For centuries, it’s been the star of many cuisines, recipes and vampire movies. You’ll find its pungent smell in nearly every kitchen around the world, and probably on every chef’s hands as well. Yep, we’re talking about garlic. And today, we feature the delicious bulb in celebration of National Garlic Month!

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Its Roots

Garlic, formally known as Allium sativum, is one of the oldest and most widely-used food flavoring plants on Earth, dating back as early as 10,000 B.C. (aka the Stone Age). Originally from central Asia, the plant quickly spread to the Middle East and Africa and eventually made its way over to Europe and North America. Initially, garlic was used for its supposed medicinal properties. Egyptians believed garlic could prolong life, cure wounds and give strength. In fact, there are records of Egyptian royals feeding garlic to slaves so that they would have more strength to build the pyramids! In Greece and Rome, garlic was popular in many superstitious rituals (i.e. hanging it above entrances to prevent the spread of smallpox). And nowadays, garlic is most commonly used in cooking.

 

Cooking with Garlic    

Delicious, flavorful and relatively inexpensive, its journeyed past makes garlic a staple in dishes found all around the world. And at your local Sparkle, you’ll find it fresh, minced and powdered to fit any sort of recipe. Need some inspiration for your next garlicky dish? Click on the recipes below!

Fresh / Minced Garlic

 

Powdered Garlic

 

Dealing with the Aftermath   

Let’s be honest, a garlicky pasta dish probably isn’t your first choice for a first date dinner. Why? Simply put: the smell. Garlic tastes great, but its scent will stick around long after dinnertime. Luckily there’s plenty of solutions out here in the cooking world for getting rid of garlic’s potent smell. After peeling and mincing garlic, try rubbing your fingers on something made of stainless steel (i.e. a sink, spoon) under cold water. If that doesn’t do the trick, rub whole coffee beans or some coffee grounds on your hands, then rinse. Cleaning your hands with lemon and salt is another tried and true solution– but be careful not to irritate already-dry skin! If you’re struggling with garlic breath, eat some raw apples. The same enzyme that makes apples turn brown, also fights against the stinky sulphides in garlic. Drinking lemon water, green tea or milk are also great (and less conspicuous) ways to freshen your breath during a dinner date!

This month, and every month, make sure to stop by your local Sparkle Market for all the quality garlic you need to make your dishes a success!

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Celebrate National Eat Like the Irish Day (more commonly known as St. Patrick’s Day) with us as we round up some of our favorite Irish dishes. These hearty meals are the perfect way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day with your family and friends. Hopefully, the luck of the Irish will bring us not only tasty food, but also some nice spring weather!

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Don’t Reuben Your Dinner

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Save the parade candy until after you’ve had an iconic Reuben sandwich (you’ll thank us later). Stacked high with corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut, then toasted between two slices of rye bread, the Reuben is a staple in Irish cuisine. But, a sandwich isn’t the only way to enjoy this classic combo of ingredients. If you’re not into rye bread, try these Hearty Reuben Turnovers, made with biscuits instead of bread. Or, try swapping the bread for cabbage leaves in our recipe for Reuben Cabbage Rolls. They’re baked with a homemade dressing and perfect for anyone that’s gluten-sensitive or trying out the keto diet. This recipe for Reuben Wraps also allow you to enjoy the best parts of a Reuben, without the carbs. If you’re looking for a crowd pleaser, try this recipe for Reuben Pizza or this recipe for Reuben Dip. Both recipes make delicious St. Patty’s Day party food and are filled with plenty of corned beef + cheesy goodness.

 

Do the Mashed Potato

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The next step to eating like the Irish? Potatoes of course! If you’re cooking for kids, try this recipe for savory Potato-Green Onion Cakes. The recipe is just four ingredients long (potatoes, green onions, eggs and seasonings) and can be prepped six hours ahead of time. Preparing ahead means less time spent in the kitchen and more time playing with your little ones! Speaking of saving time, this recipe for Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes takes the struggle out of making the perfect mash. Simply place potatoes in a slow cooker on high with chicken broth, milk and seasoning and cook for three and a half hours. Mash them up and they’re ready to go! And when you’re left with lots of potato leftovers, use them to make Mashed Potato Waffles. It sounds weird, but they taste amazing and make a great breakfast dish.

