Fruit Platters Are Healthier Than Chips

At a party, the one thing that everyone is most concerned about is whether or not the food is going to taste good. When everyone is getting together and trying to catch up, they like to snack on some different food. Chips are great snacking food, but they get old after a while and they don’t have the same appeal after you eat so many. Vegetable platters are great but once you run out of dip, no one wants to eat plain vegetables. A great way to satisfy guests and to keep them healthy is with fruit platters.

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With this particular offering, you can add a bunch of different tasting items so that everyone is going to like it. Some popular choices that make fruit platters irresistible include the ever popular strawberries. Everyone loves strawberries since they taste more like candy than fruit. By dolling up your platter with juicy and plump strawberries, everyone is bound to enjoy themselves.

Some other things that everyone loves include pineapple, grapes, oranges, kiwis, watermelons and other melons. Some of these fruits taste great with a yogurt dip and they are bound to tickle the taste buds of everyone. Also aesthetically nothing gets a person’s mouth watering more than fresh fruit platters. With all that natural sweetness and the added vitamins, it’s really one of the best entertaining choices.

Preparing one of these is incredibly simple. There is barely anything to cut up and you can easily restock the platter when it gets empty. It is a cheap and easy way to satisfy your guests and to put on a great party. You can also buy fruit platters already made if you don’t have the time to go shopping for all of the fruit. This is a great time saver if you have other party arrangements you need to devote your time to.

They also go hand-in-hand with chocolate fondue. By dipping the fruit in the warm white or dark chocolate everyone’s mouth is going to water. Your party will not only be incredibly fun but you’ll be taking care of your guests by serving them something nutritious.

It is important to eat healthy so fruit is a much better choice than eating chips and salsa. Fruit keeps you energized and fills you up in a great way. It’s a perfect alternative to heavier party foods.

The next time you are hosting an important party or even an impromptu get together, it is a great idea to spice it up with a little fruit.

Crock Pot Soup

A good and hearty soup is the basis of a nutritious meal for millions of people around the world. We in America are blessed with an abundance of foods. No matter how modest your means, a healthy and tasty meal can be put together in no time, inexpensively and with little effort on your part. The crock pot can provide the answer for “What’s for dinner?”. A crock pot soup is one of the simplest, most nutritious, effortless solutions, earning you a good cook’s reputation along with family applause and appreciation. Add some biscuits or garlic bread, and you’ve got a meal that passes the nutritionist’s critical eye.

In our own family, a quota on attendance meant we could not attend a funeral service this week for a beloved grandson in Ocala, and a military burial service for him at Florida National Cemetery was postponed to a later date.


If you’re unfamiliar with crock pot soup recipes, you need to take a look at some cook books. A crock pot soup is easy and fast to prepare, cooks itself while you’re out doing errands, shopping, or at work. Fifteen minutes in the morning and another ten minutes when you arrive home in the evening is all it takes.

One of the many virtues of a crock pot is its ability to cook tough cuts of meat to tender perfection over many hours of slow cooking. Oddly, although your meat may require many hours of cooking to achieve a tender result, vegetables which cook in minutes in the microwave, need hours in your crock pot soup recipes to render a still somewhat crunchy accompaniment. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it works.

A crock pot soup needs just broth, pasta or grains (such as rice),your veggies, meat, seasonings and some long, slow cooking to make a hearty and delicious dish.

For a thicker, creamed sauce for your crock pot soup, let your base crock pot soup cook all day. When you’re ready to finish your soup for serving, make a simple roux of flour and butter in a saucepan. How? Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a pan over low heat, whisking in an equal amount of flour.

Continue, constantly whisking until the mixture thickens, almost to the consistency of a paste. From the crock pot soup mixture, ladle a couple of cups of broth into a cup, gradually adding the broth to the roux, stirring all the while. When the roux and broth mixture thickens, to the consistency of a thick gravy, remove from the heat. Add enough broth to make a soupy consistency.

Return the roux to the crock pot in a gradual manner, whisking all the time. Your crock pot soup will thicken to a delicious texture, producing a hearty dish, filling and nutritious. Don’t add salt until the dish is finished, when you can fine hone the final taste of your crock pot soup.

When making a crock pot soup, toss in your favorite grains, meats and veggies. An appropriate sauce can make this dish a hit. Seasoning can add a definite snap to your crock pot soup creation. Give this impromptu recipe a try. You may well find yourself on the cutting edge of casual cuisine.

