simple nibbles of natural goodness

A #MakersMonday Gift Guide

Makers Monday is today, November 30, 2015. Launched by Shinola two years ago, it’s an effort to prompt holiday shoppers to buy local and buy American on the Monday after Thanksgiving. The concept has evolved into a massive, crowd-sourced guide to well-crafted, artisanal products, curated yearlong on social media. It’s an idea I can get behind! So I’m sharing my favorite local and/or American-made products today, in time for some Cyber Monday shopping. Many of these are made by friends or friends of friends! I hope you enjoy the ideas.

Boston-based knitwear designer The Third Piece

If you’ve noticed turban-style hats and headbands on all the cool kids this year, chances are the two Boston-based designers from were behind it.  They employ artists from throughout New England, and if there’s a crafter on your holiday shopping list, they also sell kits to make their designs yourself, at ridiculously reasonable prices. And their children’s accessory line will have you and your mini-me styling together in no time.

Use code HOLIDAY to save 20% at

Craftswoman & designer Michelle Liebmann 

Leather goods, textiles and jewelry: these are the categories on the navigation bar of Michelle Liebmann’s website, but it doesn’t convey the wide variety of handmade items she offers at — from hand-poured soy candles in flavors like hot cider and red cedar to hand-dyed scarves, repurposed watches and framed linens. She’s a fellow foodie and New Englander, and her food & travel blog and etsy shop are worth a visit, too.

unisex baby bloomers from Billie Blooms

OK, OK — this isn’t Boston or even New England made. But they are a shout-out to my Florida family, because they’re made down in Miami as a city- and heat-friendly pants option for tots birth to age two! Who can resist these?? At $28 for 100% cotton, made-in-the-USA bloomers, I dare you not to pinch the heck out of your baby’s thighs in glee over scoring these. Available at

Knife rolls, chef aprons & leather goods from Weft & Warp

“Made for cooks by a cook” says seamster and leatherworker Erik Desjarlais of the goods for sale at his Portland, Maine-based e-tail shop After retiring from the kitchen himself five years ago, he started hand-crafting knife rolls, aprons and waxed canvas bags that the pros now rely on. Got a home chef, handyman (or woman) or anyone else who would appreciate timeless, rugged stuff like this? Here’s your last stop.

Crane & Lion yoga and lifestyle wear

Designed in Boston, Crane & Lion is a brand I first saw on the yoga teacher who comes to my office to teach an in-house class after work once a week. The colors and fit are really stunning, and I love that all their pieces can go from workout to street with ease. It’s so impressive that this business is only a year old and killin’ it, while also giving back 5% of profits to three Boston service organizations.

Use code CYBERSWEAT40 for free shipping and 40% off through tomorrow at

Hand-dipped truffles from chocolatier Dean’s Sweets


Portland, Maine based confectioner Dean Bingham is a former architect who brings an artist’s eye and attention to detail to his chocolate creations. I’ve purchased his bacon-covered chocolates for Mark as a stocking stuffer, and sent boxes to friends and family for Easter and Christmas. With flavors like chocolate stout, lemon apricot Chevre, Moxie soda and his own special “boozy mix,” there’s something for everyone, and all of it is 100% handmade and nut free. Order online at

Handmade ceramics by Elizabeth Benotti

I recently met Elizabeth at a local artisans marketplace, and seriously could have bought everything in her display. Her entire aesthetic is so calming and stylish, and I loved hearing about her process of slipcasting, handbuilding, wheelthrowing, drawing and painting each unique item. A Massachusetts native, she currently resides and keeps a studio in New Hampshire.

Use code JELLOQUEEN just through today, Nov. 30, to save 20% at

Hand-painted porcelain + bead jewelry by Rapt Stonewear

A beautiful collaboration between two designers (who happen to be my colleagues!) based in Boston, Rapt Stonewear marries the work of ceramicist Jenn Erickson and jewelry & knitwear designer Jessie Partridge. Combining painted porcelain with colorful hand-wrapped cord, these designs are both bold and different, delicate and clean. In other words, perfect for any stylish and creative person on your shopping list.

A few more artists and creators that I’d like to quickly highlight: Rhode Island-based BABS fine handmade handbags, featuring leather and felt in unexpected colors and combinations; Hemlock Springs Soaps, out of New Hampshire, with scents and textures that are simply intoxicating; Albertine Press from my former home of Somerville, with stunning city-themed letterpress designs inspired by world travel; Cheeky Monkey Home accessories, of Belmont, MA; and hand-folded origami fabric gift boxes crafted by Berline Chao of The Perfect Box.

