Top 10 Tips For Your Thanksgiving Table

October 1, 2014 in Featured Articles

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dv520008It can be easy – but first thing you will need to remember is that setting your table is almost is important as preparing and displaying your food. Paying attention to how you do it and remembering little details will make your holiday meal even more special!

If you are wondering what tablecloth to use, or if you should use placemats instead, or where to put the cutlery , if you should consider setting a buffet-style table and what to do about kids… here are some tips for you that will help:

1. Table Covers: If you have a beautiful table, you may want to consider using placemats. If you feel more comfortable using tablecloth, then start there. The rule in using the tablecloth is that it should be big enough to hang about 6 inches over the edges of the table. White tablecloth are the easiest to start with and make for festive feel – patterned tablecloths have a tendency to make the table look more cluttered. Little tip: if you find that your chosen tablecloth is wrinkled and creased – throw it into a dryer on air setting with a damp towel – that should take care of it, without having to pull out your iron.

2. Cutlery: Forks go on the left, spoons and knives on the right and they need to be placed in the order they will be used – first utensil on the far end from the plate, second one closer to the plate, etc. And the knife blade should be turned towards the plate.

3. China: Side plates go to the left of the main plate setting. If you are serving a salad, you can place the salad bowl either on top of the dinner plate or the side plate.

4. Glasses: Wine glass goes above the tip of the main course knife. If you are using more than one glass, arrange them in the order they will be used. Liqueur glasses don’t belong into your main setting – bring them out separately after clearing your dinner dishes.

5. Napkins: If you know how to make a pretty fancy fold, use it to decorate the table by putting it on the top of the main plate. If you are using it flat, place it on the side plate or under knife and spoon.

6. Place Cards: These a great idea if you are having a large gathering – having them will avoid awkward moments when your guests are seating themselves. Place Cards are easy to make – you can make simple ones by just folding an unlined recipe card in half and writing names on in calligraphy.

7. Buffet Style: This is a good option for a larger gathering when you need to have your guests take up whatever seating is available. Let’s face it – not everyone has a table large enough to accommodate  more than 12 people. When setting up your buffet, place plates, cutlery and napkins close to each other at one side of the table. I like to put cutlery into a neat little package, wrapped in the napkin and decoratively tied with a ribbon or a piece of craft twine. If you can, use larger plates – I prefer 12 inch size, that allows guests to pile on the food and not have to keep returning to the serving table as often. You will need to “police” your buffet table, refill serving dishes and keep it nice and neat. There is another alternative – kind of half buffet and half seated arrangement. Set up your serving dishes in the kitchen, have your guests serve themselves and then seat at the table. That allows the dinner table for being cluttered with serving dishes.

8. The Kid’s Table: It is definitely a good idea to set up kid’s table – and you can make it fun for them as well! Use bright paper or plastic tablecloth and its is perfectly fine to use plastic plates. Another great idea is to put a plain white tablecloth you can purchase at a second hand store and provide kids with markers to draw on it. You may even want to save these works of art for years to come and reminisce with then the grown up “kids” . Alternative to this would be paper placemats and crayons or activity book for each child.

9.Dessert Table: If you have an alternative table – such as one in the kitchen dining area, set up desserts, coffee and tea there. You can serve it in the dining room, after dinner dishes are served, but I find that separate setting works well, especially if you are serving a choice of desserts.

10.After Dinner Liqueurs: You can pick several types of liqueurs to serve – I like to create a tray (round silver one with a paper doilie works well) separate it into four sections, place show glasses filled with different liqueurs on with a little place card with liqueur name next to the each group of glasses and place it on the dining room table or walk around the guest with the offer.

Here are some creative place setting ideas for you:

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Hope this information was helpful to you – please send in your comments, suggestions and experiences – your input is always welcomed and appreciated!

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How To Make Healthy School Lunches

September 11, 2014 in Parenting

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healthy-school-lunch1It really can’t be said enough times – what your child eats at school directly affects his or her level of energy and the ability to learn. Getting together healthy lunch day after day can be quite a task and even though my children are way past the school years, I do remember dealing with this issue and learning as I went along. And if your child is an active participant in sports, you have even more to consider. I am going to keep adding to the school lunch topic on this website – hopefully it will give you the assistance you need and it will make your daily tasks easier!

Think Salads!