Lemon Pepper

Where did the idea of combining lemon zest and pepper originate? It’s hard to say, but this mixture has withstood the scrutiny of centuries of cooks. A standout with chicken, seafood, vegetable and pork or pasta dishes, it adds that just-right extra zing and “bite” that brings variety to your dishes. Using this seasoning on a plain dish of vegetables may just coax the kids into eating their veggies! Stir-fry dishes incorporating this combination with rice, vegetables and seafood or chicken adds a tempting note that’s irresistible.

Continuing our series of recipes for everyday dinners that can be cooked with a minimum of fuss using just one pot, saute pan, casserole or oven tray, here are some suggestions for really tasty chicken dishes.


Lemon pepper seasonings may be purchased at the grocery store, or made in your own kitchen. These ready-made seasonings may simply pique your appetite, providing a good starting point. Try it with broccoli for a delicious new taste.

If you’d like to make your own, experiment as your taste dictates, using these approximate proportions of dried seasonings:

4 parts parsley
2 parts lemon zest
1 part each of basil, thyme, cracked black pepper and garlic.

Mix the herbs and store in an airtight jar for a handy all purpose sprinkle for vegetables, seafoods and poultry.

Lemon pepper adds a particular zest and liveliness to a ho-hum meal, giving a “bite” to an otherwise bland dish. Foods which benefit from a lemon pepper seasoning include fish, chicken, seafood, pork, pasta, salads and soups. Used in a marinade, lemon pepper is an important ingredient in your kitchen pantry.

Lemon juice, in a marinade mix, tenderizes the meat and is especially effective with poultry. For one cup of marinade, mix ½ cup of lemon juice with an equal amount of chardonnay and a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Season with a teaspoon of dill and ½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper and you’re good to go.

The marriage of pasta and lemon pepper is so divine, you can find lemon pepper fettuccine at the market. Starting with the pasta, you can throw together a mean dish quite easily. Chopped onions, sliced olives, green onions and bite-sized cooked chicken are tossed with the cooked pasta and dressed with a little olive oil, lemon juice and dijon-style mustard.

This versatile seasoning and seafood go together like peas in a pod. Tilapia, Tuna and Halibut are delicious partners. Brush the fish with butter, sprinkle on your seasoning and microwave until the fish flakes.

Another must-try recipe is Cajun catfish. Mix a cup of flour with lemon pepper and a pinch of cayenne (to your taste). Dredge the fish and fry in a little olive oil.

Another simple and tasty dish is prepared in the crock pot. Brush boneless chicken breasts with butter, season with lemon pepper and cook until done. Any leftover meat may be chopped and used in a fried rice dish, adding the vegetables of your choice.

It’s clear from a review of these uses for lemon pepper, the seasoning promotes good dietary habits. Try a few of these ideas to improve your health.

Beef Jerky

Many people are dieting to lose weight. It seems that each time I go out to lunch with friends or family members; someone is on a weight loss program. I have tried my share of programs over the years to drop a few pounds here and there. A few years ago I needed to lose at least eight pounds to fit into a dress that I wanted to wear for a special occasion. I could get the dress zipped, but it was uncomfortable and it looked too tight. My husband wanted to lose a few pounds at the same time so we decided to go on the low carb diet, which was the craze at the time.

One of the most popular, filling snacks that you don’t need to refrigerate is beef jerky, and with so many mouth-watering flavors, we can see why it’s such a household staple now.


We both started losing weight immediately and we liked the amount of food that we were able to eat. We both like meats and cheeses. I bought a wide variety of cheeses and different low fat low sodium meats to take for lunches. For dinner we would have a protein along with a green leafy salad. For breakfast I made sure that we had boiled eggs in the fridge and the low carb cereal bars to take along for mid morning or afternoon snacks. My husband also had plenty of beef jerky in his desk to have as a snack. I liked to eat the beef jerky, but I was concerned about the amount of sodium.

One of the women I work with was impressed with the amount of weight I was losing. She asked me what diet I was following so I told her. She thought that her husband would be able to follow this also. She started bringing similar foods that I was for lunch. One day she gave me a recipe to make your own beef jerky. She knows that my husband does a great deal of hunting. She also had a beef jerky maker that she let me borrow. We made some and found that it tastes very good. You mix lean ground meat along with spices and then put the mixture through a press to form logs or strips, which ever you prefer. The mixture is then placed either in a dehydrator or in a low oven, until the meat is cooked and the moisture has cooked out.