I hope you visit these and more this holiday season! Check out the web deals I’ve highlighted above, since most expire today or tomorrow; and if you are looking for more in-person opportunities to buy local and meet the crafters and designers behind these products, find an upcoming show below. 

cheekymonkeyhome via etsy


Looking to support Boston-based artisans and businesses by buying local beyond #MakersMonday? Here are a few excellent shows to check out.

Swedish Yuletide @ the Cyclorama — Dec. 5

South Boston Holiday Market  Dec. 6

CraftBoston @ the Hynes — Dec. 11-13

SoWa Holiday Market — Dec. 12 & 13

Salem Holiday Market — Dec. 19 & 20

My Winter Skin Saviors

The patch of time between summer and the holidays can wreak havoc on hair, skin and nails. The days of sunscreen, swimming pools, salt air and getting a tan are far behind you, and the deep dehydrating cold of winter has set in in full force. If you’re anything like me, your hair and complexion do NOT like this transition, and protest loudly (or should I say visibly) with itchiness, dry spots, flakes, dullness and fly-aways as soon as the heat comes on and the coats come out. I found this twice as challenging immediately post-partum, because it felt like I was working with a different set of skin and hair than I had before Georgia came along! Now, two years out, I’ve accepted the “new reality” and have a system that works for me.

In my experience, it’s a combination of what you put INTO and ONTO your body that makes a real difference. And finding time to exercise — even for 15 minutes — makes a discernible impact on your overall health and ability to cope with changing seasons. Sometimes that just means walking home from the T or doing a quick yoga video in the morning before work.


walking the mile home from daycare: totally counts as exercise when pushing this lady uphill!

So, how do I stay somewhat energetic, organized, and (fingers crossed) professional-looking without breaking the bank up here in chilly old Boston? There are a few things I can’t do without. My tips:

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Don’t leave the bathroom post-shower without slathering on a rich, hydrating body cream. I always used to skip this step and then wondered why my entire body felt so itchy and uncomfortable! If your skin is really driving you nuts, try an in-shower body oil wash like this, too. I’ve become a big fan of Bath & Body Works lotion for scented body lotion, and the Body Shop’s body butters are my favorite natural-ingredient option. Their Vitamin E mist also does wonders to refresh dry, fatigued facial skin throughout the day.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Allow me to introduce you to my new best friend: this flavor-infusing water bottle by UncommonGoods. I’m always tossing limes, lemons, basil, berries, you name it into my water at home, but until recently I hadn’t found a good way to take these healthy flavored waters on the go. I get bored really easily with plain old water, and yet I know how important it is to stay hydrated in the dry winter months, so I really want to find ways to overcome that hurdle. This week I tried adding apples to my water and it was delicious! I love that this bottle seals tight, won’t spill in my purse on the train, is easy to clean, and looks chic enough on my desk at work that three people asked me where I’d gotten it. It’s definitely on my gift-giving list for this year, and if you are looking for more gift ideas, they have great handcrafted presents for men and women, as well as lots of personalized gift options. You can feel good knowing they incorporate recycled and up-cycled materials into about a third of their products, and that most are made in the USA by artists and designers.

  Taking a mental break from work for a little photo-book designing with Artifact Uprising. Bottle c/o Uncommon Goods.

Wanting to step up my water intake with meals, too, I’ve also started keeping a pitcher of tap water in our fridge, purified with charcoal, which reduces chlorine and balances PH while mineralizing your water for up to six months. In addition to prompting me to drink more water with meals at home, it’s helped me kick another bad habit: buying huge packages of bottled water out of pure laziness.

charcoal filter c/o Uncommon Goods.

Beyond just hydrating and moisturizing your system, it’s important to think of what you eat in winter as fortifying yourself from the inside out. Sure, there are lots of parties and holiday gatherings this time of year, and plenty of reasons to celebrate. But if you start overdoing it on wine, candy and dessert almost every day, you won’t be fueling yourself with the right energy to make it through the season. I’ve learned the hard way that too much wine every day after work actually disturbs your sleep and saps your energy, making you tired (and tired-looking!) in the morning. Same goes for sweets! When the clocks “fell back” and it started getting darker earlier, I noticed a more pronounced sugar craving around 3:30 or 4 every day. I indulged that sweet tooth until I realized it was making me crash (hard) during Georgia’s bedtime every evening, and as an added bonus (ha) it was making me break out, too.  I stopped the sugar binges and put a halt to the breakouts and cycle of fatigue almost immediately. And once you empower your body to rest more deeply when you sleep, you can work on making sure you go to bed and wake up at a consistent time every day, which is easy to do if you don’t have kids, work, or a spouse that wants to chat right when you were hoping to go to bed :)

In all seriousness, I wouldn’t make it through the holidays each year if I didn’t get enough sleep, and the only way I can do that just happens to have the added benefit of helping your hair and skin recover from harsh winter winds and temps…and that is showering every other day.

