Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pretend Play: 5 Top Benefits

Anytime of the year ... Halloween included, children learn by imagining and doing. The process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas. Dress-up play is vital to a child’s development. 


First things first ... This month, in honor of our favorite holiday, we are giving away an adorable costume from Great Pretenders!  The winner can choose either the adventure cape for boys or the Sleeping Cutie princess dress.  Moms and dads can enter on our Facebook fan page under What Really Matters.  It's so appropriate since pretend play REALLY matters ... 

According to licensed child psychologist Dr. Laurie Zelinger, “It fosters the imaginative processes, and allows for play without rules or script. Dress up allows for experimentation, role play and fantasy.“  Major benefits include:


1.  Social and Emotional Skills:  Dress up allows for experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, children learn societal rules such as how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. Character play means that the child is "walking in someone else's shoes” and it encourages teamwork along with an interest in peers. The child also learns to negotiate  which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy. Since children see the world form their own point of view, cooperative play helps them understand the feelings of others.  


2.  Language Skills:  When children engage in pretend play, you will hear words and phrases you never thought they knew. Pretend play requires children to invent and tell stories and since almost all children narrate their pretend play experiences, they train their minds to transform ideas into words. Children usually mimic words and ideas from parents, teachers, daycare or what they hear on TV. This repetition builds vocabulary and helps kids visualize what they say, especially when adults offer feedback to help kids better understand the words they use. This also helps with grammar – they may not know the rules but they are training themselves  to speak like adults. This also helps make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help them to read.


3.  Self-Control:  Young kids typically have little self-control. During pretend play, children have to take a role and play within those boundaries, especially when other kids are involved. Studies show that children control their impulses significantly better during pretend play than at other times. Did you ever wonder why parents often make up a game to get their children to eat their vegetables or finish chores? Transforming an unappealing task into a make-believe game is a popular trick among clever parents and educators.


4.  Problem Solving Skills:  Pretend play also provides your child with a variety of problems to solve. Whether it’s the logistics of sharing toys or a pretend problem the children are escaping from, the child calls upon important cognitive thinking skills that he will use in every aspect of his life, now and forever. Role playing games lead children to face situations that far exceed kids' real-life experiences. Children work out confusing, scary, or new life issues. Through these role plays, children become more comfortable and prepared for life events in a safe way. Children often use pretend play to work out more personal challenging life events too, whether it is coping with an illness in the family, the absence of a parent or divorce, or a house fire. Although kids may not always act logically during tough pretend dilemmas, the very process of problem solving becomes habitual. By practicing problem solving in an artificial environment, kids are better prepared to think of creative solutions to their own real-life problems.


5.  Self-esteem:  By giving your child complete control in their pretend world and accepting them as a silly character, you are enhancing their self-esteem. While they use their own initiative to develop story lines, their creative imagination to expand stories and their own personality to choose a character they enjoy, you are enhancing their self-esteem by allowing them complete power in the world & enjoying it with them. Take for example superheroes. Considering the thrill children get out of pretending to be a grown-up, it's no wonder that they're also crazy about mimicking the most powerful version of adults: superheroes. Pretending to be Batman or Wonder Woman allows a toddler to feel brave and invincible, which helps them develop self-confidence. Similarly, all that running and leaping keeps them active and builds strength, balance, and coordination.



“Confidence is brought about in children by the realization that they have the ability to be anybody they want in this life and accomplish anything they desire. Our goal at Great Pretenders is to help kids achieve that level of confidents and to start young.”

“Surely pretend play has many benefits for child development but one of the main things is that it’s also FUN for parents and for children! It’s a great bonding experience, especially when you participate in your child’s make belief world”   Kate Muddiman, Creative Director, Great Pretenders

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thriller Meets Love Story

"Thriller meets love story in a novel 
where characterization shines."


Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island by award-winning author, Michael Phillip Cash, is an emotional thriller intertwined with a love story.  This book has received almost all 5 Star Reviews and has ranked high on Amazon's best-selling list for the past year!  

