Mac and Cheese, Please!

The frozen meal industry is huge, with hundreds of types to choose from in every supermarket. The history of frozen food and the “TV dinner” is quite extensive. No one really knows who deserves the credit for coming up with the concept, but one company, Swanson, was the first to be successful with their frozen “Thanksgiving Dinner.” Clarence Birdseye deserves credit for developing the system for packing and “flash-freezing” food at its peak freshness. Swanson then used Birdseye’s system and combined it with the idea of compartmentalized meals and BOOM, the frozen entrée was born! One of the most popular frozen meals today is the always delicious, mac n’ cheese. We chose three brands to taste and below you can read our honest review with a brief history of each.

Stouffer’s
The first Stouffer’s restaurant named “Stouffer Lunch” was opened in Cleveland in 1924. Over time, the company continued to expand and the Stouffer’s restaurants served over 14 million meals a year while they began creating frozen entrées. Then in 1973, Stouffer’s was acquired by Nestlé and 8 years later, a new line of entrées called “Lean Cuisine” was released. By 1990 the Stouffer’s name was on 68 restaurants and 40 major resorts and hotels. However, in 1992 the businesses were all sold off to focus solely on frozen meals.

Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars

It was the consensus that Stouffer’s has the sharpest and cheesiest flavor of the three brands. The texture of the sauce is a bit gritty especially as the sauce cools, but the noodles were the softest. There is an adequate amount of sauce for the macaroni pasta. It isn’t as smooth as the others, but it is thicker and still very creamy.

Amy’s
Amy’s began in the small kitchen of Andy and Rachel Berliner’s when they were unable to find a premade organic, vegetarian meal that they liked. They began making pot pies to sell locally and at that time they had no idea how big the business would become. As things began to pick up, letters of thanks and requests for new recipes came pouring in. After much deliberation, it was decided that the company would be named after their daughter, Amy, born the same year. Business continued to boom and today, Amy’s continues to provide organic, vegetarian, non-GMO food that is handmade with the freshest ingredients. They offer hundreds of meal options including several for those with gluten and dairy dietary restrictions.

Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars

Amy’s definitely has the smoothest sauce, which floods the harder, chewier texture of the classic macaroni pasta. The sauce has a runnier consistency than the other two brands, but it adds a certain decadent creaminess. The flavor is milder than that of Stouffer’s, but it is still easy to pick out the sharpness of the cheese.

365 Brand
365 is Whole Food’s “Everyday Value Brand” known for being a great product and a high value for the price. The original Whole Foods Market was opened in 1980 with the goal of providing natural foods in the format of a supermarket. Since then the company has continued to grow and has acquired or merged with multiple companies. In 2016, they began opening their new store concept by the name of 365 by Whole Foods Market. This “smaller-store concept offers healthy, high-quality food at great prices.”

Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars

The 365 brand has the most unique flavor, though it wasn’t the cheesiest. It has more a of “spiced or peppery” taste and is much milder than the others. It also lacked in creaminess with a want for more sauce to go with the larger, shell-like pasta. The noodles have a good texture with not being too soft or chewy – somewhat in the middle of the Stouffer’s and Amy’s brands.

Apple Watch VS. FitBit Blaze: What fits your lifestyle better?

Are you in the market for a smart watch, but not sure which one is right for you? We did a side-by-side comparison of the Apple Watch 3 Series and the Fitbit Blaze that might help make your decision a little easier.

Both smart watches are equipped with the ability to track your heartrate, which encourages a better understanding of heart health. The Apple Watch even sends notifications if it notices your BPM (beats per minute) are high while you’re at rest for at least 10 minutes.

Track workouts and get workout summaries with both devices. Aside from tracking daily activity like steps, both are able to track workouts like running and biking. With Fitbit, you can also track your weight lifting workouts and with SmartTrack it will recognize select activities and record it in the exercise section of the Fitbit app.

