Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ringing in the Year of the Monkey

Monday, February 6th marks the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year. Which means I've been trying to keep to my family's tradition of cleaning the house, fresh haircuts for the boys, and setting mandarin oranges around the house for good luck. Now that the boys are older, they love learning about these traditions - and superstitions like these New Year's Day taboos:

  • No sweeping/cleaning or you will sweep away your luck and fortune
  • No crying children as this will bring bad luck
  • Don't wash your hair or you will wash away luck and fortune
  • Don't wear white, black or blue (signifies mourning). Wear something new and something red for good luck
There are several more "rules" but these are the big ones I grew up following. And of course there's the food. As with so many things in the Chinese culture, certain foods are more auspicious and lucky. This year, our New Year's Feast will include:

Long Noodles (Momofuku's Ginger Scallion Noodles) represents long life

Soy Sauce Eggs (Momofuku's Soy Sauce Eggs adapted by Catherine Newman) for prosperity
Lion's Head for family/togetherness

Whole Chinese Broccoli for long life
Almond Cookies for wealth

From our family to yours, gong hay fat choy!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Vault

As I'm frantically planning, shopping and prepping for the big day, I've found myself going back into the vault of favorite Thanksgiving Day posts to remind myself how we pulled anything off in years past. And inevitably, I always go back to our most Tried-and-True Thanksgiving Day recipes and painstakingly timed plan, starting with when to prep and when to turn on the oven. It's times like this I want to hug myself for being the anal-retentive cook in our house.

So here's my throwback post for anyone looking for last-minute Thanksgiving day tips!

Last Minute Thanksgiving Day Prep

Turkey Trots/Thanksgiving Day road races are almost as popular as pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. I've often thought about running in one, but decided I'd rather be running around in the kitchen than on the pavement. I will definitely need some running shoes in the kitchen this Thanksgiving seeing how I am way behind in all matters of Thanksgiving.

So for anyone hosting this year's feast and looking for some last-minute tips, look no further than this known-procrastinator and time-starved (and just plain starved) mom. 

Saturday & Sunday: 
  1. Plan menu and make shopping list. Here's our menu this year with design help from my kids.
  2. Ask guests to bring something. We like asking folks to bring a dessert or appetizers - one less thing to stress out about!
  3. If you are of the brave sort, shop for non-perishables. I avoid grocery stores the weekend before Thanksgiving at all costs. I'd like to keep my sanity before the holidays... before I lose it again a month from now.
  4. Make sure there's room in the fridge.
  1. Shop like the wind. I will go first thing in the AM after I drop-off the kids at school. Everything will be fully stocked and crowds will be less ornery. 
  2. Prep linens, platters, centerpiece, place cards, etc. 
  1. Make cranberry sauce. The sauce will benefit from being in the fridge for a couple of days where the flavors can develop.
  2. Cut and cube bread for stuffing and leave out in a single layer on baking sheets.
  3. Caramelize onions for green beans dish.
Wednesday (Eeek!):
  1. Make stuffing.
  2. Peel carrots and parsnips and store in zip-lock bag wrapped in moist paper towels.
  3. Peel potatoes and refrigerate in a pot of cold water.
  4. Wash and trim green beans.
  5. Pick up turkey and brine turkey if you plan on using a brine. 
11am: Set table
12pm: Remove turkey and allow it to sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours
1pm: Preheat oven, prep and stuff turkey
2pm: Put turkey in the oven and cook at 500 degrees for 30 minutes
2:30pm: Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast for 2-2.5 hours for a 14-16lb turkey. Roast carrots and parsnips at the same time.
3pm: Take cranberry sauce out of fridge and bring to room temperature. Remove parsnips and carrots.
**More than half way there - pour yourself a drink.
3:30pm: Make mashed potatoes and keep warm when finished.
4pm: Make green beans and keep warm when finished. Bake stuffing.
4:30pm: Take out turkey and let it rest (thickest part of the breast should be 161 degrees F). Remove stuffing from oven. Reheat carrots and other sides as necessary.
5pm: Chow time!
Last bit of advice: Make sure you delegate as much as you feel comfortable doing. And the most important piece of advice (next to enjoying this time with family) - make sure your dishwasher is empty Thursday morning!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Make This Pronto: Mustard-Baked Chicken with a Pretzel Crust

