All posts by Renee Reardin

4 Super Healthy Smoothies You Need to Try

Eating healthy sounds easy enough — stay away from sugar, carbs and salt, and eat tons of nutrient-rich foods. But the problem isn’t so much what to eat, but when to find the time to gather ingredients, prepare, cook and have a sit-down meal.

Here are four easy, nutritious smoothies that’ll give you the healthy boost you need, no matter what time of day. Whether you’re looking for a boost of vitamin C to fight off an oncoming cold, an antioxidant or green cleanse, or you need a healthy substitute for your daily sugar fix, we’ve got you covered.

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1. The Vitamin C Boost

 

Ingredients:
1/4 cup pineapple, diced
1/4 cup strawberries, stemmed and diced
1/2 orange, peeled
1 small carrot, sliced
1 small tomato, sliced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful of ice

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Directions:
Blend ingredients together until smooth.

antioxidant-rich

2. Antioxidant Rich Green Tea and Blueberry

 

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp water
1 green tea bag
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 banana
1/4 cup light vanilla soy milk
Handful of ice

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Directions:
Boil water and steep tea bag in it for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, blend blueberries, banana, soy milk and ice in blender until smooth. Add honey to the tea and pour it in the smoothie, stir and serve.

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3. Green & Clean

 

Ingredients:
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup blueberries
1/2 banana
A few slices cucumber
1/3 cup of kale, chopped
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Handful of ice

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Directions:
Blend the avocado, blueberries, banana, cucumber, kale and ice together and then sprinkle cinnamon on top.

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4. The Healthy Sweet Fix

 

Ingredients:
1/3 cup strawberries, stemmed and diced
1/3 cup raspberries
1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
Sprinkle of cacao powder
Handful of ice

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Directions:
Blend strawberries, raspberries, yogurt and ice together, and then sprinkle cacao on top.

How to Throw a Canada Day Party for Under $50

The birthday of our home and native land is just around the corner, so we’ve got the perfect excuse to plan a stellar red-and-white-themed bash. But you’ll quickly find that a simple celebration can cost a lot more than you’re willing to spend. That’s okay! You can still throw a quaint Canada Day shindig without having to give up on all your patriotic party hopes and dreams.

From simple and reusable décor to snacks that’ll satisfy any true Canadian’s taste buds, learn how to throw a Canada Day party for your friends and family, all for under $50.

Canada Day Party

To begin, gather a few home décor pieces and party supplies you already own. This can include anything from a reusable banner, snack labels (along with a chalk pen), twine for the sandwiches, platters and a crate for the display, and some form of tea lights.

Décor Expenses:
Chip cups: $2
Poutine containers: $2
Napkins: $1
Flowers: $7
Sparklers: $1
Total: $13

For the food, it’s only appropriate to serve every cliché, most-loved food Canada has to offer. This includes BLTs, poutine, ketchup chips, butter tarts and maple doughnuts.

Food Expenses:
Bread, Canadian bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise for BLTs: $14
Smoke’s traditional poutine: $10
Ketchup chips: $3
Maple doughnuts: $5
Butter tarts: $4
Total: $36

Total Cost: $49

Maple Doughnuts

For the focal point on the table, stack maple doughnuts on a cake stand, sitting on top of a crate. I figured they’re maple, they’re doughnuts — surely they deserve the utmost attention at a Canadian affair, right? If you’re looking to make doughnuts from scratch, try this recipe for Anna Olson’s Maple Glazed Doughnuts.

Canadian BLTs

Make mini versions of our country’s favourite sandwich, the BLT, and line them up on a long platter. Want to opt for a heartier sandwich? Try this Fried Chicken BLT Melt recipe.

Canadian BLTs

Use twine to tie red and white striped napkins around the sandwiches for an al fresco feel.

Smoke's Poutine

And what Canada Day celebration would be complete without our country’s signature food, poutine? Use takeout-inspired boxes to display five mini servings of these gravy-doused, cheese-topped French fries. But if you want to add a little more flair to your poutine, try making your own version of Smoke’s Nacho Grande Poutine.

Butter Tarts

For a dessert that has “Made in Canada” written all over it, butter tarts are the way to go. Made with eggs, sugar, raisins, and of course, butter, this quintessential dessert features a buttery, flaky crust and super-sweet filling. How could we Canucks resist? If you have a little extra time on your hands, try this recipe for Anna Olson’s Pecan Butter Tarts.

