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!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Green Light and Ben & Jerry's

Free Ben & Jerry's! Plus an added mission (it's like a cherry on top). 

I love blogging, especially if I'm able to amplify a message that's truly important to me and my family. So when I heard that the Ben & Jerry's has teamed up with Green Light Movement, I couldn't wait to spread the word.

Ben & Jerry’s is committed to making a world of difference -- as in saving ours. So it’s no surprise that they’re taking their mission to the streets with an early Earth Day event. Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, will be at Stop & Shop in Hingham for an in-store event on Wednesday April 15, 2015.  Jerry will be talking about climate change and encouraging the audience to do their part to work towards 100% clean energy. Oh, and yes, there will be ice cream.

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The ice cream truck rolls in at 11:00am and Jerry will make a speech at 12:00pm. There will also be fun giveaways, activities and of course free scoops of ice cream!

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So what is Green Light Movement? It’s pretty simple. Each time you make a purchase of some of your favorite products like Ben & Jerry’s made with fair trade ingredients, it helps grow green efforts in the community. Visit www.JoinGreenLight.com to learn more and sign up to receive savings and tips throughout the year. You can also enter for a chance to win a $500 gift card to Stop & Shop.

Now that’s something we can all scream about.

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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Brussels Sprouts Will Never Taste the Same

It's been a little quiet over here as I've been busy juggling duties here and here, all the while working as my kids' personal uber driver after school. But that has not stopped me from trying new recipes and cooking dinner almost every night. And yes, most recipes fall under the "Quick" and "Easy" categories as of late. So when I found this recipe for Brussel Sprouts with Sausage and Cumin from Ana Sortun in Food & Wine, I filed it in my "Recipes to Try" folder immediately.

Even if you don't love Brussels sprouts, you will love this dish. It comes together quickly and the flavors really pack a punch. I highly recommend using a cast iron skillet to make this so you can get that beautiful char/caramelization. Make this immediately. 

Click here for the recipe!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Pappa Al Pomodoro (Italian Tomato Soup)

For this week's meal plan I'm uncharacteristically winging it. Thanks to a busy weekend and ANOTHER winter storm, I was scrambling just to go grocery shopping before getting snowed in. So I did what umdaddy often does and bought anything that looked fresh, only later to figure out what to make for dinner.

I'm a planner. I like to follow a recipe (or use one to start with and modify as needed). So this week I'm a little out of my comfort zone. But can happily report we have yet to order take out!

I did have the wherewithal to buy basic ingredients to make a mirepoix (celery, onion, carrots) for a soup base. Plus with a handy stash of Muir Glen canned tomatoes, I knew I could whip up some soup perfect for a snowy day. Next time I'm making a double batch of a tweaked version of this soup from the Barefoot Contessa -- so I can freeze some and defrost for that day when I'm staring at a fridge with cilantro, pickles and a pomegranate (because they looked good at the time I was shopping).

Pappa al Pomodoro
Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics


  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (about half a loaf) diced day-old ciabatta bread
  • 2 28-oz canned good diced tomatoes (san marzano or Muir Glen)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tbs fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. 
  2. Add the ciabatta cubes and rosemary and cook for 5 more minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken broth, red wine, 1 tbs salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Bring soup to a boil, lower heat and simmer partially covered, for 45 minutes.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed and drizzle with additional olive oil and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Meal Plan by My 6-Year-Old

This week's meal plan from my 6-year-old

So this week I enlisted the help of my 6-year-old for this week's meal plan. I was half expecting it to look something like this:

Monday: Mac & Cheese
Tuesday: PB&J
Wednesday: Pizza
Thursday: Pasta 
Friday: Pizza (again)

So there was a little of that, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some dishes that were outside his usual "carbotarian" repertoire. I had him draw the pictures of what we would have and we talked about different recipes we could try while going through some cookbooks and magazines. Who knew you could compromise with a 6-year-old??
Monday: Lemongrass Coconut Chicken Soup - he suggested "soup" on Monday. I suggested we make Ming Tsai's Lemongrass Coconut Chicken Soup from Simply Ming One-Pot Meals. One look at the photograph and the mention of coconut milk and he was sold.
Tuesday: Roast Chicken with Mac & Cheese and Green Beans - He drew a picture of a storm cloud and snow flakes. I asked him what we should make on a snowy day. He offered mac and cheese. I added a roast chicken (I'm anticipating we will have loads of time indoors for lots of cooking due to the impending blizzard) and green beans. He said okay, but would NOT be eating any chicken. Fine. 
Wednesday: Chili (or Beef Stew) - He suggested Turkey Chili, which we JUST had last night. I offered we make another "type" of chili (I was inspired to make Cooks Illustrated's Guinness Beef Stew by The Fortuitous Housewife). "Can I have it with chips?" Sure, kid.  
Thursday: Pizza - He reminded me we hadn't made pizza in a while. So I agreed we could make some this week. We'll do the usual plain cheese plus Hawaiian Ham & Pineapple. I'll be so sick of shoveling snow, perhaps this will magically teleport me to Hawaii? 
Friday: Scallion Pancakes - It's International Night at my kids' school, so we'll be feasting on a variety of cuisines from around the world. I plan on making and bringing these super easy and ridiculously addictive scallion pancakes by Joanne Chang
Have a great week!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Meal Plan week of 1/19: Delicious Recipes My Kids Will Help Make

(photo credit: ChopChop Magazine)

I'm planning this week's meal before the big New England Patriot's playoff game (we're Pats fans here). As I'm digging through cookbooks, magazines and websites trying to figure out what to make for dinner this week, all I can think of is "Do Your Job" - the new rallying cry for our home team. Yes, I'm going to do my job of taking care of my family. But I'm also going to do my job as a parent and teach my kids to cook.

Did you see this piece in the Huffington Post: 10 Things I Want My Son to Learn Before He Becomes a Teenager? One of the life lessons was to teach her son how to cook for himself. I couldn't agree more. I think it is a parent's job to teach their kids to be self-sufficient, including in the kitchen. And it's never too early to start. So this week, I'm picking simple, healthy, delicious recipes my boys will learn how to make. One day they will cook me a delicious dinner and I will sit back and feel great that I have done my job.
Monday: Mushroom Barley Soup - this hearty winter soup from kid's cooking magazine ChopChop will be a good lesson in patience. Plus a perfect Meatless Monday recipe.
Tuesday: Chicken Adobo - another recipe from ChopChop (if you're going to teach your kids to cook, this is THE place to go you guys). We've never made Chicken Adobo, but I have a feeling they are going to love this.
Wednesday: Maple Candy Pork Chops & Sweet Potato Fries - super simple lesson on marinades. Plus maple syrup and sweet potato fries? A sweet savory dinner from Dinner: A Love Story that will sure to please.
Thursday: Bittman's Fastest Chicken Parmesan - A different lesson from Monday's slow cooking soup. Bittman's shows you cooking need not take all day. With some planning and shortcuts, dinner can be on the table fast.
Friday: Baked Shells with Winter Squash - my kids love mac and cheese. I want to show them how to make a healthier, seasonal version from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

Have a good week!

Disclosure: I work for ChopChop Magazine, but really truly feel this is one of the best resources for teaching kids to cook! Really!


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