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken is one of those recipes that shows up when you search "kid-friendly dinners" next to Fish Sticks and Mini Pizzas - and one I typically would gloss over. But there was something about this recipe from Food & Wine I could not get out of my head. Maybe it was the short ingredient list (five, not including oil and water), quick prep and cook time (30 minutes) or that it was featured on Dinner: A Love Story. But I added it to our weekly menu plan, and haven't turned back since. This one is a keeper.

Click here for the recipe.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Meal Plan + Shopping List Just For You!

I recently commiserated with some other moms at pickup on how much we dreaded hearing "What's for dinner tonight?" That's when I blabbed on about how meal planning has saved my sanity on many a weeknight. Sure, it takes careful planning, research and creativity when figuring out a week's worth of dinners plus a grocery shopping list. But when the kids ask "What's for dinner tonight?" I tell them to look on the fridge where I keep our week's menu plan. So to all you parents out there struggling with shopping and cooking a wholesome meal for your family, my present to you!

Weekly Meal Plan
(recipe and photo from Martha Stewart)
Monday: Chicken Edamame and Udon Noodle Stir-Fry (make extra for school lunches the next day)
(recipe and photo from Dinner: A Love Story)
Tuesday: Butternut Squash Soup with Apples (serve with a salad and crusty bread. This soup is even better the next day. Or double the recipe and freeze for later.)
(recipe and photo from ChopChop)
Wednesday: Beanie Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries (these burgers come together quickly, so make sure you get the sweet potato fries in the over first)
(recipe and photo from Dinner: A Love Story)
Thursday: Weeknight Bolognese (serve with salad and garlic bread for the ultimate comfort food)
(recipe and photo from Dinner: A Love Story)
Friday: Mustard Chicken with New Potatoes and Green Beans (I make extra mustard butter to have on hand so I can easily make this again another night - it's that good) 
Download the shopping list HERE (I'm assuming you already have olive oil, salt and pepper. You might have a lot of these other ingredients in your pantry, in which case just modify the shopping list accordingly.)

Have a great week!

Friday, October 9, 2015

5 Reasons to Try Just Add Cooking

About a 1½ years ago, I had the opportunity to try Just Add Cooking, the Boston-based meal kit delivery service. They were one of a select few meal kit delivery companies in Boston at the time, encouraging families to skip takeout and start cooking again. They promised to menu plan, shop and deliver your groceries to your door. All you needed to do was cook. I was in. You can check out my review here.

Today, there are dozens of meal kit delivery services jumping on the “cook real food at home band wagon.” While I’m a big fan of this movement of getting back into the kitchen (I’m pretty much riding shotgun on this band wagon), I haven’t signed up to any these services yet. With the amazing Russo’s just a mile away from our house, the convenience of grocery delivery is lost on me. Plus I like having the flexibility of meal planning based on the needs of my family.

But then again, menu planning takes a lot of time and effort. And food shopping can be a pain, no matter how fabulous or close your local grocer is to you. So when I had an opportunity to attend a cooking class at Sur La Table hosted by Just Add Cooking, I was game.
photo courtesy of Just Add Cooking
Joined by Boston bloggers Sarah Fit, Mommybites Boston, Healthy Chicks, The Boston Mom, and Bach to the Future Bites, we made one of Just Add Cooking’s recipe – Seared Prawns with Salsa. Led by Chef Holly of The Soul Chef, we got a to experience first-hand how easy – and fun – cooking can be when everything is planned and packaged for you to help you get dinner on the table fast.

