From eating Kraft mac ‘n cheese as a child to ramen as a college student, pasta has probably been a lifelong staple in your cuisine. And thus, we feel it is our due diligence to celebrate National Pasta Day the only way we know how- with recipes and a blog! What to expect: mini pasta history, pasta recipes and lots of fun facts.

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Back to the Basics  

First, let’s dive in, fork-first, to the history of the humble pasta dish. Despite common belief, pasta actually didn’t originate in Italy. Instead, it is believed that Central Asia was the first area to have produced noodles- thousands of years ago. From Asia, pasta then traveled to Europe and the Mediterranean via nomadic Arabs (historians think). In Europe, pasta became more refined, using durum wheat to give it a cheap and indefinite shelf life. Early Spanish settlers where the first to bring pasta to America, but it was Thomas Jefferson that actually made it popular. During his extended stay in Paris, Jefferson tried pasta and loved it so much that he carried two cases of it back to America! Over time, new sauces and noodles have been introduced and developed to form the large variety of pasta dishes that we now know and love.

 

Oodles of Noodles  

lasagna-768x1024The epicenter of food holiday celebrations is undoubtedly the recipes. And over the years, Great Groceries has featured so many pasta recipes that it was hard for us to choose just a few to feature! So, we’ve decided to list lots.

 

Introducing: Impastas

spag-squash-768x1024.jpgWith the rise of low-carb diets and healthy lifestyles, more people are saying no thank you to traditional starch-laden pastas. Instead, we’re turning to pasta substitutes like zoodles (zucchini noodles) and spaghetti squash. Not only are these impastas lighter in carbs for those of us watching our figures, but they’re also an easy way to introduce more veggies to little ones (without them really noticing). Want to give ‘em a try? Make our recipe for Chicken Alfredo Zucchini Noodles. Or, take a look at our recipe for Spinach Artichoke Spaghetti Squash– once shredded, the squash looks just like thin spaghetti noodles! Once you get the hang of zoodling zucchini or shredding spaghetti squash, you can use them in virtually any pasta dish.

 

A Penne for Your Thoughts  

We at Sparkle Markets aren’t the only ones with pasta on the mind. Don’t believe us? Take a look at some of these crazy pasta fun facts:

  • According to the International Pasta Organization, there are more than 600 pasta shapes worldwide
  • Italy is ranked #1 for most pasta consumption (no surprise there)
  • But, believe it or not, #2 is Venezuela and #3 is Tunisia
  • If all Italians ate their average yearly amount of pasta in spaghetti shape, they would eat, as a country, approximately 600 million kilometers of spaghetti. That’s enough noodles to wrap around the planet 15,000 times!

 

Celebrate National Pasta Day by visiting your local Sparkle Market for all of the noodles and sauces you need to create the perfect pasta dish!

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Put away your cutting boards and get out your tape, today we’re crafting. Whether it was from the Martha Stewart Show or a Pinterest board, we guarantee you’ve tried a DIY project before. And while you probably know to get wreaths from Pat Catan’s and blankets from JOANN Fabrics, did you know that many projects call for ingredients found right at your local Sparkle Market?

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DIY Spa Day

spa.jpgTreat yourself to a relaxing spa day, without ever leaving the comfort of your home. Let’s start with an exfoliating face mask or two. Reduce redness and acne scars with this Nutmeg, Honey and Cinnamon Mask. Or moisturize and brighten your skin with a Mud Mask, made out of honey, cocoa, Greek yogurt and banana. Next step? Take a relaxing bath with DIY bath salts. Sea salt, Epsom salt, baking soda and essential oils are all you need! And before you look for candles, try creating a Simmer Pot. Fill a pot or slow cooker with water, add lots of natural aromatics (cinnamon, cloves, fruit) and let it simmer- your house will smell fantastic. Complete your day of relaxation with a light lunch, like a Tuna Avocado Bowl or Chicken Burger Pita.

 

DIY Kids

baby.jpgWe’re not sure if there’s a project out there that creates an actual babysitter for you, but there’s at least a few recipes for homemade toys and treats. And if your kids love to create masterpieces, you should start with this recipe for Homemade Playdough. A few ingredients from your pantry will easily turn into hours of fun for your kids. Another great DIY activity is a Science Experiment. You can create things like rubber eggs, baking soda volcanoes and homemade lava lamps using everyday kitchen items. Afterwards, experiment with some real recipes for lunch, like PB&J on a Stick or Ham and Potato Soup. And moms and dads of infants, we didn’t forget about you! Take a break from pricy baby food and try some DIY blends instead. You can choose your child’s favorite fruits and veggies, make a batch in bulk and freeze the leftovers.

 

DIY Fur Kids

dog.jpgNot only are homemade dog treats great for your own pups, but they can also be used in goodie bags or as gifts to other furbaby owners! Find recipes for crunchy treats, dog-approved ice cream and more DIY fun in this blog post.

 

Now that we’ve got your creative DIY juices flowing, head to your local Sparkle Market for all of the fresh ingredients you need to make your projects a success!

 

 

Potatoes come in all shapes and sizes, and we at Sparkle Markets do. not. discriminate. Whether you want ‘em roasted, mashed or hashed, we’ve got the ingredients and recipe for you! This September, celebrate National Potato Month with us and try any of the following recipes. 