Ketchup Chips

Chances are you won’t be able to find ketchup chips outside of the country, so it’s quite necessary to serve Canada’s “exclusive” snack at your little shindig. Set out portions of ketchup chips in red and white striped, easy-to-grab cups.

Canada Day Food Table

Accent the table with some mercury tea lights as vases to hold daisies.

Doughnuts and Sparklers

And of course, to continue with tradition, sparklers can be added for the finishing touch to the celebration.

How to Make the Perfect Caesar Every Time

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For Canadians, caesars are like hockey games, Tim Hortons, or even, dare I say, denim-on-denim. It defines us, unites us, and just makes us who we are. It’s the signature drink on most patios, a staple on every menu and the one bevvie we always seem to be in the mood for.

They can however, be a tad difficult to make. Opt for tomato juice instead of Clamato, or too much Worcestershire and not enough hot sauce, and it’s all too easy for your caesar to become an undrinkable disaster.

I’m speaking from experience here.

And so, since it’s pretty much our obligation as citizens of this home and native land to master the art of creating the perfect caesar, I’ve put together a little how-to guide to help you (read: me) get it right every time.

So, what do you do? Start by mixing the ingredients. But before you start pouring, please note that the order of ingredients does matter.

Start with a rimmed glass, fill it with ice, add the Worcestershire, followed by Clamato juice, hot sauce, vodka, and then season with salt and pepper. An easy way to remember the order of ingredients is to start with the cheaper ones and work your way up.

When it comes to the garnish, here’s your time to be creative. Go the conventional route with a long piece of celery, or grab a skewer and make a combo with pickles and olives. But if you’re really looking to earn some extra hostess points, add a piece of bacon, or better yet, a juicy slider burger. Because you know, why not?

No matter what garnish you decide to use, I love finishing off the cocktail with a fun straw, like this red and white stripe version from Party City ($5).

And there you have it: an easy, fail-proof recipe for Canada’s number one cocktail.

Mini Easter Brunch Quiches

Hosting Easter brunch this year? Don’t panic. What we have here is your little saving grace.

Mini spinach quiches are healthy, delicious and totally easy to make…and that’s not even the best part. They can be made ahead of time then re-heated when guests arrive so you don’t spend all morning hidden away in the kitchen. If those aren’t good enough reasons to make mini quiches then how about this: they’ll cost you well under $10.

Ingredients:
1 dozen eggs
1 (6-8 ounce) bag of baby spinach
1 small onion, chopped
1 /4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375, and lightly grease muffin pan with butter or oil.
2. Saute chopped onions in a pan with the oil until onions are translucent.
3. Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk. Fill about ? of muffin cups with spinach, and sprinkle about a teaspoon of the sauteed onions on top.
4. Pour whipped eggs into muffin cups and fill them about two-thirds full, then add a pinch of grated cheddar cheese.
5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden on top.
6. Gently remove them from pan with butter knife, then serve.

Mastering the Cheese Plate on a Budget

I think there’s a little Monica Gellar (the obsessive-compulsive one from Friends) in all of us.

If not for our organized and scrappy nature, then for our need to host the best get-togethers with our friends, we’re always looking for new ways to improve and perfect our entertaining skills.

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So, we’re going back to the basics and exploring the easiest way to build a delicious, well-balanced cheese plate — but on a serious budget. Because, if you’ve ever ventured to a nice cheese shop, you know those high-quality slabs come with a hefty price tag.

From finding just the right cheeses at your go-to grocery store to adding the perfect extras, here’s your guide for building the perfect cheese plate and staying under budget.

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It’s important to cover all the bases when putting together your cheese plate. Be sure to get something strong and sharp like orange gouda, something smooth and creamy like brie, something classic and fresh like white aged cheddar, and funky or different like herb and garlic goat cheese. These run for about $6-8 each.

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Include at least three cracker options: two different classics and something with a fun twist.

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Keep the board clean and simple, and only put a few crackers out at a time.

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I like to keep little labels in my home at all times, as they add the perfect touch to any dish you serve.

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You can add nuts and dried fruit to your plate, but I kept it classic with just a few spicy olives. I also set out my gold cheese knives set from West Elm.

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And there you have it, the whole cheese plate for under $35. But, what if you’re having only a couple friends over, or $35 is still a little too much? Try this…

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Go for two cheeses; something classic (cheddar’s a safe bet) and something fun (bubbling brie just out of the oven or herbed goat cheese), include two different cracker options, a few olives and you can do it all for under $18.

