organicglory

simple nibbles of natural goodness

Updating a Classic: Orechiette with Kale & Paprika-Roasted Chickpeas

Back in the early days of my blog, I made this Spinach and Chickpea spaghetti dish that quickly became a favorite and a regular in our rotation. It’s healthy, hearty and easy. Well, I recently updated it a bit and loved the results, so I’m doing a quick post to share! The new version uses orechiette instead of spaghetti and kale instead of spinach, and I roasted the chickpeas in advance to give them some crunch and an extra pump of zest thanks to a sprinkling of paprika when they’re fresh out of the oven. Such simple switches, but they made all the difference! And there was so much flavor that I was able to cut way back on the dairy used for the creamy sauce. 


Orechiette with Kale & Paprika-Roasted Chickpeas

INGREDIENTS

  • Half of a one-pound box of orechiette
  • 1½ Cups Chickpeas
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Bunch Kale
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Onion
  • one pat of butter (about 2 TBSP)
  • 1 TBSP Capers (I keep a jar in the fridge)
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • Grated Parmesan (or Pecorino) Cheese, amount to taste (approx. 1/4 cup)

DIRECTIONS

First, roast the chickpeas. Preheat the oven to 450 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drain and rinse the can of chickpeas, then dry thoroughly between paper towels (laying on a flat surface and rolling sometimes works well). Discard any loose skins that come off. Arrange on the baking sheet in an even layer, coat with olive oil, salt and pepper,  and toss to coat, then roast — stirring halfway through — for about 25 minutes, or until crispy and browned (but not burnt!) After removing from the oven, season the chickpeas with the smoked paprika, tossing to coat evenly, and set aside.

While the chickpeas roast, wash and dry the kale. Prep the produce: peel and dice the onion and garlic, roughly chop the kale leaves (or tear by hand), discarding the stems, and roughly  chop the capers. Quarter and de-seed the lemon. Finally, put a pot of water on to boil the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes, reserving half a cup of the cooking water.

While the pasta cooks, heat olive oil over medium-hot in a large pan. Add the diced onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the kale and 1/4 cup of water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens have wilted and the water has cooked off.

Add the cooked pasta to the pan of kale and then throw in the capers, butter, juice of three lemon wedges and the reserved pasta cooking water. Cook for a few minutes, stirring thoroughly to combine, and season again with salt and pepper after removing from heat. Once off the stove, top the dish with the roasted chickpeas and stir to combine. Top with cheese and squeeze the remaining lemon wedge over the dish before eating.

Voila!

Without the cream cheese, this actually felt light enough to be in contention as an early spring dish, instead of a heavy “load up for hibernation” winter dinner. Georgia really loves roasted chickpeas as a snack, so she mostly kinda ate this, picking the onion and kale out and setting it off to the side. Cooked greens = bad, but cold fresh greens in a salad = OK by her. Pasta, of course, is always a toddler win.

I live by toddler logic.

That’s all from me today everyone! I hope you try this and like it as much as we did, and that you stay dry in the soggy northeast this week. Happy Tuesday!

My baby isn’t a baby anymore…

…She’s a gardener!! And a pretty tall one at that. Daddy and G spent their day off together yesterday planting “Georgia’s patch,” the raised-bed garden Mark has been cultivating along the sunny side of our house for the past five years. This year, for the first time, Georgia picked out all the plants, including strawberries, hula berries, tomatoes, basil, peppers, lettuce and zucchini, and helped daddy replace the soil, dig holes, label the chalkboard stakes and mulch it all over. I can’t wait to taste everything they grow together!!

One thing we don’t usually grow but which I love to buy and bake with this time of year is Rhubarb. It should be hitting the farmer’s markets soon!! Every year, I make a tangy/sweet Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, and this year I am dying to try Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Breakfast Bars, which sound delectable.

