What’s in Your Pantry?

Preparing balanced meals is a challenge. Incorporating healthy ingredients throughout the day can help enhance already nutritious meals. That is part of the concept we explore on the Asher Marie Collection blog in a recent post “What’s in Your Pantry?” We delve into three key ingredients that you can add to just about any meal. Last year, Her Heel Flops documented an everyday staple: Water. If you like the post at the prior link, check out “What’s in Your Water Cabinet?”

matcha health benefits

Have you taken a ride on the matcha green tea wave? Learn more about the trendy ingredient at the link above.

What is Your Favorite Summer Smoothie?

smoothie recipes

Do you prefer smoothies over juices?

Whether you prefer smoothies or juices, we are curious what your favorite ingredients are during the summer. Did you miss our ‘Summer Shake Up’ post on the Asher Marie Collection blog? We provide a breakdown of seasonal summer fruits, simple ways to pack more protein into your smoothies, and how to sneak in a few extra veggies.

Read more about Shakes, Smoothies, Juices & More.

Twist on Traditional Thanksgiving

thanksgiving recipes

Keep the turkey and give the rest of the dishes a twist!

Fall is an intimidating time to eat healthy. Many of us have Halloween candies lingering, chocolates tempting us… then a few weeks later, a Thanksgiving feast (And leftovers!), followed by holiday parties, dinners with family (and if you have a huge extended family like mine that can mean multiple dinners and desserts), and then a New Year celebration to cap off the year with a toast— FYI, those cocktails are not calorie-free!

Instead of completely sacrificing the comforting foods we traditionally associate with Thanksgiving, I would like to offer a few ways you can alter recipes so that they retain their appeal, but minimize calories and fats.

Thanksgiving side dish

Simple substitutions can cut a lot of calories.

  • Casseroles. Most Thanksgiving dinners include a casserole or two or three. One dish that has been a welcome treat at my family dinners is a simple substitute: Roasted veggies with garlic and olive oil. Broccoli, asparagus and butternut squash work well. A ‘casserole’ is not complete without cheese! Top with grated Parmesan, Gouda or sprinkle goat cheese before serving.
healthy olive oil

Olive oil can hold many flavors when you infuse with garlic and herb blends.

  • Replace butter. You can generally substitute healthy oils for butter in most recipes—or at least a portion of the butter requirement. Butter is high in saturated fat and calories. With many pies adorning tables this holiday season, lightening up the butter content in other dishes can help offset your saturated fat intake. Offer various infused olive oils for breads instead of butter patties and use applesauce as a substitute for some baked goods.
bread recipes

Switch out ingredients in your bread to make them higher in fiber and nutrients.

  • Gluten free. You don’t necessarily need to suffer celiac or a gluten allergy in order to enjoy Thanksgiving. For bread, try homemade or store-bought gluten-free dinner rolls. They are usually made with garbanzo bean flour, almond meal, rice flour, and other higher fiber non-wheat flour blends. Instead of conventional stuffing, try a “stuffed rice” alternative by adding dried cranberries, warm apples, herbs, nuts and bacon to make extra hearty.

Can you forecast how your entire Thanksgiving dinner will play out? Where everyone will sit? Is your holiday décor the same year after year? With just a few simple changes you can transform your Thanksgiving dinner experience and make it memorable for everyone:

The Turkey Table. One long table for one long dinner? Perhaps, but if space allows, you can make the meal more social by arranging tables in a U-shape or L-shape, setting up a kids’ table nearby to keep them included. For table decorations, considering mixing traditional flower arrangements with other natural elements. Pinecones, colored leaves and acorns all make great seasonal options. Consider spray painting gold and mixing in various candles in glass jars or hurricanes for a layered effect.

Island time. If you are the chef behind the Thanksgiving dinner and normally use a kitchen island for food prep, consider clearing counter space and using the island as a serving space.

Place cards. Place cards are an easy place to be creative. To maximize table space, take advantage of place settings. Everyone will need silverware, so wrap fabric or construction paper around silverware and apply a chalkboard label. Have your little one help you apply the chalkboard label stickers and let them write the guests’ names too.

Have you tried twisting things up before? Let us know what worked for you! Happy Thanksgiving ~ Cheers!

Pumpkin is Done, Check These New Fall Flavors

fall recipes

No pumpkin here!

