Trick-or-Treat for a New Kind of Thrill

(Family Features) For most kids, Halloween is all about costumes and candy, but it can also be a chance to demonstrate how helping others brings its own set of rewards.

This October, children, families and schools across the country will join in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, a month-long celebration of the power and impact of kids helping kids. Throughout the month, kids, parents and teachers can add purpose to their Halloween activities by collecting donations in support of vulnerable children.

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF encourages children to be “scary good” this Halloween and help their peers around the world. Equipped with iconic orange collection boxes, kids can raise funds that add up to lifesaving change: $8 can buy a kit to give one family clean water to drink; $15 can buy a box of five mosquito nets to protect kids from deadly malaria; and $55 can buy one box of therapeutic food treatment to save a child from severe acute malnutrition.

Sharing the caring
In addition, a series of partners and supporters are also making it easy to help.

This year, HSNi Cares, as a national partner, will continue to raise funds and awareness to support UNICEF through all of its brands: Ballard Designs, Frontgate, Garnet Hill, Grandin Road, HSN and Improvements. Throughout September, customers will be able make a donation to the children’s humanitarian organization online or over the phone at all brands.

Key Club International will participate by raising funds for The Eliminate Project, which seeks to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, a deadly disease that claims the lives of thousands of babies and mothers each year. Key Club International, a student-led service leadership program of Kiwanis International, is the oldest and largest service program for high school students. For more information, visit or

American Airlines will support the campaign through UNICEF’s Change for Good program, which converts customers’ donations of foreign and domestic currency into lifesaving services for children. From Oct.16-31, American Airlines flight attendant volunteers will make Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF-themed announcements and collect donations from customers on select international flights.

Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, will team up with Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its best-selling children’s book series “Goosebumps.” Popular character Slappy and his monstrous friends will be featured on the collection boxes as well as

Make it social
Families are invited to share their Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF story on social media with the hashtag #ScaryGood. Parents and teachers who participated when they were children are also invited to share their experience with the hashtag #TBTOT4UNICEF.

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF – the original kids helping kids campaign – has raised nearly $177 million since 1950 to help UNICEF provide children around the world with lifesaving nutrition, water, vaccines and more. For more information, visit


Scary Good Seasonal Treats

(Family Features) Whether your tastes tend toward the spooky or spectacular, or maybe a little of both, this Halloween you can set the scene for a scary good time with a menu that entices goblins big and small.

You won’t have to scour a witch’s lair to find the right ingredients for these treats. All you need is Limited Edition TruMoo Orange Scream Milk, which is inspired by an orange frozen ice pop with vanilla ice cream. It’s tasty served on its own in a cold glass, or added to Halloween-inspired recipes perfect for hosting your fellow ghouls and goblins.

Try using it for non-traditional recipes, such as Orange-Cranberry Scones for hosting a scary fun Halloween get-together. Or for another creative snack option at your ghoulish gala, go for Bread Pudding to send guests home screaming with delight.

An added bonus, TruMoo Orange Scream Milk leaves out lots of things. It contains no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial growth hormones, no artificial sweeteners and no artificial flavors, so all that’s left is a nutritious, family-friendly and tasty fun time. TruMoo Orange Scream Milk has no GMO ingredients.

For more Halloween-inspired recipes, visit, and find TruMoo Milk on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Orange-Cranberry Scones

Servings: 6 scones


  • 2 1/4    cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4       cup granulated sugar
  • 2          teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2       teaspoon salt
  • 4          tablespoons cold butter
  • 2          large eggs
  • 1/2       cup TruMoo Orange Scream Milk
  • 1/2       cup dried cranberries
  • 1          tablespoon grated orange peel

Orange Glaze:

  • 1/2       cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1          tablespoon TruMoo Orange Scream Milk
  1. To prepare Scones: Heat oven to 425° F. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in eggs, one at a time, then milk, cranberries and orange peel.
  2. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Refrigerate 30 minutes, or until firm. Pat dough into 8-inch round, about 3/4-inch thick. Cut into six wedges; carefully separate wedges and place on parchment-lined baking sheet about two inches apart. Bake about 15 minutes until lightly golden and crusty.
  3. To prepare Orange Glaze: In small bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar and milk until well blended. Cool scones slightly. Drizzle scones with glaze.

Orange Custard Bread Pudding

Servings: 6

  • 1          loaf (16 ounces) sliced raisin-cinnamon bread
  • 2          cups TruMoo Orange Scream Milk
  • 3          large eggs
  • 1/2       cup granulated sugar
  • 1          tablespoon grated orange peel
  • 1/4       teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4       teaspoon orange extract
  • 1/8       teaspoon salt
  • confectioners’ sugar
  1. Heat oven to 350° F. Cut raisin bread into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups). In large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, sugar, orange peel, nutmeg, orange extract and salt. Toss with raisin bread to mix well.
  2. Butter 2-quart casserole or baking dish. Pour bread mixture into dish. Place in center of deep, ovenproof pan. Pour boiling water into pan until it reaches halfway up sides of dish. Place pan on center rack in oven. Bake until just set, about 40 minutes. Carefully remove from oven.
  3. To serve, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Serve warm.


