Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Vanilla Pear Protein & Greens Smoothie

Happy Tuesday! This weekend was gorgeous, and we got a chance to spend time with lots of friends. From birthday parties to cookouts and just having some “girls time” with my Georgia, it was so much fun, and also relaxing.


G and I are in party prep mode, gathering together the final decorations and favors for her goodie bags … and I’m in denial that she’s turning four! Life with a preschooler is so much more fun than having an infant in my book. There’s no diapers, formula, strollers or baby carriers to lug, and no contending with teething, packing baby purees, having to find a quiet place to nurse, or booking activities around naps. However, there’s LOADS of tantrums over not getting their way, ups and downs with food pickiness, shifting preferences around which parent they want, and rigidity about favorite toys, movies, stuffed animals, sock color, hair style, you name it — which is aggravating but also an awesome glimpse into their emerging personality. I know lots of people find infants simpler and more portable, but I personally have been eager to have an independent walker, talker and day-tripper, so now that she can hang, I’m packing our agenda!


The only downside, though, is that if I’m not careful I don’t end up eating anything good all day. Combined with my frenetic office culture — which, like most workplaces, seldom offers time to break for lunch — I’m relying more and more on smoothies for sustenance on the go. I’m actually drinking one right now while I work from home and wait for the plumber to fix our dead hot water tank!


I typically make a double batch every weekend, and my favorite is a healthy green smoothie with fruit, veggies and filtered water. Soon I’ll be sharing my Sunday afternoon routine for making a big batch with Georgia so we are ready for lunches on the go all week! Sometimes, though, I need a little extra energy to feel full or recover from a midday yoga class, so I’m starting to test some of the different protein powders on the market. Today, I’m sharing a Vanilla Pear Smoothie that I made using Vega’s Protein & Greens Powder. 


Vanilla Pear Protein & Greens Smoothie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pear, sliced into chunks
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2-3 ice cubes
  • 1 packet (30g) protein powder (or 1 scoop from a large container)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

You can substitute the water/almond milk combo for 1 cup of coconut water or a full cup of either filtered water or the milk of your choice.

DIRECTIONS

Adding the liquids first, then the spinach then the fruits and protein powder and ice, blend on high until smooth. Add more ice if you are using a fresh rather than frozen banana.

I like to store this in my favorite Shake and Go Bottle by Contigo — because they seal tight, are totally spill proof, hold a ton (24 ounces) while still fitting into my purse or car cup holder, and they have an easy-to-clean mixing ball inside to shake up the contents when you’re ready to drink. Plus, the price is right and they are sold at Target — at $6 each, I can buy two or three so I always have one clean. They even make one with a powder storage compartment on the bottom for $12 that holds up to two servings!

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The stats on Vega

The Vega powder has 20 grams of plant-based protein (pea, hemp and brown rice), non-GMO, gluten-free, sugar free, and 110 calories, or 1 Weight Watchers point. It has 4g carbs and 1g fiber, and can also just be mixed into 8 ounces of cold water or non-dairy milk. Other flavors, such as chocolate, are available. I found that it keeps fine in the fridge for four or five days, and a good shake re-mixes it well.

Why protein powder?

I haven’t shared this on here yet, but all summer I’ve been undergoing physical therapy for some lingering issues related to my labor with Georgia — in particular, some spasming muscles in my pelvic floor and a stubborn separation of my abdominal muscles, likely caused by being extremely petite, having a comparatively big baby, and pushing for two hours. Part of the PT is restorative therapy and behavior modification — which I’ll happily share more about later — but the latter phase, which I’m in now, is all about strengthening the core to support all the therapy we’ve done to retrain my abdominal wall and pelvic floor to hold my internal organs in and support my lower back and hips properly. This means I’m doing A LOT of strength training every day, sometimes twice a day, and need to take in adequate nutrients from quality foods to prepare and recover.


Protein powder is helpful if you are ramping up workouts after an interval of not exercising regularly, or while recovering from an injury — both, in my case. They can also help support healthy bones, blood, cartilage and muscle if you are mostly vegetarian or vegan, although protein powders are by NO means necessary for ensuring adequate protein intake while eating a plant-based diet. Protein powders are also typically not enough to fully satisfy your daily protein needs — they are definitely meant as a supplement.