We found that this was a great way to use the lean cuts of wild game that we had in the freezer. This made a nutritious and low fat snack that was much less expensive than buying the beef jerky in the stores. Also by making the snack yourself you can control the amount of sodium that goes in it as well as the spices used.

Dinner Recipe

Incorporating more whole foods into your nightly dinner routine will make you feel more energized, plus there are plenty of ways to make something that’s good for you in the same time it takes to whip up a box of mac and cheese.


I love cooking. Cooking relaxes me, it soothes me, and it makes me feel capable. Not everyone is the same though. For some people, cooking and trying to decide what to cook just makes them feel anxious and stressed out. I know some people who dread the end of the day because it means that they have to try to decide what to feed their family. Many of them resort to convenient, packaged meals because it requires little thought. Let’s face it, we all do that once in awhile. But packaged meals don’t present the most healthy or balanced food options and using them on a regular basis is not the best idea. There are many dinner recipes that can take away the anxiety by presenting you with simple and easy meals.

Most family cooks are mainly concerned with finding fast and easy dinner recipes that the entire family will love. They’d prefer to come home at the end of the day and find a fully cooked meal on the table but that’s not overly realistic. What is realistic is the many recipes that can be found that will make your life easier. If you choose to buy a cook book (either in a book store or in one of the many online book stores), look for a book that uses simple ingredients that you would use everyday anyway. If you have no idea what cumin is, don’t buy “The Cumin Lover’s 100 Easy Dinner Recipes” book because they likely won’t be easy for you. I love to use my crock pot so I enjoy different crock pot recipe books or books that have an entire crock pot section.

If you are in a rush and need a dinner recipe using something specific – let’s say chicken breasts – there are many free recipes on line that can help you with your meal. Within only a couple minutes you can find recipes for several chicken dinners. In less than a minute I found a recipe for a chicken casserole (which I highly recommend because it means only one pot to wash afterwards!), chicken stir fry, and chicken fingers. All of these dinner recipes are easy to prepare and have a minimum number of ingredients.

While you are looking at dinner recipes, you’ll find other useful information online as well. You can find sites that will help you to plan meals (which sounds like a lot of work but will take away the need to look for recipes at the last minute), keep your kitchen sanitary, and prevent health risks.

Dinner recipes do not have to be extravagant or have a zillion ingredients. In fact, by finding about ten tried and true recipes, you can make your evenings simpler and more relaxed. Once you are comfortable with these recipes, you’ll soon be looking for more to challenge yourself with.

Potato Salad

When we think of summer, we think of picnics, barbeques and fun family times. One favorite summertime food is potato salad. It has been around forever, and everyone will swear that they have the one “true” recipe for making this hearty salad. While everyone’s tastes are different, everyone can agree that a picnic without potato salad is like a trip to the beach without a Frisbee. With potatoes being the world’s leading vegetable crop, it is not surprising to learn that, on the average, one United States citizen consumes 140 pounds of potatoes in a single year. You can believe that Americans are not indulging in just baked potatoes alone; they are enjoying potato salad by the ton!

This meat-and-potato dish gets big flavor from a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar and creamy tahini. That earthy mixture beautifully coats bacon and scallions that are then tossed with the mild chicken and creamy potatoes for a scrumptious, warm entree salad.


There are numerous ways to make potato salad and thousands of recipes from which to choose. There are German, Italian, Caribbean Sweet, Deli and French versions all with their own special twist added to the recipe. Resourceful individuals will be able to even find a recipe for Soul Food potato salad. All potato salad has one thing in common of course, the potatoes. Some prefer to use red bliss potatoes, while others prefer to use chopped up baking potatoes.

There are a variety of different ingredients that can be used when you are preparing a big bowl to take to a picnic or for a day at the beach. Some common ingredients are eggs, celery, onions and pickles. Some of the more unique items that have been thrown into potato salad are corn, bacon, apples, sour cream, green beans, garlic and sugar.

The consistency of it varies as well. It truly depends on individual taste but many people swear by chunky potato salad, where the boiled potatoes are chopped into bite size chunks. Many gourmet restaurants and diners also serve a whipped version which can feature other vegetables as well as fragrant cheeses. Potato salad is enjoyed both hot as well as cold, and can be used as a side dish or enjoyed as a meal all by itself. Some chefs prefer to dress up their potato salad a bit with garnishes. Commonly used garnishes include parsley, scallions and sliced cherry tomatoes.

