Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas

Quick-LunchWhether you’re packing a meal for the kids, brown-bagging it to the office or looking for something tasty to make at home, lunch doesn’t have to be a big production to be delicious. Too often, you might skip lunch to save time or money, leaving you feeling sluggish and tired by mid-afternoon. Your body needs fuel for the latter half of the day, and a wholesome lunch is essential. With some planning, you can enjoy varied, healthful and delicious lunches that won’t take a big bite out of your budget or your busy day.

If you think of the typical brown bag lunch as a soggy sandwich and a limp salad, think again. New ideas in portability and temperature control keep foods separate until you assemble your fresh sandwich or salad at your desk. Crisp lettuce, juicy tomato slices and crunchy bacon are perfect on a couple of thick-cut slices of bread, and with the Lunch Cube, you can enjoy a fresher BLT. Each cube has a larger compartment for bread and three smaller sections for toppings and sides. Store the container in the refrigerator or in an insulated tote until it’s time for lunch; then, relish a sandwich as fresh as one you’d make at home.

When making sandwiches, get creative with your fillings, spreads and breads to keep them from becoming ho-hum. Mustard and mayonnaise always work, but if you’re ready for a healthy change, try spreading your bread with hummus or Greek tzatziki. Sweet flavors go well with some sandwich fillings, too; a few slices of last night’s roast pork, for example, take on new depth with a thin layer of tangy mango chutney or cranberry relish. Pita bread, focaccia rounds or sandwich wraps also give your lunches more range without costing you extra effort.Sandwiches offer great convenience, but they aren’t the only option for lunch.

Salads are another delicious choice, and they can be as light or as hearty as you like. A fully loaded chef’s salad with eggs and sliced cold cuts is substantial; a green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing is refreshing. Keeping ingredients separate until just before eating is key to making a great lunch salad. Pack everything the night before and store it in the tote you’ll be taking to work or school for an easy, rush-free morning. An insulated lunch totewith divided compartments is a perfect travel companion.

The best salads have a range of textures and tastes, so think about how flavors will play off one another in the finished salad. If you use a creamy dressing, choose crunchy toppings that will stand up to it. A salad with salty cheese benefits from a few sweet bites such as slivers of pear or dried berries. Did you recently enjoy a taco night? Save some of the meat for a lunch salad the next day. These tortilla bowl bakers give it an authentic touch.Great lunches start with creativity. By using what you already have in your kitchen in novel ways and storing everything properly so that it remains fresh by noon, you can be the envy of your lunchroom.

Image Credit: homemadesimple.com

Pinteresting Picks for August

Every month, we like to look back at what you loved best on Pinterest. It’s a great chance to spot a deal you missed, get fresh ideas for gift-giving or create a wishlist of some of your favorite things. August’s pins included tasty treats, ways to stay cool on sultry summer days and favorites for families with kids going back to school.

Cast-Iron-Skillet-Cookie-Kit
If your pins were any indication, you loved getting creative in the kitchen this August. You’ve pinned cake-pop cookbooks, mixing bowls and some of our favorite baking dishes, but one that popped up again and again was this cast iron skillet cookie kit. Cast iron holds heat well, so using this cookie pan means you leave the oven on for less time – a good idea during the hottest month of summer. It’s the perfect pan for baking your own version of a chocolate chip cookie cake, chewy brownies, a sugar cookie with plenty of space for you and the kids to decorate, or any other sweet treat you might dream of baking. The kit comes with a package of mix, instructions and a ribbon on the handle, so it also makes an excellent gift.

Freezer-Cups
With so many August birthdays, it’s no wonder it was a popular pin last month.When the weather’s hot, few things feel as refreshing as an ice-cold drink. Maybe that’s why our sets of Freezer Cups were big on Pinterest. The double-walled cups are made of freezer-safe plastic and contain a non-toxic gel between the translucent layers. Store them in the freezer, and when you’re ready for a cold drink, pour it into your freezer cup; the frozen gel keeps everything cold far longer than ice inside the cup, and you won’t water down your soda or lemonade. Clear lids screw on and help prevent spills when you take your cup on the go, so they’re great for commutes to school or work. Whether you choose the clear set of four cups or the set with cool blue gel, you’re also making a green choice because these cups are reusable.

Lunch-Cube
August is also back-to-school month, so many of your pins featured student-friendly items. One that made the top of the charts with parents of schoolkids and students themselves was the Lunch Cube, a handy all-in-one kit that holds a sandwich plus three side items. The single compartment is roomy enough to hold even a loaded sandwich, and the divided compartment keeps easy-to-eat tidbits such as raisins and baby carrots separate. Pack your salad ingredients in separate compartments to keep everything fresh; then, combine them when you’re at work or school and ready to eat lunch. The cubes are large enough to hold crackers, chips, fruits and vegetables, so you can vary your menu as much as you like and transport everything in a compact, washable case. You pinned this one often, and it’s easy to see why: It’s as sleek as it is practical.

We will have another round-up at the end of September, so pin your favorites and spread the word. A great time-saver or delicious new treat is too good not to share on Pinterest!

5 Entertaining Tips Everyone Should Know

Party season is right around the corner, and we have some great party tips to make your next get-together memorably festive. Whether it’s your turn to host an office party, a birthday celebration or just a good excuse to have fun with friends, these tips will provide you with what you need for success.

Tiki-torches 

Pick a Theme

Holiday parties have a built-in theme, but even if you’re hosting a mid-week gathering for no particular reason, coming up with a concept for decorations, drinks and food can help you create a festive atmosphere. Luau and tiki themes are always hits for backyard barbecues, but don’t feel constrained to popular party ideas; you can go as wild as you like with your concept. Guests will be charmed with a Mardi Gras masquerade or a retro party with dishes and drinks from vintage cookbooks.