4 Easy Oatmeal Ideas

Although we enjoy what what comes with fall — Thanksgiving, cozy sweaters and tasty comfort foods — there’s a slight sadness that creeps in knowing those long summer days are on their way out.

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This year, I’m determined not to waste the next eight months waiting for the warmer weather to roll back in, and instead, embrace the chilly season upon us. The first place to start? By giving the most important meal of the day a serious overhaul.

So, to make your breakfast oatmeal even better than that bowl of [insert your favourite sugary cereal here] you’re nearly sick of anyway, I’ve put together four easy topping combinations that will totally take that bowl of oatmeal from blah to wow!

First, know how to cook the perfect bowl of oatmeal. Start with a small pot on medium heat and combine ½ cup rolled oats (steel cut works too) with ½ cup water and ½ cup milk of your choice. Stir it occasionally for about five minutes, until the oats thicken.

Then, try one of these tasty topping combos:

1. Pumpkin
Before removing your oats from the stove after cooking, stir in ¼ cup canned pumpkin and 2 Tbsp cottage cheese. Then, remove from stove, plate, and sprinkle with toasted almond slices, cinnamon and nutmeg.

2. Banana & Peanuts
Before cooking your oats, add a thinly sliced banana and mix with other ingredients until the banana melts away. When finished cooking, remove from stove, plate, and sprinkle with chopped, salted peanuts.

3. PB&J
After making the oatmeal, remove from stove and stir in 1 Tbsp crunchy peanut butter and 1 Tbsp strawberry jam. Plate, then sprinkle with granola.

4. Chocolate & Coconut
After the oatmeal has been made, stir in a tsp of cocoa powder and a teaspoon of shredded coconut. Plate, and then top with slivered almonds and chocolate chips.

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

DIY Packed Lunch Kits You’ll Actually Want to Eat

I blame my grade school days for my great distaste towards packed lunches. Day after day it was the same thing: The same plain sandwich with one slice of meat and no crust, and two boring snacks, which I’d usually eat at recess.

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Though I never lucked out with a pack of Dunkaroos or Gushers, my parent’s were still pretty good at pleasing a kid. I got a one-bite chocolate bar on occasion, or sometimes a few chips. My lunch aside, it was the other kids I had a problem with. There was the one who always had the stinky baloney sandwich, the smell in which would linger until afternoon recess, and the kid that would bring fettuccini alfredo and a carton of milk every Thursday. (Don’t tell me you didn’t just shiver.)

And now, we still don’t really have a choice but to bring packed lunches to work. Health-wise and money-wise, it just makes sense. And so, because none of us can eat the exact same thing every day, I’ve come up with an easy guide to help you choose healthy options guaranteed to keep you full all day long. Sure, you may think it’s a lot of food but it’s all about portions. Eating a little food all day long is a surefire way to keep you full without overdoing the calories.

Now, all you have to do is pick an item from each of the following lists, prep it, pack it, and you’re on your merry way. And yes, don’t worry, I have your sweet tooth covered too.

8 AM: For most of us, the idea of cooking a fabulous breakfast and actually sitting down to eat it is as foreign as leaving the house with wet hair. It just doesn’t happen. So, we resort to eating on the go. Choose one of these easily packable, easy to eat snacks that go perfectly well with the two cups of coffee you always have time for.

  1. Organic wheat cereal, like Kashi’s.
  2. A whole wheat English muffin, toasted, with butter or jam (with no added sugar)
  3. A homemade breakfast bar under 150 cals, like our Peanut Butter Bar version.

10 AM: Your coffee’s done, you still have a few more hours until lunch, but you’re hungry. Or, you’re looking for an excuse to take a break from work for a bit. Fair enough! I’ve got you covered with morning fruit options:

  1. An apple.
  2. A scoop of fruit salad (try our version with a savoury dressing)
  3. A small serving of fruit, granola and Greek yogurt.

1 PM: You made it! It’s lunchtime. That thing you’ve been looking forward to all morning? Ya, it’s here. And we have three lunch options all delicious, and all healthy.

  1. A salad with asparagus, radish, avocado, spring green mix, and any other veggies you’d like to add. This is the fastest option, so if you’re short on time while preparing your lunch before work, go with this.
  2. A little more extravagant, but totally filling, a turkey sandwich on a whole wheat bun is a great option.
  3. The BLTA: Just grab a whole wheat wrap, arrange bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado in it, and you’re done.

