Monthly Archives: July 2013

Twelve Food and Decor Ideas for this Summer

Yeah! The weather’s fantastic, drawing us all outdoors, donning our shorts, sundresses and flip flops, and readying the Barbecue. This summer why not jazz things up a bit; check out these 12 food and Décor ideas for this summer.

1. Dress Up Your Bottles
From soda to condiment bottles to jars of pickles, you can transform these items into a part of your party’s decor by wrapping them in cheerfully printed paper (wall paper or gift wrap) and fastening them together with double sided tape.

2. Anchor Picnic Tablecloths with Pails of Your Favorite Summer Flowers
Forego boring store bought tablecloth weights and make your own. All you need are your favorite summer flowers, cute little buckets, and about 1/2 inch of water. Next you simply hang them from your tablecloth with a bit of thin ribbon or a clip of some sort.

3. Light Up Your Patio with Charming Twinkle Lights
Add a bit of pizzazz to your patio by wrapping pretty summer themed lights to posts, railings, etc. You can usually find these whimsical lights at your local party or home improvement store.

Photo by ©Pink Sherbet Photography

4. Create Pretty Drinks with Fresh Fruit and Flowers
Serve pretty drinks using fresh edible flowers, set out pitchers of cold water infused with fresh fruit like berries and lemon; the possibilities are endless. Everyone will stay hydrated and enjoy a fancy, enchanting drink at the same time.

5. Marinate Ahead of Time
Summer foods that call for marinating can be prepared in the morning and cooked in the evening (although overnight usually guarantees more flavor). Nothing tastes better than marinated summer foods grilled on the BBQ; think Jamaican jerk spices, hoisin glaze; makes your mouth water doesn’t it?

6. Kebab This and That
Kebab’s are always a favorite summertime staple, and the perfect way to serve just about anything from fruits and veggies to lamb, chicken, beef and fish. Fruit kebabs are a tasty and healthy summer snack and fun to make with the kids.

7. Refreshing Summer Salads
From vibrantly flavored Thai mango salad to juicy watermelon tossed with feta cheese and olives, we all love refreshing summer salads. Even a simple fruit salad with fresh summer berries, cantaloupe and grapes will make the perfect side to any summer entree. Let’s not forget pasta salad either; who doesn’t love a creamy summer salad?

8. Shrimp Cocktail
Fresh Shrimp cocktail makes a fantastic summer appetizer and you can get creative by serving them in pretty cocktail glasses. If you have time to plan ahead you can check out some thrift stores, or even your local Dollar store for inexpensive parfait or champagne/cocktail glasses (just tossing out ideas here).

Photo by Popartichoke

9. Lettuce Wraps
Lettuce wraps are becoming a summer food favorite and they’re very versatile. You start with crisp butter lettuce and fill it with just about anything, and there are plenty of recipes online from Thai versions to spicy Southwest flavors.

10. Dressed Up Pizza
Who doesn’t like pizza? This summer food idea is easy; first buy a high quality frozen pizza and add seasonal vegetables, zippy feta cheese, maybe some sun dried tomatoes, you get the picture. Best of all it makes a quick and easy meal.

Photo by Christy@Love from the Oven

11. Easy Smeezy Sundaes
Summer is all about popsicles and ice cream. Before your summer party estimate how many cone’s you’ll need (Yum-Ice Cream Cones!) and dress them up before the party starts (saves time and a mess). Melt some milk chocolate, dip in the cones and roll them in toppings that you’d typically serve on sundaes like chopped nuts, coconut flakes, cookie crumbles, etc. All you need to do then is set out the ice cream in a tub of ice and voila; you have dessert; no muss no fuss.

12. Help Your Guests Keep Cool
Help your summer party guests beat the heat (and outdoor pests) by supply colorful fans, sun block and mosquito spray; very thoughtful amenities that everyone will appreciate.

Visit MagicKitchen.com for more easy summer entertainment ideas.

Cheryl, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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Stretching for Health

Many times over the years I have gone to a physiotherapist for a problem, and done the stretches they gave me for a few months until the problem went away, and then gave it up. Then another problem would come along, and I would do the same thing.

I was never a yoga kind of person, not an athlete, and the idea of stretching daily seemed like too much trouble. I was a busy career woman. Anyone who is a yoga type of person or an athlete is now rolling their eyes. I deserve it, go ahead and roll.

Lately, as I got older, I noticed that I had a lot more daily pain, including a hip issue which turned out to be osteoarthritis. I went back to the physiotherapist, and lo and behold, after a week or so of stretching and strengthening exercises, I felt a lot better! I was sleeping better, I was able to bend over and pick things up, and I wasn’t moaning and groaning as much.