Maybe you are one of the lucky parents whose children attend a school with cafeteria that serves fresh salads daily. In that case your job is to encourage your child to try it. It may be as good idea to start packing salads regularly. And in that case, you will need to make sure that the salad includes foods your child likes. That means suggesting items that can make a salad and listening to your child’s ideas as well. Try things like cheese, cucumbers or even bacon bits – you may be surprised at what kids can come up with!

Make Clean Sandwiches


Here is what the word “clean” means: start with whole grain bread, use natural nut butter with strawberries instead of the traditional peanut butter and jelly (if you school allows peanut butter sandwiches at all – you will need to check for that as many schools now ask for parents not to send anything with nuts for their children’s lunches) Another clean lunch you can try is making wraps with chicken strips and greens and add yogurt for an after lunch snack. AS you start thinking “clean” the ideas will just keep coming!

Get Rid of the Juice


Yes – juices are definitely better than sodas, but lot of them are still very high in sugar and calories. Try skipping the juice boxes and replace them with water. If there is a problem with that, try filling a bottle with one part juice and two parts water.

Get Smart with Snacks


No chips please – you can give your child healthier snacks! Try servings of crunchy whole-grain cereals or granola with dried fruit. And if chips are demanded, make your own. It is not difficult – just get some corn or flour tortillas, bake them and season them yourself. And if chips are an absolute must, at least get the low-fat ones!

Fake a Cool Lunch


Let’s think that your child sees another eating pizza for lunch and now wants that as well. Yes, you can create a pizza for lunch – get a whole-grain bagel, spread some vegetable marina sauce on sprinkle with low-fat cheese. And think about adding a low-fat brownie as a treat – that will make the pizza eating child watch in envy!

Think Leftovers

So you go to the trouble of making healthy dinners each day – why not make a little extra and use it for next day’s lunch? For example: if you had chicken, brown rice and asparagus for dinner, pack it into a wrap – your child will love it!

Satisfy the Sweet Tooth


All kids have it so you need to address it. Instead of cookies that can be full of sugar (unless you made them yourself and know what’s in them), think about filling a little container with strawberries. You can even sprinkle a little sugar on them for the extra sweet treat. And since I mentioned making your own – there are thousands of recipes for homemade fruit squares or little muffins you can make in no time!

For more help with your children’s school lunches, check out:

Guide to Healthy School Lunches

Hope this information was helpful to you – please send in your comments, suggestions and experiences, your input is always welcomed and very much appreciated!


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Easy Back to School Crafts

August 19, 2014 in Crafts

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It’s almost here! That exciting Back-to School time! Your children may be getting restless these days, ready to run off to school. Here are a few crafts you can make with them to help passing the time before the exciting new school year starts. These crafts are easy to make and you can have your children make extras for their friends or as a gift to their teachers!

Easy Back to School Crafts

Foam Pencil Toppers


Making these cute pencil toppers will allow your children to use their imagination without limit! You will be surprise at their creativity as they make their favourite topper. Suggest that they make unique toppers for their friends and as a gift for their teacher as well!

You will need:

  • Foam sheets or shapes
  • White craft glue
  • Scissors
  • Wiggle eyes
  • Pom-poms
  • Pencils

Directions:

  1. Start with 2 identical shapes – for example circles or hearts.
  2. Put glue around the edges of one shape, leaving about ¾” without glue – that is where you will insert the pencil.
  3. Press second shape onto the first one
  4. The glue will need to dry for couple of hours, but you can start decorating the outside at this point
  5. Decorate using wiggly eyes, pom-poms, glitter glue – whatever  the imagination calls for.
  6. You can also make flowers using several pom-poms
  7. Once the glue dried completely, carefully insert the eraser end of a pencil into the opening.

Tie-Dye Book Cover


Letting your child create this book cover will make it his or her own – reflecting individual tastes.

You will need:

  • Large brown paper bag or brown craft paper
  • Fabric pieces
  • White craft glue
  • Small bowl
  • Water
  • Paintbrush
  • Wax paper
  • Scissors
  • Textbook

Directions:

  1. Make a shell for the book cover. After it is made, remove it and start doing the decorating.
  2. Start by cutting the paper bag open – cut from the top of the bag to the bottom at one of the corner creases. Cut the bottom off the bag – you should have a long rectangle when you are done this step.
  3. Lay the textbook in centre of the rectangle and fold top and bottom up so that the height is equal to the height of the textbook. Crease the folds using your fingers. Next – bring the left side of the paper over the book and line up ends with the right side of the paper cover. Then open the book and left side of the paper around the cover of the book. Repeat this process on the other side of the book as well.
  4. Open the cover and trim the paper to about half the width of the actual book’s cover. Use pencil to make the paper inside cover where you will trim it and repeat on the other side of the book as well.
  5. Remove the cover from the book and trim off excess paper with scissors.
  6. Carefully slide the front and back cover of the textbook into the temporary paper cover to make sure it fits well – you can adjust the height if the cover feels too snug or too loose. When youa re satisfied, remove the cover and put the textbook aside.
  7. Line surface with was paper
  8. Then mix together 2/3 of glue and 1/3 of water in a bowl with your paintbrush.
  9. Cut fabric pieces into shapes – best to work with are 2” x 2” pieces.
  10. Open paper book cover and place it good side up onto the wax paper.
  11. Start by painting a 2” section in a top corner with glue mixture. Place fabric piece onto the glue painted part. Add more glue mixture to your paintbrush and paint over the top of fabric – smoothing with the paintbrush as you are working on it. The fabric piece should be saturated but not dripping.
  12. Repeat these steps, until paper is covered completely and make sure you overlap fabric pieces to create a tie-dye effect.
  13. When paper is totally covered with fabric, open the book cover and carefully place textbook inside. Close the book carefully and place a piece of wax paper in between the front cover and front page, as well as the back cover and back page. This will keep the wet covers from sticking to the actually textbook as the cover dries. Let dry overnight.

Apple Core Magnet

This cute magnet can be used to hold pieces of special artwork, schedules, school projects or even the grocery list.

What you will need:

  • Red craft foam
  • White craft foam
  • Green craft foam
  • Brown chenille stick
  • Brown marker
  • Round magnet
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors

Directions:

  1. Trace the pattern onto red foam and cut pieces out, then repeat with white foam.
  2. Glue red foam to the white with the red on top
  3. Cut out two leaves from the green foam and use white glue to attached the leaves to the top os the apple – behind the red foam.
  4. Let dry.
  5. Cut a two inch piece off the chenille stick and hot glue it to the back of the apple, leaving about one inch showing. Bend the stem slightly.
  6. Then use brown marker to draw a few seeds.
  7. Use hot glue to attach the magnet to the back of the apple and you are done!

Hope you have enjoyed these crafts – please send in your comments, suggestions and experiences, your imput is always welcomed and very much appreciated

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Back To School Tips for Parents

August 14, 2014 in Parenting

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It’s the time of the year to start thinking about school days again. Here are a few tips for parents to make those first days of school easier – especially for the little ones, who are just starting their educational journey!

First day of school can be quite stressful – for the child and for parents. Especially if we are talking about a younger child changing schools. Here are a few simple tips that are easy to follow and will for sure help to avoid uncomfortable and stressful situations:

  1. If the school is new to your child, make arrangements to take a tour before the school starts
  2. Meet the child’s teacher – if you can’t do it in person, schedule at least a telephone conversation
  3. If your child has any medical conditions – and that includes allergies, finalize them with the school nurse
  4. The night before first day of school pack your child’s backpack with his help – then there are no questions locating important items
  5. Put your child to bed early the day before school – if he or she has a tendency to be anxious and stress, fatigue will aggravate the situation
  6. On the first day of school make sure your child wakes up early enough to allow plenty of time to get ready and have a good breakfast
  7. Pack a nutritious lunch and sneak in a little love note – especially for the younger child
  8. You may want to consider driving your child to school for the first day – even if plan is to use alternative transportation later
  9. Walk into the classroom with the younger child, gtreet the teacher and introduce your child and yourself
  10. Remind your child what time you will be back to pick him or her up
  11. If there are other parents present, introduce yourself to them
  12. And whatever you do – do not be late!
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Pizza Biscuits Recipe

July 21, 2014 in Recipes

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Pizza Biscuits 001

 

This is another one of my favourite “quick and easy” recipes. It does use prepared baking mix but you can use my recipe for biscuits from scratch instead – it’s actually just as easy.

Mama Hanna’s Prize Winning Teat Biscuits Recipe

Pizza Biscuit Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups of baking mix
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 4 oz. of Cheddar (grated 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped cooked ham

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine baking mix, sour cream, cheese and ham.
  3. Stir together to form soft dough.
  4. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface and pat into 3/4 thick layer.
  5. Cut out biscuits with cutter.
  6. Place on baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Serve hot.