So why should you try Just Add Cooking? Here are 5 reasons:
  1. Unlike some other meal kit companies, you get to select the meals you want from a list of 7 recipes, which changes weekly. Pick from seafood, beef, pork, poultry and vegetarian options enough to feed 2 or 4 people.
  2. Just Add Cooking shops, pre-measures and carefully packs all the ingredients and delivers them by a driver the day your box is packed to your door. Unlike other companies, Just Add Cooking packs and delivers your box on the same day to guarantee freshness (and is more environmentally friendly).
  3.  Ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible, so you’re supporting local fishermen, farmers and artisans in New England.
  4. There’s less waste when ingredients come pre-measured, so you’re not wasting money on a jar of star anise seeds when the recipe call for one pod for example.
  5. Just Add Cooking is just that – letting you focus on honing your cooking skills. Which is perfect for getting kids or the novice cook to feel more confident in the kitchen.

Still not sure? Just Add Cooking is offering umommy readers 50% off your first order until 10/31/15. Just enter “umommy50” code when signing up and get cooking!

Disclosure: Thanks Just Add Cooking and Sur La Table for hosting the event, which I received free of charge. I was not compensated for this postAs always, my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What to Make With All Those Vegetables from the School Garden?

Harvesting Ground Cherries at the Lowell Elementary School Garden

I feel incredibly lucky that our elementary school has a fantastic learning garden. During the school year, students help prep, plant and maintain the garden. During the summer, families volunteer to take care of the garden, making sure the beds get plenty of water, weeding as needed and harvesting ripe vegetables. Last week was our week to tend to the garden and when we arrived, the boys and I were delighted to see their literal fruits of their labor from earlier in the school year. The garden was overflowing with big, fat juicy tomatoes, deep purple eggplant, humungous zucchini and vibrant peppers. Ratatouille anyone?

Well, not for my kids who are pretty much against eggplant and zucchini. But I recently came across this Grilled Ratatouille with Pasta recipe from Martha Stewart and I knew I had a chance to convert them.

It doesn't get any easier than this:

Cook a 1lb of pasta (we used farfalle) according to package instructions. Reserve a cup of pasta water and return cooked pasta to the pot. Heat grill. Brush the following with olive oil: 1 large zucchini (cut lengthwise into thick slices), 2 bell peppers (halved, stemmed and seeded), 2 red onions (halved), 1 large eggplant (cut lengthwise into thick slices), 4-6 large tomatoes (cut crosswise into thick slices). Season with salt and pepper and grill all the vegetables until browned and tender. Roughly chop the grilled vegetables then add to pasta. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

The boys ate it all up. And asked for seconds. Just one of many reasons all schools should have a school garden!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

No Cook, No Recipe Dinner: Summer Rolls

Yes, it is way hot. But it's also August and after the brutal winter we had earlier, I've embraced the heat and humidity here in New England. It is hard to deny the weather has definitely affected my cooking mojo. Lots of simple dinners cooked on the grill around here lately. But even I'm now groaning when BBQ chicken and corn are on the menu. I decided to shake things up by 1) making something WITHOUT using a recipe (I'm a recipe girl) and 2) not slaving over the grill or stove (and not have it be sandwiches for dinner). The answer? Fresh Vegetable Summer Rolls.

Like a burrito or wrap, you can pretty much customize this with whatever vegetables you like or have on hand. For me, I go with lots of traditional Asian produce: bean sprouts, julienned cucumbers, scallions, cilantro, and carrots. We had leftover purple cabbage, bibb lettuce and avocado, so I threw that in too.

Step 1: Prep and gather all your ingredients and have them nearby your work station. 

Step 2: Soak spring roll skin in a shallow dish filled with hot water until soft and pliable (about 10 seconds). 

Step 3: Lay out spring roll skin on a clean surface and layer ingredients on the bottom third of the wrap. 

Step 4: Like a burrito, pull skin over filling, tuck in sides and roll to a close. Work quickly as the skin becomes super sticky and becomes trickier to work with.

