Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Page from My Back-to-School (BTS) Playbook

Since I’m still in denial that summer is over (as I mentioned I would be doing in my previous post), I haven’t been thinking too much about Back to School, or BTS as retailers have dubbed it. But I did get a wake up call when I was recently interviewed for a story in the Boston Herald on lunch packing ideas (yes, that was a humble brag!).

You’ll find your fair share of articles on ways to shake up PB&J, healthy after school snack ideas, or how to re-invent the “sandwich.” I thought I’d share a couple of pages from my playbook when it comes to packing my kids’ lunch. And because my boys hate sandwiches (with the exception of PB&J and different versions of it), you won’t find a sandwich idea in the bunch!

Leftovers are key. Pasta, soups, rice dishes and stews reheat well. Make an extra batch to serve for lunch the next day.

Go-To Weeknight Dish: Pasta with Rosemary, Sausage & Tomatoes
Tip: Fill a thermos container with hot water for at least 10 minutes before filling it with food. It will help keep the contents warmer longer. We spring a little extra for the vacuum insulated thermos food jars. They keep the food hot longer and never leak. 
Always pack fresh fruit and veggies. Raw baby carrots are convenient for sure. I find slicing an apple is more likely to get eaten than if I were to pack an apple whole. My boys might not always eat all of their fruits and veggies I pack, but it sends them a message about what makes a healthy meal.

Sliced apple trick from The Kitchn
Tip: Apple corer/slicer will be your best friend. Core and slice an apple and then assemble it back together and hold together with an elastic band. It will help keep the slices from browning!

Pack breakfast for lunch. My boys love hot oatmeal. I add diced apples, raisins, nuts and a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Our favorite steel cut oatmeal brand (it's the uniformity of granulation!)
Tip: Soak steel cut oats the night before. You’ll have perfect oats the next morning when you are packing their lunches. Just add your mix-ins, reheat in the microwave and pack in a thermos container.
I’m a big fan of Easylunchboxes. The bento-style container helps me organize what to pack. The single lid is great for younger kids, especially when lunch is less than 30 minutes long.

Easylunchbox compartments make it easy to pack lunch quickly
Tip: I save small condiment containers whenever we order takeout. They are perfect for holding dips/sauces, dressings and usually fit neatly right in the Easylunchbox.
I try not to introduce new foods at school lunch. This often results in a barely-touched lunchbox. I want to make sure they have a good meal to get them through the day. I torture introduce them to new recipes on the weekends.  

Pizza from Pizzeria Bianco: not your everyday hot lunch (but sure wish it was)
Tip: Give yourself (and your kids) a break and let your kids buy hot lunch at school periodically. My son looks forward to Fridays when he can buy lunch (which happens to be Pizza Day at school).
It’s tempting to turn to convenience foods or tried and true (PB&J) when it comes to packing lunches. Establishing healthy eating habits takes a little bit of work – but not much. Maybe an extra five minutes. Seriously.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

March of Dimes/Macy's Shop for a Cause

When I started this blog a few years ago, I figured I would blog about a couple of recipes, maybe a restaurant review here and there. I was new to the blogosphere and had little foresight that blogging can extend far beyond a snarky post, a flash giveaway, and some food porn. Blogs and social media can be used for good, helping others in need by amplifying a message to the masses.

That is why I am thrilled to participate in the March of Dimes/Macy’s Shop for a Cause Campaign. If you aren’t familiar with the March of Dimes, they’ve been around since 1938, working to prevent birth defects, premature birth, infant mortality along with advancing maternal and health research. Did you know 1 in 8 babies are born too early? These babies face an increased risk of serious medical complications or death. The March of Dimes is helping moms have full-term pregnancies and research the problems that threaten the health of babies.  

Save 25% on the 25th and Help Babies
So here’s the fun part – March of Dimes has partnered with Macy’s for a special Shop for a Cause fundraiser. Here’s how it works:
  • Buy a $5 Macy’s savings pass and use it to get 25% off regular, sale and clearance merchandise throughout the store as well as 10% off furniture, mattresses and area rugs. The pass is valid in all Macy’s stores on Saturday, August 25, 2012.
  • Macy's will donate 100% of the $5 cost of the savings pass to the March of Dimes to help give more babies a healthy start in life. 