A Spring-Inspired Easter Brunch

(Family Features) Spring is blooming on your Easter table. From yellow chick cupcakes to blueberry French-toast casseroles, there are plenty of ways to wow your brunch guests with simple seasonal recipes.

"Between hiding eggs and preparing baskets, you may be tempted to fall back on brunch basics like pancakes and scrambled eggs, but that's no fun," McCormick Executive Chef Kevan Vetter said. "With simple pantry staples – like food color – and a little planning the night before, you can enjoy a fun and tasty holiday brunch."

These simple tips from Vetter can help you transform a boring brunch into a colorful Easter feast.

  • Waffle art is a fun way to get kids (and adults) involved during breakfast time. Try tinting the waffle batter orange by using McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors. Cut them into wedges hot out of the iron and pipe green frosting for the stems to create these Carrot-Shaped Waffles.
  • Making French toast for a crowd can be a hassle. Instead, make a sweet breakfast casserole the night before to pop in the oven Easter morning. Add fresh, sweet-tart blueberries to celebrate spring.
  • Rather than splurging on designer cupcakes, just pipe yellow marshmallow creme on mini cupcakes for a baby chick then decorate with sprinkles for the nose and cut up wafers to look like a hatching egg.

For more recipes and tips, check out and visit McCormick Spice on Facebook and Pinterest.

Baby Chick Cupcakes

Prep time: 30 minutes
Servings: 24

  • 1 package (12 ounces) white confectionary coating wafers
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
  • 1 teaspoon Sunflower color from McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors
  • 2 tablespoons milk, plus additional (optional)
  • 48 unfrosted mini yellow cupcakes, baked in white paper liners
  • sprinkles (optional)
  • additional McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors (optional)
  1. To make broken egg shell pieces: melt coating wafers as directed on package. Spread on large foil-lined baking sheet to 1/4-inch thickness. Refrigerate about 10 minutes, or until firm. Break into small, irregular pieces. Set aside.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla; mix well. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar, beating until well blended after each addition, frequently scraping sides and bottom of bowl. Beat in marshmallow creme until well blended. In small bowl, stir food color into milk until dissolved. Add colored milk to frosting; beat until light and fluffy. Stir in additional milk, as needed, to reach desired consistency.
  3. To decorate cupcakes: spoon frosting into large pastry bag fitted with large round tip. Pipe two dollops of frosting on top of each other to form baby chick. If desired, insert sprinkles into face for eyes and beak. Or tint any remaining frosting with food colors to pipe out eyes and beak.
  4. Place coating wafer pieces around bottom of baby chick to resemble broken egg shell.

Carrot-Shaped Waffles

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings: 6

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 cups all-purpose waffle and baking mix
  • 1 1/3cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Sunflower color from McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Berry color from McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sky Blue color from McCormick Color from Nature Food Colors
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Heat round waffle iron. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. In medium bowl, mix together waffle mix, milk, egg, oil, 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 teaspoon each sunflower and berry colors until blended. Let batter stand 5 minutes to allow color to fully develop.
  2. Pour about 1/3 cup batter onto center of waffle iron. Close lid. Cook about 3 minutes, or until no longer steaming. Carefully remove waffle. Repeat with remaining batter. Cut each waffle into 8 triangles. Set aside.
  3. In another medium bowl, stir sky blue color and remaining sunflower color into cream. Add confectioners' sugar and remaining vanilla; beat with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon into re-sealable plastic bag. Cut piece off one bottom corner.
  4. To decorate and serve waffles, place waffle triangles onto serving plates and pipe green colored cream on wide side of each triangle to resemble carrot tops.

Overnight Lemon Blueberry Muffin Casserole

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 12

Streusel Topping:

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Cinnamon, Ground
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into chunks


  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, milk, divided
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon McCormick Cinnamon, Ground
  • 1 loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick Pure Lemon Extract
  • 2 cups blueberries, divided
  1. To make Streusel Topping: In medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cover. Set aside until ready to assemble in the morning.
  2. To make Casserole: In large bowl, mix together eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and cinnamon with wire whisk until well blended. Add bread cubes; toss gently to coat. Pour evenly into 13-by-9-inch baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, remaining milk and sugar, and lemon extract until well blended. Gently stir in 1 cup blueberries. Spread evenly on top of bread cubes. Top with remaining blueberries. Cover. Refrigerate overnight.
  4. Heat oven to 350° F.
  5. Remove casserole from refrigerator. Let stand 10-15 minutes.
  6. Cut butter into Streusel Topping mixture with pastry blender or two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


Easter creates time for celebration, remembrance

Since I can remember I have spent the Easter holiday with my family on the farm north of Canton.