The cooler weather makes outdoor spaces perfect extensions to your home entertaining area. Yes, the sun sets a little earlier, but this means you have unique lighting options to create a stunning al fresco retreat.

Of course along with the cooler weather and a chance to spend some more time outside (without little ones getting fidgety in the heat or having sunscreen sting their eyes), fall also brings a bevy of opportunities to get together with friends and family. While every season has birthdays, the widely celebrated holidays in the fall, including Thanksgiving, offer prime times for all ages to get together.

The market is already saturated with pumpkin-flavored treats every fall. While everyone loves a pumpkin spiced latte, the infiltration of this specific member of the gourd family into everyday foods may be a bit typical and boring. If you’re hosting this season, instead of infusing all your foods with a can of Libby’s, try another classic fall flavor, like apple. Instead of a pumpkin pie, baked apples with a crumble topping can be a delicious option that will give you that same autumnal feel.

The idea doesn’t just apply to desserts. You can incorporate the same apple flavors into main dishes, like chicken apple sausage skewers—aromatic pieces of sausage and tangy apples grilled to perfection. Even your kids are sure to like this sweet and savory combination—and it’s a great way to get them to eat their fruit!

For other fall dishes, while summer sees a lot of the lighter herbs like dill, basil, and mint, this time of year the more woodsy varieties become popular, such as rosemary, sage, and thyme. Instead of the summer’s spices of lemon pepper, saffron, and cumin, the spices more popular in the fall include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice.

You can incorporate these herbs and spices into your main dishes, but they’re also great for your drinks. For added flair this fall, opt for drink recipes that allow you to incorporate the unique ingredients for stirring that the season has to offer. A cinnamon stick can perfectly accent a warm cup of apple cider, and a sprig of rosemary or thyme can beautifully accompanying a unique cocktail, like the gin and tonic infused “Thyme to Kill.”

herb infused drinks

Rosemary is not just for your roast!

The other nice thing about apples and fall herbs? Not only are they edible, but they make great decorations. Plus, a pre-party apple-picking adventure with kids is another fun, family benefit!

Clocks Are Set to Fall Back…Here is Our Fall Look-Back: Top Posts on Style, Food & Travel

daylight savings time change

Daylight savings officially ends this Sunday, November 2nd. In the spirit of setting our clocks back one hour, we thought it would be seasonally appropriate to take a quick look back at some of our highlights this year. Her Heel Flops is still considered an infant at just under a year, but we have a lot to show for it! Here are some of our most popular posts and a sampling of our accomplishments in the last 9 months.

popular blog posts in fall

In just our first month of going live we were invited to guest post for REXConnects, Rex Healthcare’s blog on health, well-being and family. Our Springtime Outdoor Activities post was well received on social media and throughout the community. Our RexConnects contribution was followed by a guest post on Carolina Parent. Carolina Parent is not only a fantastic magazine for families in North Carolina, but a rich website full of family-friendly events and activities. Our post on How to Make Beach Trips With Toddlers Easy with Carolina Parent received great endorsements from coastal-bound families throughout the country, thank you! Our next contribution, Tips for Toddlers on Airplanes was featured on the Family Focus Blog. Family Focus is one of the top blogs for mothers in the country and has been featured by several large news programs. What an opportunity for Her Heel Flops!

So, what else has been popular on Her Heel Flops? Here, we have compiled the top posts on Style, Sips & Eats, and Travel. Enjoy:

urban cowgirl fashion

Urban cowgirl trends.

Top 5 Posts on Style

  1. Bohemian Fashion Tips
  2. New York Fashion Week
  3. Stay at Home (Not Sloppy) Mom
  4. Summer Dress Trends
  5. Spring Makeup Trends
peanut butter pie

From dinner parties to breakfast recipes – here are the top food posts.

Top 5 Posts on Sips & Eats

  1. Dinner Party Ideas: Oscar Night
  2. Al Fresco Entertaining
  3. 5 St. Patrick’s Day Recipes
  4. Vitamins & Vodka
  5. Recipes Using Greek Yogurt
spring break beaches

Beach time and other travels featured in our top travel posts.

Top 5 Posts on Travel

  1. Spring Break Destinations
  2. Staycations for Spring Break
  3. Packing Tips for Traveling
  4. Different Ways to Book Travel
  5. Unplanned Sundays

What was your favorite post so far this year?