Both devices use GPS to connect to your phone and will record live data such as pace, distance, elevation and route map. This allows you to track your progress for activities like outdoor walking and running.

The Apple Watch Series 3 is water resistant and can be used in shallow water activities like swimming in a pool to track your laps, distance and calories. The Fitbit Blaze is not water resistant and should not be submerged in water.

Unlike the Apple Watch, the Fitbit Blaze is equipped with the ability to track your sleep cycle to let you know how well you’re sleeping at night. Using the Sleep stages tool, you can see the amount of time you spend in light sleep, deep sleep and REM sleep each night.

Both watches come with a feature that assists with guided breathing. Studies have shown that if you take a few minutes a day to concentrate on your breathing, you can reduce anxiety and stress levels.

Get your text, call and app notifications on either of these smart watches with GPS ability. With the Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS and the Fitbit Blaze, you must be within about 30 feet of your phone in order to receive alerts, unless you are connected to WiFi. If you opt to go with the Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS + Cellular, you can get your notifications from anywhere, no matter how far away you are from your phone.(This requires an extra charge on your cell phone bill).

The Apple Watch and Fitbit are both able to connect to your phone to control your favorite workout playlist. Easily play, pause and skip songs right from your wrist!
As you can see, both the Apple Watch and Fitbit Blaze are comparable as far as what they can do with a couple of differences. The final decision comes down to your main purpose for the watch as well as compatibility with your phone and the price difference.

Pets of the Month

Hi there! My name is Riley! I am an almost 6-year-old Pekingese who had a run in with two cars when I was a puppy and lost my eye. That doesn’t stop me from being ornery and an attention hog. I love blankets, ice cream and going for walks. My people and I are new to Rockledge Oaks in Lincoln, NE and I love our new home and all of my new puppy friends I
meet on walks!

My name is Valentino, I’m the coolest cat on the block! Currently, I reside at The Dorchester in Dallas, TX. Don’t let these eyes fool you- this is my happy face! I love to spend the day cat-napping by the window, and you can follow me on Instagram
@so.valentino!

Fun Facts About the Popsicle!

The first popsicle was accidentally invented by 11-year-old Frank Epperson in 1905. After leaving his soda outside during a cold night with a stirring stick in it, he woke to find the soda frozen to the stick. Frank patented the idea 18 years later when his children began calling it “Pop’s ‘sicle”.

The first ice cream man sold Popsicles to children in Nebraska from a horse-drawn carriage.

Popsicle sticks are made of Birch wood, which gives them the light color.

The Fudgesicle was introduced in 1928.

The most popular flavor is CHERRY!

The two-stick Popsicle was invented during the Great Depression so that two children could share for just one nickel.

August 14th is National Creamsicle Day.

2,000,000,000 Popsicles are sold annually.

To learn more, click here!

Resident Feature: Michael and Sue Menof

Proud residents of The Saxony in Dallas, TX, Michael and Sue Menof have no plans to move anywhere else. After 22 years, the couple has come to know the property as their forever home. “We would certainly not be able to find a better apartment community in all of Dallas, or should I say Texas.” Originally from South Africa, the couple came to the United States 32 years ago and are now proud citizens, saying it was, “the best decision we ever made!”

Both Michael and Sue have had successful careers. Sue was a prominent journalist and worked for the Sunday Times and Michael worked as a CPA and ran the second largest travel group in South Africa. After working in travel for 45 years, Michael was ready to set off with Sue to start their own travel company, Golden World Tours.

The two now spend their days helping others plan their dream vacations around the world at a lower cost. They often travel with groups of people acting as tour guides with their shared experience and knowledge. They are dedicated to creating fun, well-organized trips at an affordable price. Over the years, Michael and Sue have visited many countries, but still have some they have yet to visit. Some of the tours they offer include places like Spain, Australia, Dubai, Africa, India and China, just to name a few. They also handle cruises in Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe, the Mediterranean and many more.

