kid-friendly · Recipes

Rotini with Asparagus, Peas & Goat Cheese

Clearly, I am revving up for spring, because this is a decidedly non-wintery dish. Fluffy rotini drenched in a light, lemony goat cheese sauce mingles nicely with whatever vegetables you have on hand; I love the blend of asparagus and peas, because it’s like a signal to my taste buds that nicer weather is around the bend.

This is perfect for meal prep Sundays, or for throwing together right after work. All you need on hand, after all, are your vegetables of choice — even frozen work well — and a small package of chevre, one lemon, plus a box of pasta. This is a great one for little helping hands, too, because there are just a few simple steps and easy tasks to share!

By the way, chevre and goat cheese are the same thing. They are a goat’s milk cheese which can be easier to digest for anyone with low tolerance for cow’s milk; chevre is also a bit lighter in fat and has a pleasingly tangy flavor and smooth texture. I save about a cup of the pasta cooking water here, and add it in gradually to the dish to loosen up the goat cheese and thin it into a silky, smooth sauce.



  • 1 box rotini pasta (or similar shape)
  • 1 bunch asparagus (or bag frozen, such as Trader Joe’s grilled)
  • 1/3 package frozen peas, or about a good palm full (I estimated)
  • 1 small log goat cheese, about 4-5 oz.
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • salt and pepper to taste


If you are using fresh asparagus, I like to roast them on a sheet of aluminum foil in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper at 425 for about 12-15 minutes, or I pick up a frozen bag of the Trader Joe’s grilled spears. No matter which way you prep them, frozen or fresh, chop into rotini-sized pieces after they are done cooking and set aside.

Next, boil water for the rotini and cook the pasta until al dente, or 8-10 minutes. I like rotini because it really grips sauces, but any shape of pasta is OK. If you are using frozen peas, cook them at the same time as the pasta.

Drain pasta (and frozen peas if using), reserving one cup of cooking water.

Return rotini to the pan, stir in the asparagus and goat cheese, and zest the lemon into the pan. Halve the lemon and juice both sides into the pasta, being sure to catch the seeds (using an inexpensive hand-held citrus press is a great way to do this). Lastly, pour in the pasta water a little at a time, stirring until you reach the right consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm!


This makes such great leftovers for the work week, and actually tastes good hot or cold. I haven’t tried this yet, but I bet it would be good to bring to a cookout in the summer as a cool pasta salad. If you try that, let me know. Until then, happy meal prepping, and stay safe if you’re impacted by the Nor’Easter hitting the East Coast right now!


kid-friendly · Recipes · Slow Cooker · Tips and Tricks

Super Bowl Ideas

I’m just going to assume everyone reading this is rooting for the Patriots like we are on Sunday … ha!

As a kid we watched football every weekend, though the Pats were pretty much abysmal until I went away to college (figures) so I struggle to imagine what it must be like to have grown up watching Tom Brady and Bill Belichick dominate the NFL for basically your entire lifetime. That said, I’ll enjoy the dynasty while it lasts. Once this particular season is over, I can focus on my favorite sport — hockey — and before you know it the Red Sox will have opening day at Fenway Park and it’ll be spring again.

Until then! Here’s what we love to cook up on game day. You know I’m going to start off with my Brown Sugar Kielbasa, don’t you?


This one is a star for a reason. It has two ingredients unless you want to embellish it, and you just set it and forget in the slow cooker. Giving myself more time with my guests, and to prepare the rest of the game day food, works for me!

We also love to make delicious and simple Shepherd’s Pie. This one is so easy! My friends always ask for this and it is hands-down one of my husband’s favorite dinners that I make. All you need is ground beef, creamed corn and regular corn plus mashed potatoes, and somehow it all comes together and tastes so much more complex. This is a recipe I originally got from my mom, and she used to make it for me in little ramekins that I could take for lunch every day. I don’t even own ramekins!


