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Alarms are now set to a time that’s meant for sleeping, the bus arrives in 20 minutes (are the kids dressed, fed and clean?!) and you’ve resumed your second job position as [insert extracurricular] chauffeur. Yep, school is here. And we’ll admit it, it’s not always a walk in the park! But today we’re here to eliminate one undoubtedly stressful school task: packing lunches. Keep reading for tips on lunch prep, food preservation and creativity.

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Prep Smarter, Not Harder

kids-pack_all-bins2_1275px.jpgAmid all the chaos of a school morning, who wants to add the hassle of packing a lunch? We sure don’t. Instead, follow our one simple tip: PREP. Here’s how:

  • Make a big batch of PB&J ahead of time and freeze them! The bread will stay fresh longer & thaw by lunchtime.
  • Set up a snack station for your kids to pick from. Put baggies of carrots, apple slices, these PB Pretzel Bites, string cheese, crackers, etc. in a bin in the fridge. Then when it comes time to pack lunches, your kids can simply grab what they want and head out the door!
  • This one’s easy: make lunches at night, not in the morning. Put them in the fridge and grab & go in the A.M.
  • Heat up soup, like our recipe for Homemade Chicken Noodle or Sausage Orzo, before your kids leave and put it in a thermos to keep warm. Pro Tip: preheat your thermos, aka put boiling water in it and then dump out before adding the soup. It will keep your thermos warm longer!

 

Food Hacks

7965857646_9a75414c9e.jpgThe last thing you want your little one to encounter at lunchtime is a soggy sandwich, warm milk and browned fruit! But, don’t worry. We have a few tricks up our sleeve to fight the inevitable evils of packed lunch.

  • Soak apple slices in orange juice and a little bit of lemon the night before to prevent from browning. Or, slice your apple and place a rubber band around it (basically put the apple back together) and it won’t brown!
  • Freeze juice boxes & use as ice packs for the next day.
  • Hate when food touches each other? Use a divided container & further separate everything with cupcake liners.
  • Pack our School Lunch Sammies, but instead of spreading the condiments, pack them separately (no soggy bread). Another hack: spread a little bit of butter on both slices before adding mayo/mustard.
  • Tiny hands sometimes have a tough time peeling bananas; cut a little slice in the banana to make it easier.

 

Go the Extra Mile  

pinterestmom_lead_123RF.jpgSchool can be tough, especially for our little learners. Here’s a few ways to brighten your kid’s day at lunchtime (and earn yourself a gold star in overachieving parent class):

  • Use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches, fruit and cheese in fun shapes. It’s a creative way to remove the crusts & only takes an extra minute or two. Try it with our recipe for PB&J on a Stick!
  • If your child’s birthday falls on a school day, wrap each food item in their lunchbox.
  • Add cute faces to baggies of carrots, fruit, etc. using stickers

 

Packing school lunches doesn’t have to be stressful if you follow some of our helpful tips! And before you get packing and prepping, head to your local Sparkle Market for all of the fresh ingredients you need to make this school year a success.

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Whether you’re new to the kitchen or a seasoned chef, it’s pretty tough to whip something up without using a knife. PB&J? Uses a butter knife. Roast? Need something to carve it with! And as responsible culinary citizens, we want to make sure that you’re using the right knives for the right foods.

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Hefty Chefty

KNIFE_SM_1.jpgLet’s start with the MVK (most valuable knife) in the kitchen- the Chef Knife. It has a pretty large blade that curves towards the tip. And although it was originally intended for slicing large cuts of beef, people use it for basically anything nowadays (i.e. dicing large vegetables and cutting meat).

Next in the lineup: the Bread Knife. Its blade is long and skinny with deep serrated grooves for, you guessed it, slicing bread. The point of the grooves? To cleanly slice bread without smooshing it. Try using your bread knife when hollowing out this Bread Bowl Dip or cutting these Italian Paninis in half.