 

Cabbage Patch Kids

One ingredient you’ll undoubtedly find in nearly all authentic Irish dishes is cabbage. Not only is cabbage inexpensive and found in all Sparkle stores, but it also makes for some pretty tasty meals! The most well-known cabbage dish is Old-Fashioned Corned Beef and Cabbage. If you make more than you can eat, the leftovers from this are extra delicious served on a bun. For those still on the fence about cabbage, Irish Colcannon (creamy potatoes and cabbage) is a great starting point. This dish’s creamy texture and mashed potato base do a great job at hiding the cabbage. Or, save time in the kitchen and make this recipe for Irish Cabbage and Bacon. Bacon, onion, and chicken broth combine with cabbage to create a noodle-like dish, filled with flavor.

 

Irish Comfort Food

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With all the excitement that St. Patrick’s Day brings, you’ll probably want some hearty comfort food to keep you going. Try our recipe for Mini Shepherd’s Pie. All the flavors of a traditional Shepherd’s Pie are packed into single-serve ramekin dishes. The past couple St. Patty’s Days have been cold for the valley, so keep warm with this Irish Beer Beef Stew. In a league of its own, this soup has a combo of Guinness, potatoes, beef roast and fresh veggies. Or to please the kids, try our recipe for Creamy Ham and Potato Soup. Its familiar flavors will keep the little ones (and their parents) happy. And what better way to end this feast than with St. Patty’s Day Brownies? Rich in peppermint flavor and frosted bright green, these brownies are great for St. Patrick’s Day parties.

 

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year by eating like the Irish. And don’t forget to visit your local Sparkle Market to grab all of the fresh ingredients you’ll need to make your Irish creations a success!

Like many American consumers, we bet Ranch dressing has been a lifelong staple in your diet (if not, read this blog instead). Whether it’s dunked with fries, smothered on chicken or paired with veggies, one thing is certain: Ranch goes with basically everything. And today, on National Ranch Day, we’ve gathered some of our favorite recipes to present to you: the best Ranch combinations.

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Ranch + Chicken  

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This classic combination appears on menus and in recipes time and time again. We’ll say it- Ranch dressing and chicken were made for each other. And our recipe for Cheesy Chip Chicken Tenders can prove it. Coated in crunchy, spicy crushed Doritos, these tenders just wouldn’t be the same without a side of cool ‘n creamy Ranch. If you’re feeling real ambitious, make sure to check out the bonus homemade Ranch recipe included! Or, try this recipe for Ranch Chicken Tacos. Dry Ranch seasoning gives these soft tacos fantastic flavor. Still looking for more chicken and Ranch goodness? Make Chicken Bacon Ranch Meatballs!

 

Ranch + Buffalo  

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A word that normally precedes chicken AND ranch? Buffalo sauce of course! Its spicy and tangy flavor marries perfectly with Ranch and can normally be found slathered on wings or in the oh-so-popular buffalo chicken dip. But, we’re taking it up a notch today with this recipe for Buffalo Taquitos. Fill soft tortillas with lots of shredded buffalo chicken, bake to a crisp perfection, then serve with plenty of Ranch. This Buffalo Chicken Ring is another ingenious pairing of the two flavors. Form crescent dough in a ring, fill with buffalo chicken dip mixture, bake until crunchy and you’ve got a delicious appetizer for your next party or tailgate!

 

Ranch + Pizza

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While some pizza, especially in the Valley, might be good enough to eat on its own, there’s no denying that leftover crust tastes ten times better dunked in Ranch. If you don’t agree, maybe our recipe for Pizza Bread will change your mind. What is it? A ring of dough, pepperoni and cheese that’s cooked to crispy perfection on the outside and left fluffy and delicious on the inside. Pull apart, dunk in Ranch and your life will be forever changed for the better (maybe a little dramatic, but you get the gist). If you’re not the dunking type, try spreading it along a flatbread to make either this recipe for Chicken Bacon Ranch Flatbread or this one for Chicken Chipotle Ranch Flatbread.