Another must-have for snacking is tortilla chips and salsa. I always, always make my own salsa, because it so fast and tastes approximately a thousand times better than canned salsa. I like to use Rotel, fresh tomatoes and heaps of cilantro and jalapenos, but you can very much customize things if you don’t care for the heat or the taste of cilantro.


If you are hosting vegetarians and are in need of good chili options that involve more than just a ton of beans, I’ve got a few ideas. This recipe has literally four ingredients and very little simmering time, and can be made with ground beef or vegetarian “meat” crumbles, which I normally don’t love but end up tasting delicious here. Morning Star Farms and Gardein both make excellent veggie crumbles.

Another awesome recipe that packs a little heat with a hint of sweetness is this tasty Soy Chorizo Chili, which I usually make by shopping all Trader Joe’s ingredients, from the chorizo itself to the sweet potatoes, black beans and salsa. Serve it with some vegan shredded “cheese” on top or, if dairy is an option for your crowd, some sour cream or (even healthier) plain Greek yogurt. Yum! And spicy!


You really can’t go wrong with food, friends and football for any game day, so no matter who you are rooting for, I hope you have a blast this weekend and that this post gave you some good ideas. As Georgia says, “go ball players! you’re doing a great job!” haha.


Christmas · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Looking Forward to 2018

Happy New Year! Hope you are feeling happy and healthy in 2018 so far.

This past weekend marked Little Christmas, or Epiphany, which we all know is the day the three wise men came to tell your spouse it’s time to put away the Christmas decorations. And while that’s sad, there’s an aspect of refreshing that goes along with it, especially if you use the occasion to tidy up the house a bit and find permanent homes for all the toys and gifts of Christmas morning. I’m excited to use my (scant) free time on these extremely hibernation-worthy days playing new games and puzzles with G, reading, or knitting, instead of shopping and wrapping Christmas gifts and doing all those other holiday-related tasks that eat into every waking moment in December.

As I was just telling a couple of friends, I’m not big on resolutions — Fall really feels like the “fresh start” time of year for me, whereas as January just feels like a slog from the holidays to our next vacation (ideally in a warm place).

Mark and I do take a quick financial assessment after Christmas and before tax season every year — like most self-employed people and artists in general, that’s when we find out what we made this year and what jobs were worthwhile — and that seems to bring about a little conversation on goals, even if, the older we get, the more boring those conversations get. (Are we saving enough for retirement? College? Can we afford to redo the kitchen this year? Well, we really shouldn’t consider that until we have an updated will … and so on).

Estate planning and other adult-ing tasks aside, I try to keep my goals for each year pretty small and specific. Over-reaching is a recipe for disaster for me. Maybe January gives some people the push they needed to lose 20 pounds, run their first marathon or eliminate sugar, but I do better in smaller increments. Such as:

Use my slow cooker more. I have a couple of really great slow cooker recipes, like this Chicken Curry and this Brown Sugar Kielbasa, which is easily the most popular recipe on my blog, year after year. But I know I could be doing so much more with it, if I only researched some additional family-friendly recipes. I’d love to come home to a nice, hot dinner instead of getting desperate and ordering subs and salad at 6:30 again. Which leads me directly to…

…Eat out less. I just lost five pounds and Mark is in the midst of bulking up for a role right as we speak, but if anything, getting in better shape has made us realize how badly we ate before. When you don’t plan ahead, we’ve learned, takeout is the result. It’s so much more fun to order pizza, sushi or Thai every once in a while as a treat than to fall back on it out of necessity. One thing we’ve discussed doing this year to facilitate better meal prep is to finally invest in a chest freezer for our basement. That way, we could take advantage of batch cooking and freezing, not to mention the good deals at Costco we currently have to pass up because of space. I may also bite the bullet and get an Instant Pot, two years late to the trend as usual. (Worth it?? Let me know!)