When asked what their favorite destination has been thus far, their answer was surprisingly, “here in the U.S. – Mt. Rushmore with the four presidents sculpted into the mountainside. It is the only place that you can stop and smell the roses. (And) Hawaii isn’t far behind!” After traveling the world for so many years, Michael points out a couple of tips that every traveler should keep in mind, “Travel light, stay safe and always have fun!”

If you’d like to learn more about the tours they offer or would like them to help you plan your next getaway, visit their website www.GoldenWorldTours.com!

Travel: Weekend Getaways

Charleston, South Carolina

 

Where to stay?

21 East Battery (bed & breakfast) – This charming little bed and breakfast is said to have “the best address in town,” as it is located right on Charleston’s famous Waterfront Battery. Discover what it’s like to live in a private residence of this high-end area with all the amenities of a hotel. Choose between the Carriage House or Private Quarters with private entrances and experience fresh breakfast every morning, views of the garden or Charleston Harbor and complimentary tickets to the Edmondston-Alston House Tour, just down the street. Historical sites, award-winning restaurants and the many beautiful churches of the “Holy City” are just a short stroll in any direction.

Wentworth Mansion – The Wentworth Mansion is a grand historic hotel in downtown Charleston. You will find it tucked away in a beautiful neighborhood next to other historic Charleston homes. Make the most of your visit and experience complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and wine, spa, athletic club, nightly housemade chocolates and evening port, sherry and brandy. And for one of Charleston’s best restaurant experiences, look no further than out the back door of this beautiful mansion hotel. Located in the old carriage house turned restaurant, you’ll find an on-property farm-to-table restaurant, Circa 1886. Drawing inspiration from historical Southern dishes, this high-end meal is not one to miss!

What to do?

Cobblestone Streets – Charleston has preserved many of its historical cobblestone streets that send you back in time. Originally, cobblestones were used to weigh down ships that didn’t have enough cargo. They were then unloaded and left on the dock. Eventually, the people of Charleston grew tired of their muddy roads and began using the left behind Cobblestone to make travel easier for horses and carriages. A few of the most popular cobblestone roads worth visiting when you’re in town are Maiden Lane, Chalmers Street and North Adgers Wharf.

Historic Plantation Homes and Tours – There are many beautiful historic plantation homes throughout Charleston. Three must visit locations include Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation & Gardens and Boone Hall Plantation. At Middleton Place, there are several tours available including tours of the lovely gardens, the house museum and even a horse-drawn carriage tour around the property. There are also planned events that take place on the property throughout the year. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens boasts one of “America’s Most Beautiful Gardens” by Travel + Leisure Magazine. Not only are the gardens beautiful, but there are so many other things to experience. You can take a tour of the historical house and the gardens, explore the zoo and nature center and take a ride on the nature train. Last, but not least, you’ll want to stop over at Boone Hall Plantation to admire the perfectly aligned oak trees that greet you as you enter the property. While you’re there you can go on a variety of tours that are both educational as well as entertaining and be sure to stop by the peaceful butterfly pavilion. Visiting one or all of these properties will take you on a journey through the past and allow you to experience what life was like in 1800 to 1900 Charleston.

Horse-drawn Carriage Rides – If you’re wanting to explore the city of Charleston in style, consider taking a horse-drawn carriage ride. Not only is it unique, but it is the perfect way to see the old grandiose architecture while learning about the city’s history. There are many carriage tour companies to choose from, Palmetto Carriage Works, Old South Carriage Company and Charleston Carriage Works, just to name a few. These companies are highly rated and would make for a great experience and memories!

Beaches – After soaking up all of the history that Charleston has to offer you can kick back and relax on one of its many beaches. If you’re feeling adventurous there are many water activities you can take advantage of like kayak and paddleboard rentals. A variety of kayak and boat tours offering a close-up view of the natural beauty of Charleston.

 

Nashville, Tennessee

 

Where to stay?