Now I have my stretching regimen every day, and I love it. As I get older, my body will thank me for it. I have fewer injuries because the muscles are looser. I could kick myself for not doing this sooner.

Why is stretching so helpful? Here are a few reasons that getting started on a proper stretching program will be beneficial for a long time. Do talk to a doctor or physiotherapist first, to ensure you’re doing the stretches correctly.

    1. More flexibility – that seems obvious, right? But as you age, your muscles tend to tighten, which makes your joints and tendons harder to move and stiffer. Regular stretching loosens the muscles, which loosens everything around your joints, making them easier to use.

  1. Fewer injuries – this is apparently in some dispute. But I know that if I stretch before doing housework, I’m less likely to get lower back pain. My upper back doesn’t spasm from being at the computer all day. And I remember one race car driver who flipped his vehicle, who said if he didn’t stretch regularly, he likely would have broken his neck in the accident. So I’ll leave the professionals to figure this one out, but it helps me.
  2. Improved circulation –  regular stretching brings more blood through the muscle, chasing away the toxins and bringing nutrients in.
  3. Less stress – if you breathe properly through the stretch, you’ll feel a kind of meditation calm by the end of the session.
  4. Last, and most important, pain relief! It’s often the muscles around an injury which cause most of the pain, along with other muscle groups which are reacting to protect an injury. Stretching those out feels good, and helps you to heal. And let’s face it, by a certain age, we all have nagging injuries.

I would like to reiterate that you start a stretching program with a professional, to be sure you’re getting maximum effect, and that you are doing them in a way that is beneficial and not hurting yourself!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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10 Strangest Foods to Grill

Grilling inspires the inner chef in most of us, leaving us with that inner voice that is constantly asking “is this grillable?” If you’re looking for new ideas check out the following 10 strangest foods to grill.

1. Clams are so scrumptious during the summer months, and grilling them up is fun and fast, done cooking almost as soon as you toss them on the grill; they’re also a great snack that will keep your family and friends close by.

Photo by QuinnDombrowski

2. Grilling, smoke, and a trace of salt makes Watermelon surprisingly savory, and a bit “meaty” tasting. Just brush watermelon slices (about 1 inch thick) with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced onion, grill for around 5 minutes on each side until caramelized; yum!

3. Octopus you say? That’s right; if you like octopus you’ll find them even better tasting if they’re grilled (whole). Depending on the heat of your grill and the octopus’s weight, it can take between 10 to 25 minutes to cook them, marinating frequently.

4. Just imagine how amazing pizza would taste if you grilled it? That’s right; you can grill pizza and it’s easy. Just buy some ready made dough, let it get to room temperature and form it into balls in a size that once they’re rolled out will fit on the grill. Next, place them on the grill until grill marks lightly appear and flip (coat a bit of olive oil on the grill first). Toss on some toppings, cover until heated and enjoy.

5. Bring a whole new meaning to “grilled” cheese! You can put firm, thick slices cheese like aged provolone or halloumi on the grill (over medium heat) with a bit of olive oil; delish! Just grill for 1 to 2 minutes, flipping once and enjoy on fresh bread with a few tart/sweet grapes on the side.

6. Romaine lettuce takes grill heat surprisingly well and grilling them creates a smoky flavor that’s ideal for a hearty salad. Slice 2 romaine heads lengthwise, brush the cut sides with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Next place the lettuce cut sides down on the grill and cook 1 to 2 minutes over medium high heat; top off with red wine vinegar and grated Parmesan and enjoy.

7. Grilled cake; really? How awesome is that? Grilling cake gives it a yummy warm interior and sweet, caramelized crust, all balanced out with a slightly smoky essence. Cut a pound or angel food cake into slices around 1 inch thick, butter each side then grill until golden brown (about 2 minutes on each side); top off with ice cream or fresh fruit with whipped cream; what’s not to love???

8. Bacon skewers; that’s right – thread chunks of bacon, thick cut, on metal or wood skewers and grill them over an indirect heat. Eat them as is (or with a slice of grilled pineapple), crumble and add to a salad, or serve on top of grilled burgers.

9. How about grilling nuts? Any nut lover will want to try it; just wrap your favorites in tin foil and gently grill them. Grilled nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans, etc.) not only taste great in salads, or just as a snack, you can even grind them up and make your own amazing nut butter.

Photo courtesy of Meatless Monday

10. Lightly grilled avocado halves add an extra special, smoky flavor to fresh guacamole or top of just about anything you grill.

Think out of the box and take on some of these strange grilling ideas. Your friends and family will appreciate your grill mastery; or at the very least admire your courage.

 

Cheryl, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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