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Go to the library more. File under the same “money saving” tab as my first two goals, but really, I’m just embarrassed at how little we use this amazing resource. Somehow, even after starting in my first job as a library page at 14 and working as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble straight through college, I ended up barely going to the library as a 30-something with a small child, which is basically the library’s key demographic. We live in a city with a gorgeous public library and art gallery situated in a historic building right downtown, and while their kids programming isn’t convenient for working parents, they offer tons of other great resources, from audio books to wi-fi, a writer’s group, museum passes and links to the amazing Boston Public Library network. We’ve already been working the library into our weekend routine again, and we are loving it. One great tip I picked up recently: if you are frustrated at not seeing the newest kids books on display in the children’s room, it’s probably because other savvy borrowers reserved them ahead of time online. Do this, and be an insider! The best books almost never make it out on the floor.

Closely related goal: read more books. Partly this is just a logistical challenge of working full time as a parent, but if I’m being honest, a huge piece of why I don’t read more is needing to put down my dang phone before I spend the evening mindlessly scrolling. I’ve always been an avid reader, and this is one part of parenthood that I find difficult. Pre-Georgia, I averaged a book a week, AND I read the whole New Yorker! OK, fine, it was always a week behind, but these days it’s more like a month behind. We read a ton with G, and she’s so lucky to own lots of her own books. But I’d like to do more quiet reading by myself, too. I’m not holding my breath on this goal, but if it keeps me off my phone a bit more, I’ll at least try.

Be a yes mom. I don’t exactly have trouble saying “yes” to things that I also want, like ice cream or watching movies in pajamas on a snowy day. Where I struggle is with overriding my instincts to tell G I don’t need help cracking eggs for breakfast, stirring cheese sauce for baked macaroni, carrying grocery bags from the car, or even using the dustpan to clean up spilled coffee grounds. (Do those things sound realistic? They all happened during the blizzard in our house). Sure, it may be easier for me to do it myself, but a) kids are born helpers and b) how else are they going to learn these skills? It goes beyond chores, too. I don’t want to wake up one day with a kid who prefers screen time to playing outdoors after years of me telling her to watch TV so I could get one more task done around the house on the weekend instead of walking to the park. Life is for playing in the sandbox, glopping through mud, splashing in puddles, reading every sign you pass out loud and sucking up the mess that play-doh, gingerbread houses and glitter make. (Except don’t buy glitter, it’s a pox on our pipes and waterways.)

{{Severely boring alert}} Do laundry every day so it doesn’t pile up. This should be simple and I don’t know why it manages to elude us. A few ways I’m trying to tackle it: instead of waiting for a full load of workout clothes, delicates and other hang-dry items to be ready all at once — and then putting off doing it because I dread handling wet clothes in the freezing basement, and then taking forever to fold them once dry because the drying rack has become a looming monstrosity with OTHER STUFF piled on top of it — I’m tossing those into my regular laundry and hanging them one or two at a time on the extra towel rack in our bathroom, right over the radiator where they dry overnight and can be worn immediately. This is already preventing arguments over why all of my bras are clean but none of Mark’s gym gear got washed, and vice versa. Secondly, I am buying a Dryel kit for the work attire that can handle it, and sending the rest to the cleaners. Getting over the cost of dry cleaning, and admitting that maybe I do need to say ‘yes’ when they offer to pick up and drop off my clothes for a small fee, is part of being a working adult that I’m grudgingly accepting. Finally, I’m trying to do a better job of putting things away as soon as they are folded, not letting them hang on the bed or my dresser or (cringe) putting folded piles back into the bucket. Watching us all get dressed out of a laundry basket full of clothes we folded but just couldn’t quite put away is embarrassing. So far, 10 days into the new year, laundry is already running more smoothly in our house. I’ll let go of wondering why I can’t be that person who effortlessly does twelve loads of laundry in one day without it interfering with the rest of her life, and start enjoying fewer morning eye-rolls about socks and underwear. (I did warn you this topic was boring).

