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Add Sparkle to Your Weekend Routine

Collective Bias disclosure 2014

Chores are defined as unpleasant but necessary routine tasks. Well, my weekends are full of them! Chores, routines, and tasks. So I’m always looking for new ways to add sparkle to my weekend routine by removing the “bore” from the chore.

Add Sparkle To Cooking For The Masses

Like most people, I find it challenging to find the time to cook every night of the week.  So I spend Sunday afternoon cooking up two or three recipes in large batches…enough that I’ve got three or four lunches and as many dinners that I can quickly reheat as the week goes along. And as much pleasure as I get from cooking, when you cook in such large quantities it’s not really relaxing – and it’s easy to fall into a rut.

Spending so much time around the stove and kitchen island prepping and cooking food, I like to make sure I have some fresh cut flowers in my line of sight. They really do add something almost magically beautiful to the kitchen landscape.

Add Sparkle

Did you know that adding a 1/4 cup of seltzer water will help keep your flowers fresh?  It works on plants, too. Carbonated water can provide macronutrients, such as potassium, phosphorous, sodium, hydrogen and oxygen. All are essential ingredients, absorbed by the roots of the plant, that will speed the plant’s overall growth.

Add Sparkle To Running Errands

Running around in the car on a hot summer day is tiring and dehydrating. I like to put a bottle of sparkling seltzer water in the freezer for 15 minutes before I head out the door. Then I grab my keys, seltzer and I’m ready to hit the road.

#AddSparkle #CollectiveBias #shop Walmart Canada Dry Sparkling Seltzer for running errands in the car

In between my errands to the dry cleaners, grocery store and pharmacy, I find that drinking ‘deep-chilled’ seltzer water keeps me hydrated, refreshed and less likely to be tempted for a fast food snack. It doesn’t weigh me down the way colas can in oppressive heat – and I’m able to stay focused (and safe) with my full attention on the road.

I’m a nerd for new products. So it’s easy to get me distracted at the grocery store or to lose track of time by going leisurely from aisle to aisle. To make sure I don’t waste time, I make a list BEFORE heading out to the store. I organize the items on my list in the order I’ll find the products INSIDE the store. That way as I go from Produce to Bakery to Meats to Frozen, I have everything grouped for easy access. And if I don’t have any items on my list for, say, the Bakery Department, I skip it altogether. Less temptation, more time for something else.

But I’m not totally inflexible. I do allow myself ONE purchase of an item not on my list. That way I can indulge in moderation, while still staying on track for time and budget.

Add Sparkle To The Never Ending Laundry Pile

With four dogs, it feels like the laundry is never done. And while I’ve successfully avoided using the washer and dryer for up to 10 days (my personal record – so far), letting the laundry pile up makes doing the laundry even worse when I finally face it head on.

So I’ve learned the best way is to keep at it throughout the week – just like doing dishes – so you never have more than 2 or 3 loads TOPS to wash, dry and fold. And as much as I’m tempted to drink while doing laundry, I don’t. You see my washer and dryer are in the basement of my 120-year old house. I have to go down very deep and crooked steps to get to the basement. If I had more than a small alcoholic drink, I’d surely tumble to a fate full of pain.

Instead, I opt for virgin mimosas. I can imagine I’m on a tropical vacation in my mind, while still folding sober. 


#AddSparkle #CollectiveBias #shop Walmart Canada Dry Sparkling Seltzer found in the Flavored Water aisleI found Canada Dry Sparkling Seltzer Water in the Flavored Water aisle at my local Walmart store on this #shop for #Collective Bias. Before you head to your Walmart store, click here to save $1.75 off when you share this page.

Don’t care to share? You can still save by printing this coupon for $0.75 off your next Canada Dry Sparkling Seltzer Water purchase.

How do you #AddSparkle to your routine?


Coconut-Mango Upside Down Baked French Toast, inspired by Disney’s The Jungle Book

featured image of coconut-mango upside down baked french toast #shop #JungleFresh

Collective Bias Social Fabric

I was 5 years old when Disney’s The Jungle Book premiered; it was the first movie I remember seeing in a theater as a child. It was a magical experience and the beginning of a life-long love of great cinema.

Like every kid who saw the movie, I wanted the happy-go-lucky Baloo to be my new best friend in much the same way he befriended Mowgli on his journey into the jungle. I remember singing “The Bare Necessities” so much that it  — or I? — became annoying to everyone around me. And there were so many interesting characters, like Kaa the sneaky snake or King Louie, a crazy orangutan. [I have an older brother Louis, so I could totally relate to that character.]