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If you’ve ever made a roast or corned beef then you’ve probably met the chef knife’s cousin, the Carving Knife. Its long blade (8-15 inches long) looks like a thinner, stretched-out version of the chef knife. But instead of chopping veggies, the carving knife is great for precisely/thinly slicing meat. Make our recipe for Sirloin Roast and use this knife to slice it when it’s done!

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Little, but Mighty

KNIFE_SM_2.jpgLarge knives are great for handling large food, but things like small fruits or herbs call for smaller utensils. So when it comes time for more intricate work, get out your Paring Knife. It has a short blade with an edge that looks a bit like the chef’s knife and is great for peeling fruit and deveining shrimp. Use your paring knife to devein the shrimp in our recipe for Vodka Shrimp Pasta.

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Have you ever tried to cut a tomato with a chef’s knife and it kind of slips on the skin? Enter the Serrated Utility Knife. It’s basically a smaller bread knife and its grooves are for cutting cleanly through delicate fruits and veggies, like the pesky tomato. Make our recipe for Fresh Tomato Bruschetta & use your serrated knife when slicing the tomatoes!

Okay, we’ll admit- the Mincing Knife isn’t really that small. BUT, it’s used to chop small things, so cut us some slack. If you haven’t used one or seen one before, it kind of looks like a mini version of the blade in Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” (kinda creepy, we know). But, you can use it to finely mince veggies and herbs by rocking it back and forth. Try it when you make our recipe for Herb-Stuffed Pork!

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Special, In a Good Way

KNIFE_SM_3.jpgAside from the knives that are normally in household kitchens, there are plenty of specialty knives out there too! Use a Cheese Knife with perforated holes when slicing soft cheese, so that it doesn’t stick to the blade. Order a Decorating Knife if you plan on making fancy garnishes. Or if you’re a grapefruit fanatic, get a Grapefruit Knife. You’ll be surprised at how much easier prepping gets when you have the right knife!

Okay, you’ve been briefed. Now pick one of our many recipes,  head to your local Sparkle Market for the fresh ingredients and start practicing your knife skills!

Whether it’s from training or just plain spoiling, our furry friends deserve treats every so often! But with mysterious ingredients and unhealthy additives, store-bought treats might not always be the best choice. Instead, try making homemade ones! Below you’ll find biscuit and ice cream recipes along with some hacks to beat the summer heat.

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Homemade Dog Biscuits  

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Homemade biscuits are great for your own dog, but can also be used in goodie bags or as gifts to other furbaby owners! Making your dough at home also means that you can cater the size of the treat to the size of your dog. Try this recipe for Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Dog Treats. It combines all dog-safe ingredients to create a crunchy and satisfying snack. But, if pumpkin makes your pup’s nose turn up, then try this recipe for Apple Carrot Dog Biscuits. With all-natural ingredients, these treats are tasty to dogs AND humans! Make your treats even better with these cute dog-themed cookie cutters.

 

Homemade Dog Ice Cream

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Nothing sounds better on a hot summer day than a cold, sweet ice cream cone. Right? We bet your dog agrees! But before you hit the road to Dairy Queen, check out some of these homemade recipes that are both easy to make, and safe for your pup. Try this recipe for Peanut Butter Ice Cream that combines peanut butter, yogurt, baby food and honey- is your dog drooling yet? Or try this ice cream that includes carob chips. Similar in taste to dark chocolate, carob chips are made from a type of pea & contain all sorts of vitamins that are not toxic to dogs. During the summer, dog-friendly ice cream treats are a great way to reward your pup, while also keeping them cool!

 

Hot Weather Hacks  

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If you think summer is hot, imagine how it feels covered in fur! Along with ice cream treats, there are plenty of clever ways to prevent an overheated pup. Try taking walks early in the morning or late in the evening, when temperatures aren’t at their peak. If adjusting your schedule just won’t work, consider purchasing a cooling vest. It will protect your pooch from the sun’s rays and work to evaporate sweat through its fabric. Another easy way to keep your dog cool is with ice cube tray treats! Simply fill an ice cube tray with water (or a little bit of chicken broth) and a few dog treats. Once frozen, pop them out and let your dog play!