I do have to come clean about two things. The boys were famished so I wanted to add some protein to some of the rolls so quickly boiled some shrimp to add to these spring rolls. You also need a killer peanut dipping sauce if you're going to go through the trouble of making summer rolls right? I whipped up this super easy dipping sauce from Epicurious. So a little cooking and a little recipe inspiration. And glad I did both because dinner was amazing.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Casting for a New Game Show

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for some exciting news. Just got a tip that NBC is teaming up with NBA All-Star LeBron James for a game show gives teams of two a chance to compete for life-changing cash prizes. Auditions are THIS SATURDAY, JULY 11TH from 10am-4pm at Vanderbilt Kitchen and Bar. Good Luck!

Disclosure: Sponsored post by Glassman Media. As always, opinions are my own.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fire up the Grill

Brushing off the cobwebs both on this blog and on our grill for a special Memorial Day post! We're doing a happy dance here as this weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer. In celebration of such a joyous occasion, I'm digging into the "vault" and pulling out some of our all-time favorite grilling recipes:

BBQ Chicken Throwdown: David Chang v. Martha Stewart: I test David Chang's Spicy Korean BBQ Chicken recipe against Martha's Brown Sugar BBQ Chicken. And the winner is... 
Grilled Butterfly Chicken: Who knew butterflying a whole chicken and cooking it on the grill would result in the tastiest chicken ever? Cooks Illustrated knew of course. 
Fish Tacos, Purple Cabbage Slaw and Mango Avocado Salsa: These recipes from ChopChop are in regular rotation at our house, even in the dead of winter.  
Peach Plum Salsa: This fruit salsa is just about perfect on anything you throw on the grill.  
Put-This-On-Just-About-Everything-Spice-Rub: This is pretty much a perfect blend of savory, briny, sweet, and spicy goodness. We make this by the bucket-full at the start of the summer.

Happy grilling!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Meal Plan for this week. Also known as The Best Week Ever.

I have been trying loads of new recipes lately, I think partly due to the arrival of spring plus I needed something to shake things up from the winter rotation of soups and comfort food. Here's a menu plan for 5 delicious dinners for this week - or any week really. If your family is anything like mine, this will be the best week ever. 

Monday: Pasta with Peas, Bacon, and Ricotta - From Dinner: The Playbook, this easy-to-whip-up meal will surely please even the pickiest eater of the bunch. Cook 1 lb tubular pasta according to directions. Add 3-4 tbs of ricotta to a large bowl and toss cooked pasta with ricotta. Next, fry up 1/2 pound of bacon until crisp and drain on paper towels. Add 1/4 chopped onion and one 10-oz package of frozen peas to the pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped bacon back to the pan with the peas and onion. Then toss mixture onto pasta. Season with salt, pepper and grated parmesan. 
Tuesday: Miso-Glazed Fish with Rice and Spinach - Another winner from Dinner: The Playbook, this simple and fast cooking meal is now a family favorite. I substituted salmon with Mahi Mahi and served it with sautéed spinach and white rice. Healthy and delicious! Click here for the recipe.
Wednesday: Braised Adobo Pork Tacos - Okay, another recipe from Dinner: A Love Story. I admit it. I'm obsessed with all the recipes from Jenny Rosenstrach. They are just so good and easy. She suggests making this with polenta (which I'm sure is amazing). I ended up cooking this in a slow cooker and and we made tacos with this. You will die of happiness if you make this. Click here for the recipe.
Thursday: Burgers with Fruity Slaw and Sweet Potato Fries -  What's not to love about this meal? Tasty burgers, a simple slaw with kid-friendly fruit and healthy oven-baked sweet potato fries. This menu comes from ChopChop: The Fun Cooking Magazine for Families spring issue. This issue has four other great family dinners you have to try. 
Friday: Taiwanese Meat Sauce Over Rice with Baby Bok Choy - My family goes crazy for a good rice bowl. When I saw this recipe from Jennifer Che of Tiny Urban Kitchen in the Boston Globe, I just knew my brood would love it. Simple meat sauce is packed with umami as it's cooked with dried mushrooms and asian flavors. We completed this dish with a hard boiled egg and stir-fried baby bok choy. I can't wait to make this again. Click here for the recipe!  

Have a good week!


Related Posts with Thumbnails