And speaking of breakfast and yummy baked goods: there’s a new bakery at the Boston Public Market that I can’t wait to check out. Started by a 22-year-old (!) entrepreneur whose commercial kitchen is based in my ‘hood, Malden, Jennifer Lee’s Gourmet Bakery started as a short-term pop-up vendor whose bites were so popular she became the first vendor to convert to a permanent, full-time stall. She sells gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free and dairy-free breads, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, and donuts, and locally sources ingredients such as jam, maple syrup, apple cider syrup, fruit, and veggies from farms like Carr’s Ciderhouse in Hadley, Silverbrook Farm in Dartmouth, Brooksby Farm in Peabody, and Russell’s Orchards in Ipswich. Check her out!

photo credit: courtesy // #BostonPublicMarket

 Have a great week everyone:)

The New Dirty Dozen & Clean 15

If you don’t already shop with this list of the most important produce items to buy organic, now you no longer have an excuse! In honor of Earth Day, here’s a handy dandy printable from the Environmental Working Group, just released last week. You can click the link below the image to download your own PDF to print and cut along the dotted line for your wallet, or just pin this picture for later:)  

The biggest news this year is probably the fact that strawberries skyrocketed to the top of the list, displacing apples as the #1 most pesticide-contaminated fresh produce item even after being rinsed in the field and washed again before eating.

I don’t know about you, but my family eats A LOT of strawberries, and buying these organic is a priority for us. The cost difference is usually $1 or $2 per 1-pound container, shopping at Target, Aldi or Trader Joe’s. And don’t forget that Costco has a large and impressive selection of organic produce, pantry, dairy and frozen items, if you have enough mouths to feed and enough storage to accommodate their package sizes (which we do, even with just a 1,100 sq. ft. house and a 20-year-old refrigerator. It might be more doable than you think!)

I’m also relieved to see that some items — namely avocado, mangoes and onions — are solidly on the clean 15 list, because those can get pricey when you buy organic, and there may not be a reason to. Studies have shown that the nutrition in organic- and non-organic foods is the same, so the real reason to invest in organic produce is to avoid pesticides, many of which can disrupt hormones and cause cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, and neurological problems.

red strawberries organic

Beyond following this list, the best way to avoid pesticide exposure is to buy in-season produce from local vendors such as the farmer’s market or a farm share/subscription box, especially those that are certified organic.

  • Looking for a Boston-area farmer’s market? Click here for an interactive map. You can sort by organic, you-pick, geographic location, you name it!
  • Don’t forget the Boston Public Market is open 7 days a week starting July 18! The new hours will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Here’s a vendor list.

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If you aren’t familiar with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), they are worth getting to know.  In addition to their produce guide, I rely on their Skin Deep cosmetic grading database and their annual sunscreen guide when I’m out in stores. Now, they’ve released an app that consolidates those consumer resources so you can simply scan items as you shop to evaluate their ingredients and effectiveness. I’ve already downloaded it! And that’s saying a lot, because I have 8,000 Georgia photos on my phone, so nobody gets new real estate without REALLY being worth it. ;) 

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Have a wonderful weekend and happy (non-toxic) shopping!!

Monday Musings

OK fine, it’s Wednesday! But I wrote this on Monday, which is a holiday in Massachusetts. I think it has something to do with Redcoats running ~26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston in search of brunch on their day off.

In all seriousness, Marathon Monday is second only to Christmas in my world when it comes to excitement and anticipation. (I can even overlook that confounding apostrophe after the “s” in Patriots’ Day for long enough to enjoy myself). We’ve taken Georgia to watch the Marathon since she was in utero, but this year was the first time in her life that it wasn’t freezing out and when she could really enjoy it and cheer for the runners. She kept offering them her snacks — “runners, do you need some Pirate Booty?” — and skipping alongside them, asking for high-fives. And she got a few, too! It was an awesome day, the sun was shining, and Mark had the day off to boot. That’s all I need.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, including ways to stop having so much trouble digesting food so that I can cook and eat normally again, a.k.a. the basis of this blog. I want to thank you all for your kind words after my last post! It helps to know others struggle with mystery tummy ailments, too. I’ll be sharing a longer post about some of the ways I’m trying to get my stomach back on track, but in the meantime, here’s what I’m contemplating, doing and buying these days.

What I’m coveting

Every year when it gets warm, I start to want an everyday (non-road) bike again. I can’t wait to see the new Ikea City Bike which is only available in Europe so far, and I’m highly intrigued by the relaunch of Columbia Bicycles.

What I’m hoping to cook when I’m back in sorts

This Creamy Lemon Pasta from the New York Times.

What I’m listening to

The “Quiet” podcast about being — and parenting — an introvert (that would be me, obviously, not Georgia).

What I’m streaming

Kimmie Schmidt (meh so far) and Cooked (next on my list are these food documentary ideas).

How I’m relaxing

With this essential oil & this diffuser

How I’m moving

This after-work Zumba class and these 10-minute workouts at home (which are killer!)