Get it on Kindle for 99 cents or in paperback on Amazon, and his website, MichaelPhillipCash.com.  Find more about Michael Phillip Cash on his Facebook page and discover fun give-a-ways and other promotions!



Michael Phillip Cash is an award winning and best selling author of horror, paranormal, and science fiction novels. Stillwell: A Haunting on Long IslandThe Hanging Tree, and Schism: The Battle for Darracia have all been named to Foreward Reviews Book of the Year Awards. Cash currently resides on Long Island with his wife and children. Michael's new book, The After House, was just released on Amazon.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

The ULTIMATE De-Cluttering Guide: October

We LOVE this month-by-month de-cluttering guide from our "Big O" Organizer, Monica Ricci!  


With Monica's practical tips you can say GOODBYE to (insert your own here): overwhelm, nick-knacks, disorganization, lost items, and stress.  Then say HELLO to (insert your own here): joy, organization, cleanliness, productivity, and focus.

Below you'll find an excerpt from October, but feel free to click on the link to the entire guide above if you're feeling extra motivated and want to de-clutter ahead! Enjoy and let us know how your de-cluttering is coming along - drop us a line on FaceBook or through email!

October is here ...



It’s officially autumn and that means it’ll soon be time to cozy up under the covers a little longer in the morning. Your bedroom is where you replenish your body and mind each night and it’s an important space, so take this month to de-clutter and organize it. If your bedroom is home to workout equipment, a desk, your entire office, or anything else that negatively affects your quality of sleep and happiness, now is the time to take action.



Evaluate the space to identify items you can either relocate or part with completely. Can you move your workspace to the corner of another room? Perhaps swap the guest bed for a futon and put the exercise equipment in the guest room. Unless you have an infant in a crib next to your bed, banish kids’ toys from your room. Your goal is to make your bedroom into an adult-only space where you can relax. Keeping only the things that support the function of your bedroom in that room helps facilitate good sleep, which is crucial building block of your health, happiness and success. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Purses Need LOVE too!

Recently, on our popular The Big O: Organization series, we spent some time talking about purses.  Clearly, one of those items in our lives that if neglected, can lead one to feel cluttered, unorganized and frazzled.  On the show, expert organizer and media girl, Monica Ricci of Catalyst Organizing, shared some FUN-tastic resources for keeping our purses in order.  Here's what the purse police suggested:

It's fashionably functional and allows you to swap bags quickly and with EASE.  We love our Pouchees! https://www.pouchee.com

The Pouchee has all kinds of hidden compartments!
Take it out and transfer it when you purse-change!


The original thin wallet ... yes, called the Allett. http://www.all-ett.com

The very 1st compartmentalized handbag ... the one and only purse Monica ever carries - her precious Butler Bag! http://www.butlerbag.com

The Famous Butler Bag!

Imagine ... all your rewards cards on your phone!  Meet The Key Ring ... stop fumbling and losing, just save $. https://www.keyringapp.com

The world's thinnest full-featured wallet ... the cute Pursette. http://www.pursettes.com

Organizers, organizers and more organizers ... through Kwiki Boutique. http://kwikiboutique.com

SUPER fun and adorable! Jen's find: http://www.blueq.com/zipper-pouches/

Jen's pouches from Blue Q that she loves because they are so durable!
Inside of Jen's purse with all her pouches. 
You can even see her Flip and Tumble bag too. 

Source: The Big O: Five Right Now!  Want to feel lighter, more motivated and better organized?  Listen to these 5 simple ideas for things to organize RIGHT NOW that will yield big results in little time.

