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.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Just Add Cooking


So if you couldn’t tell, meal planning and trying different recipes is kinda my thing. But sometimes it can be a chore. What I wouldn’t do for someone to meal plan and grocery shop for me, leaving the cooking (the fun part) for me. Well, there happens to be someone to do just that.

Just Add Cooking is part of a new crop of meal kit delivery services in the area and I had the chance to give it a try. You get to choose a three-, four- or five-meal box delivered to you on Sunday. Meals are designed to serve a family of 4 and range from $107-$139 per kit. The meal plan and menu options were preselected for me for my trial subscription.

Our kit arrived as promised, even during a snow storm.



I was skeptical about the quality of the produce, but everything was in perfect condition. Just Add Cooking selects seasonal, locally produced, organic ingredients. Everything is portioned and measured out (including the spices).

Someone was excited to check out the contents of our kit.

Protein and other refrigerated items were packed separately in a freezer bag.



Our three-meal plan (in recommended cooking order): Poached Salmon with Avocado Sauce, Coq au Vin, and Tex-Mex Mac and Cheese. Three dishes I would never have thought of trying. So how did it go?

Poached Salmon pre-measured ingredients and recipe

Large portion sizes. Nice heat to avocado sauce. Veggies were a hit.

Coq au Vin ingredients included pre measured red wine. 


Ta-da - Coq au Vin. Rich and complex flavors. A tad too salty tho.

Tex-Mex Mac & Cheese (before)

The boys loved this. I didn't think I would like it, but it was really tasty.

Everyone loved how everything tasted and the portion sizes were more than satisfactory. Everything took less than 40 minutes to prepare. My only word of caution is that the cooking directions can be a little confusing, so this might not be for the novice home cook. Now if only each kit also included someone to come and clean-up J

**Just Add Cooking recently announced a fun recipe contest. Submit your own recipe and for a chance to be featured in an upcoming Just Add Cooking box and to win a free Just Add Cooking delivery. Enter between now and February 28, 2014. Winner will be chosen and announced on March 17, 2014. For more information on the contest, visit the Just Add Cooking blog.**

Disclosure: I was given a trial meal kit to try Just Add Cooking. As always, all opinions are my own.





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