3 PM: Right about now, that darn sweet tooth starts acting up. This is the little kick we need to get us through the day, and it’s perfectly fine to indulge in something sweet, as long as this privilege is not abused, Meaning, no, I am not advising you to eat a whole dark chocolate bar, I’m talking about just a square or two.

  1. A small piece of dark chocolate (the darker you can go, the better!).
  2. 1 small cookie, like our chewy oatmeal cookies with apricots and pumpkin seeds.
  3. A small rice crispy square (do it right, and it can only be 150 calories).

5 PM: Some of us may still have another hour of work to put in, and some of us may have a super long commute home ahead of us. So, better take a little snack to hold you over until dinner, just so you’re not tempted to pick up a doughnut… or something.

  1. Fruit and cashew trail mix.
  2. Raw natural almonds.
  3. Light hummus with carrot and celery sticks.

Super Easy S’mores Popcorn

From Oreos and Goldfish, to Ben & Jerry’s and Sprinkles Cupcakes, companies everywhere have come out with a chocolate, graham cracker and marshmallow version of their signature treats to please customers everywhere. Somehow s’mores have become the Pumpkin Spice Latte of the warm weather season.

To carry on with the trend everyone seems to be so fond of, I gave one of my own favourite snacks the s’mores treatment. I topped sea salt popcorn with drizzled milk chocolate, toasted ‘mallows, graham cracker bits and a little bit of caramel, to create a treat that’s the perfect mix of sweet and salty.

Smores Popcorn 1

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes (to roast the marshmallows)

Ingredients:
1 bag sea salt popcorn
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown/golden sugar
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup mini marshmallows
1/4 cup broken graham crackers

Smores Popcorn 2

Directions:

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the bag of popcorn over the entire surface. Preheat oven to broil on high.

Smores Popcorn 3

2. In a small saucepan on medium-high heat, melt the butter and stir in the sugar. Cook while stirring until completely combined and smooth.

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3. Pour the caramel over the popcorn. Be sure to work fast as the caramel dries quickly and becomes difficult to spread.

Smores Popcorn 5

4. Divide the chocolate chips into two batches and heat them in the microwave for about 45 seconds or until melted. Mix with a spoon until smooth and drizzle over popcorn. Repeat with remaining chocolate chips.

Smores Popcorn 6

5. Sprinkle the marshmallows on top and place the pan on the top shelf of the oven to roast the marshmallows. Be alert: you only want the marshmallows to be lightly golden, and this can take as little as 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Make sure you remove the pan from the oven before the chocolate gets burnt.

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6. While still warm from the oven, sprinkle the graham crackers on top. Gently press to help them stick to the chocolate.

Smores Popcorn 8

7. Refrigerate for about an hour and break into pieces.

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Enjoy!

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

5 Most Popular (and Easy!) Julia Child Recipes to Master

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Tomorrow (August 15) is the birthday of the much-revered chef, television personality and cookbook author, Julia Child. What better way to celebrate this iconic food icon than to learn how to cook some of the most popular recipes from her cookbook, The Way to Cook, on what would be her 103nd birthday no less?

Chances are, after watching the movie Julie & Julia, you immediately developed two new lifetime dreams: The first, to start doing something really interesting, launch a blog about it, get really popular, land a movie deal and have someone as darling as Amy Adams star you in the film. The second; learn how to cook.

Now, I’m not calling your bluff just yet. You probably did start a blog but if you’re still going at it, chances are it’s not quite movie-material. But what happened to mastering the art of cooking? It’s been five years and you may (or may not) have fulfilled your lifelong dream just yet.

To help you get started, we’re highlighting the easiest and most popular recipes from the cookbook that you can totally learn to master. From breakfast and side dishes, to must-try desserts, here are the five Julia Child recipes so simple and delicious, you’ll be mad you never tried them sooner.

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Salade Niçoise (page 365)
Known for its stellar combination of ingredients, Salade Niçoise has pleased generation after generation. Featuring Boston lettuce, fresh green beans, ripe red tomatoes, oil-packed tuna, French Potato salad, hard-boiled eggs and Niçoise-type olives (to name a few), the dish is a perfect option for lunch or dinner. Julia’s recommendation? It would be such a “cruel shame” to toss all the ingredients in one big bowl. Instead, prepare all the ingredients separately beforehand, and then arrange them in a bountiful, attractive bowl or platter.