About The Big O  Get yourself and your life more organized (and be amused along the way) by listening to The Big O: Organization, the most popular program on What Really Matters.  Throughout this ongoing series,  hosts Vicky and Jen, along with organizing expert Monica Ricci, have explored the core principles and benefits of organizing and have cleared the clutter from offices, wardrobes, kitchens, basements,  holidays, small spaces and much more.  Each of The Big O episodes (over 55 of them!) delivers much more than the expected, as the humorous chemistry between Vicky, Jen and Monica keep you entertained with stories, and often admissions, of personal organizational obstacles.  These audio shows are loaded with ideas, strategies and simple tips to get your life in order, room by room and step by step!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

We Ask the Chefs! (#5 Food Staples)

We've mastered the grill and made simple meals with 5 ingredients or less. We've gone decadent with desserts and prepped for holiday baking.  We've cooked bikini-style and southern-style.  We've prepped quick meals with less stress, under $10, and in our slow-cookers.  All of this and much more on our popular Ask-a-Chef Series.  

Part of the fun was giving our guests a cooking survey ... kinda like a sneak peek into their kitchen, a feel for their favorite books, tools and foods.  Now, how about pulling all of those helpful tidbits into one blog post?  Here ya go!  
Feel free to help a fellow cook out by emailing us or commenting right here about your kitchen favorites.  Bon Appetite!


The Ask-a-Chef questions are .... 
(We'll divide these up into 5 blog posts so look for them all under the heading "We Ask the Chefs!")

#1  What is your favorite cookbook?
#2  What is your favorite cooking tool?
#3  What is your signature dish or your specialty?
#4  What is your favorite cooking website?
#5  Name one food item that is a staple in your fridge.

Check out this awesome Ask-a-Chef line-up!

Melissa d'Arabian, Host of Ten Dollar Dinners on Food Network

Devin Alexander, Host of Healthy Decadence on Discovery Health Channel
Aviva Goldfarb, Founder of The Six O'Clock Scramble
Sunny Anderson, Host of Cooking for Real on Food Network
Susan Miller, Director of King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center
Kelsey Banfield, The Naptime Chef
Claire Robinson, Host of 5 Ingredient Fix on Food Network
Judy Sipe, Chief Culinary Officer for The Food Channel
Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef
Gale Gand, Nationally Acclaimed Pastry Chef, Restaurateur, and Author
Judith Finlayson, Journalist, Author, Cook and Slow Cooker Connoisseur
Kathy Maister, Founder, Host and Editorial Director of StartCooking.com
Paul O'Toole, Culinary Expert of 30 years, Host of Cookin' with Passion

Here we go with the last one #5 ...

What is the one food item that is a staple in your fridge or pantry?

• Bacon in my freezer for making little lardons.  It slices easily when frozen, and a little goes a long way in flavor.  (Melissa d'Arabian)

• In the fridge it's bacon, in the pantry it's canned tomatoes.  You can pretty much find uses for these in anything!  (Sunny Anderson)

Non-fat plain greek yogurt.  Not only do I enjoy it for breakfast, but I use it as a base for cream sauces, in smoothies, in place of sour cream on mexican-style dishes.  It's delicious, high in protein, has fat-burning properties, and as you can see, greek yogurt is very versatile.  (Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef)

• Fresh herbs are a great thing to always have on hand; I know I always do. They are cheap to plant, pot and keep in your window, and they are a fast, fat-free, flavor addition to any meal.  (Claire Robinson)
• Linguine Rigatti, Nutella, whole milk for tea, heavy cream, raisin bread, blocks of parmesan, apple sauce for the husband...oh wait, you said one.  Sorry!  (Gale Gand)

• Kosher salt, olive oil and good butter. That is three, but they are essential!  (Kelsey The Naptime Chef)

• Coconut Water. I drink it for an afternoon snack or after a work out.  Also put it in smoothies in the am. It’s a fabulous electrolyte replacer.  (Judith Finlayson)

• Great Oils, Spanish vinegars and salts, sherry vinegars, aged balsamic.  (Judy Sipe)



• For Cooking: yogurt.  I’m a huge fan of Fiber One’s new yogurts.  For Convenience: Weight Watchers Smart Ones Entrees; they’re lifesaving particularly after I’ve been travelling and don’t have groceries on hand.  There’s so much excess fat and calories in take-out, it’s insane.  I love the Orange Sesame Chicken and Cranberry Turkey Medallions from Smart Ones Fruit Inspirations Line (I helped create them) and then I also love the Thai Chicken with Rice Noodles (which I did not help with, but is so fantastic, I’ve served it to girlfriends on reality tv night along with a couple of homemade dishes!)  (Devin Alexander)