Initially, Grandma and Grandpa Vogts lived there. Now, Uncle Stacy and Aunt Brenda own it, but the tradition has remained regardless of who lives there.

A meal always takes place, and lots and lots of conversations are had. It is a Vogts function after all.

But the main event is always the hunting.

There is an egg and pop hunt for children through age 10, and this takes place in the front yard around the house.

That is fun to watch, but it still isn’t the main event . . . really.

The big show takes place after the youngsters have had their fun. That’s when all the older children, ranging from age 11 and up and including the adults who act like children, who is everyone in attendance basically, head outside for the great pop hunt.

Uncle Stacy hides the cans of pop all over the property, and everyone stampedes out in hopes of being the first person to get their allotted number of sodas.

Sometimes it takes a shovel to fully uncover the hidden gems of soda, and other times it requires tree-climbing skills. Regardless, a fun time is always had by all.

I love spending time with my family, and this type of event is very important to me.

I’ve written before about how I am slightly bothered by the commercialism of other holidays, and that’s the wonderful aspect about this particular celebration. It isn’t about gifts whatsoever. Sure, I won’t say no to a bag of Reese’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs, but I still prefer the fact my family’s Easter celebration is about togetherness.

Easter in particular, much like Thanksgiving, is about being together. Isn’t the reason for the holiday indicative of this? Didn’t Jesus rise from the grave as a way to bring everyone together?

I believe that to be true, but whether you agree with me or not, I hope you kept those you love close on this Easter.

There is one person I was not able to keep close this Easter, though. It was my cousin Debra Shaw. She died March 6 in Moundridge. This was quite unexpected, especially since she was only 57 years old.

Honestly, it still doesn’t feel real that she is gone — that Cousin Deb is gone.

She and I were extremely close, and I know whenever I go visit Moundridge, a place I consider to be home after running the weekly newspaper there early in my journalism career, it will feel strange.

She had a larger-than-life personality, and everyone in town knew her.

She was most well-known for working at Moundridge’s Goering Hardware, and I don’t know if I will be able to go in there again for a while.

It will be so strange to walk through the doors, hear the bell clang above my head, and not hear Deb shout hello from behind the counter.

It will be nearly unbearable not to see her run from behind the cash register and come give me a giant hug.

However, I am taking solace in the fact she is in a better place.

In fact, I believe she is smiling down upon me right now, sitting next to a bonfire, as was one of her favorite pastimes, while enjoying a nice cold brew.

Cousin Deb will be missed, but she won’t be forgotten. Her mark on the people she encountered will live on for generations.

Enjoy the season of giving year round

(Family Features) From clothing to housewares to toys, your old stuff can go a long way for someone new. As the season of giving approaches, look around your home – you might find there’s more to give than you thought.

Because everyone knows it is what’s inside that counts, The Glad Products Company has teamed up with Katie Holmes to support its Glad to Give program, which was inspired by people using Glad ForceFlex bags for heavy donations. Together, they are on a mission to inspire and enable giving year round and provide an easy way to do so.

“Winter fashion trends may change from year to year, but one thing that never goes out of style is helping others by giving back to your community,” Holmes said.

Holmes also offers these tips to make giving back enjoyable for the whole family:

Make It Personal – Getting personally involved in a cause you care about is particularly powerful whether you are donating your time or personal items. Take the time to look through areas of your home, such as closets, kitchen cupboards and the garage, for items that may once have had special meaning to you, but are no longer needed. Donating those items to someone in need is a much better choice than letting them sit unused.

Be Glad to Give – Whether you’re giving to a loved one or a complete stranger, giving provides you with rewards that extend far beyond that moment in time. Holmes recently donated a bag full of her family’s winter coats to One Warm Coat – a national nonprofit that works to provide gently worn coats to those in need – and was happy to lighten her load for a good cause. Just fill a Glad bag full of your gently used clothing or household items for donation and go to to schedule a free pick up with a local charity of your choice.

Involve Your Family – It’s never too early to teach your little ones how to have a giving spirit. Holmes is always looking for fun little ways to involve her daughter in giving to others – wrapping presents, baking cookies or making cards are easy ways for them to spend time together and make a meaningful contribution to our favorite local charities or even a friendly neighbor.

Enjoy the Benefits of Giving Back – One of the best things you can do with your gently used items is to give them a second life. While 33.6 percent of overall giving happens in the last three months of the year, the benefits are felt year round as people who help others are happier and healthier, according to the Network for Good Digital Giving Index.