Under the very easy category, I have a couple things I’d like to get done around the house: replace our tired old living room area rug and flattened, frayed couch pillows; style the top of our piano so it looks more deliberate, as opposed to a dumping ground for sheet music/the last books we read/expired union membership cards/mystery charging cords; replace the junky old dresser drawers in our guest room and de-clutter the bookcase next to it; and go through the boxes of junk in our basement that we moved from the old apartment six years ago and haven’t needed ever since. Again, we’d really love to totally redo our entire kitchen, but in the meantime I’ve got my eye on some lower-hanging fruit to freshen up the place and help us relax, like storing fancy stemware elsewhere to free up more cabinet space, and shopping our pantry before buying new ingredients to see if we can make room by cooking creatively using what we already have on hand.

Georgia’s list of resolutions this year includes turning five, visiting her Nani in Florida, taking a road trip to see her cousins in Ohio again, and eating M&Ms every day (all but one of which will definitely be happening!) Stay tuned to see what else we get up to in 2018. What are YOU working on this year??



Christmas · dessert · Holidays · kid-friendly

Our Christmas 2017 Menu

Everyone in my house was thrilled to see a dusting of snow on the ground this morning, the last work day ( for 9-to-5-ers at least; Mark is working all weekend) before Christmas! We’ve sent our greeting cards, bought our presents, (mostly) wrapped them, watched the obligatory preschool Christmas pageant, and now all there is to do is get ready to eat.

christmas card 2017.jpg

We celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then I’m thrilled Mark and I are both taking a week of stay-cation until New Year’s Day. It is so hard to get time off together! Up next for him this winter is playing Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, so he’s been on a bit of a fitness spike lately, getting in shape for that…and growing his hair. It’s like I’m dating my 90’s boyfriend (which, as you know, was still him!) all over again.

All we have planned for vacay is to eat leftovers, take G to the movies (Coco? Ferdinand? BOTH?) and relax. OK, and reorganize our toys to make room for the new stuff. But back to the menu for Christmas: here’s what we are eating this weekend.


We have a lighter crowd this year, just seven of us, so the dinner is a teensy bit pared down.

  • Swedish meatballs with gravy & lingonberry jam
  • Buttery mashed potatoes (here’s how I make them a day ahead)
  • Spiral ham & applesauce (& mustard of course!)
  • Broccoli casserole
  • Sweet corn
  • dinner rolls

For dessert this year, we are having Christmas cookies & pumpkin pie with whipped cream and ice cream! Like the rest of the world, I’m now obsessed with Halo Top ice cream, so I picked up a pint of their low-sugar, high-protein cookies n’ cream flavor, and I am dying to try their oatmeal cookie (!!!) and s’more options… but both were all sold out near me. Last year, we made this amazing sticky toffee pudding that was SO easy and liked by everyone. You can probably make it with ingredients you already have on hand right now, just by picking up a package of dates!

For appetizers, we always put out a nice cheese plate with crackers and sliced apples, plus our New Englandy favorite, Cape Cod chips and onion dip, and probably shrimp cocktail. Mark always makes his favorite Sausage Bites, and we serve it all with lots of beer, wine, apple cider and egg nog!

This year, we are also starting a new tradition of Christmas Eve books. Have you heard of this? In Iceland, families get to open one gift on Christmas Eve, and it’s meant to be a new book. Then you spend the evening relaxing and reading! While we probably won’t do much relaxing with a hyperactive four-year-old who is VERY concerned about Santa reaching us without a proper chimney, it sounded like an awesome thing to start doing. I also bought me and G Christmas jammies for the first time this year, but we have already been too eager to start wearing those this week, so we won’t be opening those on Christmas Eve like I know lots of families do! The ones we got at Old Navy are all sold out, but I love their pajamas all year round and Georgia has already asked for a pair for Valentine’s Day. That is, adorably, one of her favorite holidays.

From our household to yours, have a blessed, relaxing and cheer-filled Christmas. See you in the New Year!