• Yogurt!  Flavored, plain, and Greek style are on my weekly shopping list.  (Kathy Maister)

• In my fridge—yogurt, preferably the thick, greek yogurt—yummy for cooking, baking, and just eating plain. In my pantry—how can you even ask? King Arthur Flour, of course—I’ve used it my whole life and wouldn’t think of baking without it.  (Susan Miller)

•  Onions! You can do so much with them from raw to cooked, I just love them and they are so very good for you also.  (Paul O' Toole)


• We are kind of crazy for Trader Joe’s whole wheat tortillas at our house. My husband especially likes to wrap almost anything, and I love how they can turn so many foods into a healthy hand-held meal. Lately my favorite combination is hummus, diced Persian cucumbers, feta cheese and fresh mint wrapped in a tortilla.  (Aviva Goldfarb)
No one could list just one, could they?

Monday, September 29, 2014

We Ask the Chefs! (#4 Favorite Site)

We've mastered the grill and made simple meals with 5 ingredients or less. We've gone decadent with desserts and prepped for holiday baking.  We've cooked bikini-style and southern-style.  We've prepped quick meals with less stress, under $10, and in our slow-cookers.  All of this and much more on our popular Ask-a-Chef Series.  

Part of the fun was giving our guests a cooking survey ... kinda like a sneak peek into their kitchen, a feel for their favorite books, tools and foods.  Now, how about pulling all of those helpful tidbits into one blog post?  Here ya go!  
Feel free to help a fellow cook out by emailing us or commenting right here about your kitchen favorites.  Bon Appetite!


The Ask-a-Chef questions are .... 
(We'll divide these up into 5 blog posts so look for them all under the heading "We Ask the Chefs!")

#1  What is your favorite cookbook?
#2  What is your favorite cooking tool?
#3  What is your signature dish or your specialty?
#4  What is your favorite cooking website?
#5  Name one food item that is a staple in your fridge.

Check out this awesome Ask-a-Chef line-up!

Melissa d'Arabian, Host of Ten Dollar Dinners on Food Network

Devin Alexander, Host of Healthy Decadence on Discovery Health Channel
Aviva Goldfarb, Founder of The Six O'Clock Scramble
Sunny Anderson, Host of Cooking for Real on Food Network
Susan Miller, Director of King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center
Kelsey Banfield, The Naptime Chef
Claire Robinson, Host of 5 Ingredient Fix on Food Network
Judy Sipe, Chief Culinary Officer for The Food Channel
Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef
Gale Gand, Nationally Acclaimed Pastry Chef, Restaurateur, and Author
Judith Finlayson, Journalist, Author, Cook and Slow Cooker Connoisseur
Kathy Maister, Founder, Host and Editorial Director of StartCooking.com
Paul O'Toole, Culinary Expert of 30 years, Host of Cookin' with Passion


Here we go with #4 ...

What is your favorite cooking website?  

• Epicurious.com  (Melissa d'Arabian)


• I really love Epicurious and Chow.  I’m mostly into finding old cookbooks at antique stores, street sales and book stores.  (Sunny Anderson)


• There are too many wonderful websites to have one favorite, but my go-to site for nutrition calculations is SparkPeople. I use their recipe calculator for the nutrition breakdown for my recipes.  When it comes to researching recipes for my books, I don't peruse websites.  I enjoy looking through old food magazines and old cookbooks.  I have nearly every issue of Bon Appetit from the 80's, 90's and even some from the 70's that a lady gave me.  I can sit for hours browsing through recipes.  It is educational and relaxing at the same time.  (Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef)



• Absolutely, I have always loved FoodNetwork.com because it has such a great variety of recipes, chefs, and ideas for anything you want to cook. It’s incredible to now have my recipes on there too; it’s mind blowing. You can find them on www.foodnetwork.com/5fix.  (Claire Robinson)