What I’m gifting myself for my birthday

I’m turning 34 Saturday (eek!) and I have a tradition of treating myself. I always pick out one fun new makeup item and one new book, I always schedule a Stitch Fix to arrive the week of my birthday. And, I always get a mani or a pedi. Those are my favorite things to do for myself, and the older I get the more I’ve found that celebrating myself is the best way to feel special! Ever since we got married, Mark renews my New Yorker subscription for my birthday, since that’s what I read on the train every day. I made the mistake of mentioning that I’d love to seriously upgrade our on-its-last-legs blender soon, and as a result I’ve spent the last week reminding him that we can’t afford to spend over a week’s worth of daycare tuition on a Vitamix, much as I’d love to! Though I’m flattered he wants to spoil me :/. And I’ll probably repay him by dragging him for Mexican food on my birthday, too. Poor guy!!

Have a great week everyone and enjoy the wicked warm weather we’re supposed to get in Boston tomorrow:) Summer is around the bend! xoxo

Pizza Bolognese

Hi all! It’s almost Friday! Can I get an AMEN? I’m going to to get real with you briefly, because I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been blogging less frequently lately. If you’re my mom, this is the part where you’re hoping I ‘fess up to having morning all-day sickness again, but the sad truth is that I’ve been in the grips of a tremendously bad flare-up of my old stomach problem for weeks now — something I’d thought was permanently behind me since having Georgia. I’ve had to go into crisis mode with food, and that has meant eating (and cooking) much less while I try to get this under control. Happily, I did try out one new winning recipe this week that Mark and Georgia deemed a success, so I’m here to share that with you, even if I can’t eat it myself!

I only pulled this together because some ingredients were going to go bad otherwise, what with me not eating them as planned, but I’ll be keeping it in our regular rotation (and hoping I can partake) because it’s so easy and filling. This is a recipe you can shop for all at Trader Joe’s if you like, but it’s simple to swap out TJ’s ingredients for regular supermarket stuff, too. As with all pizza recipes, you can make your own dough, buy it at a pizza shop for a buck or two, or go with the pre-made brand of your choice. I normally use Target’s thin-crust two pack, but wanted a thicker, doughier option this time to hold up against the pillow-y mozzarella and chunky meat sauce.

Pizza Bolognese

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pizza crust (I like the thicker style of Boboli for this one!)
  • handful of shredded cheese, any kind, as a base layer
  • ~3/4 cup meat sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Bolognese); adjust quantity to taste
  • one fresh mozzarella ball, torn into chunks by hand
  • handful of basil leaves, shredded by hand
  • optional: Italian seasoning on top (I used Wildtree Hearty Spaghetti Blend)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 450F and place the pizza crust on your baking tray. I use a non-stick pizza pan since we make homemade pies so often, but you could use a rectangular or square baking sheet and stretch the dough to fit it, or buy a non-round pre-made crust to accommodate your pan.

Layer some shredded cheese on the crust in a light layer. (I had packaged cheddar on hand that I wanted to use up). Follow with the sauce, spreading it out evenly and to your desired thickness. Too heavy will slip right off the pie after cooking; a little goes a long way!

Continue by breaking up the mozzarella by hand and dropping it on the pizza, distributing as evenly as you can or to your desired level.

Follow by ripping some basil leaves over the top, quantity to your taste.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until browned on the edges of the crust, and allow plenty of cooling time after so the ingredients stay together. If you try to eat it too quickly it’ll be too heavy and might fall apart. 10 minutes cooling should do it! Enjoy!


I’ll be back soon with a few thoughts on how I’ve tried to get my digestion back on track, in the hopes it can help someone else. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for young women (see what I did there?) to have chronic stomach ailments that baffle doctors, and while it’s frustrating to have them tick possible reasons off the list — celiac? colitis? preservatives? obstruction? — without finding any answers, it’s helped me develop a few tools of my own to combat the symptoms, and so far my approach IS working. This is the reason I became a vegetarian in the first place, so the first thing I do is eliminate what little meat I DO eat these days as soon as symptoms re-emerge. I’ll be back this weekend to share my other tips and lessons learned. Hope all of you are well and feeling excited about Spring! Pretty soon it’ll be Marathon Monday and we can all start planting our gardens and opening the windows for some fresh air! XOXO.