If the idea of getting into the kitchen and concocting your own bowl of this favorite is a bit overwhelming luckily it isn’t hard to find store bought versions. Most grocery stores now have deli sections which feature an array of almost homemade salads. You can buy a tub of potato salad there and dress it up with a few sprigs of parsley. No one will be the wiser that you didn’t spend hours making it. Your corner deli will also have a tasty version of potato salad for you to purchase.

No matter your preference: hot or cold, chunky or creamy, a tasty potato salad will always be a favorite among the masses. It makes a great side dish as well as a hearty midnight snack.

Chicken Dinner

Chicken Dinner

It’s probably a strange thing to say, but when I went to my dad’s for the weekend, long before I went to live with him, one of the first things we got was a chicken dinner. I don’t know what it was about this dinner, but it was always so good, and we could not wait until the next time we could have one. The restaurant that made them is long gone, and that is a huge shame. It was by far one of the best meals I had as a kid, and I could always count on it being the same each time I ordered it.

Today, as I was leaving my weekly paddle tennis practice (and readers, I could write 10 columns about my obsession with the weirdly wonderful winter sport of bouncing around inside of a cage while smacking a ball that’s as hard as a frozen grapefruit at your friends and enemies…but I will spare you…for now) when my teammate Lisi hollered out, “Caroline, what are you making for dinner tonight?”


The chicken dinner we had came with two pieces of chicken, a bun, coleslaw (that we never ate) and a small portion of macaroni and cheese. My brother and I always asked for it the moment we came to Dad’s house, and many times he had already ordered it by the time we got there. He loved the chicken dinner as much as we did, and he waited until we were there for the weekend before he would get it for himself.

Looking back, I know that the chicken dinner was not the best thing for us health wise, but it was always a great treat. We saw Dad every other weekend back then, so it wasn’t like we were eating it every day. If that restaurant were still open I would imagine he would still get them, and we would most likely order the chicken dinner when I go to visit him. It’s probably a good thing they aren’t there any more. The people that took over that particular business once the first owners decided it was time to retire had the same menu, but for some reason the dinners were just not the same.

You don’t have to order out for a great chicken dinner. You can make your own at home, though if you know of a great place like I did, you may not want to bother with the mess. A good chicken dinner will take hours to prepare, but when you are done you are going to know it was well worth your time. It doesn’t have to be bad for you if you use good oils like Canola oil to fry your chicken dinner. Just remember to have it for a special treat. Even with the healthy oil you are going to be putting down a lot of extra calories.

Southern Recipes

Southern Recipes

The South is known for its hospitality when it comes to food. Different regions and cultures have their own Southern recipes, reflecting the traditions of Native Americans and ideas brought from Africa, France and the Caribbean. It all makes for a tasty melting pot of dishes. It’s not always the healthiest of cuisine but there are plenty fish and vegetable elements for people concerned with healthy living.

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Many Southern households wake up to the aroma of Country Ham with Red -Eye Gravy served for breakfast. This is usually cooked along with grits, biscuits and eggs. Dinner may be chicken and rice, cooked in the Spanish way, with hot pepper sauce, paprika and saffron. Texas has its own dishes, with Tex-Mex recipes that are well known across the world. San Antonio Chill is one example, a meal based on beef or pork and cooked with dried chili peppers, cumin and oregano. They know how to make a good cake in Texas too. The Texas Sheet Cake is made with sour cream and cocoa with a chopped pecan frosting.

African American cookery, otherwise known as soul food, often uses peanuts, black-eyed peas, sweet potatoes and okra in Southern recipes. Peanut butter gives a tangy flavor to Chicken and Groundnut Stew. Jambalaya is another favorite, made with shrimp or ham and rice, bacon and bell peppers. There are variations, made from chicken or seafood.

Jambalaya also crops up in Cajun and Louisiana dishes but the most well known dish from these parts is the classic Gumbo, a Louisiana stew or soup. There are several versions, passed down from Indian, French, Spanish or African influenced Southern recipes. The basis for the dish is the roux and it usually contains okra. There are recipes for crawfish, some methods using thick cream and dry sherry. Alligator is another delicacy; cooked in a delicious lemon and white wine sauce.

In Kentucky, the locals like to sit out on the porch at the end of a hard day and relax with a glass of Mint Julep. This tradition calls for mint leaves, sugar, ice, water and bourbon. Kentucky bourbon can also be found in Bourbon and Chocolate Pecan Pie. Another treat for a sweet tooth is Jam Cake, made with blackberry jam, spices and raisins topped with a cream cheese frosting. Vegetables are not forgotten here and this state is fond of asparagus in its Southern recipes. They like to grill it, after marinating it in dill, lemon, and garlic.