Signup for your free donation bag and find more ways to give back year round at


Tricks for stress-free holiday entertaining

(Family Features) While the holiday season is the “most wonderful time of the year,” it can also be the most stressful. Gift giving, family gatherings and travel coordination can all be stressors, but at the top of the list, playing holiday host just might be the biggest tension producer.  

“When it comes to minimizing stress as a hostess, it’s all about the things you can control,” said psychologist and bestselling author Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo. “While you can’t control what your uncle Bill says at the dinner table, you can set yourself up for success when it comes to your home. Clean feels good – keeping your home in order before, during and after entertaining is half the battle and means less stress for you.”

Lombardo, who has teamed up with Scotch-Brite Brand, recommends the following tips and tricks to get your house in shape for the holidays while reducing the pressures of entertaining:

  • Prioritize: Clean less-used rooms first as they will stay cleaner longer; tackle the bigger messes and clutter in the most-used rooms closer to the big event. You can quickly go over those lesser-used rooms again right before guests arrive for last minute sprucing.
  • Double Duty: According to a survey by Scotch-Brite Brand, 80 percent of Americans have avoided cooking or baking a recipe because the cleanup might be too difficult. To get around this fear, use cleaning products that serve a dual-purpose and can do the work for you. The Extreme Scrub Sponge has extra scrubbing power that removes tough, baked on residue, eliminating the need to presoak dishes and is treated with an antimicrobial property that resists bacterial odors to keep it smelling fresh and clean.
  • Child’s Play: With a full house and a full dinner table, someone will inevitably knock over a glass or drop a dish. Steal some of your child’s modeling clay to pick up broken glass and shards that your broom might miss.
  • Citrus Solution: Between dirty dishes and food prep, the kitchen sink sees its fair share during the holiday season, and a good amount of food can get stuck in your disposal. To cut down on odors, run some lemon rinds, followed by cold water, through the garbage disposal to fend off the stink.
  • Be Our Guest: If you have overnight guests, give the bed in the guestroom a little bit of love. As you wash the sheets, clean your mattress with a vacuum and spritz it with a little lavender oil, which promotes relaxation. Make sure to fluff the pillows and open windows for at least an hour to bring some life back to the room.
  • Keep the Outdoors Out: Place doormats on the inside and outside of your front door to protect your floors from dirt. You might even consider putting a shoe rack at the front door to encourage guests to take their shoes off before entering the house. This will keep guests from bringing the outside in, which includes dust, dirt and allergens.
  • A Little Help from Your Friends: When family and friends ask if they can do anything to assist with your gathering, start taking them up on the offer. Whether it’s bringing a bottle of wine, whipping up an appetizer or arriving an hour early to assist in set up, tap your attendees for even the littlest things.

For more information and tips, visit

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (people cooking)

3M Products

Protecting high-value gifts

(Family Features) Receiving an expensive gift can be quite a thrill, but that delight may be short-lived if you worry about the responsibility that comes with protecting a high-value gift from damage. With proper care and preventive measures, you can ensure extravagant gifts stay in good condition and maintain their worth for years to come.

One important aspect of keeping your new items in top shape is coverage through a service such as SIMPLR, which offers backup plans for everything from wear and tear to power surge damage to watch breakdowns and more.

Learn additional ways to give special care to some of the most common high-value gifts with these tips:


  • Store jewelry somewhere you won’t forget. These small items are easy to lose track of, so have a designated place to hold earrings, bracelets, necklaces or rings when you’re not wearing them.
  • While traveling, store valuable jewelry in a safe or even at the bank to prevent risk of theft. If traveling with expensive items, store them in your hotel room safe when leaving the room.
  • Colder weather can cause fingers to restrict, increasing your risk of losing precious rings. Visit a jeweler, such as Samuels Jewelers, to have your rings resized to ensure a perfect fit.
  • Repair broken clasps as soon as you notice them to prevent jewelry from falling off during wear.
  • To maintain a scratch-free watch face, store watches facing upward to prevent unwanted contact with rough surfaces.


  • Use caution when mounting new TVs and other heavier items. Make sure you note weight limits, as overloading wall mounts can allow your new devices to come crashing down.
  • Today’s TVs have more smart features than ever. Read your setup manual or enlist the help of tech support to help you understand all of the advanced features and get the most out of the fun additions.

Portable Electronics

  • Avoid balancing laptops and tablets on small or low surfaces. Bumps from energetic pets or a clumsy family member can send devices to the floor, resulting in cracked screens or other damage.
  • Keep devices away from the dinner table if possible. Food and drinks can easily be spilled and often cause severe internal damage.
  • Always use a phone case, and make it a good one. Cases are much more than accessories; an effective case can save your phone from drops or spills, and some can even allow you to take your phone underwater or into snowy conditions.
  • Drones are the hot new gift and, as such, will have all of your friends wanting to try their hand at piloting your new device. Make sure friends are well aware of how to fly your drone before they take over the controls to prevent any damage from one bad flight.

