Celebrate National Hamburger Month

America’s favorite food? Not everyone may agree, but according to the Hard Rock Cafe, the answer is clear: the hamburger.

To celebrate National Burger Month, which falls in May, Hard Rock surveyed fans around the globe to determine international burger-eating habits and gain some insights as to why this American staple has become an international favorite. Some key findings:

  • About 73% of survey respondents said they eat at least one and as many as five burgers per month
  • Some 22 %of fans cited cheese as their favorite burger topping. Cheddar was the choice for more than 55% of respondents
  • International relations … the American burger is best suited for a French companion; 60%  of those asked named French fries as their burger’s perfect mate
  • Buns reign … 89% of respondents wouldn’t think of enjoying a burger without a bun
  • Roughly 30% of burger connoisseurs surveyed prefer their burger cooked medium-well – with a slight pink center

To celebrate National Hamburger Month, fire up the grill and set up a sensational hamburger bar that family members and friends will definitely love.

Image source: Fox News

Strawberry desserts for Spring

Whole fresh strawberries. Crepes filled with sweetened and slightly mashed strawberries. Pureed strawberry sauce to pour over scoops of ice cream, sherbet, or gelato, or drizzle atop slices of pound cake, Angel food cake, or cheesecake.

What could be a more beautiful, or delicious, end to a dinner party? Plus, many delectable strawberry desserts are also simple to make.

See our 4 Fancy strawberry desserts, as well as tasty dips for fresh fruit slices, and other desserts that offer a fresh welcome to Spring!

Image source: Mondays at Il Forno: Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

Birthday party food: Don’t let kids choose these

kids-eating-in-restaurant.jpgOff-site birthday parties make feeding active young partygoers easier. But ordering fat-laden food for kids’ birthday parties does no one a favor.

The authors of last year’s edition of Eat this, not that!  (Rodale; $24.99 plus S & H, for 2013 edition) say, “Many of the foods on this list are too caloric for even an adult, let alone a child.”

Topping the list of the worst restaurant foods for kids is “The Cheesecake Factory’sKids Pasta with Alfredo Sauce,” which contains a whopping 1,810 calories and 89 grams of saturated fat–the calorie equivalent of nearly 40 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.”

Here’s the entire “worst” list–foods you certainly don’t want to have kids order at your son or daughter’s birthday party.

Top 10 Worst Kids’ Foods:

1. The Cheesecake Factory Kids Pasta with Alfredo Sauce (1,810 calories)

2. On the Border Kid’s Cheese Quesadilla with Mexican Rice (1,220 calories)

3. Outback Steakhouse Joey Spotted Dog Sundae (1,216 calories)

4. California Pizza Kitchen Kids Curly Mac n’ Cheese with Edamame (1,088 calories)

5. Friendly’s Dippin’ Chicken Salad (950 calories)

6. McDonald’s Mighty Kids Meal with Double Cheeseburger, Fries (small), and 1% Chocolate Milk Jug (840 calories)

7. The Cheesecake Factory Kids Southern Fried Chicken Sliders (820 calories)

8. The Cheesecake Factory Kids Grilled Cheese Sandwich (810 calories)

9. KFC Kids Meal with Popcorn Chicken, Potato Wedges, and Pepsi (800 calories)

10. Applebee’s Kids Oreo Cookie Shake (780 calories)

Here are some make-ahead foods that kids and teens will love: They’re easy on Mom, and a lot less fat-filled than the party “don’ts” listed above. And here’s another birthday food treat that kids of all ages will love: thick, luscious (and healthy!) smoothies.

The tuxedo: Happy Anniversary!

 brown-tuxedo.jpgI just read an interesting item on–of all things–tuxedos.

This week in 1886, it seems, the tuxedo was invented by tobacco tycoon Pierre Lorillard. He created the garment “as a rebellion against the ultra-formal coat with tails popular in Europe.  He designed the tuxedo coat for less formal social affairs, patterned after the jacket worn by fox hunters.