What are the main downsides?

Well, in addition to the fact that you do not NEED a powder in order to replace nutrients from food, protein powders can be gritty or chalky in your shakes and smoothies — especially if you are used to straight up fruit and veggie smoothies — and, of course, they can be costly.

My verdict on Vega? I thought it was tasty, not chalky, minimally gritty, and overall very easy to blend into my usual smoothie, and filling. As someone who is used to drinking fruit and vegetable based smoothies with no added juice, sugar, ice cream, etc., the texture was creamier and sweeter than I’m used to — but that’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. Overall, I’d recommend. A great way to try protein powders is to pick up a $2 single-serving packet in the fitness & supplement aisle to try. That way you don’t have to drop $40 on a huge tub of something you aren’t yet sure you’ll like. I found Vega at Target, and I know Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have loads more, as well as Amazon and numerous brick-and-mortar health stores.

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What Else I’m Trying

Next up, I’m going to try Aloha’s Vanilla Bean protein powder, and Trader Joe’s Organic Vanilla protein powder. Mark really likes the Trader Joe’s fast-dissolving chocolate whey protein powder for exercise recovery, so I’m hoping their vanilla flavor is tasty and budget-friendly.

Most protein powders are whey, soy or hemp, and those are in descending order of protein content. You can also evaluate what type of sweetener each powder contains; I prefer stevia, dislike artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, etc.), and like to see a sugar content of zero on that nutrition label if possible. While there are lots of factors to consider, it basically comes down to price, protein source/dietary restrictions, and flavor/texture. I’ll let you know what I discover!

What’s YOUR favorite protein powder? Do you use one? Why or why not?

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Gymboree Sale On Now!

Beauty & Fashion · Tips and Tricks

My Favorite Natural Deodorant Is On Sale

Can I be honest?

As much as I’ve been lamenting the never-ending winter we’ve had here in Massachusetts, a small part of me dreads one part of summer. And that part is sweat.

There’s no getting around it: I am not a dainty person who never perspires, and this has butt heads with my desire to use natural products for pretty much my entire life. Picture a scene: tween Amanda approaches her mom for deodorant after realizing that all the cool girls with straight hair and Co-Ed Naked t-shirts are using Teen Spirit, and not only am I not blonde OR tan, I do not have this essential product. Cut to the next day when my mom comes home with Tom’s of Maine … and eternal embarrassment, plus a not-insignificant amount of crying, ensues.

end scene.

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Nothing against Tom’s or any of the other natural brands I’ve tried over the years, but apart from being horrifyingly dorky for a pre-teen to sport at soccer practice, it just didn’t work that well for me at ALL. Fast forward to today, when many (many) years of trial and error later, I’ve finally landed on a product that smells really good, doesn’t bother sensitive skin, doesn’t require me to dip my hands into a jar of gunk, and most importantly WORKS AMAZINGLY, even on the hottest days. Even for power yoga, or the T without air conditioning, or that moment when you have to ask for a raise or tell off a mansplainer. I’m talking about Schmidt’s Naturals, from (where else) Portland, and it has finally made me a believer in vegan hygiene products. I use it every single day, and have stocked up on multiple scents and formulations so I always have what I need.

My hands-down favorite scent is Bergamot Lime, but I am REALLY fond of both bergamot and lime, to a degree that I don’t think is anywhere near normal. Got sensitive skin? My favorite gentle option is Schmidt’s Coconut Pineapple stick (again, two flavors I borderline freakishly love. See pretty much every post while I was pregnant). Of course, they also have plenty of fragrance-free options, too. jar_fragrancefree_2x_76b3b6df-e4f8-4752-a3f0-aa849e3fec18_500x500They offer a subscription program and select scents are also sold in stores nationwide, including the Target near my house (woohoo!) Their deodorants are free of aluminum and instead use natural ingredients — plant-based minerals like magnesium and baking powder — to neutralize odor-causing bacteria and wetness. I love that it was founded by a mom who was just looking to improve the personal products she used while pregnant!