 

One-Pot Pasta

So, this is not a new trend. It’s not even new to ME. But finally, after seeing it explode on Pinterest over the last few years, I decided I had to at least try the concept of “one-pot pasta,” also known as “putting a bunch of things into one large stockpot with your dry spaghetti and boiling it into dinner.” Was I skeptical? Of course! It can’t really be that easy, can it? Well, I’m here to tell you it can — I’m officially a one-pot pasta convert, and this won’t be the last one-pot recipe I’ll be sharing. Dig in!

By its very nature, this recipe is adaptable. I decided to start off with a pretty failsafe combo — basil, tomatoes, onions and sausage — and experiment from there. If you don’t have these exact ingredients, improvise! It’s hard to mess this one up.

One-Pot Pasta

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. pasta (I used thin spaghetti)
  • 2-3 cups tomatoes, halved (I used grape tomatoes from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 package sausage, about 12 oz. (I used Chicken Sausage from Trader Joe’s, but you could use any flavor/variety), thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 shallots, sliced (or use 1 medium onion)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated pecorino cheese for serving (could also use parmesan; amount to taste)
  • 4 1/2 cups water

DIRECTIONS

In a large stockpot — I used my large Le Creuset enamel Dutch oven — add the spaghetti (I broke mine in half to fit in the pan), tomatoes, sliced sausage, fresh basil, garlic cloves, shallots and 4 1/2 cups of water, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Over medium-high heat, bring pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until the pasta is done and the water has reduced, approximately 10 minutes.

Stir in the grated cheese and serve!

img_5384   Don’t stress if there’s still a little unabsorbed water in the pan when you are done  cooking. It’ll help form a bit of a sauce when you add the cheese.

This dish reheats extremely well as leftovers. I drizzled olive oil (actually, garlic-infused flavor) in each tupperware before storing in the fridge so that it re-moistened easily in the microwave, and it worked like a charm!


Happy Wednesday, everyone ~ here’s to this dismal weather warming up soon.

Pulled Pork Sliders

As promised in my last post about Slow Cooker Ribs, here is another slow cooker recipe that’s super versatile, kid-friendly and most importantly TASTY!

I made this as part of a freezer meal workshop, which is something I highly recommend. It fills your freezer with ready-to-cook dinners, and usually all you have to do is buy bread for sandwiches or some salad to serve alongside when you’re ready to cook. Some of the things we made, like the chili, I’m going to save for the fall; others, like the wings and steak tips, I can’t wait to get on the grill this summer!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 lbs boneless pork shoulder (or similar boneless cut)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 TBSP oil (I used Wildtree Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil, which we love)
  • 2 TBSP Wildtree Rodeo Rub (or similar Southwest Seasoning, like McCormick’s)
  • 1/2 Cup BBQ Sauce (we used Wildtree Cactus Pete’s Agave; any BBQ sauce will do)
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • At cooking time: slider buns, or whichever kind of bread you prefer, plus cheddar cheese, shredded.

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients (except the “cook day” items, slider buns and shredded cheese) into a gallon freezer bag. Remove excess air, double-bag and label if you plan to store in the freezer for a while. If you freeze, defrost in the fridge overnight before cooking. If you do not plan to freeze it, simply place into the fridge to marinate.

At cook time, place all the ingredients from the bag into your slow cooker/crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

When it’s done, shred the pork finely with two forks.  Pile on top of slider buns with cheese and more BBQ sauce if desired. Yum!

These are so versatile because you can serve in any kind of bun you like, with or without cheese, and add a variety of condiments to change the flavor. I added sriracha; Mark added hoisin sauce! If you have leftovers, you can toss the pulled pork into soup, bake it with macaroni and cheese, or turn it into chili. You can even serve it plain, as a sub, or with no bun, with a side of corn bread, corn on the cob, salad, collards, mashed potatoes, you name it. I always keep at least two packages of Trader Joe’s frozen mac n’ cheese on hand to round out daycare lunches or serve alongside leftover meat and veggies, and we heated up a couple of those one night to use up the leftovers of this pulled pork. No matter what you do with it, one thing’s for sure: this pulled pork definitely won’t go to waste!

Hope you all had a very happy Easter! Georgia was so excited to do an Easter Egg Hunt with her friends from school and church in our neighborhood on Saturday afternoon, and then to see her precious “Uncle Brent and Auntie Shell” for brunch Sunday!  She also had lots of treats from the Easter Bunny and her grammies to open, so by the time bedtime rolled around Sunday night she was off the wall. Luckily she’s home with Daddy on Mondays so she had a day to acclimate from all the excitement before going back to daycare! Have a wonderful week, everyone.