Hermitage Hotel – If you’re looking to make your hotel part of your Nashville experience, then look no further than the Hermitage Hotel. The Hermitage opened its doors in September of 1910 and has since seen its share of historical events. It has also see its fare share of famous faces come through its doors and if choose to stay, you will be amongst the likes of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, comedy legend Charlie Chaplin and of course some of country music’s earliest stars Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash to name a few. During your stay you should be sure to check out “the oldest and longest-running Southern restaurant in the state,” Capitol Grille located on the lower level of the hotel adjacent to the notorious Oak Bar.

Union Station – Go back in time when you stay at one of Nashville’s most iconic buildings. Once a bustling train station, this deemed historic landmark is now a luxurious hotel with 125 uniquely decorated guest rooms. In the center of it all, Union Station Hotel is the perfect place to stay to be just minutes away from all of the Nashville hot spots like the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Ryman Auditorium and Nissan Stadium. For an added convenience, the in-house restaurant, Carter’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with an added happy hour menu from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

What to do?

Live Music – It’s no secret that Nashville is also known as “Music City” and “Songwriting Capital of the World.” Even its earliest settlers were known to celebrate with song and dance. From there the city’s music history continued to grow. Today you can walk for blocks and music can be heard on every day and night of the week. There are an array of concert halls and small clubs featuring almost all genres of music, not just country. You can also take a walk down “Music Row” and see the famous Symphony Center, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Music City Walk of Fame and the Bridgestone Arena as well as recording studios, record labels and entertainment offices. Last but not least, when visiting Nashville, it is imperative that you visit what has become known as the most famous concert venue in America, the Ryman. The Ryman was the original location of the Grand Ole Opry which began in 1925. Today it has seen countless performances by legends like Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Neil Diamond. If you don’t have tickets for a show, the Ryman is open for daily tours where you can feel like a star on its famous stage.

Microbreweries – There’s no shortage of microbreweries throughout the city of Nashville. No matter what area of the city you end up in you’re bound to find some tasty brews to sample. Some of the hot spots you may want to check out include Yazoo Brewing Company, Blackstone Brewing Company, Southern Grist Brewing Company and The Black Abbey Brewing Company, just to name a few. Each brewing company has their own unique signature IPAs, ales, sours, porters and more. And nothing goes better with beer than some tasty eats like mac and cheese, burgers and frog legs…yep…frog legs…if you like that sort of thing.

Country Music Hall of Fame – The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must see when visiting Nashville. Whether you’re a country music fan or not, the sheer size and the amount of history it keeps is a wonder to behold. With 350,000 square feet filled with memorabilia (over 2 million items) and exhibits of the evolving history of country music, it is often referred to as the “Smithsonian of country music.” Inside the museum you can also see the famous letterpress operation Hatch Show Print and down on Music Row you can visit the Historic RCA Studio B where stars like Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Waylon Jennings recorded.

Centennial Park – Centennial Park was established as a City Park after the it’s Exposition in 1897. With it’s Parthenon replica, one-mile walking trail, Lake Watauga, sunken gardens and more, Centennial Park has become one of the most visited parks with thousands of visitors each year. The Parthenon replica, standing in the heart of the park, is amongst the most popular attractions. Just inside the Parthenon is an incredible statue Athena standing at an astounding 42-feet high and both structures are full-scale replicas of the Ancient Greek originals. Today the Parthenon serves as Nashville’s art museum featuring 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists.

Take the Pressure Off of Cooking with an Instant Pot!

The Instant Pot is revolutionizing the way that people cook by taking all of the hard work out of the process. By combining multiple appliances into one, the possibilities are endless!

The most advanced Instant Pot has the functions of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, cake maker, yogurt maker, sauté pan, steamer, warmer and sterilizer. This smart, safe and dependable electric pressure cooker is putting dinner on the table two to six times faster than conventional cooking. This makes the Instant Pot ideal for busy households in today’s fast-paced world.