Potage Parmentier or, Leek and Potato Soup (page 13)
Popular for its simplicity and of course, delicious taste, this leek and potato soup is a classic for a reason. With only five simple ingredients including sliced leeks, diced potatoes, water, salt, and cream, it’s bound to become one of your go-to recipes.

The Tossed Omelette (page 68)
I like this recipe for many reasons. First of all, it’s simple, second, it’s nutritious, and third, we’re actually instructed to be rough, fast, and just get the job done. Literally anything goes, so there’s no need to worry about it not looking perfect. All you need is two large eggs, water, salt and pepper, and butter for a classic, plain omelet, or opt for one of Julia’s fillings such as fresh herbs, cheese, or potato.

Crepes Fines Sucrèes or All-Purpose Crepe Formula (page 405)
This is the kind of recipe that boasts countless alternatives. Julia’s crepe recipe is one that goes under, around, or on top of many dishes, from entrée to dessert. With six ingredients including flour, milk, water, eggs, salt, and butter, this simple batter can be placed in your freezer, on-hand for any dish when you need it. From chicken and mushroom roulades to fruit-filled, this crepe recipe has endless possibilities, which you’ll have fun with.

Reine de Saba or the Queen of Sheba (page 471)
One look at this cake and we guarantee your mouth will start to water. Featured in the film itself, the Reine de Saba cake includes almonds, butter and of course chocolate. Perfectly moist in the centre, this cake literally melts in your mouth. It only stands about an inch and a half high like most French cakes, making it easy to serve. It may have a few more ingredients than you’re used to (about twelve) but it’s a recipe you have to tackle at least once (we guarantee you won’t be disappointed). Serve it on its own with a light dusting of confectioners sugar, or with Julia’s soft chocolate icing. Or, if you’re like me, both.

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

3 Breakfast Toast Ideas You Need to Try

We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We know it gets our metabolism going and provides us with the boost of energy we need to get through meeting after meeting. But we don’t really listen, do we? In our typical morning rush, we’ll willingly throw back a bowl of sugar-coated cereal, grab a carby breakfast sandwich on the go or chug down a cup or two of coffee, just to get us out the door on time. I mean, who has time to whip up some fancy meal at dawn anyway?

breakfast toast

Well, I’m here to prove it’s possible to make yourself a quick, healthy and inexpensive energy-boosting breakfast each and every morning, all based on the ultimate go-to snack: toast. Here are 3 delicious breakfast toast ideas that each require 3 simple ingredients.

breakfast toast 1

What You Need:
– Light cream cheese
– Raspberries
– Blueberries

breakfast toast 2

What You Need:
– Almond Butter
– Bananas
– Strawberries

breakfast toast 3

What You Need:
– 1 Organic egg
– Spring lettuce mix
– 1 Tomato

renee-headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.  

3 Perfect Workday Salads

Every morning we’re faced with two nagging thoughts: the first, of course, being “What am I going to wear?”  and the second: “What could I possibly scrounge together for lunch today (that I’m not entirely sick of already)?”

Although we may not be able to help you decide between those two shirts, we can definitely help your morning run a little smoother with three recipes that are bound to help you save time, money and calories.

With a simple list of groceries, you can create our amazing Vegetable Salad with Grapes and Chickpeas, Everything Green Salad, and Strawberry Arugula Salad that are so good, you’ll be looking forward to your lunch all night and morning (even more than you already do).

workday salad

1. For an excellent source of protein, try this Vegetable Salad with Grapes recipe, which includes protein-rich chickpeas.

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2. We all know the many health benefits of eating your greens, so why not try this delicious Everything Green Salad recipe. (Note: For a healthier, more efficient option, opt for a store-bought, low-cal creamy salad dressing.)

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3. Strawberry Arugula Salad (see recipe below).

strawberry-arugula-salad

Ingredients: (for two servings)
4 strawberries, hulled and cut in half
5 cups baby arugula
¼ cup chopped walnuts
3 Tbsp goat cheese
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp  balsamic vinegar

Directions:
In a large bowl, mix strawberries, arugula and walnuts. Pour in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and toss. Plate the salad and top with goat cheese.

renee-headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.  

How to Make Strawberry Jam

As much as we love a delicious gourmet meal, there’s something to be said about a good ol’ classic PB&J. What better way to take a basic sandwich to a whole new level than with rich, homemade strawberry jam?

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Composed of nothing but a few simple ingredients, this made-from-scratch pantry staple is a must-try. When you see how easy (and insanely delicious) it is, we’re sure you’ll be making it every other week!

