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Target Is Now Selling Wine for 5 Bucks

Target Is Now Selling Wine for 5 BucksWhether you call it “Target” or “Tarjay,” you probably never called it the place where you plunked down a fiver and came away with a bottle of wine “carefully crafted with premium, California-grown grapes.” Now you can.

The “cheap chic” discount chain has just introduced a new line of wines under an in-house label, California Roots, that all retail for $5 a bottle. The five wines, each boasting its varietal in an attractive font and on a boldly colored label seemingly tailored to millennial tastes (anyone else reminded of this?), went on sale at more than 1,100 Target stores nationwide on Sept. 3.

The line’s Chardonnay, in a green-gold bottle with a peach-colored label, features “lush tropical fruit flavors and a bright finish” and pairs well with “artisanal cheeses and freshly baked bread,” according to a press release.

Pinot Grigio, in a clear bottle with a blue label, offers “vibrant citrus and tropical fruit flavors,” the release notes, suggesting pairings of “crisp green salads and fresh fish.”

Moscato (clear bottle, green label) provides “delicate aromas and creamy peach and melon flavors” and is good with “sweet, freshly picked berries,” Target maintains.

Cabernet Sauvignon (dark-green bottle, deep-red label) is characterized by “juicy cherry flavors” and “hints of oak and graceful finish” and holds up well to “thick ribeye steaks,” according to the company.

And California Roots’ Red Blend is graced with “smooth berry and cherry flavors with hints of spice” that complement “wild mushroom pasta and grilled vegetables,” Target says.

The line of wines is aiming to appeal to oenophile shoppers, including those with shallow pockets, by providing what Jeff Burt, Target senior vice president of food and beverage, described in a statement as “incredible quality and amazing value.”

Watch your back, Two Buck Chuck.

Photo courtesy of @TargetNews

What Food Do People in Your State Hate the Most?

What Food Do People in Your State Hate the Most?Do you live in Florida and hate licorice? In Louisiana and disdain cookies with raisins? In Michigan and revile cold pizza? Are you an Ohioan who can’t abide pesto? (Also, hey, what’s wrong with pesto?)

If you answered any of those questions in the affirmative, you may take comfort that you are surrounded by people who share your negative food associations. (Strange thing to take comfort in, perhaps, but can’t we all use all the comfort we can get?)

A dating app called Hater, which pairs people up based on the things both parties hate — “Meet someone who hates the same stuff,” the app’s website trumpets — has created a map, reflecting data compiled from its users, that reveals the foods people in each state hate most.

The results are surprisingly varied and probably reveal a lot about us — prompting all sorts of questions about the reasons behind the scorn.

For instance, it makes sense that denizens of Washington state — home of Starbucks — are not so hot on Keurig K-Cups. Oklahoma, with its cattle ranches, understandably is not big on veggie burgers. It’s probably lucky that landlocked Kansas doesn’t like shellfish. And West Virginia probably didn’t have to tell us they weren’t into tofu; we may have assumed as much.

On the other hand, what did tuna salad ever do to Georgia? And how did Wisconsin settle on Lunchables, of all things, as the food it most reviles? And sorry, Utah, but your distaste for balsamic vinegar seems a little random, although not so random as Missouri’s strong negativity toward “the last bite of a hot dog.” The Show-Me State is showing itself to be a real head-scratcher on that one.

Also, a food-hatred-map-based word to the wise: Don’t dab pizza grease with your napkin in Virginia or reach for the corner piece of a brownie in Maryland or put ranch dressing on your pizza in New York and expect to find a big group of like-minded friends.

You’ve been warned.

Map courtesy of Hater

Care for a Gold-Covered Ice Cream Cone Dripping With Edible Diamonds?

Care for a Gold-Covered Ice Cream Cone Dripping With Edible Diamonds?We all scream for ice cream, but the price of a soft-serve cone currently available at an ice-cream boutique in the London department store Selfridges may instead make you gasp: Snowflake Luxury Gelato’s “The Billionaire” will cost you £99, which at today’s exchange rate is about $128 U.S.

For a price like that (note: could be worse), you’d think the thing would be covered with diamonds and gold — and guess what? It is!

Weighing nearly a pound, the deluxe, made-to-order dessert features “Persian blue” salted-caramel gelato in a house-made waffle cone “dipped in rare 75% criollo cocoa single plantation Madagascan dark chocolate” and is adorned with mango, ginger and passion-fruit gelato spheres, according to Snowflake Gelato.

