Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

After over-indulging this holiday season, go on a family hike (and thank me later).

Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary (Natick, MA)

Monday, November 21, 2011

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!

Monday, November 14, 2011

1st Annual Lamb Pro-Am

A month ago, I was invited to compete in the first-ever Lamb Pro-Am (as you probably already know thanks to all my tweets and facebook updates for votes - sorry!). I embraced the challenge and made lamb pot-stickers two ways. Unfortunately I did not advance to the finals. But I did get the opportunity to attend the Lamb Pro-Am Event last weekend at the Hotel Marlowe.

The Lamb Pro-Am featured four blogger/chef teams serving up samples of the final four lamb dishes to a horde of lamb-loving attendees. Each attendee was given a wooden coin to cast their vote for their favorite lamb dish. Samples of beer from Brooklyn Brewery, J. Lohr wines, the most delicious Pierre Ferrand cognac punch, and tasty bites from Bambara were also enjoyed. I was in foodie heaven.

Fan of the Lamb
This was the chance for the pro-am teams to show off their cooking chops (haha - couldn't resist). It was a true collaboration with chefs working with bloggers to refine their lamb dishes and offer it up to hundreds of hungry people.

I drooled reading the original blog posts and recipes. It truly was satisfying to actually get to taste my fellow competitors creations. I had an impossible time deciding who to vote for.

Congrats to the Team Doves & Figs/The Russell House Tavern for winning the first Lamb Pro-Am. Their lamb & apple sausage wrapped in lamb belly topped with apple pear cranberry conserve and cranberry mustard was out-of-this-world-good. A big thank you to, American Lamb Board, and all the sponsors of the Lamb Pro-Am. I can honestly say I'm now a fan of the Lamb. And thank you, thank you, thank you to all who voted for my lamb potstickers. You guys are the best!

One last word: If you're in Cambridge, check out Flavors of Fall fundraising event tonight. Great food, great chefs for a great cause. And all-star line-up that any foodie would swoon over. Tickets are still available!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How To Pack Lunch with ChopChop Magazine

We have had about two months of school and school lunches under our belt at our house. Here is what a typical week looks like:
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: PB&J
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Oatmeal with fruit & nuts
Friday: School Lunch (Pizza)
Thankfully, my oldest almost always polishes whatever I pack in his lunchbox. It's 50/50 with my 3-year-old. Okay, who am I trying to kid? It's 25/75 with the little bugger. So we're already in a rut and it's only November. *Gulp*

So when I heard about a "Lunch Boot Camp: How to pack a lunch that will be eaten" with ChopChop Magazine held at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and hosted by Mommy Niri, I was giddy with excitement... like the day I got my first Hello Kitty Lunch box.

ChopChop Magazine
ChopChop is a quarterly food magazine and website for kids. ChopChop's mission is to educate kids to cook and empower them to make healthy choices. Think Cook's Illustrated meets Highlights Magazine. It is awesome. Here are some reasons why:

Recipes - simple and healthy recipes that are easy to follow with fun photos of kids making the dish. I love how, at a glance, you know how much adult help is suggested, kitchen gear, ingredients and prep time is needed.
The Sally Challenge - Kids challenge Sally to come up with a recipe that will get them to enjoy an ingredient they typically dislike. If Sally can turn Cate into an eggplant fan with her Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille, then maybe my boys will love it too.
Fun & Games - (my son's favorite part of ChopChop) mazes, word finds, puzzles and other games are peppered (pun intended) throughout each issue. It keeps kids engaged about nutrition and exercise while having fun.
Kids love it too! My boys get excited to try the recipes in a given issue. And they love having a magazine geared to them.

Lunch Boot Camp
I had the good fortune of joining a handful of other local bloggers at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts to hear Sally Sampson, Founder and President of ChopChop, bestow pearls of wisdom on how to pack a lunch that will get eaten. We got more tips from Chef Instructor Dot Jacobson as she gave us a cooking demo on how to make a carrot & apple soup and pasta salad. And lunch boot camp could not be complete without a luncheon.

Founder and President of ChopChop sharing lunch-packing strategies

CSCA Instructor Dot Jacobson giving a cooking demo with Laura Reid, Kim Grenon, Julia Magnusson, Sheri Gurock, and Sally Sampson looking on.
Sandwich and yogurt bar = perfect lunch!