Ingredients:
1 quart of ripe strawberries (normal-sized container from the grocery store)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp water

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Directions:

1. Sort through the strawberries and make sure they’re completely ripe. Green ones just won’t cut it.

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2. Wash them, remove the stems, cut out the white bits and place them on a paper towel to remove the water.

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3. In a medium-sized pot on medium heat, add 1 tsp water along with the strawberries. Using a wooden spoon, mash the strawberries into small pieces and add the sugar. Stirring continuously, let them come to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from the stove and let it sit over night.

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4. The next morning, put it back on the stove. While you wait for the strawberries to come to a boil, fill two small jars with water and put them in the microwave until boiling. When the strawberries on the stove start to boil, pour the water out of the jars and fill them with the strawberry jam.

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5. Seal the jars, turn them upside down, let them cool and keep them stored in the fridge.

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

How to Make Easy Blueberry Scones

When it comes to baked goods, most of us don’t even attempt to make them from scratch. But it turns out, scones can be just as simple as that go-to muffin recipe of yours — not to mention you likely already have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

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Whether you bake them for a yummy weekend breakfast or for a tea party with friends, these simple, budget-friendly scones are bound to impress.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup fresh blueberries
½ cup heavy cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Icing sugar for garnish

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400°F and adjust racks so one’s in the centre. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet. Pick over blueberries for only the ripe ones, and rinse.

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2. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using 2 knives in a criss-cross motion, cut butter into the mix until pieces are no bigger than the size of peas. Stir in blueberries.

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3. In a small bowl, whisk together cream and eggs. Make a hole in the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir lightly with fork, then bring to a lightly floured surface and knead just a little.

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4. Pat dough into a square that’s about 1” thick. Using a floured knife, cut it into four squares. Then cut the squares in half on a diagonal and once more, to create 16 mini triangles.

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5. Transfer the triangles to the baking sheet and bake until golden, about 15-18 minutes.  Let cool, then sprinkle with icing sugar.

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headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

2 Easy BBQ Side Salads, 10 Ingredients

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It’s always fun to invite your best buds over for a good ol’ summer BBQ, but that one afternoon can turn into quite the costly (and bloat-inducing) event. After the burgers, beer and baked goods, it’s the healthy side dishes that are typically forfeited to keep costs down, or just simply forgotten

But side dishes can be super easy to make, and very cost-effective. To show you how it’s done, we’ve got recipes for two tasty salads, made out of just 10 simple ingredients. Chances are, you already have them in your kitchen!

Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:
1 English cucumber, sliced
3 radishes, sliced
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ small red onion, sliced
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Whisk together vinegar and oil in a large bowl. Add sliced cucumber, radishes and onion, and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper.

Herb Potato Salad
Ingredients:
16 small red potatoes boiled and sliced in quarters
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup copped chives
¼ small red onion, sliced
1 Tbsp mustard
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Mix together herbs, sliced onion, oil, mustard and vinegar in a medium bowl. Add the chopped, boiled potatoes, toss, and season with salt and pepper.

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

Healthy Sweets to Satisfy Your Sugar Craving

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m forever doomed with the irresistible need for sugar as soon as 4 pm comes around. Figures of sugary sweets dance in my head and it’s almost impossible to concentrate on any task at hand, until I get my hands on a treat to satisfy that darn sweet tooth.

To help you fulfill your sugary needs without interfering with your healthy lifestyle, we’re sharing three of our favourite late afternoon snacks that are easy, inexpensive and totally delicious. With only four ingredients or less, these simple treats can be quickly prepped early in the morning before work and enjoyed as an end-of-day power boost.

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Cinnamon Sprinkled Apples and Cocoa Sprinkled Pears 

Ingredients (serves two):
1 apple
1 pear
2 lemon wedges
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cocoa powder

Directions: 
1. Slice fruits in eights and if not eating right away, squeeze the juice from two lemon wedges on the slices to prevent browning.
2. When ready to eat, sprinkle cinnamon on apple slices, and cocoa on pear slices.

Maple Glazed Walnuts with Sea Salt 

Ingredients (serves two):
2/3 cup walnuts chopped in half
8 Tbsp 100% maple syrup
Pinch of sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat pan on medium-high heat, and then add walnuts and maple syrup.
2. Cook for about 3 minutes until syrup is caramelized, and sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool.