 

Keep your pup safe this summer and remember to stop at your local Sparkle Market for all of the fresh ingredients you need to make your dog treats a success!

Believe it or not, grills weren’t made for just burgers and hotdogs. And if you don’t believe us, take a look at today’s featured recipes! Below you’ll find lots of unconventional, yet extra tasty, recipes destined for the grill.

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Grilled ‘Zaa

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Next time you make a flatbread pizza, give that dough some extra love! Try our recipe for Chicken Chipotle Ranch Flatbread, but instead of baking it in the oven, take it to the grill. The charred dough will give your favorite restaurant-style pizza a run for its money. You could also try this technique with our recipe for Margherita Flatbread.

 

No-Mess Foil Packets

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If you have yet to be introduced to foil packets, let us be the first to say this: they will REVOLUTIONIZE the way you grill. Minimal prep and even less clean up is involved when it comes to grilling packets. If you want a break from cleaning up dinner, try our recipe for Sausage and Shrimp Packets. Just season all of the ingredients, seal in foil packets and grill for 15 minutes! Or you can try this recipe for Peach Glazed Pork Tenderloin. The pork is coated in a peach preserve mixture before cooked in a foil packet. The packet keeps the pork moist and tender throughout the entire process.

 

Breakfast on the Barbie

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Grilling out is great for lunch and dinner, but have you ever thought of firing up the flames for breakfast? You can avoid smoking up the house and cook your bacon on the grill for a change! Not only does it taste great, but it’s also healthier (no pools of grease on the grill!). Or try making our recipe for Stuffed French Toast on the grill. Rather than pan-frying the bread, grill it. The same philosophy can also be applied to breakfast sandwiches. The bread will be nice and crunchy, while the insides will take on the grill’s smokiness.

 

Flaming Fruit  

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Of all things worth grilling, fruit might take the cake in our book. Most fruits are made up of basically water and sugar. So, when they’re grilled, the water is reduced and the natural sugars become caramelized. If you aren’t drooling yet, take a look at this recipe for Grilled Peaches with Amaretti Cookies. In this recipe, fresh summer peaches are grilled and filled with Amaretto-soaked amaretti cookie crumbles. Or try this recipe for Grilled Banana Bread Ice Cream Sandwiches. Grill the bananas themselves first for extra flavor before grilling the bread!

Refill your propane tank and head to your local Sparkle Market for all of the fresh ingredients you need to try these unique grilling techniques!

In the summer, indulgences are everywhere. But, despite the tempting graduation cakes and endless pasta salads, we urge you to go healthy! The season’s plethora of fresh veggies and fruit make it easy to try any number of healthy dishes. And today, we’ve made it even easier with some of our best healthy recipes.

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Lighten Your Carb Load

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Eating foods laden with heavy carbohydrates can leave your body feeling sluggish and even sick. Things like potatoes, pasta, cake and bread aren’t always the healthiest choices. Keep your meals light this summer and try a few of our recipes low in carbs. Our recipe for Summer Zucchini Bake combines fresh summertime veggies with plenty of seasonings. For a healthy taco alternative, try our recipe for Bell Pepper Beef Boats. In this recipe, bell peppers act as the “shell” for you to fill with all of your favorite taco fixings. Another great low carb recipe is our BBQ Chicken and Corn. Coated in a sweet and spicy marinade, this chicken is full of flavor, without the carbs.

 

Superfoods to the Rescue

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Healthy eating is all about making the best ingredient choices for your diet. To any aspiring healthy eater: cook with superfoods aka nutrient-rich foods that are extra beneficial for your health. One of the most popular superfoods today is the avocado. Try our recipe for Turkey Bacon Avocado Grilled Cheese and benefit from the avocado’s potassium and heart-healthy fats. Or bulk up on your omega-3s with our recipe for Salmon Cakes. Another fantastic superfood is broccoli, rich in vitamin C (powerful antioxidant) and vitamin K. Try our latest recipe for Broccoli Salad– it’s great tasting AND great for you.