Not really...sorry. So I looked on my favorites list and I found I go to the Peeps Web site and Dell rae's Chicken Basket. Do they count?  (Gale Gand)


I really love Big Girls, Small Kitchen and What Katie Ate. They are vastly different and two of my favorite blogs with great photography, style and writing. I love the food they make and work from them often.  (Kelsey, The Naptime Chef)


•  David Lebovitz.  I go to Paris every year and he is a terrific source for places to go, etc.  (Judith Finlayson)


Besides FoodChannel.com, it's Epicurious.com.  (Judy Sipe)


• I get asked this question all of the time and I honestly don’t have one.  I’m on the road so much these days that I’m lucky if I return half of the emails I’m supposed to.  I don’t really have time to do much leisurely surfing if I want to spend any time with friends (or ever locate the love of my life).  :) (Devin Alexander)




• The USDA has some of the best and current information on every aspect of food.  (Kathy Maister)

• I go to the New York Times dining section every Wednesday—their site is great, with archived articles, videos, and the latest food news.  (Susan Miller)

• Besides Vicky and Jen's ...  it would have to be Epicurious.com.  (Paul O'Toole)
• I look at recipes on Epicurious.com a lot. One of my favorite things about it is reading other cook’s reviews of the recipes and seeing how they put their own spin on the dish.  (Aviva Goldfarb)

Did you notice?  It sure looks like Epicurious rocked the vote amongst our chefs!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

We Ask the Chefs! (#3 Signature Dish)

We've mastered the grill and made simple meals with 5 ingredients or less. We've gone decadent with desserts and prepped for holiday baking.  We've cooked bikini-style and southern-style.  We've prepped quick meals with less stress, under $10, and in our slow-cookers.  All of this and much more on our popular Ask-a-Chef Series.  

Part of the fun was giving our guests a cooking survey ... kinda like a sneak peek into their kitchen, a feel for their favorite books, tools and foods.  Now, how about pulling all of those helpful tidbits into one blog post?  Here ya go!  
Feel free to help a fellow cook out by emailing us or commenting right here about your kitchen favorites.  Bon Appetite!


The Ask-a-Chef questions are .... 
(We'll divide these up into 5 blog posts so look for them all under the heading "We Ask the Chefs!")

#1  What is your favorite cookbook?
#2  What is your favorite cooking tool?
#3  What is your signature dish or your specialty?
#4  What is your favorite cooking website?
#5  Name one food item that is a staple in your fridge.

Check out this awesome Ask-a-Chef line-up!

Melissa d'Arabian, Host of Ten Dollar Dinners on Food Network

Devin Alexander, Host of Healthy Decadence on Discovery Health Channel
Aviva Goldfarb, Founder of The Six O'Clock Scramble
Sunny Anderson, Host of Cooking for Real on Food Network
Susan Miller, Director of King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center
Kelsey Banfield, The Naptime Chef
Claire Robinson, Host of 5 Ingredient Fix on Food Network
Judy Sipe, Chief Culinary Officer for The Food Channel
Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef
Gale Gand, Nationally Acclaimed Pastry Chef, Restaurateur, and Author
Judith Finlayson, Journalist, Author, Cook and Slow Cooker Connoisseur
Kathy Maister, Founder, Host and Editorial Director of StartCooking.com
Paul O'Toole, Culinary Expert of 30 years, Host of Cookin' with Passion

Here we go with #3 ...
What is your signature dish or your specialty?