How can you get away with showering every other day? Two words: dry shampoo. I’ve found that using a higher-quality shampoo and conditioner to begin with helps extend my blowouts to two days, and the dry shampoo gives me just the extra bit of freshness I need to feel polished enough for work. Since Georgia goes to daycare every other day, I make those days my “no shower/dry shampoo” mornings, unless I have a big meeting or presentation requiring a bit more effort. This routine, while not as doable in the summer, gives my skin’s natural oils time to replenish and heal my nails, hair and body head to toe. In the summer, I take the blow-drying break my hair really needs to stay healthy over the long term. Investing in a high-end hair dryer can also help, since it will reduce overall drying time. I also recommend spraying hair with a lightweight conditioning detangler for added moisture year- round, and my personal favorite (which I share with Georgia) is from the Honest Company.

When all else fails and the heat is cranking at home and at work, I bring out the big guns: my humidifier! We love the Crane drop shape model, but any brand is fine as long as you make sure to buy cool-mist only, especially if it’s for a baby or toddler’s room. This alone has helped us to soothe Georgia’s dry, raspy nighttime cough, which seems to resurface every winter.

Last but not least, I have a Friday night ritual that helps save my winter-ravaged skin: making a food-based facial mask! Here are three recipes using ingredients you probably already have hanging around the house:

  • Option #1: mash 1/2 cup avocado with 1/2 a ripe banana until smooth. Spread the mask on your face for up to 15 minutes and rinse with warm water for a soft, creamy treatment! This mask is hydrating and soothing, and bananas in particular will help reduce breakouts and reduce past discolorations.
  • Option #2: Combine 1/2 cup oats, 1 banana, 1 TBSP coconut oil, and 1 TBSP honey. Blend in a food processor and slather on your face for a rich, restorative mask in the dead of winter. See a how-to here! It’s inexpensive, unclogs pores and fights bacteria, and the coconut oil is especially good at de-gunking.
  • Option #3: Plain old honey. Works great by itself! This you can even do twice a week if you like.

Turmeric also works to lighten and brighten skin, so you could add that to either of these masks as well. Refrigerating any of these masks is a great refreshing option, too! Follow them up with a nice hydrating moisturizer and go to bed for some skin-saving rest. I have two favorite nighttime winter moisturizers: one from Clinique and another from RoC with retinol for sensitive skin.

Georgia shows us how it’s done. Just don’t stay up all night watching Netflix!! 

I hope this inspires you to care for your sensitive skin in winter. Thanks for Uncommon Goods for partnering with us to create this post! Have a safe, happy Thanksgiving.

Roasted Squash Pizza

Yes, squash! And kale, and caramelized onions, and apples, and  a balsamic reduction. The secret sauce that pulls it all together? Greek Yogurt!
You all know that I love substituting Greek Yogurt into baking recipes. I’ve done it in baking, and in place of sour cream atop all my chili recipes, and in smoothies left and right. But recently it struck me: why not put Greek Yogurt onto a white pizza? It’s tangy, it’s a little sweet, and in recent years the flavor options have exploded. I briefly considered making a reworked Hawaiian pizza, with pineapple Greek Yogurt, diced ham, onions and mozzarella, but after recently trying some unexpectedly delicious squash tacos, it got me thinking about the versatility of root vegetables and gourds. For this recipe, I used an acorn squash, since the skin is edible and it cooks down into a very sweet, mellow taste when diced and roasted. I pre-cooked the ingredients for this pizza in a saute pan ever so briefly, then assembled it on the pie and popped into the oven for just ten minutes of crisping. Voila!

Kale wilts a lot when cooked, and is a well-documented nutritional powerhouse. It can be tough to eat raw, so even when I’m using it in a salad I like to mix it with a variety of leafy greens chopped very fine. Kale, like other cruciferous vegetables, supports a healthy heart and digestive system, and provides an irresistibly earthy flavor to any dish. If you don’t like it or prefer not to use it, spinach would be an acceptable and tasty substitute.

This recipe makes use of several ingredients that you’ll probably have in double, simply by virtue of the quantity in which stores sell squash (which is whole) and kale (which is in large bunches). It also only calls for half a container of Greek Yogurt, so you could easily buy or make two pizza pies and then cook two of these babies back to back, and use up all your ingredients.