Visit for more details on plans to help protect the high-value gifts you give and receive.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Homemade gifts for a heartwarming holiday

(Family Features) Instead of fighting crowds at the store, head to the kitchen and whip up Pinterest-worthy treats and crafts. Whether you’re gifting a gracious host or just want a few extra presents on hand for unexpected holiday guests, flavorful and aromatic kitchen creations are a delicious way to show you care this holiday season.

“Christmas cookies are always a popular gift but they’re not the only homemade option for the cookie lovers on your list,” said Chef Kevan Vetter of the McCormick Kitchens. “A small jar of spreadable Gingerbread Cookie Butter brings the taste of a classic holiday treat to unexpected places like toast and pancakes.”

Cinnamon and Pine Fragrance Jar
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes: 1 jarSupplies

  • 2-3       pine branches (4 inches long)
  • 2          McCormick Gourmet Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1          teaspoon McCormick Gourmet Whole Jamaican Allspice
  1. Place pine, cinnamon and allspice inside 8-ounce jar. Pour water to fill jar, leaving 1/2-inch headspace; seal.
  2. To add a lovely fragrance around the house, pour all contents of jar into small saucepan. Simmer on medium heat 10-15 minutes or until fragrant, adding additional water as needed.

Need more gift-giving inspiration? Discover new ideas and recipes for everything from homemade seasonal butters to fragrance jars by visiting McCormick Spice on Pinterest and Facebook.

Gingerbread Cookie Butter


  • 8 ounces gingerbread cookies, about 8 (3 1/2-inch long) cookies
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon McCormick Ground Ginger


  1. Pulse cookies in food processor until resembling fine crumbs. Add sugar; pulse until just blended.
  2. Heat oil and water in small saucepan on low heat until coconut oil is melted. Slowly add oil mixture to processor while pulsing. Add vanilla and spices; pulse until just blended.

24 (1 tablespoon each)

Preparation Time:
5 minutes

Cook Time:
2 minutes

McCormick & Company, Inc.

Give your family the gift of good health

(Family Features) As colder months approach, many families enjoy spending time together on the couch watching football, indulging in delicious family recipes and preparing for the holiday season. Many of us look forward to this time of year when we can spend quality time with loved ones, relax, reflect on the year and look forward to the new year ahead. This can also be a challenging time to stay healthy, as people tend to stay bundled up indoors and the food seems to pile up on the dinner table.

Learning how to eat well and stay active ahead of the holiday season may mean the difference between staying healthy or packing on a few extra pounds and creating habits that could lead to serious health issues down the road. That is one reason the Aetna Foundation is working to make nutritious foods and exercise programs readily available for families year-round.

“Poor nutrition poses a challenge to America’s health, especially for vulnerable populations whose access to healthy food is often limited,” said Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, president of the Aetna Foundation. “We’re excited to support programs that help make healthy food and exercise programs more affordable and accessible to people nationwide.”

There is a great need to increase access to nutritious foods in vulnerable communities and to make healthy food available, accessible and affordable for more people across the country. Millions living in underserved communities struggle to maintain healthy habits during the holiday season without the help of school-provided meals and activities. That is why the Aetna Foundation is working with nonprofit organizations across the country to provide healthy foods and exercise options and tools to more people year-round.

These tips from the Aetna Foundation are designed to help people stay active and healthy during the holiday season.

    1. Eat well. When grocery shopping for large (or small) family meals, choose fresh, seasonal, nutritious foods as often as possible. When fresh is not possible, keep in mind that frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are still healthy alternatives. To guard against nutrient loss, be sure to eat frozen fruits and veggies soon after purchase and steam or microwave them rather than boiling to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins.
    2. Cook together. As you plan and cook meals for your friends and family over the holidays, inviting your children to cook with you is a great way to teach them about nutrition and better food choices.
    3. Get off the couch. It can be tempting to curl up on the couch to stay warm and dry during the cold winter months, but find ways to stay active with your family – such as interactive dancing video games, an indoor game of hide-and-seek or dancing during commercials while you watch your favorite TV show.

Find more healthy living tips for your family at

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Festive, flavorful gifts

(Family Features) Food is a gift from the heart. It’s one-size-fits-all, and you don’t need to fight the crowds at the mall or worry about blowing your budget. Whether for holiday presents or hostess gifts, receiving something homemade is truly what the season is about: sharing comfort and good cheer.

For a festive twist to your delectable goodies, look no further than your freezer. Aside from their bright, joyful color, frozen red raspberries’ sweet and tart flavors make them versatile from a culinary standpoint, complementing and enhancing a wide range of ingredients. These jubilant rubies are also nutritional powerhouses, boasting the most fiber and the lowest natural sugar content compared to other berries.