Toppings include caramelized pecans and a salted-caramel-filled Belgian white-chocolate truffle as well as a white-chocolate-glazed, raspberry sorbet-filled macaroon on which sits a sparkling tiara of edible diamonds. Pretty as a princess.

But the luxury lick’s bling doesn’t stop there. The whole thing is ablaze with bits of 24-carat gold leaf and crowned with a whopping gold flake.

If you’re planning to pop for it, schedule a little extra time in your shopping expedition. The towering treat takes about 15 minutes to pull together, the New York Post reports. But given the melt factor, you should probably snap and share your photos a bit more speedily than that. Otherwise, you may seriously be dripping with diamonds.

Photo courtesy of @snowflakegelato

Can You Really Slash Sugar From Your Diet? 

Trying to tame your sweet tooth? You may have heard, “sugar is in everything.” So how can you cut out sugar — and why is it a good idea?

First, narrow your target to “added sugars” versus natural sugars found in fruit and dairy foods. Starting in July 2018, “added sugars” will be clearly marked on food nutrition labels. Until then, look for these words on ingredient lists: syrup, honey, cane, agave, fruit juice concentrates and words ending in ‘ose.’ These are simple sugars. “Simple sugars can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar. This, in turn, triggers a swift increase in insulin, which signals your body to store more fat – especially belly fat,” explains registered dietitian nutritionist Kristina LaRue, author of the Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies.

That spike in blood sugar can wreak havoc on your emotions too. And your hunger cues: when your blood sugar goes way up, it tends to come crashing way, way down, so you may feel hungrier than you would have, had you not consumed that sweet tea.

Crushing your sugar habit is about re-wiring your taste buds. You want to try to get to a point where some really sweet foods and drinks actually taste too saccharin. Surprisingly, this can happen in about a month.

Here’s our plan on how to strip some of the sugar from your day:

 

At Home

If it’s not in your house, you can’t eat it when you’re stressed or tired, which is when we tend to crave sugary hits. On the contrary, if your pantry is stocked with foods that provide energy and satisfaction, you’ll be less likely to stop for a caramel-drenched latte on the way to work.

  • Purge your house of sodas, fruit drinks, sweet teas, even sweetened “healthy” drinks like fizzy probiotic beverages. Instead, purchase flavored seltzer waters with zero sugar or artificial sweeteners or drink plain water.
  • Dump condiments like barbecue sauce or low-fat salad dressings with high fructose corn syrup or sugar.
  • Dial down the sweetness in yogurts and milk alternatives; sweetened soy milk can have 15 grams of added sugar per serving. Get your taste buds used to plain yogurt sweetened with fruit. (Yes, really!)
  • Always keep frozen fruit on hand to cure sweet cravings. Frozen raspberries are one of the fruits lowest in natural sugar content and have more fiber than any other berry (9 grams per cup). And, with only 80 antioxidant-rich calories per 1 whole cup, they will likely make your sweet tooth smile.
  • Start your day with something savory. When the first thing you eat is a white chocolate covered granola bar, it tends to set you up for a day of sweet treats. Instead, grab a cheese sandwich, or a couple hardboiled eggs with a few shakes of curry powder.

 

At Work

To state the obvious, ditch the donuts. Then focus on ways to stay satisfied throughout the work day to avoid sweet splurges.

  • Don’t forget about fats. Make sure your lunch contains some satisfying fat to ward off afternoon cravings. Omega-3 fats are especially satisfying and have even been found to decrease belly fat, says LaRue. Pack flax seed or chia seed topped yogurt for desktop dining. Order omega-3 rich fish for lunch.
  • Type this into your calendar: “Snack on 23 almonds at 3:00 pm,” for good monounsaturated fats and 6 grams of satisfying protein. If it’s in your calendar it will probably get done.
  • Plan for sweets. Stress triggers sweet cravings. Keep individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate in your desk. Compared to candy or milk chocolate, dark chocolate keeps your palate focused on less-sweet tastes.
  • Steer clear of soda. Non-diet soda is an obvious no-go, but even diet soda has crazy-sweet flavor. Remember, you’re trying to titrating down your taste buds’ love of sweet. Ask to stock the soda machine with some seltzer.