Now through Saturday, June 3, take 30% off your order at Schmidt’s in celebration of their 7th year in business with code “ANNIVERSARY!”

In closing, I’ll leave you with this fairly unfortunate snapshot of my 90s self at a neighborhood block party. Hopefully, I had some kind of deo on alongside my sambas and bad bangs, but you really never know.

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Baby & Toddler · Holidays · kid-friendly · Tips and Tricks

Georgia’s Favorites: Books for Age 3

As anyone with a three-year-old can tell you, preschoolers love to read the same books over…and over…and over…FOREVER. In the last year, Georgia has definitely switched preferences from reading a stack of board books every night to wanting to pick one longer story book from a pile we keep in our bedroom, and sometimes we have to stealthily sneak a new option in there to prevent us from going crazy!

Here are the ones she goes back to you over and over. What books do your little ones love? (Give us some new ideas…please! Haha).

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Clockwise, from top left: The Berenstain Bears, “No Girls Allowed” // Chris Van Dusen, “The Circus Ship” // Tomie de Paola, “Strega Nona” // Laura Numeroff, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” // David Litchfield, “The Bear and the Piano.”

No Girls Allowed

The love of Berenstain Bears is strong in our house. This is just one of the greatest hits as far as Georgia is concerned; she also asks regularly for The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food, Too Much TV, Go To School (which adorably features kindergartners still doing crafts and napping!) and both the Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor (she loves the part where the doctor pinches Papa’s belly fat!) and Visit the Dentistwhich came in handy last week when we took G for her first big-girl cleaning! No Girls Allowed is a great for beginning conversations about inclusion, friendships, and empowerment of young women.

The Circus Ship

Georgia likes the circus and animals so much that we got this as a present for her 2nd birthday and it is STILL going strong. I first took her to see the circus in Boston when she was 20 months old, fully expecting her to wiggle and squirm and ask to leave early, and instead she sat there enthralled, cheering and clapping at all the right moments and asking when we could come back again. She got so obsessed that we had a circus party for her birthday that year, and this book — about a group of shipwrecked circles animals who cause mayhem on a tiny Maine island when they wash ashore — gives us just enough circus flavor to get by without the real thing.

Strega Nona

It was through reading Strego Nona that Georgia first learned she was a little bit Italian, and it blew her mind! Strega Nona is a classic and for good reason: it features magic, pasta, a lovable sidekick in the bumbling Big Anthony, and a “spaghetti belly” at the end that Georgia always tell us looks like a baby bump. (tell me about it). Equally adored as a bedtime story is Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, which has a few funny twists and a great lesson about hard work and patience.

If You Give a Moose a Muffin

This is second in a series of “If you give…!” books that toddlers love and I can totally see why. It all started with “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” which we also have, but for some reason this sequel featuring a silly moose who causes mayhem when you invite him in for a muffin is the one that captured Georgia’s heart. We got “Mouse” and “Moose” together as a birthday gift, and I’ve turned right around and given the pair to other kids, too, because they are such a hit in our house. See also “If You Give a Cat a Cupcake,” which we love because the kitty looks like our Tasha, and “If You Give a Pig a Pancake.”

The Bear and the Piano

This is charming, sweet, and so poignant that if you don’t tear up a little the first time you read it, there might be something wrong with you. A beautifully illustrated story about a Bear who finds a piano in the forest then becomes famous “in the big city” for his playing, this touches on friendship, loyalty, loneliness and the wonders of going away — and coming back home. We bought this for Georgia for Christmas just after inheriting her great-grandparents’ piano, so it definitely has special meaning for her as she’s learning how to play and sees her Dad going off to work in New York City now and again.