I was thrilled to learn that Disney is releasing a special Blu-Ray/DVD combo Diamond Edition of The Jungle Book on February 11, 2014, and you can get a free Jungle Book Lunch Box with the purchase of the Diamond Edition (exclusively at Walmart). So I headed off to my local Walmart to pick up some #JungleFresh produce for this #CollectiveBias #shop; I’m planning to make Coconut-Mango Upside Down Baked French Toast that my nieces and nephews are going to love when we watch The Jungle Book together for the first time.

Walmart has fresh, quality produce #shop #JungleFresh

fresh citrus at Walmart #shop #JungleFresh

mangos at Walmart #shop #JungleFresh

JungleFresh Shop Walmart papaya closeup

plantains at Walmart #shop #JungleFresh fresh produce

pummelos at Walmart #shop #JungleFresh

Walmart has really expanded its produce selections; I was surprised to see a strong variety of tropical fruits – including some I’ve never heard of before. I was focusing on mangos and coconut for this recipe but I also picked up a pummelo. I’d never seen one and didn’t know what it was or what it might be used for. Walmart has easy-to-ready signs for its produce that calls out some of the features and benefits of the ingredient, so I learned that pummelos are used in baking. Who knew? So that’s going to be an ingredient for a future recipe challenge!

organizing ingredients for coconut-mango upside down baked French toast #shop #JungleFresh

I got all my ingredients organized, including non-dairy coconut milk and orange-mango juice, to use in the recipe. I’ll also serve these beverages along with the Coconut-Mango Upside Down Baked French Toast.

toasting coconut for the coconut-mango upside down baked French toast #shop #JungleFresh

Toasting coconut flakes in a skillet takes only a few minutes, and the aroma is intoxicating.

slicing mango for the coconut-mango upside down baked French toast #shop #JungleFresh

If you’ve never done it before, slicing a mango can be a bit confusing. This video from the National Mango Board shows you how to cube or slice a mango. It’s surprisingly easy.

coconut-mango upside down baked French toast about to go into the oven #shop #JungleFresh

This is what all of the ingredients will look like inside the prepared pan before you pop it in the oven.

coconut-mango upside down baked french toast #shop #JungleFresh

And here’s what Coconut-Mango Upside Down Baked French Toast looks like on your plate! Topped with the toasted coconut flakes, sliced mango, and honey, the dish is plenty sweet without any additional condiments for me. But you may wish to dust it with some confectioners’ sugar. Any way you serve it up, it is soooooo good.

top the coconut-mango upside down baked French toast with confectioners' sugar, if desired, #shop #JungleFresh

Coconut-Mango Upside Down Baked French Toast

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Coconut-Mango Upside Down Baked French Toast


1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 mangos, thinly sliced
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup mango-orange juice
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
8 slices French bread, sliced 1-inch thick


Preheat your oven to 400 F degrees. Generously grease a 13x9-inch baking pan. Set aside.

Place the flaked coconut in a large skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the flakes are mostly golden brown. Do not overcook.

In a small microwavable bowl, melt the butter. Then mix in the cinnamon, honey and toasted coconut. Pour this mixture into the prepared baking pan, spreading it to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Space the sliced mango evenly over the coconut mixture.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, salt, juice and milk. Dip both sides of the French bread into the egg mixture, letting it soak up the liquid. Then place it in the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Invert onto a serving platter and serve immediately.

The coconut-mango upside down baked French toast is mildly sweet without any garnishes, but you may prefer to sprinkle confectioners' sugar on top or use your favorite syrup.


You could also prepare this the night before, all the way up through placing the French bread slices dipped in egg batter into the prepared pan. Securely wrap with plastic wrap overnight. Remove from the refrigerator while you're preheating the oven. Continue cooking as directed.

Events & Entertaining

Make Game Time Your Time: Be the MVP (most valuable party) host!

Goodies take the gridiron at your sports viewing party.

Collective Bias Social Fabric

Much like a quarterback leading a team to victory, being a host of a successful Game Day party will come down to preparation and teamwork. Now that we know Seattle and Denver will be playing in the Big Game, it’s time to start planning for your football viewing party. With the right preparation, you’ll easily be the MVP (most valuable party) host and – most importantly – you’ll be able to relax and enjoy game time with your guests.