End-of-Summer Barbecue Tips

outdoor entertaining

Whether you’re looking forward to the start of school again, or just trying to squeeze in a little more fun before the summer’s end, there are plenty of things you can do with your kids in the waning weeks of the season.

Nothing says summer quite like a barbecue. In the South ‘barbecue’ has a different meaning than other parts of the country. Barbecue in North Carolina means pulled pork—with vinegar-based sauces in the Eastern parts of the state, and tomato-based sauces in the Western areas. What I’m referring to is what the rest of the country calls a barbecue, and what folks here in the greater Raleigh area call ‘cook outs’. Barbecues are always a great casual way for kids to socialize and adults to have ‘grown-up time’.

watermelon recipes

Your color theme can translate into food choices.

Pick a food theme for your barbecue:

A food item. Corn peaked late this year. Grill corn and sprinkle it on salads, bake some buttery cornbread, and check out our popcorn bar idea below. Pineapple is another great option. It’s perfect served chilled, you can use the juice for making cocktails, sprinkle some brown sugar on slices and grill, or even try adding a slice inside your burgers. Top with a zesty cheese, like pepper jack for some sweet, savory goodness!

Color. Want to go red? Stock up on watermelon, strawberries, and an assortment of peppers. Let your little one pick their favorite food and plan your color theme around that. Try juicing and making colored ice cubes from your extra ripe strawberries or watermelons.

Dip. Don’t just have your guests take a dip in the pool, create a variety of dips and complementing snacks. Your guests won’t be bored when they can choose from white bean dip, dips made with Greek yogurt, and salsas. And for dessert? Fondue dipping creates an experience for just about every guest!

grilling

Who wants to be Grillmaster?

Here are a few ways to minimize the stress of hosting an end-of-summer celebration:

  1. “Child labor.” Whether you’re at the pool, or at your own backyard bash, you can get the kids involved by letting them make their own refreshment stand. Grab some lemonade mix and let your kids decide what flavors they want to create: Mixed berry, raspberry, strawberry, or any other concoction they can think of. Freeze whole fruit ahead of time and use it in lieu of ice for your kids’ drinks and your own. (Have an adult bar for some spiked lemonade—and check out our Vitamins and Vodka post.) Use fresh garnishes including Rosemary and Mint.
  2. Delegate. Assign one person Grillmaster duties and stock them with hot dogs, burgers, chicken, veggie kebabs and other staples. Go for a classic potluck. Everyone pitches in for a dish or drink, and you won’t have to worry about getting overwhelmed taking on the majority of the load.
  3. Outdoor theater. Relieve yourself of some responsibility. You won’t be able to entertain everyone, so have movies playing on loop. Choose Disney beach movies for kids—like The Little Mermaid or Finding Nemo. For setting up an outdoor theater, choose a shady part of the yard or make your own ‘movie tent’ with a picnic shelter or brightly colored sheets. Hang a white sheet from the side of the house or a solid surface, and project a movie or video game. Set up a popcorn bar with different toppings and a variety of popcorn (caramel, chocolate-covered, traditional butter) and guests can keep themselves busy if needed.

Need more dessert ideas? Check out our No Bake Summer Recipes. You won’t even need to turn on the oven! Keep the fun, guests, and food outside and enjoy the end of summer as you ease into fall. Cheers!

No Bake Recipes for Summer

When the summer heat peaks, the last thing you want to do is have the oven running. It residually heats your home, makes your air conditioning work harder (read about cutting summertime costs) and you deserve a break from the outside heat.

Ditch the oven and opt for some no-bake recipes instead.

Dirt Cake is a popular no-bake recipe, especially with kids. A pudding base and crushed cookie topping gives this “cake” its muddy appearance. Put the cake together in a beach bucket, top with gummy worms, and serve with a small beach shovel for an added effect.

As long as no one has any peanut allergies, peanut butter pie can be a delicious dessert that’s sure to give you a chill on even the hottest days. Check out One Ordinary Day for a quick easy recipe that you can enjoy after freezing for just 4 hours. Favorite moments in our house include topping with bite-sized chocolate shavings and candies…mmm!

peanut butter pie

No-bake peanut butter pie.

Introducing your kids to cooking with some of these easier recipes can be a great tactile experience. Where baking requires exact measuring to ensure everything cooks properly, no-bake recipes are usually more lenient, allowing your kids to be more involved. So even if one of your kids “accidently” adds a bit more chocolate sauce than the recipe calls for, it will still be delicious!