• My signature dish not a fancy one, but it is the only true family recipe my mom left me before she died:  it is a simple marinated flank steak.  She had gotten it from the electric company back in the early 70's.  How it was from the electric company.....was a recipe card tucked in the bill?  Did she attend a class?... I'll never know.  (Melissa d'Arabian)

• I don't have a signature dish, but my Cider-Brined Fried Chicken always gets requests from friends when they come over.  Brining is an important process for me- it keeps meat juicy and makes it so flavorful.  (Sunny Anderson)

• I love my Quinoa with Bell Pepper and Cilantro.  Quinoa is just so yummy and crunchy not to mention it is a SuperFood!  Packed with fiber and protein, bite per bite, quinoa is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. I add diced fresh red and yellow bell peppers to cooked quinoa with a little smoked paprika, chopped fresh cilantro and....  a bit of lemon zest!  My daughter enjoys the quinoa, however, she loves my Lemon Rosemary Chicken!  (Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef) 

• My signature dish is really more of a signature style in that each recipe I make has five ingredients or fewer. Anything can be done in five ingredients. One that even impressed me was my cornbread dressing that I make for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned for that episode in November.  (Claire Robinson)

• Right now it's Chocolate Pots De Creme with salted Caramel sauce and Black Pepper Whipped cream with a side of Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies.  (Gale Gand) 

• My grandmother's meatball recipe has become my signature dish, I make them all the time.  (Kelsey, The Naptime Chef  


• Probably Short Ribs cooked in a red wine sauce served over polenta.But I also do fabulous brisket....both in the slow cooker.  (Judith Finlayson)

• Beef tenderloin – marinated in soy sauce and red wine and grilled.  (Judy Sipe)


• For years my signature dish was Sweet and Sour Meatballs, but lately, I’ve definitely become known for my insanely rich, insanely low-fat brownies (Chocolate Chocolate Brownie Cups in The Most Decadent Diet Ever! has one version) and baked goods like the Chocolate Not-Only-In-Your-Dreams Cakes.   (Devin Alexander) 


• I love making, serving and eating Quiche.  It’s perfect for any meal of the day!  (Kathy Maister)



• That’s a hard one—it changes all the time. Right now, I’m enjoying pairing breads and stews as the weather gets colder and the days get shorter.  (Susan Miller)

• Living in the area of the “Mushroom Capital of the World," I would have to say my Signature dish is Chester County Mushroom Soup  its made with fresh mushrooms from Chester county Pennsylvania. ( I will include recipe). Basically, shitake, portabellas, white button mushrooms, heavy cream, sun dried tomatoes, heavy cream and chicken stock, plus, plus …  (Paul O'Toole) 


•  I’ve been making fried rice forever and my whole family loves it. I love how flexible the recipe is, and it always seems to taste great. The basic ingredients are leftover rice, peanut oil, scrambled eggs, scallions, soy sauce and black pepper, but I also love to throw in carrots, peas, chicken, tofu, pineapple, or whatever else sounds good that night.  (Aviva Goldfarb)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

We Ask the Chefs! (#2 Favorite Tool)

We've mastered the grill and made simple meals with 5 ingredients or less. We've gone decadent with desserts and prepped for holiday baking.  We've cooked bikini-style and southern-style.  We've prepped quick meals with less stress, under $10, and in our slow-cookers.  All of this and much more on our popular Ask-a-Chef Series.  

Part of the fun was giving our guests a cooking survey ... kinda like a sneak peek into their kitchen, a feel for their favorite books, tools and foods.  Now, how about pulling all of those helpful tidbits into one blog post?  Here ya go!  
Feel free to help a fellow cook out by emailing us or commenting right here about your kitchen favorites.  Bon Appetite!


The Ask-a-Chef questions are .... 
(We'll divide these up into 5 blog posts so look for them all under the heading "We Ask the Chefs!")

#1  What is your favorite cookbook?
#2  What is your favorite cooking tool?
#3  What is your signature dish or your specialty?
#4  What is your favorite cooking website?
#5  Name one food item that is a staple in your fridge.

Check out this awesome Ask-a-Chef line-up!