 

At Parties

There will be birthday parties, celebrations, and dinners out with friends. No need to make a scene about sugar avoidance. Instead:

  • Eat before you go. The best way to keep your metabolism functioning at its peak is to eat every three to four hours. So don’t go starved, and sugar avoidance will be easier.
  • Enjoy it! No #foodguilt here. Don’t let staying away from sugar become an obsession.
  • Practice success. “People who are successful at making healthy eating part of their everyday lifestyle are the ones who occasionally treat themselves while also transforming some of their favorite sweet foods into healthier options,” explains LaRue. Practice getting back on track.

 

Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Diet 101: the Sirtfood Diet

Developed by two UK-based men with master’s degrees in nutritional medicine, the diet has become very popular among celebrities and athletes in the UK. Both Pippa Middleton and Adele are rumored to have followed this plan. Like many other diets, the Sirtfood Diet touts effective and sustained weight loss, incredible energy and glowing health. But is the Sirtfood Diet another diet fad, or is there any truth to its claims?

 

About the Diet

The plan claims that eating certain foods will activate your “skinny gene” pathway and have you losing seven pounds in seven days. Foods like kale, dark chocolate, and wine contain a natural chemical called polyphenols that mimic the effects of exercise and fasting. Strawberries, red onions, cinnamon, and turmeric are also powerful sirtfoods. These foods will trigger the sirtuin pathway to help trigger weight loss.  The science sounds enticing, but in reality there’s little research to back up these claims. Plus, the promised rate of weight loss in the first week is rather quick and not in line with the National Institute of Health safe weight loss guidelines of one to two pounds per week.

The diet has two phases:

  • Phase 1 last for seven days. For the first three days, you drink three sirtfood green juices and one meal rich in sirtfoods for a total of 1,000 calories. On days four through seven, you drink two green juices and two meals for a total of 1,500 calories.
  • Phase 2 is a 14-day maintenance plan, although it is designed for your to lose weight steadily (not maintain your current weight). Each day consists of three balanced sirtfood meals and one green juice.

 

After these three weeks, you’re encouraged to continue eating a diet rich in sirtfoods and drinking a green juice daily. You can find several sirtfood cookbooks online and recipes on the sirtfood website. One green juice recipe found on the sirtfood website consists of a combo of kale and other leafy greens, parsley, celery, green apple, ginger, lemon juice and matcha. Buckwheat and lovage are also ingredients that are recommended for use in your green juice. They diet recommends that juices should be made in a juicer, not a blender, so it tastes better.

A day on the sirtfood diet might look like this:

Breakfast: Soy yogurt with mixed berries, chopped walnuts and dark chocolate

Lunch: A sirtfood salad made with kale, parsley, celery, apple, walnuts topped with olive oil mixed with lemon juice and ginger.

Dinner: Stir-fried prawns with kale and buckwheat noodles.

*Plus one sirtfood green juice per day.

 

The Costs

You really need to plan and have access to the recommended ingredients in order to properly follow this diet. You’ll also need to invest in a decent juicer, which can cost you a minimum of $100. Besides the free recipes available on the website, you may need to invest in some of The Sirtfood Diet cookbooks.

Seasonality of ingredients makes it a bit tough to get strawberries and kale certain times of the year. It’s also tough to follow when traveling, at social events and feeding a family with young kids.

The diet itself cuts out numerous food groups and is limiting. Dairy foods, which provide an array of essential nutrients including several that most folks lack, aren’t recommended on the plan. Further, the polyphenol-rich food matcha often contains lead in the tea leaves which is potentially dangerous to your health especially when taken regularly. It also has a strong and bitter flavor, as does 85% dark chocolate, which is also recommended.

The Bottom Line: Polyphenol-rich foods can certainly be included in a weight loss plan, but they aren’t the basis for an entire diet.  You most certainly don’t need wine and dark chocolate every day, plus too much matcha is potentially dangerous.

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Why Your Chicken Wing Obsession Might Get Expensive

Why Your Chicken Wing Obsession Might Get ExpensiveFootball season is just kicking off, but this year may bring a new challenge for fans who like to snack while they watch the game (which is to say, all fans): a looming chicken wing shortage.

Just let the very concept coat your consciousness like hot, buttery buffalo sauce.

Wholesale prices for chicken wings have reached record highs, the Wall Street Journal reports, prompting sports bars and restaurants who serve them up to the hungry game-watching crowds to either hoist the prices on their menus, winnow portion sizes or cut back on their promotional offers.

“It’s a very big deal for everyone that has wings on their menu,” Bonnie Riggs, a restaurant analyst at the market research firm NPD, told the Journal.