 

Ranch + Potatoes

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Although long-debated, Ranch and potatoes DO in fact go together (ketchup fans, your day will be here soon). This recipe for Baked Buffalo Fries is a great example. A trifecta of great flavors, this recipe smothers fries with buffalo sauce and ranch, among other seasonings, to create a fantastically tasty side dish. Our recipe for Bacon Ranch Potato Salad is another delicious use of potatoes & Ranch, this time in dry-form.

 

While we’re sure Ranch lovers could name countless more flavor combinations, we’ll leave ours at four. Whether you prefer potatoes or pizza, stop by your local Sparkle Market for all the quality ingredients and Ranch you need to properly celebrate National Ranch Day!

With locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, we at Sparkle Markets are no strangers to bitter and unrelenting winters. Between losing power and water, to getting stuck inside for days at a time, winter emergencies can be cause for serious concern! Before the next storm arrives, make sure to stock up on the right groceries and brush up on your food safety.

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Step 1: Stock Your Non-Perishables

One of the most common results of a winter storm is loss of power aka no working fridge, freezer or (electric) stove. That means perishable foods like meat and milk are less than ideal to have stocked. Instead, fill your shelves with plenty of non-perishable items. Think of things like canned fruits and veggies, jerky, dry cereal, peanut butter, canned tuna and chicken, crackers and instant potatoes. Make sure to also have plenty of bottled water and fruit juices, in case your local water is contaminated or shut off. Try to avoid foods that will make you thirsty (again, in case of no water) and don’t forget about any special groceries your family might need, i.e. baby food, gluten-free products or comfort food. How many non-perishable items should you have stocked? Ready.gov recommends storing at least a three-day supply of food for emergency situations.

 

Step 2: Stay Safe & Sanitary

You’ve traveled to your local Sparkle Market, stocked your pantry and the storm has hit. Now what? Stay safe and keep things sanitary! Loss of electricity means that most food stored in your fridge and freezer won’t be safe to eat. Frozen food can still be eaten if it’s “refrigerator cold,” and can be re-frozen if it still has ice crystals. Any perishable food (meats especially) that sits at room temperature for 2+ hours should be thrown out. To conserve cold air, try to keep your fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The average unopened fridge will keep food cold for about four hours after being shut off. Keep food in covered containers to avoid bacteria and clean your utensils using bottled water.

 

Step 3: Get Creative with Cooking

A winter emergency doesn’t have to mean eating bowls of cereal for the next three days! Experiment with alternative cooking sources like a candle warmer, fondue pot or fireplace. Or, create meals that don’t require an oven or stove at all! If you have fresh strawberries or bananas that are about to go bad, make PB & J On a Stick. For a boost of energy, make Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites. And this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Hummus is another great snack that uses only canned nonperishable items. For more creative recipes, visit our Great Groceries Recipe Archive.

 

Don’t be unprepared when a winter weather emergency hits! Whether you lose power or get snowed in, it’s always a good idea to have a plan in place. Head to your local Sparkle Market to grab all the nonperishables you’ll need to survive the next Snowmageddon.

 

We’ve been experiencing freezing temps and snow here in the Valley with Winter Storm Harper and the polar vortex. And whether it’s from shoveling your driveway or trying to heat up your cold car, you can probably relate to this chilly winter. To warm up your day, and in honor of National Homemade Soup Day, we’ve gathered some of the finest Italian soup recipes.

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The Classics

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You can’t think of Italian soup without picturing homemade Italian Wedding Soup. This flavorful soup will fill you up with healthy vegetables, meatballs and orzo pasta. Make sure to top off this cup of soup with some shredded Parmesan to bring all the flavors together. Another Italian classic is minestrone! With humble beginnings, this soup was originally made with just leftovers, making it cheap and simple to create. Today, minestrone is a family favorite and is served at most restaurants. For your next dinner, try our Homemade Minestrone recipe.