Inside: magnetic wooden paper dolls,  Chewbeads toddler necklace, Minnie Mouse Munchkin 360 training cup, preschooler gardening gloves, pastel chalk (for the chalk paint wall daddy painted in her bedroom!) in a bunny-shaped container, rabbit- and bunny-shaped bubbles, and some new hair bows and clips…and one plastic egg full of M&Ms, her favorite candy:)
 pigtails for our Easter egg hunt with friends!Brunch with mom! No photos of Georgia wearing her Easter bonnet survived the day:)

Slow Cooker Ribs

As I mentioned in my last post, I did find time to cook despite traveling so much this winter. One thing I’ve found useful is to do bulk meals in the crockpot every week, and in the days before I traveled to Portland for work I did just that for Mark and Georgia, leaving them with pulled pork sliders and baby back ribs for dinner while I was away. Thanks to an awesome freezer meal workshop that I recently attended, I have these recipes and more to share over the next few months. So let’s start with the ribs! Sorry for the low lighting. The taste makes up for the bad photos, I promise!

Slow Cooker Ribs

(makes approximately four servings)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 lbs. baby back ribs, fat trimmed (optional ~ mine looked pretty lean so I didn’t trim)
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 TBSP oil (I used Wildtree Roasted Garlic Grapeseed oil)
  • 2 TBSP + 3 reserved  (5 total) southwest seasoning (I used Wildtree Rodeo Rub)
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic (I actually used the jarred kind and it worked great!)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce (I used Wildtree Cactus Pete’s Agave Sauce — amazing)

DIRECTIONS

You can either marinate this for a day or two in the fridge, or prep ahead and put in freezer storage until it’s ready to cook. I bought fresh ribs, marinated them 48 hours in the fridge, then cooked them in my slow cooker on the third day while I was at work. If you freeze this, I’d double-bag and defrost in the fridge the day before you cook them).

Mix all but the water and BBQ sauce (including TWO of the southwest seasoning TBSPs) into a freezer bag. Remove the air and seal.

When you’re ready to cook, pour 1/2 cup of water into your slow cooker and layer the ribs (plus everything in the bag) into the slow cooker. I had to really bend the rack of ribs to fit in there (same with the freezer bag at prep time) — that’s ok!

Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours (I did the latter).

When you get home or are ready to serve them, preheat the oven to 375. Transfer the cooked ribs to a baking sheet, discarding everything else in the slow cooker, including the onions. Coat the ribs with the remaining 3 TBSP southwest seasoning/rodeo rub and then add 1 cup  of BBQ sauce on top. Bake until the sauce caramelizes and sticks to the ribs, approximately 10-15 minutes.

Dig in!

I’ve never made (or eaten) ribs before, but I could tell by the way these fell off the bone that they were awesome even before Mark told me. And he would know, having grown up eating them somewhat regularly!

To make the green beans you see on the side, I just covered a baking sheet in foil, added about a pound of green beans from Costco, ends trimmed, and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper before roasting at 400 for 25 minutes. This is Mark’s favorite way to cook vegetables, and the flavor is ridiculous for something so simple to do.

Now, about that freezer meal workshop. It was a lot of prep, but so worth the effort now that my freezer is JAM PACKED with family-sized meals! This may turn me into a convert for freezer cooking, which I’ve heard a lot about (especially since becoming a parent). I always assumed my tiny fridge couldn’t handle it, but by making sure to really clean out the freezer before prepping for this kind of workshop, I found I was more than able to handle the influx of gallon bags full of ready-to-cook dinners. You have to be organized, and doing it as part of a group helps keep you on task. Read more here if you’re interested in what large-scale freezer cooking takes.

more meat than I’ve ever bought before, in my entire lifetime, altogether.

Next up, I’ll be sharing the recipe for the pulled pork sliders I made. What a crowd-pleaser! While I love Wildtree products and am fortunate to know someone who sells them, you can substitute anything comparable that your family enjoys, from barbecue sauce to steak seasoning and so on. These recipes are easily replicated with the ingredients you love. Love having a fully stocked freezer:)

And have a Happy Easter this weekend! We are having brunch with my brother and his girlfriend (maker of the famous Stuffed Mushrooms), which is great because I’m not cooking like I did last year (though I’ll miss the leftover pea soup from having made ham!) Looking for a last-minute dessert idea for this weekend? How about Orange Creamsicle Cake, a last minute idea for us a few years ago that became a holiday staple. Also check out some Easter gift ideas in this post from a couple years ago, when Georgia was still a chubby baby! Now just look at her, having frappes and french fries with daddy on his day off!