Fun, Festive, Frozen Raspberries
Not only do raspberries lend the perfect seasonal hue to homemade gifts from the kitchen, these bright red berries offer numerous nutritional and other benefits, according to Lisa Samuel, RDN, MBA of Frozen raspberries, which are available year-round, offer:

  • 80 calories per cup, with no added sugar or preservatives
  • More fiber than any other berry at 9 grams per cup
  • One of the lowest in natural sugar content compared to other berries
  • High in vitamin C, providing 60 percent of the Recommended Daily Value per cup
  • Convenience and consistent quality right out of the freezer, with no waste or spoilage
  • Frozen at peak ripeness

These recipes are sure to warm your friends’ and family members’ hearts with the taste of the holidays. Find more recipes worth sharing this holiday season at

Raspberry Greek Yogurt Bark

Recipe courtesy of


  • 2 cups plain, reduced-fat (2%) Greek yogurt
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds


  1. Line small baking pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In medium bowl, combine first 3 ingredients. Stir until well incorporated.
  3. Add berries, pistachios and almonds to mixture. Fold in until well incorporated. Spread mixture in baking pan and place in freezer for about 2-3 hours, or until hardened.
  4. Once hardened, remove bark from pan and either cut or break up into pieces. Allow to thaw about 5 minutes before eating.

Notes, Tips & Suggestions
Store remaining bark in freezer. You can experiment with any ingredients you have on hand, such as frozen cherries with dark chocolate chunks, frozen blueberries with unsweetened flaked coconut or dried cranberries with pecans.

Red Raspberry Fruit Leather


  • 1 package (12 ounces) frozen red raspberries, thawed
  • 1/3 cup sugar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice


  1. Heat oven to 170°F.
  2. Line two baking pans with parchment paper or silicone mats.
  3. Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth. Pour raspberry mixture on both pans and smooth into thin layer, less than 1/8-inch thick.
  4. Bake 3 hours or until mixture is no longer wet, but still slightly tacky, rotating every hour and alternating levels.
  5. Cool pans on wire rack to room temperature. Remove parchment paper (if using), place on cutting board and cut (or tear) into chip-size pieces. Store with fresh pieces of parchment paper between fruit leather layers in airtight container.

Anytime Pumpkin-Raspberry Muffins


  • 1 cup frozen unsweetened red raspberries
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces chopped pecans, toasted
Muffin Topping:
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Coat 12 nonstick muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.
  3. Place frozen raspberries on counter to thaw slightly while preparing muffins.
  4. In medium bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
  5. In another medium bowl, stir together remaining muffin ingredients, except raspberries.
  6. Stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture until blended. Do not over mix. Spoon equal amounts of batter in each muffin tin. Place equal amounts of raspberries on top of each muffin.
  7. Bake 20-22 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted comes out almost clean.
  8. Meanwhile in small bowl, combine topping ingredients and set aside.
  9. Remove muffins from oven, place on wire rack and immediately sprinkle with topping. Let stand 15 minutes to continue to cook and absorb flavors. Remove muffins from pan and cool completely on wire rack before storing.
  10. Store cooled leftovers in airtight container in refrigerator up to 48 hours or freeze up to 1 month.

Notes, Tips & Suggestions
May make as mini muffins: bake 15 minutes in 12 muffin tins.

Raspberry Salsa


  • 1 Pink Lady or other tart-sweet apple, cored and diced
  • 2 cups peeled jicama, diced
  • 1/3 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) frozen raspberries


  1. In large bowl, toss apple and jicama with vinegar. Add all remaining ingredients and toss to blend. Serve at once or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

National Processed Raspberry Council

5 ways to make the most of tech gifts

(Family Features) No matter the occasion – holidays, birthdays or promotions – technology gifts are always on the top of wish lists. With today’s devices spanning a wide range of price points and features, selecting the right item is just the beginning. When buying a tech gift, there are several things to keep in mind.

Ensure your intended gets maximum enjoyment from your tech gift with these tips.