“[T]he design soon caught on and has remained popular through the decades.  Renting tuxedos — mostly for weddings and proms — is a $1 billion a year business in the U.S.”

This “who would have guessed?” item is courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau, which collects tidbits of entertaining information for its “Profile America” series. (Go to the Census Bureau’s Website and look for “Multimedia Gallery” by the “Newsroom” button)

Now, moving ahead 125 years, if someone you know is in the market to rent or buy a tuxedo, be sure to read our helpful articles on trends in men’s formal wear, and more specifically, selecting a flattering tuxedo.

Chocolate Parisian Tuxedo image courtesy of Sarasota Tuxedo.

Celebrate Johnny Appleseed with great apple desserts

apple-pie.jpgHere’s a fun celebration I just read about in a brief note from the Census Bureau.

Johnny Appleseed, born John Chapman in 1774, is being honored this weekend at a festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  “Some 300,000 people are expected to enjoy crafts, colonial era food, dancing, and music.

“For almost 50 years of his life, Johnny Appleseed roamed the wilderness barefoot and without weapons, devotedly planting apple trees and even entire orchards in a five-state area from Pennsylvania to Indiana.  Some of his trees are still bearing fruit after 200 years.  And Americans do like apples.  We each eat just over 16 pounds every year, generating more than $2 billion in income for the farmers who grow them.”

If you feel like whipping up a delicious apple dessert to honor Johnny Appleseed–or just to treat family and friends–check out our fabulous apple desserts.

And for a quick guide to the best apples for eating fresh, baking, making applesauce, or any recipe that calls for apples, see our easy “Apple know-how” feature.

How to write a thank you note: 5 simple guidelines

thank-you-note.jpgIf you’re struggling with the task of writing thank you notes after a special occasion, use this simple “cheat sheet” to make the job easy:

1.  Don’t put off sending thank you notes. New mothers get some leeway, for obvious reasons. The rest of us should acknowledge gifts within a week or two.

2. Thank the recipient for:

  • Being with you to celebrate the special occasion.
  • Anything special they did, such as helping to plan and prepare for it, or traveling a far distance to be there
  • And also, of course, thank them for their gift (be sure to name it)

3. Tell them why the gift is special to you. For example:

  • You’ve needed/wanted one
  • It goes perfectly with something else you use and love
  • (If it’s money or a gift card:) It will help you buy something you’ve wanted or already are saving for.

4. Close with a warm and heartfelt acknowledgment of the person’s importance to you. Tell each individual how grateful you are to have such a caring and generous (sister/mother-in-law/friend/etc.) in your life.

5. Enjoy having taken this opportunity to express your love and gratitude to the people closest to you.  Unfortunately, many of us don’t do that as often as we should.

Vegetarian recipes: Healthy party food

spinach-fettucini-with-beans219x218.jpgHere’s a great pasta recipe to serve at any dinner party–and especially if you’re entertaining friends who are vegetarians. This colorful and fragrant dish combines fettuccini with two types of beans, olive oil, and fresh herbs.

Share your own recipe!  Do you have a wonderful vegetarian recipe that you serve when you’re entertaining—and that everyone loves, whether or not they’re vegetarians?  We’d love to include it in a feature on delicious, healthy entertaining.


Herbed Fettuccini with Beans

2 Tbs. extra olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup white wine
2 tsp. (or 1 cube) dried chicken bouillon
1 tsp. sugar
1 can (15.5 oz.) cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15.5 oz.) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
10 oz. spinach fettuccine, cooked according to package directions
Fresh thyme leaves (optional)


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.

2. Add garlic, oregano and thyme. Cook for 1 minute until garlic is light golden brown.

3. Using a whisk, mix cornstarch with 1/2 cup water until dissolved. Add cornstarch mixture, wine, chicken bouillon and sugar to skillet.