I know it may seem odd, but I actually chose Coconut Blended Chobani as the sweet base for this pizza. Why? Well, coconut seems unexpected, and I like that! I personally love the flavor, and this is a standby choice for me to keep in our house to share with Georgia alongside fresh fruit as a snack. She also loves the mango and pineapple flavors, which I send to daycare with a side of granola. And, just like coconut oil imparts a faint aroma and flavor to the food it cooks with, this yogurt provided a creamy, sweet foundation that made you say “hmm, what’s that I’m tasting?” with every bite of the finished pizza.


Roasted Squash Pizza

The quantities below are for one pie; to make two, simply double. Many store-bought pie crusts are sold as a pair anyway, and you can always refrigerate the spare for another pizza recipe, or to make homemade oven chips tossed with oil and seasoning for a savory little snack.


  • 1 pizza crust, homemade or store bought
  • 1 package Chobani Coconut Blended Greek Yogurt
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 acron squash, cubed into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 small bunch of kale, shredded into pieces and stems discarded
  • 1 tart apple, cut into bite sized pieces, peel on
  • salt and pepper to taste

optional: balsamic reduction for drizzling (but you really should keep this step, even if it means buying a bottle of glaze instead of making your own!)


Preheat the oven to 400 or whatever temp the dough calls for, if you’re using packaged crust. Cut up the apple and set aside.

In a medium-sized saute pan over medium-high, heat a bit of olive oil and add the sliced red onion, stirring, until they just become translucent. Add the kale and cook for a couple of minutes until it just starts to shrink but hasn’t fully wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cubed acorn squash to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the kale is fully wilted, the onions have begun to caramelize, and the acorn squash is browned and becoming tender. Remove the pan from the heat.

Prep the crust by spreading about half the package of yogurt onto the surface in an even layer, adding the kale, onion, and squash directly from the pan, distributing evenly over the pizza.

Sprinkle the cubed apples over the pie and drizzle gently with the balsamic reduction, using a light hand.

Place the completed pizza into the oven for 10 minutes or however long the packaged crust calls for; check to make sure the edges aren’t burning. It’s done when the crust is beginning to brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool briefly, and dig in!

I rough cut my homemade pizzas in six or eight pieces depending on my mood, always using kitchen shears. Depending on the type of pizza stone you have, you may need to add more oil or flour to prevent sticking. I have one like this and love it. These slices reheat very well, too. Just pop a few into the microwave for 1 minute or reheat over low in a small nonstick frying pan until warm. Enjoy :)

Looking for more ways to use Greek Yogurt in cooking and baking? Check out  my Strawberry Yogurt CakeOrange Creamsicle Cake, and this Spicy Penne Rosa with Shrimp, which has a creamy tomato sauce, a kick of heat, and some heart-healthy spinach. Lately I’ve been making my own parfaits with the seasonal granola selection at Trader Joe’s, grapes, and apples, since those are the two fruits we have in abundance these days due to toddler preferences and our recent orchard excursion. Greek Yogurt makes an awesome addition to overnight oats, too! Be sure to head on over to Chobani’s recipe page to get even more inspiration.


Have a wonderful week, and I’ll be back soon with some Thanksgiving ideas … plus a sneak peek at our Christmas card photos, which I can’t wait to share with you (teaser above!) Let me just tell you, portrait sessions with a two year old are NO. JOKE!  :)

Special thanks to Chobani for inspiring this post.


Tomato, Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Pie

You might call this too summery, but I say we are in the midst of a warm spell and we might as well eat like it. Soon enough, we’ll be back to chili, soups, stews and risotto, so for now: bite into a tangy tomato, and a seasoned bell pepper, and enjoy the creamy goat cheese floating under this tender crust! Before you know it, the winter foods will be back in rotation, and wouldn’t you like to have this recent memory to sustain you through those days of early nightfall and windy, icy commutes? I thought so.


This is very easy, but the most critical tip I can share is to assemble the pie right before you put it in the oven. If you put the tomatoes in and let them sit while you prepare the rest of the filling, it will make the crust too soggy to hold together while baking, so it’s critical to prep your ingredients and then put it all together at once before placing into a pre-heated oven. As with most recipes I share involving pie, I use a pre-made, store-bought crust. If you’re looking for a great homemade pie crust recipe, I like this one.

This recipe originally came from my Blue Apron delivery and I’ve recreated it using my own seasonings and garden tomatoes with excellent results. It really is easy and crowd-pleasing, and vegetarian to boot.