 

Healthy Desserts

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Eating healthy is fine when it comes to veggies and fruit, but cutting out sugar? You might be thinking “no thanks.” Fortunately, there’s still plenty of healthy desserts out there that will tame your sweet tooth. If you’re in the mood for something sweet and salty, try our recipe for Peanut Butter Pretzel Bites. In this recipe, peanut butter and agave act as natural sweeteners with chia seeds and oats adding extra protein and fiber. Or if fruit is more your flavor, try our recipe for Berry Dessert. Make it healthy with sugar-free Cool Whip, Jell-O and plant-based Stevia (instead of powdered sugar).

 

This summer, ditch the cupcakes and heavy pasta, and instead opt for some lighter meals! As always, make sure to stop by your local Sparkle Market for all of the fresh ingredients you need to make your healthy dishes a success.

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School is (or is almost) out, the sun is shining and the air is filled with the sweet smell of…food! That’s right, food festival season is upon us and we’re here to make sure that you know exactly what’s happening in Ohio. Continue reading for some of the upcoming June food festivals in the area. And if you can’t make it to a festival, don’t fret! You can bring the festival to you with some of our food festival-inspired recipes.

 

Chicken and Beer Festival | June 2 | Columbus

Columbus’s Chicken and Beer Festival is returning for its second year this June 2, and it should be a great time! The festival is held at West Bank Park, just south of COSI and is from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Local vendors will be serving up many chicken-themed dishes, along with craft beers. For more info, visit the event’s Facebook page.

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Our Recipes

If Columbus is too far of a drive for you, try making some of our chicken recipes at home! One of our latest recipes is Ham and Cheese Chicken– breaded chicken topped with ham and cheese and served with a delicious honey Dijon mustard sauce for dipping. Or for an upcoming cookout, try our recipe for Balsamic Glazed Chicken and Caprese Pasta. For your beer fix, try our recipe for Italian Sausage and Pepper Skewers, served with a mustard beer sauce.

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Festival: Rib ‘n Rock Fest | June 7 – 10 | Parma

Travel to Parma this June 7-10 for the city’s 28th Annual Parma Rib ‘n Rock. This family-friendly festival will feature 20 local and national food vendors, 11 live musical acts, rides and activities. Admission is only $3 and children 12 and under are free. The festival is located at the Cuyahoga Community College Western Campus and starts at 4 p.m. on June 7. For more details, visit the Rib ‘n Rock official website.

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Our Recipes

If you can’t make it to Rib ‘n Rock, try some of our home-cooked rib recipes, like our Slow Cooker Ribs. Or try our recipe for Whiskey Honey Glazed Ribs, marinated in a sweet and flavorful sauce. Our recipe for Margarita-Glazed Baby Back Ribs is another good choice, coated in a spicy lime marinade and cooked until tender and juicy.

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Festival: Grill for Good | June 9 | Kent

Kent’s 9th annual Grill for Good fundraiser event is back this year, June 9 from 12 p.m. – 6 p.m. Enjoy plenty of grilled treats, craft beers and live music. Tickets are $10, with proceeds going towards Coleman Professional Services, Family & Community Services and the Lent Jaycees. Details can be found on the event’s official website.

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Our Recipes

For those that can’t attend this festival, fire up your grill and try some of our delicious, grilling recipes. Recreate our Grilled Sausage and Veggies, or try our recipe for Grilled Honey Chicken. Both are delicious, infused with the smokiness of the grill. Or for a nice summer dinner, try our recipe for Grilled Ribeye With Blue Cheese Butter. In this recipe, the steak is crusted with a flavorful rub and finished with a blue cheese butter mixture.

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Festival: Strawberry Festival | June 16 & 17 | Youngstown

Youngstown’s White House Fruit Farm will host its annual Strawberry Festival on June 16 & 17. Visit from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on either day and enjoy desserts, drinks, fresh berries, music and more!

