Monday, September 15, 2014

Keeping the (Blogging) Spark Alive


So it's been over FOUR years (I CANNOT believe I've been blogging for 4 years) since I threw down the gauntlet here, challenging myself to try a new recipe at least twice a week. So if I do the math, that's over 400 new recipes I've tested and fed to my family!! I'll be the first to admit that there have been many repeats over the years, but that's still a lot of experimenting and research! 

So it comes to no surprise I found myself in a cooking rut from time to time - staring at an open fridge, tired of trying to come up with something to cook for dinner. Phone at the ready, ready to call in an order for take out. Or packing the kids in the car to grab a quick bite at the neighborhood restaurant. But then I discovered Jenny Rosenstrach's blog Dinner: A Love Story. It was like she was writing just to me with honest and funny posts about the challenges of getting dinner on the table. Plus amazingly simple and delicious recipes to boot. My Dinner: A Love Story cookbook is practically falling apart because I use it so often.

So you can imagine the joy I experienced when I was picked to preview her latest book, Dinner: The Playbook and to test some new recipes. Most of the recipes take between 30-45 minutes to make, and are all thoroughly delicious. But my favorite thing about this book are the practical tips busy parents like myself can use to help get dinner on the table fast. Everything from different weekly menu plans (Super Simple, Quick and Strategic, or Classic School Nights) to what to do on the weekends and suggested sides, have made meal planning a whole lot easier. 

Did I mention the recipes are so good and with just the right amount of creativity that even this veteran (heh) food blogger gets excited to photograph my latest creation and share it with the world? 

Thank you Jenny for keeping the blogging and cooking spark alive for me. And for helping me answer the dreaded question, "What's for dinner?"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Snack Shaming

(photo credit: wikipedia)

My 9-year-old came home from school yesterday, dropped his bag in the hallway (why can't he remember to hang it up is beyond me), and strolled into the kitchen for his usual after-school snack. I joined him as this is often the best time for us to catch up and talk about his day.

While he's munching away on some grapes, I ask him about his new snack routine at school. "Do you have it before lunch? Are there assigned seats? Is it a working snack?" You know, nosey mom questions. That's when he told me the kids said they felt bad for him.

Me: "Why do they feel bad for you?"

9 yo: "Because they asked why I never bring chips or Doritos for a snack and I told them we never have that at home."

Me: "That's true. It's okay to have it once in a while, but too much junk food is not good for you."

9 yo: "I told them that. Then they asked if I've ever had Burger King or McDonald's and I told them never. They couldn't believe it and that's when they said they felt bad for me."

Me: (wheels turning) "They just don't understand because maybe that's what they have often. We just never go to those places when there are so many great restaurants to choose from around here. It's okay to have that stuff once in a while. But like junk food, too much fast food is not good for you."

9 yo: "I know. Then they asked what is my favorite thing we have for breakfast. I told them Belgium Waffles. They all agreed... Food from scratch is the best, right?"

Me: "Right. And yeah, it's hard not to like Belgium waffles."

My 9-year-old really doesn't care what others think or say and will be the first to set you straight. I know his classmates were probably more curious than really shaming him for never eating that crap. We don't deprive our kids of treats and we try to limit how much processed foods they eat. This is just another sad reminder why there's a childhood obesity problem. I'm now scheming ways we can start getting these other kids excited about real food.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Back-To-School Playbook Redux

So after a brief summer hiatus, I'm back to blogging and hope to as regularly as I can! Starting with this one.

last packed lunch of the 2013-14 school year 

This is a picture I took of the last school lunch I packed for my boys back at the end of June. This lunch is little sad, isn't it? I had it with packing lunches at this point, having packed over 150 lunches for my two boys. While most families had a countdown to summer vacation, I had been counting down the last lunch I had to pack. 

Well, here we are about to start our first full week of the new school year and I have not had to pack a single lunch! With some new changes to our family schedules, umdaddy is now in charge of packing lunches. You would think I would be thrilled, but a part of me is having a hard time letting go, quietly judging what he packed that day and which containers he used. And wondering if he was going to expand beyond the PBJ + Fruit + snacks + yogurt repertoire. 

But I am going to do my best to let it go. I trust he will pack them a well-balanced meal, and it might not be packed the way I had done it. And that's okay! I might drop a couple recipe hints here and there though. And just maybe share a page from my back-to-school playbook


Monday, August 18, 2014

Savor



I've been on a blog hiatus for the past few months, trying to remember to stop and savor summer with my boys. Summers in New England are way too short. And it feels more so this year as my boys are getting older and have more activities and interests that don't involve us as parents. So for the first time in a long time, I'm savoring these moments. Where we can be rested and relaxed. Hyper and silly. Loving and fun. I'll be back soon with more eating and cooking adventures. Until then, hope you get to savor these last days of summer.

- Sharon

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Artful & Delicious Crudite Creations

(credit: Crudite Creations)
We're now in the throes of Summer which means 4th of July cookouts, year-end parties, birthdays, block parties, and picnics to name a few.  There are only so many pasta or potato salads I can really get excited for. Love me some watermelon, but unless they're super sweet and cold, I'll pass. So when I had the opportunity to try a Crudite Creation, I said "yes!" 