Melissa d'Arabian, Host of Ten Dollar Dinners on Food Network

Devin Alexander, Host of Healthy Decadence on Discovery Health Channel
Aviva Goldfarb, Founder of The Six O'Clock Scramble
Sunny Anderson, Host of Cooking for Real on Food Network
Susan Miller, Director of King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center
Kelsey Banfield, The Naptime Chef
Claire Robinson, Host of 5 Ingredient Fix on Food Network
Judy Sipe, Chief Culinary Officer for The Food Channel
Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef
Gale Gand, Nationally Acclaimed Pastry Chef, Restaurateur, and Author
Judith Finlayson, Journalist, Author, Cook and Slow Cooker Connoisseur
Kathy Maister, Founder, Host and Editorial Director of StartCooking.com
Paul O'Toole, Culinary Expert of 30 years, Host of Cookin' with Passion

Here we go with #2 ...

What is your favorite cooking tool?



• Magic Bullet!  I have a blender and food processor, but my magic bullet is in a category of its own.  I LOVE it!  (Melissa d'Arabian)

• 
My favorite cooking tool is anything that minces garlic-it's a must ingredient for me.  (Sunny Anderson)

• My microplane zester (photo left).  I use my zester probably more than any other tool in the kitchen.  I zest lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits; I use it to grate cheese. Adding a touch of citrus zest to nearly any dish adds so much in the way of flavor and color.  (Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef)


• A good, sharp, culinary knife. It makes prep work so much faster and easier. A good knife can absolutely change your cooking experience.  (Claire Robinson)

• My Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I am seriously devoted that thing!  (Kelsey, The Naptime Chef)

•  I love my Kitchen Aid mixer, my hand whisks, my great grandmother's rolling pin I have, my hand bleder, my japanese Mandoline (photo right) and my micro plane. That's like asking which of your 3 kids is your favorite...  (Gale Gand)


• Probably my food processor.  I use it a lot for many different things. It’s a fabulous time-saver. I also couldn’t live without my gravy whisk....on Xmas and Thanksgiving for sure.  (Judith Finlayson)


•  A great knife  (Judy Sipe)





• The Infinite Circulon Induction Burner (photo left)!  Cooks in a flash and it’s even portable.  (Devin Alexander)


My Cuisinart food processor!  It is a huge time saver for a busy cook.  (Kathy Maister)


•  I love my bench knife and my baking stone.  (Susan Miller)


•  I would be lost with out Tongs and Towels.  (Paul O'Toole)


• A sharp chef’s knife is the most important tool in my kitchen. I also love my hand citrus juicer, as I use lots of fresh lemon and lime juices in my cooking, and my Pampered Chef garlic press.  (Aviva Goldfarb)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

We Ask the Chefs! (#1 Favorite Cookbook)


We've mastered the grill and made simple meals with 5 ingredients or less. We've gone decadent with desserts and prepped for holiday baking.  We've cooked bikini-style and southern-style.  We've prepped quick meals with less stress, under $10, and in our slow-cookers.  All of this and much more on our popular Ask-a-Chef Series.  

Part of the fun was giving our guests a cooking survey ... kinda like a sneak peek into their kitchen, a feel for their favorite books, tools and foods.  Now, how about pulling all of those helpful tidbits into one blog post?  Here ya go!  
Feel free to help a fellow cook out by emailing us or commenting right here about your kitchen favorites.  Bon Appetite!


The Ask-a-Chef questions are .... 
(We'll divide these up into 5 blog posts so look for them all under the heading "We Ask the Chefs!")

#1  What is your favorite cookbook?
#2  What is your favorite cooking tool?
#3  What is your signature dish or your specialty?
#4  What is your favorite cooking website?
#5  Name one food item that is a staple in your fridge.

Check out this awesome Ask-a-Chef line-up!

Melissa d'Arabian, Host of Ten Dollar Dinners on Food Network

Devin Alexander, Host of Healthy Decadence on Discovery Health Channel
Aviva Goldfarb, Founder of The Six O' Clock Scramble
Sunny Anderson, Host of Cooking for Real on Food Network
Susan Miller, Director of King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center
Kelsey Banfield, The Naptime Chef
Claire Robinson, Host of 5 Ingredient Fix on Food Network
Judy Sipe, Chief Culinary Officer for The Food Channel
Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef
Gale Gand, Nationally Acclaimed Pastry Chef, Restaurateur, and Author
Judith Finlayson, Journalist, Author, Cook and Slow Cooker Connoisseur
Kathy Maister, Founder, Host and Editorial Director of StartCooking.com
Paul O'Toole, Culinary Expert of 30 years, Host of Cookin' with Passion

Here we go with the first one ... #1

What is your favorite cookbook?