 

Greetings from Sarasota

As promised, here’s a quick glimpse at our family vacation to Sarasota! I started writing this while we were there, but got too busy having fun to finish it up. Vacation was awesome but it’s also good to be home. Mark and I definitely feel rested and ready for the busy spring ahead! For this vacation, we made a couple changes to our usual travel strategy, and we’re never looking back. Any guesses what they are? 

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The biggest thing we did differently was to go away for a longer stretch.

Traveling with little kids is exhausting, and when we used to go to Florida for one week at a time, it always felt even shorter because the travel days took so much out of us. We also were being cheap. Georgia’s daycare gives tuition credit for just one week of vacation at a time (which I know is more generous than most) so we planned our trip around that restriction. Also? Mark, being self-employed, doesn’t get paid vacation time, so every time we go away it’s to the detriment of his income.

However, we realized that we simply don’t feel very relaxed after those short trips, and what’s the point of vacationing if you return feeling depleted? So, we stretched it out this time, and I’m never, ever, EVER going back to the old way. I might even try leaving for two weeks next time, if we can manage it, even though that likely means eating even more preschool tuition.

  

The other thing we changed, because we had no choice, was to buy Georgia her own seat on the airplane. She did so much better and we were so much less frazzled! In hindsight, we should have done this when she was 18 months old, if not younger. Sure, it’s expensive, but by now she’s old enough to survive a connecting flight, which is loads cheaper than going direct — so we saved a ton of money that way, and actually ended up paying the same for all three of us as we did to fly direct last time with her on our lap. G was able to eat, play, read and stretch out so much more easily on the plane, and we could actually sit back for a minute instead of wrestling with her for three hours straight. We fly frequently, so I don’t know why it took us so long to figure this one out, but I’m going to tell all my friends from here on out!

The other tip I’d share: instead of having both parents “on duty” for the entire flight, it’s much less stressful to trade off and let one person read for a bit while the other one entertains the little one. We were much less drained after doing it this way, and we each got to read a magazine or book on one leg of the journey. Obviously this gets harder the more the child-parent ratio tips out of your favor, but for us it was a lifesaver.

Bye, Boston!

We also invested in a new travel stroller that we LOVE. I know for some people the City Mini GT already is a “cheap alternative” to a luxury stroller, but that’s not our life and we treasure that thing. We can’t afford for anything to happen to it, because we truly rely on it for actual transportation every single day. It’s our all-terrain workhorse, and we want to make sure it’s still with us for our next adventure close to home!

Thankfully, a friend tipped us off to this amazing single stroller by Kolcraft, and it may be the best $50 I have ever spent. It has an extended UV sun canopy, two parent cup holders, a snack tray, a large basket underneath, two foot brakes, a one-hand fold that locks and stands up by itself, it’s under 10 pounds AND it fully reclines with a five-point harness. It also is comfortable for tall parents to operate and dries ultra fast in case of spills. While it will never replace our City Mini for long walks on trails, hills and cobblestones, it lives in our car for errands and outings, and I’ve already got big plans for it when we attempt to visit Disney next year.

So what else did we DO in Florida?

Well, no trip would be complete without a visit to our favorite Gulf beaches — Nokomis and Siesta Key, recently voted top in the country (for good reason!) — and to get some delicious food and ice cream. This year we had great dinners at Gold Rush BBQ in Venice, Casey Key Fish House in Osprey, and Siesta Key Oyster Bar. Our favorite ice cream place is Nokomis Groves but we also love The Soda Fountain and Ciao Gelato in Venice.

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whose long legs are those??

On one of our last days in town, we took a water taxi from Casey Key around the Intracoastal Waterway and out to the Venice Jetty, where we watched dolphins jumping in and out of the ocean. It was amazing!


We also were lucky enough to get tickets to see the Red Sox playing at the Baltimore Orioles spring training park in Sarasota. Georgia lasted until the top of the 8th and it was so much fun! Beautiful facility, great food, nice breeze, and the Sox won:) You have to plan pretty far in advance to get tickets, but they aren’t overly pricey (especially compared to Fenway Park!) and there are lots of places to cool off in the AC or run around with a toddler who doesn’t want to sit still in their seats any longer. We felt so lucky to do this day trip!