Almost anything you can think of can me prepared using this one easy-to-use device, which in return saves you time and energy. Dishes like stews, pot roasts and chilis that originally took an entire day to prepare can be done in as little as an hour! Other foods like fresh or frozen vegetables can be soft and ready-to-eat in just two to three minutes.

You can even bake your favorite cake without using your oven. If you are on the fence and need more convincing, go online and research all of the different delicious dishes you can whip up in fraction of the time. Now that summer is here, there will be many parties and events that require you to bring a side dish. Try out the recipe below for an easy Instat Pot potato salad recipe that you can bring to your next outdoor barbecue!

 

Quick Potato Salad in the Pressure Cooker:

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium russet potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp dill pickle juice
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Put the steamer basket in the pressure cooker pot. Add the water, potatoes, and the eggs. Lock lid in place, select High Pressure, 4 minutes cook time and press start.
  2. When timer beeps, turn off pressure cooker and do a quick pressure release. When the pressure is released, carefully remove the lid. Remove the steamer basket from the pressure cooking pot. Put eggs into ice cold water to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the onion, mayo, parsley, pickle juice, and mustard. Add cooled potatoes and gently mix the mayonnaise mixture into the potatoes. Peel and dice three of the cooled eggs and stir into potato salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. If needed, add more mayo to achieve desired consistency.
  4. Chill at least one hour before serving. Top with slices of remaining egg.

Visit https://recipes.instantpot.com/ for more delicious recipes!

Pets of the Month

My name is Winston! I am a one-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi that and I reside with my mom at Alpine Village Apartments in Omaha, NE! I am full of energy and love people and all other animals. I love to play ball, fetch and to chew up anything and everything I can (including mom’s shoes!). I am known throughout the apartment complex and have many friends – four legged AND two legged. I would rather be outside 24/7 no matter the weather – rain or shine I’m outside! You can often catch me walking my mom a couple times a day or on my personal Instagram page: @sirwinston_thecorg. I love to cuddle just as much as I love zooming around the apartment. I’m not just cute, I am also smart! I can shake and give a high fives and you will rarely catch me without a giant smile on my face!

My name is Evy. I am 11 months old and full of life. I live with my mom at The Biltmore Apartments in Omaha, NE. My hobbies include playing fetch with my favorite red toy, sitting on the deck watching the people on the trail, sitting on the bathtub ledge or in the empty bath tub.

Think you have the world’s cutest pet and want everyone to know it? There’s nothing wrong with being a show off! Enter your pet in Richdale’s Pet of the Month contest for a chance to win a BarkBox or KitNipBox for your furry friend. Tell us about your furry friend and if he or she is featured, YOU win! Send pictures and a brief description to: TheLeaf@richdale.com!

4th of July Game – Glow in the Dark Bowling

What you’ll need:

  • 10 water bottles
  • 10 glow sticks in a variety of colors
  • Soccer ball

Directions:

  • Remove any labels from your water bottles. If water bottles are new and still contain water, pour out a little off the top to allow for the glow sticks you’ll be adding.
  • Crack the glow sticks to activate them (according to the package directions) and drop one glow stick in each bottle. Replace the lid on the bottle securely.
  • Line bottles up like bowling pins.
  • To keep the game fair, especially if you have a range of ages playing, set a distance for each age group.
  • Have FUN!

4th of July Craft – Clothespin Wreath

What you’ll need:

  • 12″ wire wreath frame
  • 2 packs of clothespins (this project requires 60 clothespins)
  • Glitter stars foam stickers
  • Red, white and blue paint (acrylic or spray)
  • Hot glue (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions:

  1. Start by dividing out you 60 clothespins into the following piles: 15, 22, 23
  2. Paint 15 blue, 22 white and 23 red and let dry
  3. Once dry, stagger the clothespins on the wreath frame, placing all the blue clothespins together, then 4 reds followed by 4 whites until you have used all of your clothespins
  4. Add the foam stars to the blue clothespins (if not sticky enough, use hot glue)
  5. Hang your wreath and enjoy!