Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 Holiday Gift Guide Round-Up of Round-Ups!


I don't know about you, but I'm finding it particularly difficult to get into the holiday spirit this year. It could be due to the fact there is no snow on the ground, just sad, bare trees and dead grass everywhere. It could be I'm behind with my Christmas shopping (like, still making a list). But there's still time! Christmas is 10 days away. So if you're like me still looking for gift ideas, I've put together the mother of all lists of practical holiday gift ideas for the food-obsessed on your list. And no, it does not include anything from the Williams-Sonoma catalog. But do yourself a favor and read "The 2014 Hater's Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog". FUNNY. Though, who couldn't use a set of Lampkins?

(photo credit: Cool Mom Picks)
For teachers, friends, neighbors, or public servants in your community, check out Mom Cool Picks "14 Easy Homemade Food Gifts To Make Besides Cake and Cookie". Two words: Homemade Nutella. 
(photo credit: The Kitchn)
For the newbie home cook just starting out, The Kitchn's "10 Essential Kitchen Tools to Gift Now and Use Forever" includes the stuff home cooks will remember you every time they use it - which will be often. 
(photo credit: Eat the Love) 
For the cookbook collector, check out Eat the Love's "Holiday Cookbooks 2014 Roundups" He's divided his massive roundup into three parts, so you'll be sure to find something for everyone. 
(photo credit: Thinksource) 
For the healthy snacker, POPSUGAR has their list of favorite Monthly Subscription Boxes. These make great last-minute gifts plus they are the gifts that keep on giving! 
(photo credit: Ryan Daush)
For yourself: yes, you should treat yourself! I love this list from the editors of Food52 of products they hope to get get this year. Some beautiful and fun things to brighten up your kitchen.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pre-Game Meal

Our new fall favorite

T- minus four days until Thanksgiving. Because we're hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, I'm looking for quick, easy and lighter dishes to get us through the week before we stuff ourselves with a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Plus lots of prep and cooking will be happening in our tiny kitchen, so the last thing I want to do is to cook even more!

I discovered this dish earlier this year in Joanne Chang's Flour, Too, one of my new favorite cookbooks this year. It features hearty, good-for-you seasonal veggies tossed in a delicious, kid-friendly asian dressing. The recipe calls for serving this with quinoa. We opt for Israeli couscous because my kids prefer it. Hey, they're eating Brussels sprouts and root veggies. That's winning in my book. Plus this makes a great side dish for your Thanksgiving meal.

Warm Couscous Salad with Roasted Autumn Vegetables and Ginger-Scallion Dressing 
Adapted from Flour, Too by Joanne Chang

INGREDIENTS

  • 8-10 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 baby turnips, peeled and diced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup Israeli couscous, cooked according to directions
  • 8-9 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 1 tsp sesame oil


DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat over to 400 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, toss Brussels sprouts, parsnip, carrot, sweet potato, and turnips with olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer veggies to a baking sheet, arranging them in a single layer. Roast the vegetables, stirring every 5 minutes for 18-20 minutes until tender and cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. While veggies are roasting, make couscous according to package directions.
  4. Add the roasted vegetables to the couscous and toss well. In a small bowl, whisk together the scallions, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, vegetable oil and sesame oil until combined. Pour dressing over the couscous and veggies and mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Comfort

 It’s snowing (eek!) outside and it’s only the second day of November. All I want to do is curl up on the couch and watch movies with the boys, maybe take a nap, while Sunday supper is simmering on the stove. It’s that kind of Sunday.

It’s also a reminder of the long winter ahead that will inevitably include some nasty colds and sick days. And in our cozy little house, when one of us gets sick, the rest of us will get the same ailments too. I’m getting myself ready for whatever winter throws our way with Braun’s new No touch + forehead thermometer and warm-your-bones recipes from the Fresh & Honest cookbook by Chef Peter Davis of Henrietta’s Table.
This thermometer is going to make taking our temperatures a breeze. It’s the only non-invasive no touch (or traditional forehead touch) thermometer. In just seconds, you get an accurate reading on an easy to read large screen. I can get an accurate temperature reading without disturbing a sick kid. Cool, right (no pun intended). To learn more about the Braun thermometer and where to buy, click here.

And if the plague falls upon our house, I’ll be cooking up some comfort foods from Fresh & Honest by Peter Davis, executive chef of the award-winning restaurant Henrietta’s Table in Harvard Square. Much like the restaurant, Fresh & Honest highlights fresh, local and sustainable ingredients that make up some of the most delicious and classic New England dishes. I’ll be making batches of this amazing Roasted Pumpkin Soup and keeping some in the freezer, ready to ward off winter sniffles.




Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Fresh & Honest, by Peter Davis with Alexandra Hall

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup fresh pumpkin or heirloom pumpkin, cooked
  • ½ cup white onion, julienned
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 qt water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1 dash cayenne
  • ½ cup heavy cream


DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Split pumpkin in half and de-seed. Place the pumpkin on a rack on a sheet pan and roast skin-side up for 45 to 60 minutes, until pumpkin is soft.
  3. Remove the skins and discard. Roughly chop the pumpkin to create 1 cup.
  4. Saute the onion in the butter until transparent. Add the remaining ingredients and the pumpkin and cook for 1 hour on a low simmer.
  5. Remove the heat and puree until smooth. Serve.

Disclosure: Thank you Braun for inviting me as a guest to Henrietta’s Table for a cooking demonstration, lunch, and a gift bag that included a sample of the no-touch thermometer. As always, all opinions are my own.



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Candy Buy Back

Okay, this post is not going to win me "Coolest Mom of the Year." But if you're like me, you're looking down the barrel of a full-out sugar rush this weekend. Kind of like this:



We'll indulge for a few days, snacking on all this Halloween loot. The kids love to sort all the candy they've collected (and smell them!). But after a few days of Peanut Butter Cups, fun size candy bars and sugary candy corn, we are ready to rid our house of all Halloween candy (because I will eat them all).

For the past couple of years, we bring our candy into Magic Beans for their Candy Buy Back program. Bring in at minimum of one pound of candy between 11/1-11/5 and your kids get 20% off a new toy. Magic Beans donates the candy to food pantries and the military overseas.

Green Planet Kids in Newton is also accepting your leftover candy of a pound or more between 11/1-11/7 in exchange for a $5 gift card. Green Planet Kids is sending candy to military troops overseas as well.

Be sure to check out your kids' dentist offices as most do a candy buyback too. Our kids' dentist office will give $1 for every pound of candy donated to the troops. Here's a complete list of candy buy back in Massachusetts from Boston Parents Paper.

Sweet, right?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bringing Back Prince Spaghetti Day

 
Most Gen-Xers and older are probably familiar with the classic advertising campaign from Prince Pasta: the little boy (Anthony) running through the narrow streets of the North End of Boston to get home for dinner because "Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day." As an college student studying advertising, this memorable commercial was highly regarded. Prince Pasta became one of the country's iconic brands, firmly establishing itself in our food culture. 

Since pasta is in regular rotation for weekday dinners, it was easy to convince the family to bring back Wednesdays as Prince Spaghetti Day (or Prince Penne Day, or Prince Linguine Day... you get the idea). Just as they love to remind me not to cook meat on Meatless Mondays, or beg me to make Tacos on Taco Tuesday, Wednesdays are now reserved for some of our favorite pasta dishes. Today we're going with the classic and crowd-favorite Spaghetti & Meatballs combo. 

In celebration of National Pasta Month (which kicks off today), Prince is partnering with NEBO to create delicious and easy recipes for families using Prince pasta. Plus Prince will be offering cooking videos every Wednesday during National Pasta Month here. And if you happen to be in Boston today, head to these locations between 4:30-7pm as Prince will be handing out Prince Pasta Dinner Kits: 

North Station (near the “performance” sign)135 Causeway St 
South Station (near the hub/unpaid area)700 Atlantic Avenue 
Back Bay Station (DD on the left wall when entering from Dartmouth St.)145 Dartmouth Street

As my kids like to say, "Mangia! Mangia!"

Disclosure: Thank you Prince Pasta for sending me a Prince Pasta Dinner Kit. As always, all opinions are my own.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What's For Dinner This Week: Quick Pastas, Potato & Carrot Hash, Asian Slaw, Loaded Rice


The start of the 2014-15 school year is off to a good start. Transition to 4th grade and Kindergarten has been pretty smooth, and after-school activities are starting to pick up. Plus things here and here have definitely been picking up. So I'm relying on weekly meal plans to keep me on track to cook as many family dinners as possible.

So what's on the menu this week?

Monday: Pasta with Cauliflower, Bacon & Breadcrumbs - we love cauliflower, especially browned on a cast iron skillet. We love bacon even more. 
Tuesday: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potato and Carrot Hash - From Dinner: The Playbook. this looks to be a good mid-week meal - hearty, warm-your-bones good.  
Wednesday: Prince Spaghetti Day - to kick off National Pasta Month, we're going old school with spaghetti and meatballs. What's not to love? 
Thursday: Asian Chicken Slaw - From Dinner: A Love Story, this one is a winner in our house. Lots of kid-friendly flavors, plus it comes together quickly. And it's healthy to boot.  
Friday: Loaded Fried Rice - end of week, fridge clearing recipe. Plus I have some delicious Chinese sausage from DePasquale's of Newton  I'll toss in for good measure. 

Have a great week!

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

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