the kids that we’re trying out a new recipe for dinner and everyone has to try at least 2-3 bites and wait 10 minutes into dinner before giving feedback. Then we go around the table and talk about what we like, don’t like, and how we could improve it. I give my feedback too and it’s good for the kids to see that sometimes I don’t like the new recipe either! When I introduce new recipes this way, I’m always impressed with the feedback I get from my kids. Instead of just “Eww!” or “This is gross!”, I get comments like “I like the flavor, but the texture is a little weird” or “I think it tastes better without the sauce.”

Here are four ways to build off your family’s love of burgers.

1. Make a change to your meat.

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If your basic burger is always made with ground beef, switch it up by making your patty out of a new ingredient. Try out this recipe for a super moist turkey burger (the secret ingredient is ricotta cheese!) or go decadent with a 50/50 bacon and ground beef blend (ask your butcher for a blend). Try this Trader Joe’s frozen Salmon Patty or skip the meat completely and try out this Quinoa Back Bean Burger. See if the kids can guess what the burger is made out by tasting it.

2. Switch out your sauce.

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If your kids always slather their burgers in ketchup, mix it up by letting them help make and choose from three new burger sauces. (Hint: You’ll be able to sell these new sauces if you pair them with a complimentary topping.) Try a strip of bacon and this easy aioli sauce. Or pesto sauce with a slice of fresh mozzarella. Or a homemade BBQ sauce with sautéed or grilled onions. Consider serving it without the bun to help your kids see beyond the traditional burger.

3. Add in a new condiment.

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Often times kids get in food ruts because we keep making them the same foods the same ways. Mix up your topping options and tell kids they need to choose at least one new burger topping – parents too! Branch out from cheddar cheese and offer pepper jack, smoked gouda or swiss. Try grilled onions or pineapple on your burger. Slice up an avocado or cucumber. Top with coleslaw or mango salsa. Give an award for the most creative, best looking and best combo. Again, making mini burgers like sliders allows kids to try multiple options.

4. Branch out from a traditional bun.

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This Spiced Lamb Patties with Nutty Garlic Sauce puts many of these steps together into one delicious dinner option. It’s quickly become one of my family’s favorites. It may seem like a big jump from a traditional burger, but all the basic elements are there – a “bun” (the flatbread), a “patty” (an oblong-shaped lamb patty), and toppings (peanut sauce and herb salad). While my 6-year-old eats this as is (herb salad on top and all!), my 8-year-old prefers to eat the parts separately – a kind of deconstructed burger. Another family favorite are these DIY P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps which include a crunchy lettuce “bun” and a chopped up ground chicken “patty”. Of if you’re really feeling adventurous – try out this tomato bun!

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