Nestle game time goodies take the gridiron

Game Time Strategy

First, you’ll need a game plan for your party. You don’t want to worry about breaking glasses, doing dishes or being stuck in the kitchen when it’s time for the kickoff. Keep your party supplies basic, including:

  • a tablecloth (or astro turf) that will serve as the gridiron for your #GameTimeGoodies
  • disposable paper cups that can double as snack holders
  • napkins (or paper towels) for any fumbles your guests may make
  • paper plates and/or bowls for larger food items

Your menu also needs a game plan. You want food that will please the crowd, but easy for you to prepare and serve. And you don’t want to spend a fortune. Here are some considerations as you map out your football food strategy:

  • if kids will be attending, smaller portions will reduce waste
  • a crock pot will be your guard on the gridiron, letting you prepare food in advance and keeping it warm until the game ends
  • create a beverage station (or a beverage stadium!) with ice, cups and supplies so guests can serve themselves
  • pre-pour some snacks into small cups to make it easy for guests to start nibbling in the stands
  • decide if you want to serve the entree or main foods at kickoff or the half-time show [I recommend serving snacks immediately when guests arrive, and your entree(s) at kickoff. Then at the start of half-time, it’s easy to break out dessert.]

I found all of my Game Day party food supplies at my local Walmart, including:

  • DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza (Supreme, 4 Cheese, 3 Meat, and Pepperoni) — on Rollback for $4.50
  • Stouffers Party Size Lasagna with Meat & Sauce
  • Hot Pockets Pepperoni Pizza with Garlic Buttery Seasoned Crust (12-value pack)
  • Hot Pockets Ham & Cheese with Croissant Crust (12-value pack)
  • Edy’s Limited Edition Touchdown Sundae Ice Cream
  • Nestle Crunch Dipped DRUMSTICK Cones (my DRUMSTICK kryptonite is the vanilla filled with caramel!)

stocking up for Game Day at Walmart

Cooking for your guests is fun. But not if you’re stuck in the kitchen during the Big Game. So I suggest making a hot dip that can work with many snacks, like potato chips, pretzel rods or sticks, tortilla chips or even veggie sticks. I found a (new to me) flavor of Hot Pockets with a pretzel crust at Walmart that I was dying to try. I cooked them per instructions on the box.  Then I cut them into 8 dipping strips to use with my hot queso blanco dip. Together they were a football fiesta of flavor in my mouth.

queso blanco dip with Hot Pockets dippers

Here’s how to make the queso blanco dip. You’ll need:

  • 16 ounces queso blanco (white American cheese), cubed
  • 4 ounces salsa (choose your favorite spice level)
  • 4 ounces beer

Combine the ingredients in a small crock pot on low heat. Cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

To keep dishes to a minimum, I recommend using disposable paper cups to ladle the queso blanco dip into. Then let guests take their favorite dippers and put inside the cup. It makes for a very portable and mess-less snack.

Fun should be the underlying theme for any party. But with a large crowd, you want to keep food prep to a minimum. An easy “upgrade” that can be a conversation piece is making a pepperoni football on top of your DiGiorno pizza before popping it in the oven. You can see from the images below that I took a 4-cheese pizza and layered 20 pepperoni in the center and topped it with thin strands of mozzarella string cheese. Then bake according to package directions.

make a pepperoni & mozzarella football on top of your pizza

And about 20 minutes later you have hot, bubbling and deliciously gooey pizza for the entire team!

DiGiorno Rising Crust Piza scored with bubbling, golden brown cheeses

Hot Pockets make a popular and easy entree alternative. I found some printable hot food holders on the Internet that I printed out and taped together. It acts like a safety for the Hot Pocket by deflecting any fumbles.

make the hand-off with Hot Pockets

I suggest keeping dessert simple. At the start of half time, break out the Nestle Crunch Dipped DRUMSTICK Cones and Edy’s Touchdown Sundae Ice Cream. It’ll only take 5 minutes to set up, which means you’ll be back on the sofa before the start of the half-time show. Yeah!

Put the DRUMSTICKs, tops down, on top of some ice in a medium-sized bowl. That will keep them cold until your guests grab them. But we both know they’ll be long gone by the time the ice has even begun to melt!

Nestle Crunch Dipped DRUMSTICKS make a great half-time treat

And setting up an Edy’s ice cream station is simple, too. Scoop the ice cream into small bowls, ramekins or coffee cups. Let your guests top with hot fudge or sprinkles, as they wish. They grab a spoon and go! You could even use the disposable paper cups to reduce the dishes to wash after the game.

make a play for Edy's grand ice cream touchdown sundae

How Do You Avoid The Quarterback Scramble?

A great party takes teamwork. Share your favorite Game Day party planning tips, favorite #GameTimeGoodies or which team you’ll be rooting for during the Big Game below.