Christmas · Holidays · Recipes · Uncategorized

Turkey Noodle Casserole

You guys, we had the best Thanksgiving. We spent it just the three of us for the first time ever, and decided to serve at our city’s “Don’t Be Alone on Thanksgiving” dinner, which provides turkey with all the fixings (plus dessert!) to nearly 1,000 members of the community in person and through meal deliveries. While in past years we’ve roasted and dropped off a turkey before the meal, we’ve never actually volunteered in person. I’m just so proud of how helpful and cheerful Georgia was. She helped us pass out meals, talk to the guests, refill drinks, bring around dessert, and clean up. When we got home we had our own little dinner and it was simply lovely.

The only downside to not having a big meal, of course, is the lack of leftovers. In the past when we’ve come home from a big family Thanksgiving with lots of extra turkey, gravy, vegetables and cranberry sauce, I’ve made it all into a really simple casserole — nothing complicated — which turned out to be the perfect way to use up those random leftovers. It’s not too fancy, but it repurposes almost all of your extra meat and sides into a comfort-food casserole that’s sure to remind you of cold winter nights as a kid. Nobody feels like cooking the weekend after Thanksgiving anyway, so being able to dump everything into a big baking dish and feed your whole family in half an hour is just so satisfying. Here’s what I did.

I’ve heard that cream-of-soup casseroles and hot dish recipes are suddenly en vogue, and I am OK making them again non-ironically.

Health food? Not so much! Throwback tasty? All the time.

Leftover Turkey Casserole


  • 2 cans cream of mushroom soup*
  • Grated cheddar cheese, to taste
  • 2 cups total leftover veggies, such as green beans and corn
  • 1 cup milk (any kind; I always use unsweetened almond)
  • 2 cups leftover turkey
  • 2 TBSP dry breadcrumbs OR smashed potato chips, if you have extra from a chip n’ dip appetizer!
  • 1 TBSP butter, melted
  • 1/2 a package egg noodles (6 oz.), cooked and drained

*Instead of 2 cans, I subbed for one can about a cup of leftover onion dip we had lying around from appetizers.


Preheat the oven to 400F and cook and drain the noodles al dente (a little undercooked so they don’t turn to mush in the casserole).

Add the soup, milk, veggies, turkey, cooked noodles and grated cheese into a good-sized casserole dish. Stir the melted butter and breadcrumbs (or leftover chips, which is what I used) together in a separate bowl.

Bake the turkey-veggie-soup mixture at 400F for half an hour, or until hot and bubbling. Remove from the oven and stir; top with the bread crumbs or chips, and bake for 5 more minutes until the topping is golden brown.

Enjoy warm! I love it with a side of leftover cranberry 🙂

You could also substitute another meat in this dish, such as leftover chicken, tuna, or even ground beef. And, of course, you could use those french fried onions on top instead of chips or bread crumbs; a healthier option still would be Panko. Overall, this is a very forgiving recipe where quantities are just estimates and you can generally use whatever you have around and it’ll still come out great.

Thanks to Campbells for inspiring this post.

Minted extended their Black Friday sale on holiday cards! You don’t want to miss out on this deal. I ordered ours last night!

Christmas · Holidays · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Let’s Get Ready for Thanksgiving!

Attention holiday shoppers — it’s almost Christmas! We just have to get through that binge-eating traffic nightmare and then it’s on to unmitigated holiday cheer!

Well, that’s how I feel about Thanksgiving anyway.

I’m basically on Christmas countdown as soon as Halloween night is over every year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like my share of Turkey Day food and festivities. Each year, my claim to fame is this Ginger-Orange Cranberry Sauce, which is so easy to make and really pushes your side dish game to another level. You can scale the “kick” up or down depending on your family’s taste, and it doubles (or halves) very well too.  cranberry sauce

What’s even better than having this Thanksgiving Day? The fact that you can make a really satisfying warm dip out of the leftovers for lounging and snacking all weekend! The dip doubles as a sandwich spread, too, so make sure you pick up some cream cheese and red pepper jelly to make it while you’re doing your other grocery shopping!


I spend the day after Thanksgiving in pajamas, designing and ordering our Christmas card on Minted and photo gifts for the family on Shutterfly and Mixbook, noshing on leftovers and filling my virtual shopping bags with deals for Cyber Monday. This year, I’ve got some major purchasing to do at the Apple Store, American Girl  website and Ikea kids section, and I assume there will be a few irresistible items for myself at Nordstrom, Lands’ End and Old Navy, too.