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Our Recipes

You could also pick up some fresh strawberries from your local Sparkle and try any of these recipes! For a light and refreshing dish, try our recipe for Strawberry Caprese Salad. For a delicious dessert, try our recipe for Cream Cheese Strawberry Cookies. And if you’re in need of a recipe for an upcoming Memorial Day or 4th of July party, try our festive Berry Dessert.

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Festival: Waterfront Wine Festival | June 23 | Avon Lake

This summer, enjoy the warm weather and sip wine by the lake at the 2018 Avon Lake Waterfront Wine Festival on Saturday, June 23. The event will be held at Veteran’s Memorial Park and begin at 4 p.m. Nine Ohio West Coast Wineries will be showcased at the festival, along with local Avon Lake restaurants. Tickets for tastings are $20 and include ten wine pours and a commemorative event wine glass. Find more details here.

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Our Recipes

Visit our blog “Your Sparkle Wine Guide: Recipes and Pairings” for a variety of recipes that use wine or can be paired with wine!

 

 

For a nearly complete list of all of the summer food festivals happening in Ohio, visit the official Ohio festivals website. And if you decide to bring the festival to your own kitchen, make sure to stop by your local Sparkle Market for all of the ingredients you need!

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Happy National Wine Day! In celebration of our fellow wine-lovers, here is a wide variety of recipes that either uses wine or go great with wine. Not sure how to pair wine with your food? Don’t worry! Below you’ll also find pairing suggestions for different types of recipes.

 

Main Course: Wine

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Believe it or not, wine is definitely not just for drinking! Many recipes use wine to add depth and extra flavor to food. For example, our recipe for Beef Tenderloin uses red wine to make a flavorful sauce. Classy and delicious, this recipe works great for dinner parties. Another recipe that uses wine to its advantage, is our Salmon with Red Wine Balsamic Sauce. In this recipe, the sweet and rich sauce perfectly compliments the fatty salmon. For a twist on a classic wine dish, try our recipe for Chicken Marsala Casserole. This recipe combines pasta, chicken and mushrooms with a creamy marsala sauce, before baking in a casserole dish.

 

Wine-Infused Desserts

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While savory recipes do a good job incorporating wine, desserts with wine are just plain great. For your next get-together, try our recipe for Red Wine and Chocolate Cupcakes. With wine in the cake AND the frosting, these cupcakes definitely don’t lack flavor. For a cold treat this summer, try this recipe for Blueberry Cabernet Cheesecake Popsicles. These popsicles contain all aspects of a blueberry cheesecake, with fresh blueberries, cream cheese mixture and graham cracker crumbs. Or for a classy dinner dessert, try this recipe for Raspberry Prosecco Jellies. In this recipe, raspberry prosecco gelatin is topped with homemade panna cotta, creating a fantastic fruity dessert.

Pairing 101

Just like each recipe has its own flavors and ingredients, so do wines! Whether for a party or just dinner, we want to make sure that you know when to drink white, red or something in-between with your dishes.

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Pinot Noir | Light-bodied reds like Pinot Noir taste great with earthy flavors. Recipes that use ingredients like mushrooms and truffles will work best with this wine. Try a glass of Pinot Noir with our recipe for Crab Stuffed Mushrooms or Mushroom Pasta with Goat Cheese and see how they complement one another.

 

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Dry Rosé | While some cheeses go better with white wine, and others with red, almost all pair well with dry rosé. With the acidity of white wine and fruitiness of red, dry rosé complements indulgent recipes like our Spinach Cheese Stuffed Chicken or Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole.

 

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Pinot Grigio | Light seafood dishes like our Poached Fish with Quinoa or Coconut Fish Tacos seem to take on more flavor when paired with a glass of Pinot Grigio. This equally delicate white wine draws out a depth of flavors in both of these dishes.

 

On this National Wine Day, try one of our wine-infused recipes or wow your friends with your wine pairing knowledge! As always, stop by your local Sparkle Market for all of the fresh ingredients and wine you need to make these recipes a success.