Kitchen Confessions

2014: Getting Back On Track with Lean Cuisine #WowThatsGood

Getting Back on Track with Lean Cuisine

Collective Bias Social Fabric

Are you still feeling a bit ‘hung over’ from the holidays? I am. It’s so easy to over indulge at family gatherings and social functions with sweets and other foods that are better for you in moderation. But feeling guilty isn’t going to solve anything. The hardest thing for me to do in any aspect of my life is to achieve balance. I’m usually an ‘all-in’ kind-of-guy, whether it’s at work, with family and friends – anything. Achieving balance within each part of my life and among each of those parts is a personal challenge for me. Especially when it comes to a balanced approach to eating. I want to start 2014 strong by making a conscious effort toward getting back on track. Nestle® has a number of products, especially an expanded line of Lean Cuisine® prepared foods, snacks and Skinny Cow® chocolates, that I’m going to lean on to make the process a little less daunting.

I practically lived on Lean Cuisine back in college, especially the Spaghetti & Meatballs and Meatloaf & Mashed Potatoes. They were affordable (important for a college student with no real income), well-portioned and quite tasty. After college, when I first started working in downtown Chicago’s Financial District, I depended on Lean Cuisine for a quick, affordable and satisfying lunch. Eating out everyday was expensive, and trying to get out of a skyscraper building just to grab a quick bite would take at least 20 minutes each way.  That’s anything BUT quick! And there weren’t many healthy options that were easily accessible, so Lean Cuisine was a great option. I remember stocking up my freezer with Lean Cuisine’s Swedish Meatballs at least once a month to have on hand for lunch at the office. And their French bread pizza was my go-to late night snack of choice!

Fast forward to 2014. While I want to be conscious of my meal choices, some things I’m not going to give up…like my morning coffee. Before I started using CoffeeMate®’s Sugar-Free French Vanilla creamer, I’d use sugar and half-and-half to create a cafe au lait concoction. But with Sugar-Free French Vanilla creamer, I don’t have to add anything else. That’s a great way to reduce some of the excess sugar that can sneak into your food and drink.

Nestle CoffeeMate French Vanilla Sugar Free Creamer

Getting Back On Track

One of the things that can shoot down any attempt to make better meal choices is poor planning. So I made myself a list of what I needed and headed off to my local Walmart to stock up my freezer. I was pleasantly surprised that in addition to the classic Lean Cuisine meals I have loved for years, there are several new cuisine lines featuring a staggering array of choices, including:

  • LEAN CUISINE® Morning Collection™ Turkey Sausage English Muffin [I can’t wait to try this!]
  • LEAN CUISINE® Simple Favorites™ Macaroni and Cheese
  • LEAN CUISINE® Wrap ADDITIONS™ Creamy Balsamic Chicken
  • LEAN CUISINE® Culinary Collection™ Sesame Chicken
  • LEAN CUISINE® Culinary Collection™ Three Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Pretzels 

Here are some of my favorite Lean Cuisine dishes, snacks and Skinny Cow chocolate treats. You can tell when you see them, and especially when you taste them, that they’re all made with quality ingredients.

Nestle SkinnyCow at Walmart

The Skinny Cow divine filled chocolates are available at Walmart. My favorite is the milk chocolate filled with caramel!

Lean Cuisine Culinary Collection Sesame Chicken

As you can see, the actual Lean Cuisine Sesame Chicken dish looks exactly like the image on the packaging (below).

 Lean Cuisine Culinary Collection Sesame Chicken packaging

See what I mean! And I could taste the top quality of the sesame breaded chicken tenderloins. #WowThatsGood
Lean Cuisine Wrap Additions Creamy Balsamic Chicken 1

It was fun putting together the creamy balsamic chicken wrap. It takes about 30 seconds to spread out the balsamic…

Lean Cuisine Wrap Additions Creamy Balsamic Chicken 2

…then add the Lean Cuisine chicken and veggies…and you’re ready to roll the wrap. There’s enough for two small wraps or one large wrap!

Lean Cuisine Culinary Collection 3 Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Pretzels

Every balanced meal program needs snack options. And I fell in love with these stuffed pretzels. They look a bit small right out of the package, but they puff while they’re being cooked in the microwave. Totally satisfying! Each box has two servings — just in case you want to share. Sharing is not mandatory!

Right now, Lean Cuisine is offering a 10-Day TRY-IT program which includes:

  • Personalized menu of 10 dishes via email
  • Lean Cuisine coupon for a buy-9-get-1-free offer via email
  • Access to a special offer Skinny Cow coupon (up to $5.49).
  • Entry into the Ultimate TRY-IT Sweepstakes for a chance to win $10,000

It’s simple to participate. Enjoy Lean Cuisine protein-packed dishes for 10 days. If you don’t feel great after 10 days, Lean Cuisine offers a money-back guarantee.

I’m on Day 3 of the 10-Day TRY-IT program, and so far my favorite has been the stuffed pretzels for a snack and the sesame chicken for lunch. Share your favorite Lean Cuisine dish in the comments section below, and let’s get back on track together!