Not to mention for everyone that orders wings from their menu.

The issue? Wing supply simply cannot keep up with soaring demand. Americans just cannot get enough wings, gobbling them up as speedily as they are produced. (What, they can make cars that drive themselves, but they can’t make four-winged chickens?)

Consequently, restaurants that focus on wings, like Buffalo Wild Wings and Wingstop, are flying high and rapidly expanding, even as other kinds of food-service enterprises are fumbling, Bloomberg reports. What’s more, pizza chains, delis and grocery stores are increasingly offering wings as an option as well.

All of that translates to a lot of wings going down a lot of gullets — and prices that have risen to $2.09 a pound in August from $1.50 per pound the year prior amidst increasingly scarce supply, Bloomberg reports. That’s driving some companies to increasingly try to sell consumers on “boneless” wings, which are made from breast meat and sound more like chicken tenders. We’ll see how they fly with the wing-craving masses.

Photo: iStock

Are You a Healthy Snacker?

We have become a snacking nation, but that doesn’t mean everyone snacks healthfully. Snacking on high calorie foods with few nutrients can lead to weight gain and unhealthy eating habits. And mindlessly munching on a bag of chips (yes, even veggie chips!) in front of the TV at night is not a healthy habit either. So how can you tell if you’re a healthy snacker? See how you answer the following 5 questions.

1. Are you having a snack or a treat?

A snack is a mini meal that provides nutrients you may not be getting enough of during regular meals, such as fiber, calcium, vitamin D and potassium. A treat is a food that provides very little (if any) nutrition, but contains a lot of calories such as a doughnut or bag of potato chips.

To become a healthy snacker: Think before eating. If it’s a snack, then enjoy it! If it’s a treat, ask yourself if you really need it and if not, swap it for a healthier choice.

 

2.Do you really need the snack?

Snacks shouldn’t be eaten just for the sake of having something in your mouth or to alleviate boredom. They should be eaten if you are truly hungry, like if you go five or more hours between meals without food (not counting sleep time).

To become a healthy snacker: Pre-plan snack times one to two times per day when you find yourself the hungriest

 

3. Are you carb-overloading?

Although whole grain pretzels or crackers sound like a healthy snack, they’re more satisfying when combined with a protein or healthy fat which helps slow down digestion and keep you satisfied for longer.

To become a healthy snacker: Combine carbs with protein or healthy fat such as Greek yogurt topped with berries, or whole grain crackers topped with peanut butter.

 

4. Are you controlling your portions?

Having the right foods and the right time is important, but you also need to eat these foods in appropriate portions. Some foods are very healthy, but when eaten in large quantities can add hundreds of unnecessary calories to your day.

To become a healthy snacker: Aim to have snacks between 125 to 200 calories each. Review the nutrition facts panel of packaged foods for recommended serving sizes and calories per serving.

 

5. Are you a packaged food snacker?

Many packaged foods aren’t as healthy as they seem. Some may contain few calories…but few vitamins and minerals too. Other can be laden with artery clogging fat and loads of calories.

To become a healthy snacker: Control the ingredients by preparing a few snacks at home. Here are DIY snack recipes to try:

 

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

How Today’s Supermarkets Are Totally Changing the Way You Shop

By Alex Van Buren

If you’ve downloaded a supermarket’s app, ordered groceries online, or sat down with a cup of coffee inside a grocery store, you can sense that the way we buy food these days is changing. Innovations in the grocery industry have been simmering for a while now, but lately it feels like things are ramping up. In particular, tech behemoth Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods (and how quickly they’re already working to drop prices at the notoriously spend-y chain) signals coming disruption that’s going to be bigger than meal kits or digital coupons.

Robert Hetu, research director for Gartner, an information technology research company that advises retail clients, and Joseph Turow, author of the new book The Aisles Have Eyes, and professor at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, agree that although grocery stores once lagged behind in this era’s culture of change, they’re quickly catching up. Here’s how technology and other new tactics are totally altering your food shopping experience — whether you realize it or not.

Most of us are still shopping at brick and mortars, but online shopping (and that automatic re-order feature) is on the rise.

“Most grocery-store shopping is still done in the traditional way,” Hetu says. But he thinks that by “by 2020, about 50-percent of home products will be auto-replenished.” If you choose to have regular purchases (detergent, sandwich bags, even snacks) magically appear on your doorstep every so often, it totally changes your relationship with your grocery store. Not only do auto-reordering features provide companies with data about how you use their products, but they also automate your loyalty to a specific brand. In a store, you might pass over your usual item if you see something new (or different brand at a sale price) on shelves. But if the same ol’ dish soap shows up instantly, comparison shopping is not top of mind.