 

 

 

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Zucchini Orange Bread

July 7, 2014 in Breads, Recipes

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Zucchini orange Bread 001

 

 

You will love this moist and delicious bread – quick and easy to put together and suitable for just about any time of the day

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of cranberry-orange muffin mix
  • 1-1/2 cups of shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly grated orange peel
  • Cream cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 3650F.
  2. Grease 8 x 4-inch loaf pan and set aside.
  3. Combine muffin mix, zucchini, water, cinnamon and orange peel in medium bowl and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake for about 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centre comes out almost clean.
  6. Cool in pan on wire rack for about 5 minutes.
  7. Remove bread from pan to wire rack and cool completely.
  8. Serve with cream cheese if desired.

 

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Tomato Cheese Bread Recipe

June 24, 2014 in Breads, Recipes

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Tomato Cheese Bread 001

 

Here is one of my quick and easy and very delicious recipe – definitely a nice addition to any dinner or lunch or as a snack. Try serving it with nice salad for a great summer meal!

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups of buttermilk baking mix
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves, crushed, divided
  • 3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3/4 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions:

  1. Drain tomatoes, reserving juice.
  2. Combine baking mix, 1 teaspoon of oregano and 2/3 cup of reserved tomato juice in medium bowl.
  3. Press dough evenly to edges of 11 x 7 x 2 inch greased baking dish.
  4. Sprinkle cheddar cheese and remaining oregano over batter.
  5. Distribute tomato pieces evenly over cheese and sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese.
  6. Bake in preheated oven at 375F oven for 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown and cheese is bubbly.
  7. Cool 5 minutes before cutting squares to serve.
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How To Make Chocolate Covered Strawberries

June 23, 2014 in Desserts, Recipes

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Chocolate Covered Strawberries 001

 

You could buy a box of candy or make delicious cakes or cookies – but there really is no treat that will equal to fresh, locally grown strawberries that are coated in real chocolate!

And – you can make these ahead of time or have them ready on a short time notice – just a perfect treat!

Directions:

  1. Coarsely chop about 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate
  2. Wash and dry 1 lb. of fresh strawberries (that’s about 20 of them and if you use locally grown strawberries, you will definitely notice the difference)
  3. Place the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth.
  4. Dip the strawberries – holding each strawberry by the stem end, dip in the melted chocolate, letting the excess chocolate drip of. Repeat with the remaining berries.
  5. Transfer dipped strawberries onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper.
  6. As you set each berry down, slide it about 1/2 inch to the side to prevent the formation of a “chocolate foot”.
  7. Refrigerate the strawberries until the chocolate is firm – at least 30 minutes.
  8. The dipped strawberries will keep up to 3 days, covered, in the refrigerator.
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Fresh Apple Cinnamon Cake Recipe

June 17, 2014 in Cakes, Recipes

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Fresh Apple Cinnamon Cake 001

 

You can cheat here a little bit to make this cake very easy to put together. Using quick bread and coffee cake mix and topping it with fresh apples makes up nicely for the cheat!

Fresh Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 package cinnamon swirl quick bread and coffee cake mix
  • 3/4 cups of water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 cup of finely chopped Granny Smith apples

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Spray 13 x 9 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Set aside cinnamon swirl mix.
  4. Beat quick bread mix, water, egg whites and vanilla in a medium bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until well blended.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  6. Spread apples evenly over batter and sprinkle evenly with cinnamon swirl mix.
  7. Bake 22 -25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove cake to wire rack and cool for minimum of 15 minutes.
  9. Cut into pieces and serve warm at room temperature.

Please note: These flavors are at their peak when this coffee cake is served warm. To reheat, microwave on high for 10-15 minutes.

And consider serving it with vanilla ice cream – delicious!

 

 

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Bacon Wrapped Chicken Recipe

June 16, 2014 in Recipes

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Bacon wrapped chicken 001   You could just take chicken tenders and broil or barbecue them – or you can give them extra flavour by using this recipe. Try it today! Ingredients:

  • 8 chicken tenders, patted dry
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat broiler
  2. Line broiler pan with foil and set aside.
  3. Sprinkle chicken tenders with paprika.
  4. Wrap each tender with slice of bacon in spiral pattern.
  5. Place on broiler pan.
  6. Broil chicken for 4 minutes.
  7. Turn and broil for additional 2 minutes.
  8. Brush with barbecue sauce and broil for 2 more minutes.
  9. Turn and baste with remaining barbecue sauce.
  10. Broil for 2 more minutes.
  11. Serve warm.
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