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Here’s a sneak peek of our holiday card photos, courtesy of TDM Photography, our go-to photographer for family photos. I’m so thrilled with how they turned out, and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty designing the perfect card for friends and family this week! I love Minted for their unique designs, their support of independent artists, and the fact that they let you keep an online address book of all your contacts, and will address your holiday cards for FREE, in a style that matches your card design. How easy is that, working mamas??

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Mixbook has become my preferred design site for creating beautiful, high-quality photo books. Their pages and bindings are top notch, the photo resolution is consistently high and the colors true, and the materials stand up to lots of handling without warping or fading. This Cyber Monday, enjoy 55% off!

kid-friendly · Recipes

Classic Baked Ziti

I dread the onset of winter with its cold, dark, depressing ways, and anyone with little kids can tell you the havoc daylight saving time wreaks on family sleep schedules. We had an oddly warm fall here in New England; it was 70 degrees out Monday, when I started writing this, and as nice as that felt, I’m ready for the casseroles to start showing up again — even if Mother Nature isn’t. I’ve also been ready to dig into hibernation food for months now!

In that spirit, I’ve made this wonderfully simple Baked Ziti a lot this fall, including for potlucks, Sunday dinner, and for friends with new babies.


This makes the perfect dish for visiting a newborn: it is comforting, filling, and reheats very easily, and can be eaten with one hand while holding a baby. It can also be frozen if your friends don’t have room to eat it right away. As a bonus, little kids like it, too, which is always an implicit goal of any recipe I post! Georgia simply gobbles this up, and it’s one of Mark’s, favorites, too. Win-win.

Classic Baked Ziti.png

This recipe was inspired by Smitten Kitchen with a few adaptations to make it my own.

Cook time: 30 minutes    Serves: 4-6

Classic Baked Ziti


  • 1 pound ziti, cooked al dente
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or Italian seasoning (I like Wildtree)
  • 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • a few handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 2/3 cup finely grated pecorino (or parmesan) cheese
  • fresh basil slivers
  • optional: red pepper flakes


To start, preheat your oven to 400 F.

Heat a pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta very al dente, or at least 2 minutes less than the normal cooking time stated on the box. Drain the pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking water.

Heat a large skillet over  medium and add a swirl of olive oil until warm, then add the meat alongside the onion, garlic, seasonings and a healthy dose of salt and pepper over medium-hihg for up to 8 minutes, or until the beef is browned, stirring often.

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for five minutes. Add in the reserved pasta water and then the spinach, cooking until milted (maybe another minute or two). Here, I like to add in some fresh basil, slivered, and maybe a couple fresh tomatoes from my garden if I need to use them up.

Stir in the drained pasta and mix together. Pour half into a 9×13 glass baking dish or lasagna pan, and sprinkle with half the two cheeses; repeat with another half of the pasta then top with the remaining cheese.

Bake in the heated oven for 30 minutes or until nice and crispy and browned on the edges. You can even run the dish under the broiler for a minute if you’d like it extra crispy! Enjoy warm.



  • You can also use Italian sausage, casings removed, if you prefer the taste.
  • To cook al dente, shave 2 minutes off the cook time stated on the package of pasta. Taking care not to overcook is essential for this not turning mushy!
  • Seasoning the ground beef well with salt and pepper is essential; it’s less important if you opt for Italian sausage.
  • I like to serve this with more slivers of fresh basil and, if you have it, fresh ricotta. But that’s totally optional!
  • I have never tried this week meat substitutes, but it’s certainly possible. Other good substitutions to make it vegetarian would be mushrooms, beans, or lentils.


Stay tuned for my first holiday shopping guides soon, and some inspiration for Thanksgiving dinner! I’m so excited Christmas is right around the corner. I basically live for the holidays once Halloween is over every year 🙂 Have a lovely, cozy weekend.