4. Bring wine mixture to a boil and cook for 2 - 5 minutes until the sauce is reduced by half. Stir beans into sauce and cook for about 2 minutes until heated through.  

5. Add cooked, hot pasta to skillet; stir to coat completely with sauce. Divide pasta evenly among serving bowls. Garnish with fresh thyme, if desired.

Recipe adapted from, and image source: Goya

Tooth fairy: Missing teeth fetch less

tooth-missing.jpgFeeling the economic pinch, the Tooth Fairy is not leaving as much for missing teeth as she once did.

A new study sponsored by Visa found that the Tooth Fairy is leaving an average of $2.60 per tooth, 40% less than last year’s $3 per tooth.

Most kids, however, still get payouts for the teeth they lose. Some 90% of American children under the age of 12 leave teeth on or under pillows, and wake up the next morning finding that those teeth have been replaced by money. Here’s how much they get, according to the survey:

  • 29% of children receive exactly $1. Last year’s survey showed that 37% of children received exactly $1.
  • 18% of children get $2 to $4.
  • 18% of children receive $5 as compared to 22% last year.
  • 7% of children receive less than a dollar.
  • 10% of children receive no money from the Tooth Fairy at all. According to last year’s survey, only 6% of children did not receive money from the Tooth Fairy.

Here are some yummy and healthy smoothies to celebrate your child’s beautiful smile! They’re perfect for a child to sip through a straw–right through the hole where the tooth is missing. They’re also great for nutritious snacks to serve at any kid’s birthday party.

Funny wedding gowns: Beautiful toilet paper designs

funny-wedding-gowns-2.jpgA clever “funny wedding gowns” promotional contest has yielded surprisingly beautiful results. For the past seven years, Cheap Chic Weddings has held a toilet paper wedding dress competition to publicize their website. According to the contest rules, “…entries must be made of toilet paper, glue, tape, and/may be sewn to make their gowns.” 

This year, Susan Brennan, of Orchard Lake, Michigan, took home the top prize of $1,000. Her lovely gown, shown at the left, was made using only four rolls of toilet paper plus flowers and feathers.

It might be fun to “create a beautiful toilet paper gown” on the bride-to-be at a bridal shower.  No contest–just a lot of laughs and great photos.

Image source: cheap-chic-weddings.com

Pizza party: Easy party for grown-ups and kids

pizza-toppings.jpgCombine a fun activity with a delicious and inexpensive dinner that everyone will enjoy.

Here’s an easy party idea: make-your-own-pizzas.

First, decide if you want ready-to-serve crusts or crusts that may need pre-baking. (Individual ready-to-serve pizza crusts are 8” in diameter.)

Next, select the toppings you’ll serve. According to FoodTec Solutions, a restaurant consulting firm in Needham, Massachusetts, the most popular toppings in America today are (in order):


  • Pepperoni
  • Italian sausage
  • Ground beef
  • Ham
  • Bacon
  • Chicken

Vegetables and fruit:

  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Green peppers
  • Green or black pitted olives
  • Pineapple
  • Tomatoes

 Easy party preparation

  1. Pre-cook meats and sauté or roast vegetables as desired.  Place toppings in serving dishes covered with plastic wrap.
  2. Pre-bake pizza crust, if necessary, according to package directions.
  3. Set up a buffet table with pizza crusts or dough, as well as bowls of toppings, and a bowl of pizza sauce that’s homemade or from a jar. Similarly, have cheeses such as mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta ready to put on the buffet table. 
  4. Pre-heat oven to 425 or 450 degrees F, depending on package directions.
  5. Invite guests to create their delicious pizzas.
  6. When guests have finished making their pizzas, simply pop them in the oven. Baking time can range from about 10 to 20 minutes.  Pizzas are done when the crusts are golden and the cheese is bubbly.

Simple décor

For an extra festive touch, buy red, white and green paper plates and napkins to celebrate the colors of Italy. Mangia!

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