Cooking also provides a fun way to teach kids basic math and science principles. Measuring is a great way to teach fractions, and mixing ingredients like vinegar and baking soda is perfect for lessons on chemical reactions.

Another way to entice the whole family to get involved (maybe even dad) is by making homemade ice cream. A hand crank machine can be difficult for kids to turn, but an ice cream maker ball can create your favorite frosty treat by simply throwing it around or rolling it. The YayLabs ball can make up to a quart of ice cream, and it’s sturdy enough to handle even the roughest play from your toddlers. (Try adding some Greek yogurt and some fresh fruit to make the dessert a little more nutritious.)

ice cream

Summertime homemade ice cream.

Feel like you may have overindulged? Try our Shorter Workout for a quick, 25-minute calorie burn. After all, there are only a few weeks left of prime bikini season!

Hide From the Heat! Indoor Toddler Time

Even if you are not local to Raleigh, you likely experience hot and steamy summer days. After a long winter of snow after snow in Raleigh, my little one was excited to get out and enjoy a few outdoor toddler activities. Yet ever so quickly, the temperatures have gone to the extremes!

My toddler is crazy about “indoor races” and coordinating a short indoor field day can tire out a toddler without worry of sunblock or heat. Try three-legged races, sac races, or a mess-free balloon toss with rice or dried lentils. (Save the water balloons for outside!)

indoor toddler activities

My toddler: The Champion of Indoor Races.

We have already had a week straight with over 90-degree temperatures and we still have the whole summer ahead. (Even when the heat is at a tolerable level, summer activities with kids mean sunblock patrol!) Also, as a Realtor I’ve noticed an influx in residential properties in downtown Raleigh. Whether you are trying to have fun in the shade at home, or are an urban dweller and find yourself inside, here are a few ways to enjoy family time inside away from the summer heat. Each of these activities come with “prize” ideas to keep your kids busy longer:

Scavenger Hunt – These never get old! Draw (or print out if you are not an artist) a picture on a small piece of paper where the next clue is hidden, and leave a trail of 10-15 clues around the house. The last spot hides the prize. Prize ideas for inquisitive toddlers: Memory matching game or puzzle.

soap crayons

Soap crayons make a mess that is easy to clean.

Soap Crayons – This may be a slightly deceiving way to trick your kids into cleaning house! Give toddlers soap crayons and let them go wild on tile floors in your kitchen and baths. Then have a contest to see who can ‘erase’ the fastest with a mop. To make it festive for the Fourth of July holiday weekend–only use red, white, and blue soap crayons. Prize ideas for active toddlers: Container gardening kit or water play table.

Make Your Own Book – Help your toddler tell a story about a recent experience. Take a beach trip? Visit grandma? Start with what was for breakfast, then how they got to where they were going. What did they do? Who did they see? What did they learn? What was their favorite part of the day? Least favorite? Create the book the old-fashioned way with paper, crayons or colored pencils, magazine cut-outs—you can even make “pop-ups” or lift-the-flap features. Alternatively, let your little one start navigating storytelling with digital formats. Scribblit is an online platform that connects kids with illustrations, story ideas, and publishing tools to tell their story and get it printed so that you can have it for years to come. Create a ‘book award’ to congratulate your young author. Prize ideas for literary toddlers: Winner gets to choose a book or eBook on Amazon or a visit to your local library.

toddler art project

Art projects can be more than just crayons…

Art – As a sensory activity, let your toddler mix glitter, beads, and other craft pieces into a zip-top bag. Add a bit of hair gel, seal the bag, and they can squish the pieces around mess-free. Make different ‘themed’ art pieces and reward them for the best one. Prize ideas for budding artists: Bath tub crayons or Button Art Kit.

Dino Cookies!

Dino Cookies!

Dinosaur cookies – Or pick any other theme your little one is interested in! These cookies can follow your go-to basic sugar cookie or peanut butter cookie recipe, but before baking, stamp a toy dinosaur’s foot into the dough. Prize ideas for junior chef toddlers: Kid-friendly cooking knives (these are made out of nylon) or Curious Chef Pizza Kit.

Before you know it summer will be over and we will be complaining about snow again. For now, stay cool in the shade of your homes and keep your little ones busy and learning!