Silver Palate (the original).  My mom gave it to me; it was my first "expensive" cookbook (it's in paperback, but it was the most expensive book I'd owned up to that point).  A postscript: one of the authors of the Silver Palate now owns an inn in Michigan.  My husband took me there on our "babymoon", and I now have a brandnew autographed Silver Palate.  But I still used my yucky old food stained book from my mom.  (Melissa d'Arabian)


• It's a tie between the American Home All Purpose Cookbook because it has all the basics and is always a good starting point, but I love Rocco Dispirito's Flavor because I love the way he explains flavors and how they work together.  (Sunny Anderson)


Cooking With Susan: Southern Family Favorites ~ it's a compilation of recipes from my family; recipes we use year after year for holidays, family get-togethers.  I self-published the book years ago.  The recipes are truly MY favorites from the family and I tell short stories about what each recipe means to me or  a fun, family memory about the recipe. Not all the recipes are #SOBikini being that they are traditional Southern recipes.  Sometimes when I make them today, I make them a little more bikini friendly.  (Susan Irby, The Bikini Chef)


• This is a tough one for me because I collect all kinds of cookbooks especially antique ones. My most prized one is The Joy of Cooking (second edition from 1936). It is a great classic reference book covering all the basics.  (Claire Robinson)

• Probably The Blus Strawberry Cook Book, Cooking Brilliantly Without Recipes by James Haller... or my brunch book Gale Gand's Brunch!  (Gale Gand)

Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros  (Kelsey The Naptime Chef)


• Probably Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1.  It taught me how to cook.  (Judith Finlayson)


Martha Stewart Entertaining  (Judy Sipe)


The Most Decadent Diet Ever!, of course.  :)  I’m really excited about the book because the recipes truly changed me from fat teen to happy woman.  (Devin Alexander)


• I love all of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa cook books.  (Kathy Maister)


•  Julia Childs Mastering the Art of French Cooking, followed closely by the Victory Garden Cookbook.  (Susan Miller)


• Classical Cooking the Modern Way by Eugen Pauli – 1979© Given to me by my mentor and friend Chef Gaspard Colez when I was very young.  (Paul O'Toole)


• I end up using my own cookbooks an embarrassing amount, but I really love just about anything by Mollie Katzen or Mark Bittman.  (Aviva Goldfarb)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mmmmm! Chocolate! Bring it to the Grocery!


Creamier. Yummier. Better than peanut butter!  The original Sneaky Chef No-Nut Butter has been such a success that now there's something NEWer!  Chocolate No-Nut Butter!

Tasters can’t believe that it’s made with healthy golden peas!  Crazy, huh?  Moms love it (because it's packed with veggie nutrition and has 1/2 the sugar of other chocolate spreads); kids love it (it's safe for school and tastes so good!);  and actually, everyone loves it (whether you have nut allergies or not)!

Missy Chase Lapine, The Sneaky Chef, just launched a Kickstarter Campaign and needs our help to get this yumminess, Chocolate No-Nut Butter, on the grocery shelves.  Click HERE and be WOW-ed by the awesome rewards campaign backers will receive.  Be sure to watch the Sneaky Video.

More impressive features:  (all the important stuff!)

• all natural
• no high fructose corn syrup
• no hydrogenated oils
• no artificial colors or flavors 
• soy free, gluten free, dairy free
• great for nut-free schools
• 1/2 the sugar of leading chocolate spreads
• made with non-gmo ingredients
• 100% peanut & tree nut-free
• produced in a nut-free facility
• BPA free jar

(Warning: video may cause severe drooling.)
Campaign ends October 8th, 2014.