(credit: Crudite Creations)
Crudite Creations are these show-stopping vegetable arrangements made by Lauren & David Brooks. Located in Auburndale, Massachusetts, Crudite Creations come in a a variety of sizes in four standard designs.   There's also an array of gourmet homemade dips such as white bean, caramelized onion, hummus and ranch. Crudite Creations are delivered by hand throughout Eastern Massachusetts. 


Check out this arrangement I was lucky enough to sample:


We were on our way to a neighborhood block party so was excited to share it with all of our neighbors. Everyone was amazed at the detail and freshness of the "bouquet." The kids had fun guessing what vegetable each "flower" was made from. The dips were a huge hit as well. It was almost too pretty to eat - almost!
Crudite Creation at the neighborhood block party. Everything else pales in comparison!

So the next time you're racking your brain for a unique hostess gift, centerpiece for your summer party or a gift for friends or family "just because", definitely check out Crudite Creations! 

Disclosure: Thank you Crudite Creations for sending me a sample arrangement! As always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, June 9, 2014

5 Slacker Mom Shortcuts to a Super Fast Dinner

5 slacker mom shortcuts to super fast dinner

Well, hello! Yes, it has been a little quiet here this spring as I’ve been busy here and here. Not to mention schlepping the boys to and from school, karate, soccer, theater, piano, hip hop, and playdates. Bouncing from one thing to another, only to find ourselves getting home at 6:30 PM and realizing we still haven’t eaten dinner. And talking to fellow moms and dads, we’re not the only ones doing this crazy after school/work juggle.

So how do you avoid the fast food default and get something hot and wholesome on the table super fast? Yes, there are slow-cooker recipes and make-ahead meals. But some of us are not as organized as we'd like to be (ahem). Well friend, I am happy to share my favorite short cuts to getting dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less:

1. Pesto Pasta with Green Veggies
My kids go absolutely crazy for this dish. Inspired by ChopChop’s Pesto Pasta with Green Veggies recipe, I can throw this dish together in 15 minutes as long as I have prepared pesto in the house. I prefer CIBO Naturals Basil Pesto or Trader Joe’s Genova Pesto, both found in the refrigerator section. 1. Boil a pot of water. While waiting for the pasta to boil, prep your veggies (we like chopped broccoli florets and trimmed green beans). 2. Cook pasta. 3. Add veggies to pasta water with 2 minutes remaining on the pasta. 4. Drain and return to the pot. 5. Add pesto and toss until everything is coated. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

2. Quesadillas
We always pick up a package of Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat Tortillas and Shredded Mexican Cheese since quesadillas often make the school lunch or dinner rotation. Why? Quesadillas come together in 5 minutes! 1. Heat nonstick pan over medium heat. 2. Place one tortilla on heated pan. 3. Cover with cheese and any veggie of your choice. We always have a package of frozen corn in the freezer, so we often will just add a handful of frozen corn kernels with the cheese. 4. Top with a second Tortilla and when cheese has melted and bottom tortilla is toasty, flip. 5. Continue cooking over medium heat until tortilla is toasted. Slice and serve with favorite toppings (salsa, avocado, sour cream, etc.)

3. Chicken Sausage & Polenta
My love for Trader Joe’s has no end! The boys go crazy for their Sweet Apple and Maple Syrup sausage. These puppies can be grilled, baked or broiled in 8-10 minutes. While that’s cooking, whip up a batch of quick cooking polenta and simple side salad. Dinner is done in 10 minutes.

4. TJs Simmer Sauces
Yes, another TJs convenience item we keep stocked in our pantry – Trader Joe’s Simmer Sauces. Of course it’s no substitute for the real thing (or even good Indian takeout). But in a pinch, this has saved many dinners. 1. Prepare some basmati or jasmine rice. At our house, it’s as simple as firing up the rice cooker. 2. While that’s doing its thing, I’ll grab whatever veggies I have in the crisper. The trio that goes best with the Masala Simmer Sauce IMO: onions, carrots, and cauliflower. Sauté onions with a tablespoon of canola oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat until soft. 3. Add carrots and cauliflower and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Add simmer sauce plus water to pan and simmer for 15 minutes. 4. I like adding some chickpeas, so I do that at the last few minutes before serving over rice. Easy supper in less than 30 minutes.

5. Rao’s and Ravioli
Okay, this go-to meal is one I feel like a total cheater for making. But after a long day and I’m looking at a long night of homework help and my own work still to tackle, Ravioli is total comfort food. We usually have a package of frozen ravioli from BJs and a jar of Rao’s Marina Sauce on hand. If I’m going to use jarred tomato sauce, I want it to be as close to homemade with real ingredients. Rao’s is a little pricier than most, but between you and me, this stuff tastes better than if I had been slaving over the stove all day Sunday. True story.


So there you have it. 5 quick meals. Sure it means calling on some convenience foods. But it's so much better than ordering takeout or frozen pizza. 