Tomato, Sweet Pepper & Goat Cheese Pie


  • 1 Pie Crust, homemade or store bought pre-made
  • 2 Tomatoes (large beefsteak/heirloom variety)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • Sweet Peppers (3-4 small ones or one large)
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 Bunch Basil
  • ½ Cup Crumbled Goat Cheese (or more if you really love it!)
  • 1 Tablespoon Sherry Vinegar (or sub another kind you prefer)
  • ½ Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • ¼ Cup Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1½ TBSP Spice Blend: equal parts Flour, Mustard Powder & Dried Thyme


Preheat the oven to 425F.

Peel and mince the garlic (I used a garlic press). Cut out and discard the stem, ribs and seeds of the sweet pepper and thinly slice them into rings. Chop the onion. Cut the tomatoes into ¼-inch-thick slices. Pick the basil leaves off the stems and discard the stems.

In a medium pan, heat some olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the garlic, onion and sweet pepper; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 4 minutes, or until softened and fragrant. Stir in the vinegar; cook, stirring frequently, about a minute or until well combined. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Next, make the breadcrumb topping: while the onion and pepper cook, combine the Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in enough olive oil to moisten the mixture slightly.

Layer half the tomatoes onto the bottom of the pie crust in an overlapping pattern; season with salt and pepper. Top with the cooked onion and sweet pepper, half the spice blend, half the goat cheese and the basil; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes, spice blend and goat cheese.

Evenly top the assembled pie with the breadcrumb topping; season with salt and pepper.

Place the topped pie on a sheet pan. Bake, turning halfway through, 20 to 22 minutes, or until the topping and crust are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Eat all in one sitting with a glass of white wine!


Other things you can try if the crust comes out soggy: either pre-bake it for a couple minutes on low heat, then proceed with the recipe as usual; or, you can move it lower in your oven and thus closer to the heat source, which may solve the problem. Other solutions might include pricking the bottom of the pie with a tooth pick before baking, and/or lining the bottom of the crust with Parmesan before you add the tomatoes. If you pre-bake and are concerned about the top getting over browned, you can always cover that part with foil while it’s cooking, and it should prevent burning. But again, I didn’t have any issues with sogginess, I just noticed it was a common complaint about this recipe on the Blue Apron Facebook page.

The last piece of advice I would give is something that Blue Apron has taught me, which I must admit has improved all of my cooking: seasoning with salt and pepper throughout the preparation of any dish is essential to making sure it’s fully flavored at the end. You don’t have to be too heavy-handed with it, you just have to keep the seasonings coming at each step of the recipe. That’s definitely true of this pie as well!

Good luck, have fun cooking, and tell me how you’re getting ready for Thanksgiving! I’m cooking a turkey for the first time this year, for our community’s “Don’t Be Alone on Thanksgiving” event, which feeds over 900 people on Thanksgiving each year. Some come in person for the meal at our local high school, while families in shelters and elderly or disabled shut-ins have a meal delivered to their home. I’m using this helpful guide for first timers, although Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) also has an excellent one. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Something tells me cooking the bird will pale in complexity against actually delivering the darn thing to the proper location with a rambunctious two-year-old in tow! :)

Boo! A Halloween Recap

Hope everyone had an awesome trick-or-treat! We had family over, walked around our neighborhood, and tried our hardest to tucker Georgia out before Daylight Saving Time hit us Sunday morning. Georgia dressed as her all-time favorite, Minnie Mouse, and the lucky girl got to wear her costume THREE times this week: once at my office Halloween party on Monday, another time at the daycare Halloween parade Thursday, and again Saturday night for the real Halloween. She was one happy lady! Just see how happy in this video.

Last year (see below!) she liked walking around and meeting people, but this year she was really into the whole routine. She made it through the entire neighborhood, instead of just half a dozen homes on one side of our little street, and she said “trick or treat!” “thank you!” and “happy Halloween!” to everybody we met.


Last year. My Baby!!

The best part is that, while she likes picking out colorful wrappers, she couldn’t care less about actually EATING the candy, so more for me!  Good thing I have a candy dish in my office for sharing the wealth.

The transition to Daylight Saving Time went fine for us. We had moved Georgia’s bedtime later bit by bit all week leading up to it, so Sunday morning she woke up at 6:10, which wasn’t too bad, and she took her normal nap from 1 to 3 p.m. My goal was just to have her wake up later than 5 and to take her usual nap, and in that, we succeeded. Spring forward is always much worse for us when it comes to sleep disruptions for Georgia anyway. Everyone felt a little out of whack Sunday with the time change, so we just made it a lounge day. Now it’s back to work.