When to buy passes:
  • August 15-24: buy passes in-store (good for in-store purchases only)
  • August 25: buy a $5 savings pass online at (good for online purchases only)

When to shop:
  • August 25: use your passes online or in-stores (depending on where you bought them)
  • August 24-25: Two stores in Massachusetts will hold an exclusive Two-Day Shop for a Cause - Boston (450 Washington Street, Boston); Berkshire (170 Old State Road, Lanesboro).

And you have to admit, there’s still more back-to-school shopping to be done (hell, I’m still trying to catch up and get some summer shopping done). I thought I’d help and share some ideas when it comes to kitchen gear for back-to-school meals, school clothes, and some arm candy for being a rockin’ mom:

OXO Pop Containers: great storage solution for cereals, grains, and snacks.

Zojirushi Rice Cooker: Set-it-and-forget-it for perfect rice for weekday meals.

OXO 3-in-1 Avocado Tool: sliced avocado for sandwiches or quac never has been easier.

Bodum Coffee Press: for the extra boost parents need during the school year.
Zoku Quick Pop Maker: fresh & healthy smoothie pops in 7 minutes for after school snack.

Levis, Mechanics Tee, Chuck Taylors: coolest kid on the playground.

Coach Carryall: perfect for PTO meeting to weekend getaway. 

You can also check out more picks on my Macy’s Shop for a Cause Pinterest board here

Go to Macy’s this Saturday (or online at, buy a savings pass, get your BTS shopping done, save 25%, help babies. Doesn’t get better than that.

This post was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/TheMission List to raise awareness about the March of Dimes/Macy’s charitable fundraiser. All commentary, opinions, and fabulous finds are, of course, my own.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hanging on to the Last Days of Summer

I’m about to write something that makes me very sad… summer is almost over. Back-to-school flyers have invaded our mailbox. There’s now a steady stream of communication from the boys’ schools. Our family dinners outside are ending a little earlier every night. Sniff.

But I try to be the "glass-is-half-full" kind of gal and look at it this way: there are over two more weeks to celebrate the best of the season. So when I heard Joe’s American Bar and Grill has a summer menu complete with an upscale take on cookout classics, plus a killer Summer at Joe’s sweepstakes, I raised my glass of Sam Summer and shouted “Hallelujah!”

Joe’s American Bar & Grill is a classic in the New England restaurant scene. With 12 locations throughout New England, Joe’s is all about familiar American fare in a family-friendly atmosphere. I had the opportunity to sample some items from the summer menu and some of Joe’s all-time favorites with fellow Boston Parent Bloggers.

For appetizers: try Joe’s Maryland Lump Crab Cakes, Joe’s Famous Barbecued Ribs (slow cooked for fall-of-the-bone-goodness), Black Skillet Roasted Mussels (my favorite), and the Spinach & Artichoke Dip.

For Entrees: you gotta go with the Joe’s Original burger, finalist in the Boston Battle of the Burger or the Fish N Chips. The Grilled Shrimp and Watermelon Salad is a great refreshing choice too (though my shrimp was over-seasoned for my taste).

Dessert: everything. Still dreaming about the Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie and Charles River Pie…

Concept Chef Sean McDonald was sure to point out that unlike other restaurants, everything on the menu is made from scratch. You won’t find a microwave or a freezer in the kitchen (except for a small freezer for the ice cream).

And every Wednesday through Labor Day, Joe’s is running a “Celebrate America” sweepstakes.  Fans get a chance to win concert tickets, Six Flags Passes, and Joe’s gift cards to name a few. And one lucky winner will win a grand prize package with VIP passes to the Life is Good Festival, tour the Sam Adams brewery, Red Sox Tickets, an overnight at the Hotel Commonwealth, and special dinners at Joe’s and sister restaurant Abe & Louie’s. Wow. Be sure to check out Joe’s Facebook page for more details.

Joe’s summer menu is a tribute to the backyard barbecue. That’s my kind of barbecue! And the Summer at Joe’s Sweepstakes would be the ideal way to celebrate all the things you love about summer in New England. I’m hanging on to summer – even if it means wearing white after Labor Day.

Disclosure: Thanks to Joe's American Bar & Grill  for hosting the event, which I received free of charge. I have no material connection to the brands, products or services mentioned. As always, opinions are my own.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


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