 

Pasta and Soup Combo

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What’s more Italian than pasta in your soup? Embrace your inner Italian by adding tortellini to your soup. This Gia Russa Tuscan Tortellini Soup recipe is perfect for a weeknight dinner that everyone will enjoy. With sweet Italian sausage, fresh baby spinach and Gia Russa Cheese Tortellini, everyone will be asking for your recipe! If you love this one, then take it up a notch with our recipe Gia Russa Creamy Tortellini Soup. This soup is a perfect mixture of creaminess and flavor and is best served with some warm baguettes. Finally, you can’t have Italian pasta without lasagna! This Vegetarian Lasagna Soup is perfect for Meatless Mondays or your vegetarian friends and family. Made with fresh mushrooms and zucchini, you’ll experience a whole new meaning to lasagna. Its rich flavor and heartiness will win over anyone – even meat eaters!

 

Hearty Soups

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The following tasty soup recipes aren’t for the faint of heart- unless you can handle their bold flavors and hearty ingredients. Pair our recipe for Chicken Meatball Soup with a hearty sammy, like this Italian Grilled Cheese. Crafted with mozzarella, marinara sauce and fresh basil, this tasty combo will have you saying, ‘Mama Mia’! For another hearty soup, try this Italian Chili recipe. Made with Italian sausage, spaghetti sauce, mushrooms and pepperoni, this soup might as well be dubbed “Little Italy” and is sure to raise some eyebrows with its unique Italian twist.

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Don’t be the Soup Nazis during this winter season. Instead, spread the love of homemade Italian soup! And make sure to visit your local Sparkle Market to grab all the Italian soup ingredients you’ll need to make the most heartwarming and delizioso dinner ever!

 

Ever feel like you could just eat cheese for dinner? If so, you’ll love the seven-course meal we’ve concocted in celebration of National Cheese Lover’s Day (today!). This cheesy, yet classy meal will call for a cheese lover party with your friends and family. Brace your taste buds– we’re taking you from the Aperitivo (beginning of the meal) to the Dolce (dessert).

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Aperitivo

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Known to start the beginning of an Italian dinner, Aperitivo consists of bubbly drinks and a light snack. On National Cheese Lover’s Day, a perfect snack means crackers served with this delicious Honey Apricot Goat Cheese. You’ll set the bar high for your cheesy meal with this selection. Another grate choice (pun intended) are these Pear, Blackberry & Gorgonzola Cheese Bites. Although easy to prepare, this elegant treat will definitely impress your guests. If you’d feel cheddar with more of a casual appetizer then try this innovative recipe for Mac ‘n Cheese Bites or these kid-approved Mozzarella Cheese Sticks.

 

Antipasti

Number two in our cheese dinner is the antipasti, and is considered the starter of a meal. Platters of meat and cheese (charcuterie boards) are very common. Pick a variety of textures and tastes for your cheese, such as soft & creamy – brie, burrata and camembert, crumbly – goat and feta cheese, firm – Parmigiano and Gouda. Don’t be afraid to try different varieties! Next pick out the meat, keep the number of cheese and meat variety equal. Some great options are mortadella, prosciutto or dry-cured salami. Feel free to add your favorite crackers or bread to your board, along with fruit like grapes or figs. For more ideas take a look at this article.

 

Primi

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Congratulations! You’ve made it to the first course – and it has hot food. The main component of this meal? Pasta! And do you know what that means on this fine cheese day? Mac ‘n cheese of course. This creative Tuna Mac & Cheese will have the extra bonus of protein that even the kids won’t notice. Or another way to add some protein is  with this recipe for Beef Macaroni and Cheese. And to spice-up our favorite dish, we have this simple One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese recipe. For all of those who love a true classic homemade mac ‘n cheese then try this ultimate Homemade Mac and Cheese recipe.

 

Secondi

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Finally, the main course is here and with some tasty options. This recipe for Cream Cheese Spinach Stuffed Chicken is a drool worthy, and healthier, option with some hidden veggies. And you can’t beat the melted combination of ham, cheese and chicken in this recipe for Ham and Cheese Chicken, it’s the best of both worlds. If you want to jazz-up your favorite grilled cheese sandwich, then experiment with this Turkey Bacon Avocado Grilled Cheese. You’ll feel like you’ve mastered everything there is to know about grilled cheese. Finally, it isn’t cheese lover’s day without an American classic like a Bacon Cheeseburger.