Remember how I was lamenting my lack of Slow Cooker recipes last week? Well, you guys delivered when it comes to ideas! So many people reached out and offered their family favorites, and I’ll be posting the results as I try them out. Hopefully we have some winners. Meanwhile, I wanted to share these two great ideas from A Year of Slow Cooking: A1 and Dijon Steak, which I just know Mark would love, and Brown Sugar Chicken, which sounds satisfying for my and Georgia’s sweet tooth. That blog even has a slow cooker apple crisp, but I’m not sure how you’d achieve a crunchy top that way, so I haven’t tried it out.

I hope to have even more slow cooker ideas to share in the coming weeks! Plus, an early holiday shopping guide. You know me, I like to be done with Christmas by Thanksgiving, and then I finish designing our holiday card that weekend so I can mail it in early December. Can’t believe that time of year is already approaching! Here’s last year’s card, and the post about our photo shoot.


Photography by JPG // design by Minted

In closing, I just wanted to also thank everyone who sent well wishes (and mushy recipes) when I had my wisdom teeth out last week. It went fine, and I’m feeling back to my old self now. My friend Jean even sent me homemade soup (and she has a one-year-old!) that tasted simply divine.


She gave me the recipe from Epicurious, and you better believe I’m going to make it! If I do, I’ll share here. I think Georgia would like it, too.

Have a great week everyone and I’ll be back soon! xoxo

Turkey &Veggie Meatloaf (Toddler Friendly!)

So, I’ve been trying to revive my slow cooker for our cool fall nights, but am having trouble expanding my repertoire of recipes. A few weeks ago, I bought ground turkey to try and make this slow cooker cheeseburger casserole, but it seemed like every morning that week was just too hectic for me to do the minimal prep required to get it started before work. With the expiration date looming, I had no choice but to throw all that ground turkey into a meatloaf. That’s how this recipe was born! I didn’t discover a new slow cooker meal, but I did devise something just as easy and even a little bit healthy, since I snuck a lot of finely-diced and shredded veggies into it too. I’m really trying  to get more vegetables into Georgia’s diet these days, and this succeeded in doing that, while still tasting very moist and just like a classic meatloaf. Success!

The only bad thing is that I took ZERO good pictures of it. You’ll just have to trust me that this came out so tasty, and use for your evidence these snapshots of Georgia enjoying dipping hunks of the meatloaf in her favorite condiment — ketchup — which she calls sauce (“mama, I need more SAUCE!”) I really think the far-off stare, eating straight ketchup with her fork, and treating her binky like a place setting will make this look even more appetizing for you. And yes, I put a red shirt over my child’s regular clothing when she’s eating ketchup.

What makes this toddler friendly?

  • It uses turkey instead of ground beef & other red meats that are higher in saturated fats (and may be carcinogenic!)
  • It makes minimal use of that nutritional dud white bread, instead using some bread crumbs. I don’t know about your kids, but mine gets PLENTY of refined carbs as it is.
  • It packs a lot of veggies without turning a weird color or tasting too “green.”
  • It is good for practicing fork/spoon/knife skills, but is also very grab-able for hands that just want to go straight from plate to mouth!
  • The most obvious: it is prime dunking material, in ketchup, barbecue sauce, what have you.
  • Meatloaf is cool-weather food. It’s filling, reminds you of weeknight dinners as a kid, and reheats beautifully for busy evenings after work and school.

Without further ado, here is the recipe!

Turkey & Veggie Meatloaf


  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1.5 cups grated or diced vegetables of your choosing
  • 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP ketchup (extra) for serving


Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup ketchup, egg, vegetables, and mustard. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Pack the mixture into a loaf pan. Combine the Worcestershire sauce and remaining ketchup and brush over the meatloaf.

Bake for 45 minutes and serve warm. Packs well for day care with a side of “sauce!”

For vegetables, I used green beans, sweet potatoes and zucchini/summer squash. You could use whatever you like or have on hand.

I hope you are all enjoying Autumn and getting excited about Halloween. We are getting into the spirit with festive drinks, decorating our house for trick-or-treaters, and visiting the playground a few more times before frost sets in.

Georgia is going to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween this year — how about you??

Have fun, stay safe, and share photos afterward :)

Caramel Apple Dip (EASY!)

A few weeks ago, we went to the 1st birthday party of a close high school friend’s baby girl. Her mom had made the most delicious dip for sliced apples, and adults and kids alike were gobbling it up. When I asked her for the recipe (as Georgia kept digging into it!), she said it had just three ingredients that sound gross when you list them out separately, but tasted perfect when combined together. They are cream cheese, caramel sauce and granola. Weird, right?