    1. Features and functions. It can be tempting to buy the latest model with a plethora of fancy functions, but if the person you’re buying for won’t use them, you may be better off saving money on a version with a lighter feature package. Remember, too, that for those with little tech experience, the excess can be overwhelming. Your best bet: shop for the features you need, but don’t over-reach.
    2. Support and guidance. Who doesn’t want a tech hero waiting in the wings to answer questions, help with set up and solve problems? With so many tech gadgets connecting via apps through your smartphone, you may be surprised to learn that your wireless company offers comprehensive tech support from Asurion. Tech experts are available via chat, phone and email to provide help across any device or platform. They can help with things such as troubleshooting a specific operating system or connecting devices to a digital home network.
    3. Power source. Even devices with superior battery life run out of juice eventually. Help extend the usability of your tech gift by supplying extra batteries or a charging plug if they aren’t included in the original packaging. Or consider a car charging system to help restore battery life on the go.
    4. Add-on accessories. The market for tech devices is far and wide with options that simply add some bling to more practical choices that help protect devices from damage. Most devices don’t truly require many additional accessories, but covers and cases that help protect devices against dropping are a smart investment. Other smart bets are accessories that will enhance the product’s use, such as a pair of quality headphones.
    5. Smartphone protection. An insurance plan helps protect your purchase from loss, theft and accidental damage, ensuring it can be enjoyed longer. Research your options before shopping, and be sure to thoroughly explore the coverage plans; typically only your wireless carrier offers comprehensive coverage for both loss and theft. Other third party products usually only cover accidental damage and may have other restrictions to limit coverage.

Asurion partners with the leading wireless carriers so shoppers can easily add premier support and protection when shopping for technology gifts for friends and family. Learn more at

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Rev-up the holidays with 5 return-proof gifts

(Family Features) If the thought of holiday gift shopping makes you want to bail on celebrating at all, it’s time to rethink your approach. Even though your gift list seems like a challenge, make it your mission to earn the title of Ultimate Gift Giver this season.

Fuel your holiday spirit and rebel from the standard gifts with unique items that break the mold. Skip the aggravation of shopping at traditional retail stores, and get your hands on the season’s hottest gifts that reflect the unique style and personality of each person on your list.

The gift of freedom
Not all gifts need to fit in a tidy box with a pretty bow. Give the baddest on your list an experience of a lifetime. It may be a skydiving excursion or a rock climbing adventure. Or, for the ultimate thrill seekers, give them a ticket to learn to ride a motorcycle. This is more than just a motorcycle lesson; it’s the start of a new lifestyle. Check online for special deals, adventures and Harley-Davidson Riding Academy motorcycle classes specific to your area.

Stock the cooler and cabinets
Every gift list has a wine or liquor connoisseur on it, so play to your intended recipient’s style and fill the cooler with a preferred drink or two, or a gift set that comes with specialized glasses. Go further by serving up a new barware set, monogrammed pilsners, or bar decor, such as clocks, signs, picture frames or coasters; gifts sure to match the personality of the coolest person on your list.

Fuel a rebellious style
Ditch the same old hat and glove combo and amp up the cool factor with Harley-Davidson MotorClothes for the chicest on your list. The Vintage Leather Biker Jacket boasts unrivaled classic rebel style on and off a motorcycle. For the woman in your life, consider the Lace Accent Hoodie, which offers a cozy winter look and adds flair to any outfit. 

Celebrate with sound
Bring on the good times with some good ol’ rock and roll. A gift that lets the rocker on your list enjoy their favorite tunes is sure to please. There are countless ways to bring them closer to their favorite sounds, from stylish headphones to Wi-Fi speakers. Or, turn back time with a turn table perfect for kicking back to the sounds of classic vinyl.

Present a project
Inspire the tinkerer on your list to get hands-on with the gift of a special project. Let him learn woodcarving or get started micro-brewing beers. Project packages reflecting nearly every pastime you can imagine – even bacon curing – can be found online.

Stepping off the beaten path and opening up your imagination make finding the perfect gift a more enjoyable endeavor – and make your presents immune to the dreaded re-gift and return list. Check out the guide at, which offers something for everyone, whether they ride or not.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (couple walking)


Gifts that give back

(Family Features) This holiday season, shoppers can put children first by purchasing gifts that help save and protect children around the world. Through gifts that give back and unique handcrafted items, gift-givers can help children around the world.

The newest offering is UNICEF Kid Power, which allows kids to get active and save lives. With the world’s first wearable-for-good™, available at Target this holiday season in blue, orange and two special “Star Wars: Force for Change” editions in black and white, kids go on missions to learn about new cultures and earn points. Points unlock funding from partners, parents and fans, and funds are used by UNICEF to deliver lifesaving packets of therapeutic food to severely malnourished children around the world. UNICEF Kid Power is made possible through the generous support of Disney, “Star Wars: Force for Change” and Target.

Through a partnership with NOVICA, UNICEF Market offers thousands of handcrafted items that support artisans in countries where UNICEF works. From jewelry to home accents and accessories, each item purchased benefits programs that provide children with basic necessities such as lifesaving nutrition, medicine, education, clean water, emergency relief and more.

Holiday shoppers can also give UNICEF Inspired Gifts, actual life-changing and lifesaving items that can be purchased in honor of a loved one and go directly to help children in need in developing countries. Among the gift options are: blankets; a Super Hero Pack that provides vaccines and mosquito nets; and a Therapeutic Food gift – a “miracle food”, which provides nourishment to 10 malnourished children.