Delicious penne and roasted veggies
Check out the recipes for the Penne and Vegetables with Lemon Dressing and Carrot Apple Soup - perfect for your kids or your own lunch box.

How to pack a lunch that will get eaten
  • Involve your kids: Not only should you ask your kids to choose what they want for lunch, but have them help shop, prepare and pack it. The more you involve your kids, the more invested they will be and likely to try new foods.
  • Pair new ingredients with favorites: Does your kid hate peas but love tomato sauce? Try adding peas to tomato sauce. Even if they don't gobble up every pea for example, there's a good chance they are trying a few and will slowly realize peas aren't so bad. 
  • Texture is key: Kids' palates are not as mature as adults, and textures can make or break a dish in their mind. My boys will gag if you try to give them anything mushy like overcooked vegetables. Dice or puree and combine with other ingredients. My knife skills have never been better!
  • Make it personal: Most kids love to make it about them. A personal-sized pizza, mini pot pies, kebabs. It's the right size and they get to control what goes in it. 
  • Don't give up: Experts say it could take up to 15 tries for a child to get used to and even like a new ingredient. I try to expose my kids to one new ingredient or dish a week. They might not like bitter melon right now, but at least they can pick one out now and remind you it's not their favorite.
Thanks Mommy Niri for organizing Lunch Boot Camp!

Thanks to ChopChop, Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, and Mommy Niri for hosting a great event. Packing lunch has never looked so appealing!

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    CitySprouts Festival

    One of the things we love about Fall are all the harvest festivals. Nothing says Fall like pumpkins, apple cider and caramel apples, right? Then I heard about the CitySprouts Festival: Hands-on cooking and crafts for kids, Iron Chef style cook-off, live music and info on school gardening. We were on our way to Cambridge faster than you can stuff a scarecrow.

    What is CitySprouts?
    As stated on on their website:
    "CitySprouts is a school and community program that integrates academic, health and environmental education in the public schools and in the neighborhood through school gardens... Based in Cambridge, MA, CitySprouts school gardens ensure that hands-on learning, environmental stewardship, and the experience of growing and eating food becomes part of the public education all children receive."
    Who can argue with that? Check out their Facebook page too to learn more.

    Annual CitySprouts Festival
    This year's festival was held at the Fletcher-Maynard Academy in Cambridge, MA. There were plenty of things to keep even the most skeptical kid (namely my youngest) busy - pumpkin decorating, apple cider press, games and prizes just to name a few. And the CitySprouts mission of inspiring schools and families with a hands-on connection to the food cycle, sustainability and the environment came through in a fun and unassuming way.

    Here are some photos of our day at The CitySprouts Festival:

    The cider press was a popular attraction. Kids got a chance to make fresh apple cider using a cider press and some elbow grease.

    No juice boxes here!

    The Stone Soup station offered kids a chance to prep vegetables grown in the school garden and add them to the pot to make "Stone Soup".

    CitySprouts volunteer demonstrating prepping greens for the soup pot.

    Kids were able to decorate flags using stamps made from vegetables. Will need to steal this idea!

    Volunteers helping kids create works of art using vegetables grown from the garden.

    Leeks, potatoes and and radishes make great stamps!
     Connect 3 kept festival goers moving with some upbeat tunes.

    Jamming in the streets of Cambridge.

    Older kids competed in teams for a Dip-off in which teams created dips and salsas top-chef style.

    Future top chefs in the making.

    Fun and games that kept kids busy and introduced them to a variety of fruits and veggies.

    Bean/straw game: pick up dried beans using a only a straw.
    How many beans can you drop into this glass cylinder?

    The playground was a huge hit with my oldest. He proclaimed it to be one of the coolest playgrounds ever. And a good reminder for everyone to keep moving.

    Playground at Fletcher-Maynard Academy

    Ended the afternoon decorating pumpkins using vegetables, sticks, and toothpicks. 

    Decorated pumpkins

    Of all the festivals we had been to this year, this was one of our favorites. My only beef I had was the lack of food. There were limited slices of Stone Hearth pizza available for purchase, and samples of fresh pressed cider and stone soup. Lack of food spurred us to travel a couple of blocks to grab lunch at Flour Bakery and Cafe.  Okay, maybe I shouldn't complain!

    The CitySprouts Festival reinforced how important school gardens are to schools and the community for me. So much so that I've joined a steering committee to create a school garden at my son's elementary school. Maybe one day my son's school will host the next CitySprouts Festival.


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