 

Contorni

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You’ll definitely need some great sides to go with your Secondi course, so take a look at these dishes for your Contorni course. What doesn’t say yum like Mushroom Pasta with Goat Cheese or Mushroom, Spinach and Cheese Pasta? Keep up the cheesy appearances with this heavenly Pierogi and Cheese Casserole, made of mashed potatoes, cream cheese & cheddar cheese. Or for a more a relaxed yet delicious side, make these Chili and Cheese Fries.

 

Formaggi e Frutta

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At the end of the main meal, there’s a course entirely dedicated to cheese and fruit. Some amazing pairings of cheese and fruit include Pear & Brie, Apple & Cheddar, Strawberry & Ricotta and Raspberry & Cream Cheese. The strong flavor of the cheese is offset by the sweet flavors of the fruit, proving to be a great combination. Another great option for those 21+ is pairing wine with this platter! If you don’t use it as your Aperitivo course, try our recipe for Honey Apricot Goat Cheese.

 

Dolce

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We don’t know about you, but Dolce is definitely our favorite part of the meal. For dessert, we gathered our top cheesy recipes that will make the perfect ending for this seven-course meal. These incredible Toffee Cheesecake Bars will have you reaching for seconds and your guests asking for the recipe. To continue on the cheesecake train, try this rich Red Velvet Cheesecake– it’s super simple to make. And if you don’t want to miss out on the cheesecake, but want something a little smaller, then make these Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes.

 

Whether you prepare a full seven-course cheesy meal or just one of the recipes above, make sure to stop at your local Sparkle Market for everything you need to make your National Cheese Lover’s Day a happy one.

 

Need a New Year resolution? An idea: Spend less time cooking and more time with family friends. And today, we’ve developed the perfect way for you to have more time and yet still have high-quality healthy food­— your slow cooker. Yes! Your slow cooker can provide delicious food with little effort. And so in honor of January being the season for resolutions and National Slow Cooking Month, we decided to share our favorite and easy-to-make slow cooker recipes.

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Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

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Drum roll please…or should we say drumstick? Chicken is the star in many classic dishes and usually a crowd pleaser. So next time you host a part, try this recipe for Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sliders. The sliders’ spicy flavor and simple directions make this recipe a favorite for all. If you’re looking for a hearty meal that will keep you warm this winter season, try this recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings or this one for Slow Cooker Chicken Stroganoff. Both are perfect if you’re fighting off a pesky cold or just don’t want to avoid the hassle of cooking. With 25 grams of protein in a single serving, chicken is a great healthy option that can help you get back on track with eating right. Try our go-to healthy recipes like Maple Dijon Chicken and Broccoli and Pulled Chicken Tacos. Also check out this recipe for Slow Cooker Turkey Breast, chicken’s cousin.

 

This Piggy Went to the (Sparkle) Market

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Next time you go to the market, pick up some pork for your slow cooker! High in protein, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, pork is a great option for a nutritious meal. Try this mouthwatering Slow Cooker Ribs recipe. The meat will fall off the bone after spending a day in the slow cooker.  Or if you’re looking to experiment with new cultural dishes, try this traditional Polish-German Kielbasa and Sauerkraut dish, or this savory Asian-Style Pulled Pork. For those of you that look to put a spin on classic dishes, try Slow Cooker Holiday Ham. It doesn’t have to be the holidays to enjoy this tasty dish with family and friends!

 

No Soup for You.

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Just kidding! Of course, you need to have the best soup recipes for those chilly winter days. Slow cooker soups like this Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup make cooking easy-peasy! Just place the chicken, vegetables and chicken broth in the slow cooker on low for about six hours and vwala— steamy hot soup that will chase away any cold. Or if you’re more of a chili fan, then try this Chicken Chili recipe. It’s a little lighter than your typical ground beef chili, but still packed with flavor. Another great dish is this recipe for Gia Russa Creamy Tortellini Soup complete with sweet Italian sausage, cheese tortellini and creamy Alfredo sauce.

 

Celebrate National Slow Cooking Month with us! And most importantly, spend less time cooking and more time with your loved ones this new year. But, don’t forget: visit your local Sparkle Market to grab all the quality ingredients you need to make these slow cooker recipes a success.