But just like she said, it comes together magically. Thanks, Judi!

I love how fast this is to make, and how easy it is to find these ingredients. It tastes like a caramel apple that you’d buy at the orchard after a full day of apple picking! And the best part is that, for $10 in ingredients, you can feed a gigantic crowd of people, because a little bit of this goes a LONG way when served alongside fruit and crackers. I had friends over Monday night and made it, and six of us polished off half the pan; my co-workers took care of the rest when I brought it to work today!.

You can buy any brand of cream cheese, granola or caramel sauce. I picked up Trader Joe’s cream cheese and caramel and Bear Naked granola at the Roche Bros. downtown because TJ’s didn’t have any normal flavors of granola left. This can easily be made with a nut-free or gluten-free version if you so desire.

Caramel Apple Dip


  • 1 container whipped plain cream cheese (full or low fat, your preference)
  • 1 jar of caramel dip (such as T. Marzetti) or sauce, like you’d find near the ice cream cones and toppings
  • about two cups of granola, any flavor you like
  • sliced apples and/or simple crackers to eat alongside


In a pie plate or large bowl, layer the whipped cream cheese, caramel sauce (softening for 1 minute in the microwave if necessary) and granola evenly and serve at room temperature with sliced apples, cut large enough to scoop out the dip. Enjoy with a dozen friends!

This pairs especially well with cheese on an appetizer spread. Just like that slightly odd New England tradition of eating slices of cheddar with apple pie, right? What I especially like about this is how it doesn’t melt, congeal, separate, or otherwise morph into something inedible or gross-looking when left out at a party for a couple hours. You can also make it a day ahead, refrigerate, and it’s ready to go as soon as you are.

See our recent apple picking adventures here, and stay tuned for an apple crisp recipe coming soon. And for another easy fall recipe, be sure to check out my brown sugar kielbasa in the slow cooker! It’s perfect for Sundays spent watching the game with family and friends.

I’m signing off to get those darn wisdom teeth out tomorrow, so wish me luck and I’ll be back soon! XOXO

Apple Picking at Shelburne Farm

Happy Fall in New England! While I promise a few apple-centric recipes soon, for now I’m just going to share photos from our recent family trip to Shelburne Farm in Stow this past weekend.

We picked macouns, empires, mackintosh, cortlands and red delicious, and I’ve got lots of plans for them! This past Sunday was exactly the one and only day all three of us were free for a fall family activity, so we went all out and took a hay ride (or as Georgia called it “the hay choo-choo”), ate cinnamon donuts and drank mulled cider, sat in the pumpkin patch, and visited the petting zoo with Llamas, Alpacas, Donkeys, Sheep and Goats. (As we were leaving, Georgia kept waving “bye bye, animals! I love you!”)  
All in all it was a fun day, and last winter produced such a great crop of fruit this year that there’s plenty of time to get out there and get picking if you haven’t already!

If you do go to Shelburne, here are my tips. Get there before 11 a.m. or expect a mob; know that there are only porta-potties; plan on having some of their food for lunch, since they have an outdoor snack stand with picnic tables and a live band for entertainment; and bring extra cash for the pony rides, hay ride and corn maze. Oddly, there were a ton of people “tailgating” in the parking lot when we got there and when we were leaving, which I did not realize was a thing. (Have you done that? If so, explain! We didn’t get it).

The cowboy boots go everywhere. We found it to be noticeably cooler out west as compared to the city, so layers is probably a good idea. I love that there’s no admission fee here and a peck of apples (10 pounds) — more than enough for a small family to eat and bake with — costs just $20, with a full bushel only $28. Another farm we loved to visit last year, Lookout Farm, is right in the town where Mark and I grew up, and it’s another awesome choice for families, although much more expensive at $15 per person just for admission (and only kids under two are free!) They also have animals to pet, food, a playground area, and an adorable train that takes you to each part of the orchard. It was a great choice for a 14-month old who couldn’t really walk up and down the rows of trees just yet!

It also pays to have a really tall person in your apple-picking gang.

The refrain of the day was definitely Georgia’s new catch phrase: “My do it MYSELF!”


Have a wonderful remainder of the week everyone, and stay tuned for two new apple recipes next week!