And when we do shop in stores, companies are getting us to reveal exactly where we are inside.

These days, retailers aren’t only interested in what you buy, but also your shopping patterns and behaviors — and today’s technologies provide more insights than ever before.

For instance, grocery stores will entice you to download their apps (the allure of discounts makes that pretty easy), keep them running, and enable location-tracking. Then, they can potentially pinpoint the aisle you’re in, how long you’ve been there, and what product you’re looking at. In the future, here’s how they could use that data: Let’s say you stand in front of some fancy tuna and consider it for a while. You’re undecided — but then a notification pops up on your phone offering a discount for that tuna. Are you willing to share this much data to score a deal? More and more, we’re doing it without batting an eye. “Stores are basically teaching us that to get along in the 21st century, you have to give up your data,” says Turow.

If you connect to a store’s WiFi network, they’re tracking you more easily that way, too. And a store’s beacon technology, which tries to “wake up” the apps on your phone when you walk in, can also find you. “If you think your app is off, you could be wrong,” says Turow. “A lot of apps sleep — but then can open and follow you.”

And even non-grocery apps could get some skin this game. It might seem strange for, say, a music-streaming app to request access to your location. Why would it need to know where you are? Well, that music company might sell that data to other companies (like your grocer), if such intent is outlined in its privacy policy — which few of us read, Turow says. Take a look at those agreements to know what permissions you’ve granted an app and then you can really decide if you’re comfortable with it.

So stores are working harder to get us in the door — and then stick around.

These days, attention spans are short, calendars are full, and we’re more likely to turn to digital shopping options than ever before. In response, have you noticed it feels a like a party in your supermarket lately? Some upscale grocers are trying out offering fun add-ons like wine tastings, cooking demos, coffee shops or even restaurants. “Those are certainly smart ways to help encourage the customers to stay in the store,” Hetu says. They’re fighting our tendency to want an in-and-out experience when we shop for food.

But some stores are leaning into the customer’s desire to get in and out faster than ever. 

Small format stores (where it’s easier to grab-and-go), curbside pickup and self-checkout machines are newer tactics aimed at helping busy shoppers, and some companies are exploring ways to make grocery shopping even more frictionless. Amazon recently began to test a store in Seattle in which customers’ every moves are tracked and payment is automatic.

You scan your phone when you walk in, which logs you into the store’s network. (Sound familiar? Yes, they’re collecting data at this point, too.) Take something from the shelf, and sensors and artificial intelligence will know that you picked it up (or if you put it back). When you’re done shopping, your virtual cart will have logged everything you grabbed, you leave the store, and Amazon charges your account. No money changes hands, and there is no checkout line.

Artificial intelligence and virtual reality are the next frontier.

Maybe you already call to Siri to add paper towels to your grocery list, or ask Google Assistant for recipe recommendations. In the not-so-distant future, you’ll likely be able to take that technology into the grocery store with you and use AI to get recipe recommendations, nutritional info, or find the location of a product in a store. “Voice-driven apps are going to make a very big difference,” Hetu says.

Virtual reality has yet to be widely integrated in supermarkets, but Hetu points to Lowe’s new VR experience (which helps customers learn to do DIY projects, like install tile) as an example of how retailers are experimenting with the technology. Imagine being able to “walk around” and browse a virtual supermarket without even having to leave your couch — one day, that could be as mundane as getting into your car and actually going to the supermarket now.

And could chip implants be the frequent-shopper card of the future?

“A consultant I listened to at an industry conference thinks that by 2028 people will have chips in their arms,” Turow says. By doing so, “a store could lower a price if you have a physical reaction reveals that you’re nervous. Or if they see that you’re holding the product for a certain number of seconds, they might change the price.”

This sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but one company in Wisconsin recently put chips in the arms of employees who volunteered to try it out; the chips allow them to open doors, log-on to computers and buy snacks with just the wave of hand.

As consumers, it’s important to stay informed about these new technologies and marketing tactics, and take stock of how they might be changing your shopping habits — otherwise, you might not even realize it. But also don’t forget to marvel at the fact that the future is here, and it’s weird.

Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel & Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.