 

 

Handled-bakers

Cook Ahead

When you get most of the cooking done ahead of time, you give yourself more freedom to enjoy entertaining. Instead of spending your party in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on some complicated dish, plan a simple, straightforward menu of foods you know your guests will love. You and they will remember the fun more than the food, so prepare something elegant and easy. Lasagna, roasted chicken and macaroni and cheese are a few possibilities.

Cookware that looks and performs beautifully, such as this set of three handled baking dishes, lets you assemble and store entrees or side dishes the night before and pop them in the oven shortly before guests arrive. They go straight from the oven to the dinner table, saving you another step and giving you more time to spend with your guests.

Pillar-candle-light-string

 

Make It Inviting with Light

What makes a chic nightclub or formal restaurant special? In many cases, it’s the lighting, not the decor, that makes the difference. Try some special effects with lighting to make your next get-together magical. Outside, try stringing colorful paper lanterns or white fairy lights above your deck or patio. Interior spaces take on a beautifully warm and welcoming glow with candles. Kids and pets don’t always get along with candles, though, so choose child-friendly alternatives such as this electric pillar candle light string for part of your table design.

 

 

Create a Play List

Create-list

Music makes a party, and you have more options than ever for music that complements your theme. Internet radio stations have hundreds of stations with dozens of exciting musical genres from which to choose. You can even find music from favorite television shows or movies to play as background music for a season finale party or Oscar night. For holiday parties, look for unique takes on classics; an album of vintage Christmas music, for example, makes your party memorable and will get people talking.

Candle-warmer

 

Appeal to All the Senses

You’ve already decorated, cooked and chosen the music, but don’t forget to make an impression on your guests’ noses. Bouquets of fresh flowers, incense or candle warmers have the staying power to perfume the air for hours without coming on too strong. For a dinner party, choose scents that go well with food and won’t overpower the meal, such as vanilla or spice fragrances. A summer cocktail party might call for something exotic and tropical.

Entertaining can be as much fun for you, the host, as it is for your guests when you plan. Start thinking about creative, fun party ideas today, and you’ll be set from now until the new year!

Pinteresting Picks for June

When the sun goes down, it’s time to celebrate summer.  Get out of the office and into your backyard.  The comfort of our homes is something we crave on warm nights during the summer.  Here’s what we love the most from June:

Everlasting-Candle-Jars

These rustic led candle lights add great ambiance and the perfect amount of light to your yard.  Place them on your table or hang them in the trees.  The battery operated candle is a sure way to ensure safety.  Or remove the flame-less candle and replace it with a tea light candle, if you please.  For just five dollars apiece, these are an inexpensive way to add flair to any relaxing summer night.

BBQ-Grill-LightGrilling is the quickest way to cook homemade meals during the summer, but not everyone is around while the sun still up.  With a BBQ Grill Light, you are able to safely grill at all hours of the day and get more use out of your grill.  Get dual use out of the grill light and take it with you on camping trips!  The heavy-duty magnetic clip attaches to almost anything for quick, easy, and hands-free use.

Create-S'mores-Bars

Bonfires are a summer staple.  Mix it up and create fun S’mores bars for your backyard guests to enjoy.  Instead of the expected chocolate bars, graham crackers and marshmallows, give your guests the option to mix it up (while keeping the traditional ingredients available).  In place of the chocolate bar, spread Nutella or peanut butter on the graham cracker and fill with melty, roasted marshmallows, and a strawberry or two. Or, use a toasted coconut marshmallow to give your taste buds another special treat!

Outdoor-Beverage-HoldersWhat’s a better way to spend a summer night than on the lawn, at your nearby outdoor music arena?  With these adorable beverage holders, you can sit back and relax without having to keep your drink in your hand.  Just pop a few of them into the ground and set your drink right inside.  These drink holders are perfect for picnics, parties and days at the beach.  One more new addition includes a set to accommodate wine glasses, to help you wind down your summer nights!

Economical Family Fun

With the holiday season fast approaching, many families are saving every penny toward gift shopping. Couple that fact with colder weather and quality family time tends to suffer. If you are trying to tighten your belt a little but still want to engage the whole family, here are some ideas.

Take a Hike:

The weather in parts of the country is starting to turn brisk, but old man winter has not quite swept in yet. Get outside for a nice hike. No TV, no distractions, just the whole family enjoying quality time together. This time of year is especially wonderful. While autumn weather sometimes requires an extra layer, the gorgeous changing leaves more than make up for the rosy cheeks.

Bon Appétit:

Family cooking allows for quality time that is purpose driven. If you do not like to cook, why not follow the old adage that many hands make light work. Plus you may be surprised what delicious dishes your kids come up with. For younger kids, have them help you with the main course. Older kids and teens can be charged with appetizers/sides or the favorite…dessert! Need ideas, Lakeside.com has a variety of cookbooks perfect for whatever type of chef you are. A personal favorite, Delicious Treats Cookbooks, is full of creative and scrumptious sweets you can make right at home.

Family Game Night

A classic but favorite. For littler kids, the 4-1 Disney board game set is easy-to-learn and fun for ages 3 and up. Older kids will love 5 Second Rule. This game has a simple premise, just name 3 of something. But under the pressure of the clock, drawing a blank when trying to name 3 breeds or dogs, or saying a silly answer like ‘Justin Beiber’ for name 3 famous bald people is bound to happen!