Picnic Idea

Picnic Idea

There’s nothing better on a warm Summer’s day than to go for a picnic. I love to go on picnics at every opportunity, on the beach and in the countryside. It’s nice to keep coming up with a good picnic idea and to try new things. Whatever you eat, food never tastes better than when it’s eaten outside. There’s probably a scientific explanation for that but I don’t know what it is.

When our kids were little, we used to have themed picnics. Once, we all dressed up as pirates and we ate seafood. Another time, we dyed all the food blue. Then we played games. The only problem was trying to stop our pet dog from eating everything! It’s an advisable picnic idea to feed the dog up before you go. The other problem is the unwanted attention of wasps. We bought some mesh covers to go over the food and the wasps eventually used to give up and go away.

Long summer afternoons inspire singular thoughts: namely, how to make the most of it. In partnership with Minor Figures, we look at planning an ideal summer picnic without too much planning.


My favorite location for a picnic is by the river. You can keep cool by going for a paddle and you can wash the dishes in the river afterwards. We have a large, old fashioned wicker picnic basket with sections for crockery and cups and glasses. We bring the food in a cool box. My preference for a picnic idea is to choose things which are easy to eat outdoors, such as sandwiches or finger food.

Chicken wings and legs and burgers in mini sesame buns are an appetizing picnic idea. Stick to what you know you like. Picnics are not a time to experiment with the family’s likes and dislikes. Throw a bit of salad in, some crusty bread and a big bag of chips with some dips. Another picnic idea is lots of Mayo, Relish and Ketchup so that the food isn’t too dry. Don’t forget some soft drinks for the kids. My husband and I used to pack a thermos of coffee. You could take wine or beer of course, but alcohol during the day just makes me sleepy.

Desert could be some fruit, perhaps a pre-prepared bowl of fresh fruit salad. Muffins, doughnuts or cookies are a welcome picnic idea. We were very fond of taking Carrot Cake or Banana Cake. Sometimes we’d pack those individual tubs of chocolate mousse. You don’t want anything too heavy.

Don’t forget the napkins and the bags to take your garbage home in. Leave the beach or the countryside as you found them. If you need them, remember the can opener and the corkscrew.

The Wonders Of Tabasco Sauce

The Wonders Of Tabasco Sauce

For a while, I was beginning to think that there was something wrong with my cooking. My husband began to put Tabasco sauce on just about everything that I made him for dinner. Either I was a bad cook, or his taste buds were getting worn out. I was relieved when he informed me that my cooking was fine (though that is still up for debate), it was just that he found a new way to enjoy some of the foods that he loves the most. The change is not in the basic taste of the food, but rather, it gives everything a kick.

Tabasco is quite possibly one of the most ubiquitous hot sauces in the world, found in bubbling pots of gumbo, dashed onto scrambled eggs from diners, and “borrowed” from Chipotle restaurants. It’s not too surprising the peppery hot sauce has found world domination, as its been produced since the late 1800s and therefore has had plenty of time to perfect its fiery recipe in Louisiana. 


Tabasco sauce is something that has been around for a long time. When we make hot wings in my house, this is what we use. I do love the taste of it, but I never really thought about putting it in any other foods that I make. It does not go well on lasagna, but I have to admit it makes a nice addition to a slice of pizza. You have to learn just how much Tabasco sauce you can handle, but after a while you figure it out. You can add just the right kick without making your meal something completely different than with which you started.

If you find that you love the taste of Tabasco sauce, you can find ways to add it to your menus without just dousing a meal once it is done. You can find subtle ways to add it to recipes. You may already use it when you make chili, but you may also find that you can add some Tabasco sauce when you want to add a little kick to your beef stew. It might work well with your ribs, and you can always add a little to your homemade pizza sauce to see if you like the finished results or not.

You can even come up with new recipes for Tabasco sauce. If you like hot wings, otherwise known as Buffalo wings, you can try to use that taste in new foods. Think about making hot wing pizza by using a Tabasco based sauce for your pizza and using chunks of chicken on the top of your cheese. It may be very good. You can also try using Tabasco sauce mixed with butter as a dip for many other types of chicken that you may serve to your family. If you look around, you may even find cookbooks and recipes that show you how to use this yummy sauce in a bunch of new ways.