Additional holiday gifts that give back through UNICEF partners include:

IKEA Soft Toys for Education: For every IKEA Soft Toy or children’s book sold in IKEA stores through December 26, 2015, the IKEA Foundation will donate 1 euro (approximately $1.12) to UNICEF and Save the Children’s education projects. This year’s collection features one-of-a-kind soft toys designed by children around the world. Children around the U.S. can also enter the IKEA drawing competition for a chance to design their very own dream toy.

Holiday greeting cards: The winning card in the annual Pier 1 Imports® and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF greeting card contest will be sold exclusively at Pier 1 Imports stores nationwide and on during the 2015 holiday season with 100 percent of sales at Pier 1 Imports going to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In addition, boxed holiday cards can be purchased in the UNICEF Market and through Pier 1 Imports, IKEA, Barnes and Noble, and select Hallmark Gold Crown stores, also with 100 percent of the purchase price of cards purchased at Pier 1 Imports and IKEA stores going directly to support UNICEF programs.

H&M: H&M customers can support UNICEF to provide quality education to children living in Myanmar by picking up a special ‘Gift that Gives Back’ gift card at any H&M store from November 5 to December 31. The H&M Conscious Foundation will donate 5% of the total amount uploaded to each gift card.

Be K.I.N.D.: With a contribution of $65, UNICEF can provide a desk and bench for two students through MSNBC’s K.I.N.D.: Kids in Need of Desks. Another option, benefitting girls in Malawi, is a $177 scholarship donation that delivers one year of education, including tuition, room and board, text books, transportation, a school uniform and learning supplies.

Travel for change: Through UNICEF’s Change for Good program on American Airlines, travelers visiting their loved ones this holiday season on select American Airlines international flights can use their spare change to help support UNICEF’s work. For Delta travelers, SkyMiles members can donate their unused frequent flyers miles to the organization for travel in support of lifesaving work for children. To donate miles, visit .


Make your holiday party shine

(Family Features) A table filled with delicious food and dazzling decor surrounded by family and friends is the perfect recipe for a holiday dinner to remember. Once you’ve figured out your menu, be sure to leave time to plan the table decor.

A festive and memorable gathering can be achieved without the fuss by using things you already have around the house. Use these tips to help make your holiday dinner party a success during this most wonderful time of year:

  • Keep things simple. White dinnerware, such as Mikasa’s Ciara dinnerware, which features embossed swirling lines on a durable bone china body, makes a great backdrop to showcase your holiday meal. Look for Ciara, Loria and Ortley white dinnerware sets (16-piece sets) at for $99.
  • Add splashes of color and texture. It’s OK to mix and match patterns, colors and textures on the table. If you have white or solid colored dishes, layer with decorative salad plates or add seasonal glassware or use red napkins, chargers or placemats to create a holiday atmosphere.
  • Be creative with table decorations. Try using things you have in new ways. Scatter candles, ornaments and greenery down the center of the table. Add some holly leaves and berries to a vase or pitcher to complete the look.
  • Don’t skip the details. It’s easy to focus on the bigger elements, but small touches can take your spread to another level. Coordinate details, such as place cards, napkin rings and placemats, with the theme to make your tablescape memorable.

End the evening with a crowd-pleasing dessert, such as this Vanilla-Orange Cheesecake with Cranberry Swirl and Gingersnap Crust.

Vanilla-Orange Cheesecake with Cranberry Swirl and Gingersnap Crust


  • 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup orange juice, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 24-32 purchased gingersnap cookies (to make 1 cup crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 packages (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  1. Heat oven to 300°F.
  2. Simmer cranberries, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup orange juice and water in saucepan over medium-high heat until berries burst and begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes, then in blender or food processor puree until smooth. Set sauce aside.
  3. Coat 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray. Process gingersnaps in food processor until fine; add graham cracker crumbs. With machine running, drizzle in melted butter. Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom of prepared springform pan and about 1 inch up sides of pan. Set aside.
  4. In large mixing bowl, blend cream cheese and remaining sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Scrape sides of bowl, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla and 1 tablespoon orange juice, then pour into prepared pan. Drizzle top of cheesecake with 1/4 cup of prepared cranberry sauce, then drag skewer, toothpick or knife tip through sauce to create marbled swirl pattern on top. Place cheesecake on baking sheet and bake on center rack until edges are set and puffed but center is slightly jiggly, about 45 minutes. Do not overbake. Turn oven off, crack door open slightly and allow cheesecake to cool inside for 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool completely at room temperature, then cover cheesecake with tea towel and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Run knife around sides of cheesecake, then release and remove side of pan. To cut, dip blade of thin, sharp knife into hot water (do not wipe dry) and slice into wedges, cleaning blade between each cut to prevent smearing. Serve with remaining cranberry sauce.