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Chillax with Summertime and Anytime Healthy Treats

Boutiques, businesses and brands you may not know — but should.

Hey, happy homemakers: Sometimes you need a little help! In the age of Jessica Seinfeld’s enormously popular Deceptively Delicious, and Hungry Girl’s weight-conscious concoctions on the Food Network, resorting to a baking mix has become acceptable among busy moms (and dads) — particularly if the result is as nutritious for the kids as it is tasty to eat.

When Portland, Ore., parents Maureen and Mark Hotchkiss couldn’t find prepared snacks that were up to nutritional snuff and taste bud approved by their three kids, they looked inward. The couple began experimenting with creating a homemade energy bar they could pack in their kids’ lunches or serve as an after-school snack.

Finding a receptive audience, first at home and then with friends and family — and armed with 12 years of sales and marketing for Harry’s Fresh Foods (Maureen) and years of working in food purchasing (Mark) — the pair created Kids Central Kitchen in 2006.

The line of natural, whole-grain dry baking mixes are easy-to-make by design so that kids can add wet ingredients like bananas, applesauce and yogurt and get in on the baking action.

Brownies, energy bars, pancakes, cookies, banana bread — all of the baking-mix options are free of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, refined sugars, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors and flavors (there are also low fat, low cholesterol, vegan and gluten-free recipes available). They even omitted egg yolks from the recipes so kids can lick the bowl.

Order online at Just for Red Thread readers, use code DJN at checkout to receive 20 percent off your first order.

With so many scrumptious ice cream and frozen yogurt stops cropping up around town, it’s hard to choose where you want to cool off. But Birmingham’s Sweet Earth has found its own niche and has been earning raves since opening a year ago.

When husband-and-wife team Ryan and Katie Robison conceived Sweet Earth, they wanted more than just delicious — although it’s not overlooked. “It’s a concept built on the principle that there can be healthier alternatives for us and our children,” explains Ryan.

Fat-free (and certified kosher) flavors containing live, active and healthy bacterial cultures, as well as protein and calcium, plus organic, no-sugar-added, wheat-free, gluten-free and vegan options are the draw.

But visitors stay for the make-your-own, self-serve fro-yo bar with 14 flavors like Texas Peanut Butter, Pomegranate, Birthday Cake, New York Cheesecake and more. The piece de resistance: A toppings bar with more than 30 premium options, including Oreos, cinnamon toast, pretzel pieces and M&Ms, as well as fresh fruit, mochi and granolas.

Finish with marshmallow, chocolate and other hot toppings and savor your creation — served in biodegradable, eco-friendly packaging with plant starch and bamboo spoons — at a table crafted of reclaimed Michigan lumber, designed and built by Robison’s father.

“We are dedicated to leaving as minimal of a carbon footprint as possible,” says Robison, who made sure even the particulars of his operation were eco-friendly — from green-certified paints and flooring to yogurt machines using a recycling glycol system for cooling purposes, saving tens of thousands of gallons of water that would otherwise be wasted.

A fact that makes the sweets that much sweeter. RT

Sweet Earth, 141 W. Maple Road, Birmingham. Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. (248) 792-6285;




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