(photo credits: Serious Eats, The Palate Post, 365 Days of My Style Blog, Trader Joe's)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Weekend Off for Moms at Towne

Towne Stove & Spirits - Urban Oasis for Mother's Day

This post is for all you busy husbands, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, friends and anyone else that is sweating it out, trying to figure out what gift to get the mom in their life this Mother’s Day. Skip the flowers. Bringing her breakfast in bed is sweet, but let’s face it – eating in bed isn’t all that its cracked up to be. You can make her a meal, but then “someone” is stuck doing the cleanup. There’s always the option of taking her out to a restaurant, but this late in the game, your options are pretty limited without a reservation.

Most moms I know like to be pampered. You can do a spa day, but why not have it all – spa treatments, delicious food and wine, and some family time together. Which is why I think Towne Stove & Spirits Mother’s Day Weekend Oasis for Boston-Area moms is a win-win. On Saturday, moms get to unwind with a chair massage, hair and makeup, wine and appetizers. While kids are kept busy with some kid-friendly activities. Tickets are only $20 per family. Towne is also offering a special Mother’s Day Brunch on Sunday (sure to be delicious – check out the KidNosh review here).


And to all you moms out there – may your weekend be complete with some time spent with your feet up, because we all know you deserve it!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I was given  tickets to giveaway at Drool Baby Expo in exchange for sharing information with my readers. Opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crazy Good Matzoh Ball Soup


Crazy Good Matzoh Ball Soup

"Crazy good." This is a new phrase in our house used to describe almost everything - a game, a story, a movie, and most often food. Something has to be out-of-this-world amazing to be "crazy good" according to the boys. So when I made Andrew Zimmern's Matzoh Ball Soup for dinner tonight and both boys declared it to be so, I knew this was a keeper. Maybe it's the incredibly light yet flavorful matzo balls. Or the silky broth and sweet vegetables. Whatever it is, both boys had three helpings. We don't celebrate Passover (we're not Jewish), but will be making this soup every year - and all year round.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Curried Tuna with Apples & Raisins Wrap


We’re very much a BYOL (Bring Your Own Lunch) family. There are many reasons for making and bringing your lunch (healthier and affordable being on the top of my list usually). But it’s also easy to get into a lunch-making rut. Maybe it’s the brutal winter we’ve endured, but lunches here have been uninspired lately.

Cut to last week when I had the opportunity to try Flatout Flatbreads and Starkist Tuna. Flatout Flatbreads come in a variety of flavors from traditional to healthy grains to Thin Crust Flatbreads for making artisan pizzas. It’s easy to see why I was eager to try out some new recipes with so much variety. Bye-bye sliced bread!

Here’s a recipe for Curried Tuna with Raisins and Apples in Flatout Soft 100% Whole Wheat Flatbread. It’s easy to whip up and has a ton a flavor. I even got a thumbs up from my oldest who claims he’s “not a fan of tuna.” 

 

Curried Tuna with Raisins & Apples Wraps

INGREDIENTS
  • Two 2.6 oz Pouches Starkist Chunk Light Tuna in Water
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 small apple (we like Fuji), peeled, halved, cored and diced
  • 1-2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tbsp scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Flatout Soft 100% Whole Wheat Flatbread

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the tuna, yogurt, apple, raisins, scallions, carrots, curry powder, lime juice, salt and pepper. 
  2. Layout a Flatout Flatbread on a clean counter or cutting board. Scoop out half of mixture at one end of the wrap. 
  3. Roll the wrap tightly. 
  4. Repeat and enjoy!
Disclosure: I was compensated and provided Flatout Flatbreads and Starkist Pouches to try this product. As always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Signs of Spring

It's March 10th and we are all desperately seeking signs of spring here in New England. I think you could hear a collective sigh from everyone here this morning when we looked out the window to find a coating of snow on cars and very bare trees.

So when things are looking grim, I like to surround myself with eternal signs of spring and summer whenever I walk into the Marimekko store in Huron Village. I recently had the opportunity to preview the newly launched Kids' Spring line thanks to Christine Koh of Boston Mamas. The vibrant colors found in the elegant dresses, bolts of fabrics and home accessories will have you thinking spring instantly.


Marimekko trademark cheerful textiles 

Working the runway in a fun polkadot Spring dress and fun monkey t-shirt and red and white-striped button down shirt (credit: Zac Wolf Photography)

Always great catching up with these fab bloggers In Real Life (IRL)
It was a fun event as I got to "walk the runway" with my little one, meet up with some of my favorite bloggers IRL (hostess with the mostess Christine of Boston Mamas, Audrey of Mom Generations, Casey of Life with Roozle, and Sharon of Viola Cay) while the kids got to mug it up for the photobooth, enjoy sweet little cupcakes and get their face painted. And afterward, we got to explore the Magic Beans toy store across the street and I got to lose myself in the epicurean world of Formaggio Kitchen.

Snow is forecasted for Thursday and early next week. If you're looking for me, good chance I'll be hanging out in Huron Village getting my dose of spring.

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