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Boom, Roasted – Michael Scott

potatoes-768x1024-1.jpgIf it’s not already, roasted (or baked) potatoes should be your go-to side when it comes to dinner. They’re easy to make and require little to no clean up if you line your baking sheet with foil! Take our recipe for Garlic Roasted Potatoes for example. Red potatoes are chopped, tossed in a flavorful garlic mixture and roasted. They take no more than 20 min to make! For the healthier folk out there, try our recipe for Baked Parmesan Sweet Potatoes. Rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, this sweet potato side is not only good tasting, but also good for you. Or go above and beyond with our recipe for Broccoli Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes, perfect for your next dinner party.

 

Do the Mashed Potato  

potatoes-768x889.jpgMashed potatoes might sound easy, but they can actually be a lot of work! You have to find the right ratio between milk, butter and potato, make the choice between smooth or chunky- and after all that, they still might not turn out right. And that’s why you should try our recipe for Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes. Step 1: put all ingredients in slow cooker. Step 2: add butter & mash. Try the same technique using this recipe for Mashed Sweet Potatoes.

Okay, but what about the leftovers?
Great question! You don’t have to throw away an entire container of leftover mash, and you certainly don’t have to eat them as is. Instead, repurpose your mashed potatoes in Potato Pancakes. Goodbye cold, gummy mash & hello crispy pancakes. They work great for breakfast or as a side dish for dinner later in the week.

 

The Hash Slinging Potato Slasher  

breakfast-768x1024.jpgContinuing along the crispy potato topic, let’s talk hash. If you’re looking for a hearty breakfast, try our recipe for Bacon n’ Egg Hash. It checks all the boxes (potatoes, meat, egg, cheese, veggies) and only uses one skillet! Your turn to host brunch? Make Spinach, Bacon and Hash Brown Quiche. In this recipe, the hash browns create an irresistibly crispy crust that you didn’t know you needed until now (trust us). Or if you’re not a breakfast person, make hash for dinner! Try this recipe for Kielbasa, Pepper and Onion Potato Hash – it’s filling and only takes 15 min to make.

 

Potatoes are so diverse that we couldn’t possibly fit all types in one blog. But instead, you can check our recipe archive for more potato recipes! Once you’ve found the perfect potato plate, head to your local Sparkle Market for all of the fresh ingredients you need to make it a success.

 

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.

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!

I scream, you scream, we all…okay you get the gist. With warm sunshine, no school and cookouts every weekend, what could possibly make July any better? Celebrating National Ice Cream Month, that’s what! And with only days left, we don’t want you to miss out on all of the ice cream fun. Keep scrolling to see our recipes for homemade ice cream, ice cream parties, things that go well with ice cream AND dairy-free ice cream.

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Made From Scratch  

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Store-bought ice cream (especially from Sparkle) is great in a pinch, but if you want to really impress your friends, make it from scratch! And don’t worry, homemade ice cream takes only a few ingredients and is actually pretty easy to master. Start out simple and try this recipe for Peanut Butter Ice Cream– just mix the ingredients, add them to an ice cream maker (like this one) and you’re done! Once you’ve got the basics down, try whipping up this recipe for Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. Or, get really creative and try making a frozen treat for your pup using one of these recipes.

 

DIY Ice Cream Party    

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If you’re hosting a birthday party, graduation party, wedding reception or really any party in the summer, ice cream is a must! If you disagree, try our recipe for Cone Cupcakes. Cupcakes are baked inside of ice cream cones, frosted and topped with a cherry to mimic the perfect ice cream scoop (without the melted mess)! But, a clever way to serve real ice cream at a party is with a Mason Jar Ice Cream Bar. Scoop ice cream ahead of time into single-serve mason jars and keep them chilled in ice. Then guests can take a jar and add toppings when they’re ready to eat! With this you avoid the sticky giant tubs of ice cream and you can wash and reuse the glass jars.

 

Needs a Scoop

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We get it, sometimes plain ice cream just doesn’t curb the sweet cravings. Luckily there’s other desserts, that when topped with a perfect scoop of ice cream, will do the trick. Like our recipe for Peach Cobbler! Its cinnamon peaches and crumbly crust just wouldn’t be right without a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream. Our recipe for Cookie Dough Oreo Brownies is another perfect match- fudgy and ready for a scoop. Or try our recipe for Cinnamon Sugared Pecans. Coated in spices and baked to perfection, these pecans make for a great ice cream sundae topping.

 

No Dairy Please

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For our friends that can’t or won’t eat ice cream, we haven’t forgotten about you! If you’re in the midst of the ultra-popular keto diet, try making this recipe for Low Carb Chocolate Ice Cream. Canned coconut milk and natural sweetener keep this ice cream sweet, without the carbs and added sugar! Or if you’re vegan, try this tropical Mango Lime Fro-Yo– it’s super simple, using only three ingredients. This recipe for Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream is another vegan option, with swirls of strawberry puree and graham cracker crust (yum).

 

Celebrate National Ice Cream Month and head to your local Sparkle Market for all of the fresh ingredients you need to make the perfect ice cream!

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!