Banana & Vanilla Cream Graham Cracker Pie 

Ingredients:
2 graham crackers split in fours
4 Tbsp vanilla Greek yogurt
1 banana, sliced
Pinch of flax seed powder

Directions:
Spread vanilla Greek yogurt onto graham crackers then top with banana slices and sprinkle on flax seed powder.

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

How to Make White Chocolate Pretzels

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Of course, weddings are always stressful for the bride, but the bridesmaids don’t have a calm ride throughout the big day either. Take the bridal shower, for example. From finding the perfect party décor, to choosing games that aren’t totally corny, the to-do list seems endless. On top of all that, you can’t forget about pleasing the bride!

To make prepping for the shower a little easier on you, we’ll show you how to make a super easy, delicious and cost-effective treat to add to your sweets table: white chocolate-covered pretzels. Not only are they the perfect balance of sweet and salty, but they’ll fit in perfectly with your elegant party décor!

Ingredients:
(This will make over 60 pretzels)

1 cup white chocolate drops
White crystal sprinkles
White stick sprinkles
Pretzel rods

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Directions:

1. Set up your station so that when the white chocolate is melted, you’ll want to move fast. I like to put my sprinkles in martini glasses because of their wide rim.

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2. Working in batches, heat up ½ cup white chocolate chips for about 45 seconds in the microwave. Stir until completely smooth and chunk-free.

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3. Using a spatula, lightly coat one half of the pretzel in the white chocolate and then dip into the sprinkles.

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4. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.  

How to Make the Perfect Shandy

Sure, we all love an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day. But sometimes even the lightest beer can feel a little heavy. And that my friends, is where we introduce you to your new favourite drink, the Shandy. Although it’s been around for a while, the Shandy’s popularity comes in and out like waves. So if you haven’t tried it yet, get ready to be impressed.

Only requiring a few simple ingredients – light beer, ginger ale and lemonade – this perfect summertime bevvy is not too strong, not too sweet, and totally refreshing. Whether you’re having a few friends over, or heading up to a cottage for the weekend, we have the recipe for the perfect Shandy that you can serve to your besties!

shandy

Serves: 4
Total Cost: $7

Ingredients:
(Serves 4)
1 bottle of light or wheat beer
1 cup ginger ale
2 cups lemonade
Sugar and lemon slice for garnish

Directions:
1. Mix all chilled ingredients together in a large pitcher. Rim glasses with sugar, pour in mixture, and garnish with a lemon slice.

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

How to Make Your Own Wedding Cake

Your wedding cake is undoubtedly the most significant dessert you’ll ever eat in your life. As kids, we dreamed of a cake tiered to the ceiling, trimmed with frothy white icing and topped with mini-me (and mini-him) cake toppers. We dreamed of that classic wedding picture of cutting the first slice with our other half. We dreamed of eating it respectfully and so not shoving it into each other’s faces, America’s-Funniest-Home-Videos style. It’s such an important, traditional element to a wedding, and yet these days, more and more couples are choosing to eliminate it as a way to cut corners. Why? Because a single cake can rack up quite the hefty bill.

If you want to keep with tradition but aren’t feeling the $1000 price tag, then why not whip up your own gorgeous gateau? Below, I’m showing a step-by-step guide to making your own wedding cake, complete with tiers, frothy icing and topped with pretty blooms.

Naked Wedding Cake 1

Decorating Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients:
6 cakes (Follow this recipe for your classic white cake. You will need three batches.)
36 oz icing (Follow this recipe for vanilla buttercream icing. Again, you will need three batches.)
Flowers, for decorating

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Note: The prettier the flowers, the better your cake will look. Hit up a flower market to get some stunners like peonies and ranunculi. Don’t forget to add some greens to the mix. Try green leaves with a white, wishy-washy coat for a whimsical look.

Naked Wedding Cake 2

Directions:
1. Before you make your batter, heat the oven to your recipe’s advised temperature. Use unsalted butter to grease the sides of two cake pans, one 8” and one 10”, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2. As for the cake I made… I cheated a bit. To save a little time and cash, I succumbed to a cake mix and pre-made icing. If you feel like taking the easy route like me, you will need three boxes of cake mix, which will give you two cakes per box, and three 12-oz containers of icing.

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3. I used my KitchenAid Stand Mixer to beat the batter. Cakes made with an essential baker sidekick come out so much lighter and fluffier than with a handheld beater.

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4. Divide the batter into your two pre-lined, pre-greased pans. Try to make them similar in depth. Bake them for the recipe’s advised amount of time, let cool, and move to a cooling rack. Repeat.