We had so much fun and can’t wait for our next family adventure. If you are making a trip to the Sarasota/Venice/Bradenton area, be sure to check out Bundle of Joy rentals for any baby and toddler gear! We rent a full-sized crib for just $25 per week from them, and they will deliver, assemble and dissemble it for you, plus provide a real mattress, sheets, bumpers if you use them, and any other supplies such as strollers, car seats (including installation), beach toys, bouncers, etc. that you need. It sure beats a pack n’ play or portable crib, and Georgia sleeps much better because of it. I can’t recommend them highly enough! Have a Happy St. Patty’s Day everyone! 

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Salmon Burgers with Potato Salad & Tossed Arugula

Here is an oldie but goodie from my first month using Blue Apron. We have recreated it many times since! It’s a great way to get some healthy salmon into your diet — including for Georgia, who loves salmon burgers and the grilled salmon Caesar salad I often make, especially in the summer. She may drive me crazy wanting the same foods over and over, but every now and then she surprises me by embracing something like lettuce or fish. As they say, it’s important to keep offering new foods over and over until they come around. Sorry the lighting on these is so blah! I promise they taste good:)

Salmon can be very expensive, and the great thing about making salmon burgers is that one fillet makes two burgers (and therefore feeds two people). Grab a couple of fillets and you should have plenty; scale up from there.

SALMON BURGERS WITH RED POTATO SALAD & TOSSED ARUGULA

Note: this feeds two. Double it to feed four, and so on.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Skin-On Salmon Fillet (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 Buns
  • 2 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lemon
  • ½ Pound Red Potatoes
  • 1 Ounce Arugula
  • 1 Bunch Mint
  • 2 TBSP capers
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1/3 Cup Crème Fraiche or Greek yogurt
  • ¼ Cup Breadcrumbs
  • optional: 1 egg white to help the patties bind

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 450. Place a large piece of foil on a sheet pan. Place the salmon on the foil, skin side down; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. Using a spatula, lift the roasted salmon off its skin and transfer to a large bowl. Discard the skin. Using a fork, flake the roasted salmon into small pieces. When the salmon has cooled, drain off and discard any liquid from the bowl.

While the salmon roasts, wash and dry the fresh produce. Heat a medium pot of salted water to boiling on high. Halve the buns. Peel and mince the garlic. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Pick the mint off the stems; discard the stems. Roughly chop the capers. Zest the lemon, then quarter and deseed it. Peel and mince the shallot to get 2 tablespoons of minced shallot and place in a bowl with the juice of all 4 lemon wedges; season with salt and pepper.

While the salmon continues to roast, in a medium bowl, combine the crème fraiche or yogurt, shallot-lemon juice mixture and half the mint (roughly chopping just before adding); season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the potatoes to the pot of boiling water. Cook 12 minutes, or until tender. Drain thoroughly and return to the pot. Off the heat, add the capers and half the crème fraîche sauce; stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

While the potatoes cook, to the bowl of flaked salmon, add the breadcrumbs, garlic, lemon zest and remaining mint (roughly chopping just before adding); season with salt and pepper. Gently mix to combine (this is where you can add the optional egg white). Form the mixture into two ¾-inch-thick patties, squeezing firmly to ensure that the patties are tightly packed. In a medium nonstick pan heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the patties and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Carefully wipe out the pan.

In the pan used to cook the patties, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Add the buns, cut sides down, and toast 2 to 3 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a clean, dry work surface. Place the arugula in a medium bowl; drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each toasted bun bottom with a cooked patty, half the remaining crème fraîche sauce, a pinch of the dressed arugula and a toasted bun top. Serve with the potato salad and remaining dressed arugula on the side. Enjoy!

You can also definitely use any kind of potato or green in substitute. Also, feel free to throw good old fashioned tartar sauce on this if you don’t want to fuss with crème fraiche or Greek Yogurt. Whatever you use, I think you’ll find it a light alternative to a regular burger! Perfect for when winter is transitioning to the warmer seasons.

We are in the land of great fish right now — the Gulf Coast of Florida — and I know it’s going to be another few weeks of stews, chili and casseroles once we get back home before we can really switch to spring flavors. I’ll be posting some photos of our vacation to Sarasota soon. Until then, stay warm if you’re in New England, and I’ll be back shortly with some awesome slow cooker recipes that I made before we left, including baby back ribs and pulled pork sliders. XO!

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