Finally! @BlueApron offers packaging return

Whenever someone asks me about the pros and cons of Blue Apron, I always tell them: it’s a cost effective, high quality, fun ingredient-delivery service to supplement your weekly meal planning, but it’s really hard to stomach all the packaging. They describe themselves as anti-waste because they only ship the exact amount of food you need for each meal, but with everything in its own box, bag or carton, it does feel as if you’re throwing away a lot of garbage as you cook. They’ve long had instructions on their website for breaking down and recycling the shipping and packing materials, but after trying all those suggested steps just once, I decided it was too labor-intensive and time-consuming for even a die-hard recycle-er. So I gave up, put the cardboard shipping box out with our paper goods on trash day, and threw away everything else. Until now!


Enter the new Blue Apron package return system.

There are two options:you can still follow this guide to recycling the packaging at home, or you can send all the packing materials back to them at no charge for reuse and recycling on their end. This page has detailed instructions on how that second option works. We are definitely going to do this, especially since the shipping is covered by Blue Apron if you wait to send back two weeks worth of packing materials at a time. All you have to do is create a mailing label on their website.

It won’t solve the problem of how long it takes to clean all those little baggies properly for recycling, but it will take care of the worst offenders — the large freezer bag and jumbo reusable ice packs that I’ve had no choice but to thaw and discard up until now.

What do you think? Does this change your mind about Blue Apron? Read my initial thoughts on the service here, and check out a couple Blue Apron recipes here and hereAnd have a great week! 

Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Casserole

Thanks to Dizzy Busy and Hungry (boy if that isn’t an apt name) for inspiring this recipe! I’m always on the hunt for crock pot ideas, since I really only have two go-to recipes — Brown Sugar Kielbasa, and Creamy Chicken Curry — and since they make such large portions, I can only use them here and there or risk revolt from the troops. This one has been a great addition to my repertoire and with minimal prep, I can get it ready all before work and then time it to be done as we walk in the door from daycare pickup.

Ground meat is notoriously hard to photograph in an attractive manner, but I did my best here because this was easy and tasty and I really hope you try it! I used ground turkey, but you can absolutely go with beef instead. 

Since the recipe only calls for half a box of macaroni, I opted to boil the entire container and then use the other half to make scratch mac n’ cheese. I just threw in some butter and milk, added Wildtree mac n’ cheese mix and some shredded organic cheddar from the fridge, melted it in the same pan I used to boil the pasta, then topped it with bread crumbs and popped it under the broiler for less than two minutes. Voila: two different dinners for the price of one.

Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Casserole


  • 6 ounces (half a box) whole grain or fiber-enriched elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound ground turkey (I used 80/20 lean)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 24 oz. frozen veggies with cheese sauce (I used Target brand; any will do)
  • ¾ cup low-fat shredded cheddar
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (I actually used 4 or 5 roma, chopped)
  • 2-3 pickles, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TBSP ketchup, plus however much more you’d like on top


Cook the pasta until just becoming tender (about 5 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Mix the turkey, ketchup, and onion in a large bowl. Add the frozen veggies and cheese sauce, shredded cheddar and pasta, and mix until combined.

Place the entire mixture into the your crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 8-9 hours.

Serve with chopped tomatoes and pickles on top, plus a little extra shredded cheese!

Options: You can of course make this with ground beef instead of turkey. Turkey is healthier but tastes less “juicy” than beef does, which in turn makes this taste more like a turkey-burger casserole instead of a true cheeseburger casserole.

This recipe originally ran on Hungry Girl, which calls specifically for frozen cauliflower with cheese sauce as the veggie. Mark hates cauliflower so I subbed carrots and broccoli and it tasted just as good; go with whatever you prefer and can find at the store.

As for toppings, just pick whatever you would put on a burger! So obvious picks are pickles, tomatoes, cheese, ketchup and onions, but you can also shred some lettuce, or barbecue sauce, cilantro, hot sauce, honey mustard, or mayo — there are endless possibilities. Next time, I’m hoping to try some caramelized onions, or maybe pan-fried shallots with a flour coating, or perhaps even some jalapeno slices or a pepper jack cheese.

The great thing about this recipe is that it conveniently ‘hides’ a lot of veggies, which is something I said I’d never resort to with my child, but lo and behold here I am.

I really hope your family enjoys this one. It reheats extremely well and makes good use of late-summer/early fall tomatoes. (Although we still have so many that I’m doing this on Saturday to preserve them for sauce all winter!) And, of course, the best part is that casseroles travel very well to daycare and preschool, and the texture of this makes for very toddler-friendly eating. Plus, what kid doesn’t like cheese and ketchup??

Have a great rest of the week everyone, and if you have good slow cooker recipes to share, tell me in the comments below!

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