Photos: Hoxton/Tom Merton/Getty; Maskot/Getty; David Ryder/Getty

10 After-School Snacks That Travel Well and Keep Kids Full

Chocolate Chip-Cranberry Oat CupsGulp. It’s finally happening. Our kids are starting dance lessons and after-school basketball this year. That means shuttling kids — hungry kids — every which way. That’s where these super satisfying snacks come in. Basically, they’re saving us. Each of these bites is low in sugar, high on taste and aimed at keeping kids fueled until dinner.

Chocolate Chip-Cranberry Oat Cups (pictured above)
If you’re looking for healthy snacks that just happen to be delicious too, consider these oat cups.

Popcorn with Herbs de Provence and Asiago CheeesGiada De Laurentiis’ Cheesy Popcorn
Topped with herbs de Provence and asiago cheese, this crunchy popcorn will satisfy salty cravings in an easy way.

Mac 'n Cheese BitesMac ‘n Cheese Bites
What’s better than a bowl of mac and cheese? Portable mac and cheese, of course.

Cinnamon Pumpkin MuffinsCinnamon Pumpkin Muffins
Canned pumpkin can be used for more than just pumpkin pie! Here it’s transformed into the tastiest snack of the season.

Sweet or Savory Sheet-Pan Pancakes To-GoSweet or Savory Sheet-Pan Pancakes To-Go
Not only are these not-just-for-breakfast treats made in a simple sheet pan, but they can also be flavored with sweet peaches or savory bacon and cheese.

Chocolate Graham CrackersChocolate Graham Crackers
Trust me: These are easier than they look. And, yes, you can cut them out into whatever shape you’d like.

Strawberry-Pretzel Snack MixStrawberry-Pretzel Snack Mix
Yogurt-covered pretzels, freeze-dried strawberries, pretzel sticks and cereal swirl together with a coating of butter and brown sugar for a grab-and-go option.

Chocolate Fruit & Nut BallsChocolate Fruit & Nut Balls
The perfect after-school snack, these balls travel beautifully, and, bonus, they take only 10 minutes to make.

Granola BarsGranola Bars
These are so much fresher than anything you’ll find at the store.

Healthy Apple Spice Quick BreadHealthy Apple Spice Quick Bread
Packed with fresh apples and all the warmth of cinnamon, this quick bread is always a hit.

Charity Curley Mathews is a mom of four small kids who blogs at Foodlets.com about simple recipes full of fresh ingredients for busy families and beginner cooks. She lives in North Carolina with her family, two naughty puppies and 60,000 bees. You can follow her on Facebook.

6 No-Fuss, Portable Sides to Bring to This Weekend’s Labor Day Celebration

The last party of the summer requires flexibility — you want make thoughtful dishes that showcase the last of the summer’s best flavors, but you also want to enjoy a little downtime on the long weekend. So if you’re invited to a Labor Day barbecue, bring a side dish that conforms to any schedule — even the laziest ones. These are the kinds of sides that get better when they sit for a little while, taste great at room temperature, and are super easy to make-ahead and grab right before you go to the party.

Cowboy Caviar (above)

An Oklahoma favorite, this zesty, sturdy corn-and-bean salad gets even more flavorful the longer the ingredients hang out together. You can certainly eat it with a fork, but it’s way more fun to scoop it with tortilla chips.

Spicy Cornbread

Poblano peppers, cayenne, coriander and garlic give a classic cornbread base a little bit of heat. And this easy recipe is just as delicious (and zippy) at room temperature as it is served warm.

Shrimp Scampi Pasta Salad

There’s no mayo in this pasta salad (but there is plump shrimp, bursting tomatoes and crunchy green beans), so it can withstand a little time outside the fridge.

Grilled Ratatouille

This charred riff on a classic French dish is great all smoky and warm, right off the grill. But we also happily file it under the “make-ahead” category, since it’s perfect loaded onto bread at room temperature too.

Tomato, Onion and Cucumber Salad

Rachael Ray’s bright and sunny veggie side takes mere minutes to prep (seriously — combine kirby cucumbers, plum tomatoes, red onion, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper and you’re done). But it needs to stand for 20 minutes before serving so everything can marinade a little bit. So toss it at home (right in a container with a lid) and it’ll be ready to eat when you get to the cookout.

Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs

Farro won’t get soggy on the car ride from your house to the party — Giada De Laurentiis’s recipe (which beautifully melds Italian flavors like balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and garlic) can even stand in your fridge overnight before you serve it.

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