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5. When the cakes have cooled, use a serrated knife to slice off the top of each cake where necessary, to create an even surface.

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6. Take the parchment paper off the bottoms of each cake, and place your first layer on the cake stand. Add a few dollops of icing, and smooth over the surface gently, ensuring not to get cake crumbs worked into the icing.

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7. Smooth over the entire surface, add the next layer, and repeat.

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8. Add icing to the sides of the cake for a more whimsical finish. Apply it with your icing wand, and scrape off excess to even it out.

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9. I like to place the majority of the flowers on the top of the cake, so I only added a few subtle touches of flowers to the sides and base of the cake. I placed a piece of greenery to the bottom, and lightly pressed it into the cake to secure it into place.

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10. On the opposite side on the second tier, I added a small, blooming peony and more greens.

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11. For the top of the cake, I started with a few greens and filled it in with seven flowers.

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12. I had a brighter pink flower option but decided to keep it to the softer shades for a dreamier feel.

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Notes:
– Try to lay the flowers on the cake instead of puncturing the surface so you can rearrange the blooms as you see fit. You will also lessen the risk of contaminating the cake with the flower’s chemicals.
– Flowers should be placed on the cake just before displaying.

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Happy Wedding Day!

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headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.

S’Mores Bark for the Long Weekend

Oh, May long weekend…the unofficial start of summer. The first gloriously warm long weekend of the year, spent at a cottage enjoying morning hikes, afternoon tanning on the dock, and evening huddles around the campfire.

As lovely as that sounds, it’s not the case for most of us, and we’ll be settling for a little stay-cation in our own ‘hood.

But don’t give up on your lakeside fantasies just yet, because we’ve got a recipe for everyone’s campfire favourite that will totally make your long weekend — we’re talking about s’mores. Well, s’mores bark, to be exact. Think graham crackers, melted milk chocolate, and soft, roasted marshmallows all in one delectable bite.

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With only four ingredients required (and no bonfire needed), you’ll be able to whip up this new take on everyone’s ultimate fireside treat — in under 15 minutes and for under $12!

smores1

Ingredients:
12 graham crackers (broken into quarters)
1 bag milk chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
¼ cup Skor bits

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Directions:
1. Preheat oven to broil on high, line baking sheet with parchment paper, and lay graham crackers on baking sheet.
2. Pour about 1/3 of chocolate chips into a bowl, and microwave for about 60 seconds. Mix chocolate until smooth and lump free.

chocolate smores

3. Working in sections, pour the chocolate sparingly on top of the graham crackers, and carefully spread it out with a spatula. Repeat steps 2-3 to finish off the bag of chocolate chips, and evenly cover all graham crackers with a layer of chocolate.

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4. Sprinkle the marshmallows on top of the chocolate. Try to keep them within the cracker lines, so it’s easy to separate the pieces at the end.

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5. Place in oven on a rack that is on the third notch from the top. Roast the marshmallows until golden, about 30-60 seconds.

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6. When chocolate is still hot, sprinkle Skor bits sparingly on top.

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7. Refrigerate until hard, about an hour. Break into pieces and serve.

Apple Cobb Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing

Steaming-hot pastas, soups and roast dinners may be all we crave in the dead cold of winter, but when the warm rays of spring come along? It’s the cool, light and refreshing meals we’re after.

For the perfect sunny-day dinner, I put together the Apple Cobb Salad. Packed with lots of greens, roast chicken, apple and plenty more, this perfect springtime meal is topped with honey mustard vinaigrette making it equal parts tasty and nutritious.

Apple Cobb Salad 1

Ingredients:

For the honey mustard dressing:

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Makes: 1/2 cup

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp white-wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad:

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 1
Oven Roasted Chicken
1/4 cup quinoa
1/4 cup aged white cheddar, shredded
1 green apple, diced
1 Tbsp Gojo berries
2 Tbsp pecans
1 cup mixed greens (kale, chard, spinach)

Apple Cobb Salad 2

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, mix mustard, honey, vinegar, garlic and salt.

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2. Gradually whisk in olive oil.

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3. Roast the chicken and cook the quinoa as advised on the package.

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4. Practice Mise en Place and prep the ingredients.

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6. Throw all the ingredients in a bowl.

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7. Add desired amount of dressing and mix well.

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8. Plate, and enjoy!

headshot Renée Reardin is a lifestyle writer and stylist living in Toronto. To learn more about her, visit www.reneereardin.com, and follow her on Twitter @reneereardin.