Our local library has a massive used book sale every fall, and we go early and stock up on all the children’s books we can find. With two full-time working parents and weekends jam-packed with errands, swim lessons, church, laundry and cleaning/yard work, trips to the library are few and far between for us! But we love that we can pick up a whole year’s worth of new books for 50 cents each by planning ahead for the used book sale, which in turn directly benefits the public library. Here are a few more that we picked up at this year’s book sale and are really enjoying:

Caps for Sale

The Snowy Day

Blueberries for Sal

The Story of Ferdinand

Harry the Dirty Dog

A Chair for My Mother

The Story About Ping

We’ve been reading to Georgia every night since she was first born, even when she couldn’t react or probably even see much in the book. It’s helped us to have a predictable bedtime routine ever since, though that’s not to say she doesn’t try shenanigans all.the.time. She does, however, love reading — and, as a bookworm married to another bookworm, that totally warms my heart. 

Have a great weekend everyone!

This post contains affiliate links.

Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Shop Small+Local for Mother’s Day

If there’s one thing I have total respect for, it’s moms who own their own business. Working as a mama brings its own challenges, but running your own shop? That has to be unbelievably hard. We already have one self-employed parent in our family, and I see first hand the pressure that goes into lining up the next client or job, hustling 24/7 to stay trained and educated on the latest in your field, networking with others, and somehow carving out time for self care. This Mother’s Day, why not support a local, woman-owned business while purchasing for gifts for your loved ones? Here’s a list of some of my New England area favorites. Happy shopping!

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Artisan Jewelry by Amy Vander Els of Amesbury, MA @ amyvanderels.com

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Honey infused with spices & herbs by Ariel’s Honey of Vermont @ arielshoney.com

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Minimalist sterling silver jewelry by Boston’s Ashley Procopio on Etsy.

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Creative gourmet spreads by “Wozz! Kitchen Creations” of Bethlehem, New Hampshire, @ wozzkitchencreations.com.

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Wrapped, knitted & woven wire jewelry from Massachusetts-based artisan Jennifer Yogel, @ localcolorjewelry.com.

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Adorable custom tea towels perfect for pairing with any food- or beverage-based gift, by Medfield (MA) based Lucy Two Shoesetsy.com/shop/lucytwoshoes.

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Fresh flowers, tea blends, spices and hand-blended herbs by Amy at Soluna Garden Farm of Winchester (MA), solunagardenfarm.com. They also offer CSA shares, which I got my mom one year. It can be a really amazing gift for someone trying to kick-start a wellness journey, or anyone coming out of illness or treatment for a major health setback whose body is in need of extra nourishment.

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Are you convenient to Boston? The Public Market has your back for last-minute, thoughtful gift ideas. Starting tomorrow through Sunday (May 11-14), they have a complimentary gift-wrapping station and plenty of specials for moms, including:

  • Make breakfast in bed with Chestnut Farms, offering bacon & eggs for $15
  • Finesse Pastries is baking delicious strawberry cakes called Poemes
  • Mother’s Day gift baskets are available at Red Apple Farm
  • Get a free $10 gift card for every $50 Red’s Best gift card purchased
  • Buy one package bacon or sausage @ Stillman Quality Meats, get half priced eggs
  • Find the perfect bouquet or flower arrangement at Stow Greenhouses
  • Try Sweet Lydia’s gift boxes and Mini S’mores Bouquets

On Mother’s Day itself, The Massachusetts Wine Shop is offering a free wine tasting for mom, and all moms who stop by the Soluna Garden Farm’s newly-expanded stall will get a free flower!

The market’s KITCHEN is also offering several classes this weekend that would be perfect quality-time gifts for you and mom.

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Have a wonderful weekend no matter what you do. XOXO

kid-friendly · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

The Snow Day Project: Freezing a Batch of Pumpkin Pancakes!


Whenever we get our first big snow day, Georgia and I always use it as an opportunity to make a whole mess of pancakes for the winter. We cook ’em, label ’em, and freeze ’em, so the next time we wake up snowed in all we have to do is put on the coffee and toss a couple of these in the toaster. A hot breakfast is easy as that, perfect for lazy days in pajamas like today!


Grabbing a couple straight from the freezer and letting them thaw during the day is a good lunchbox strategy, too. G has loved pancakes since, well, it was among the only things she let me eat for 20 weeks of morning sickness, and now that she’s in preschool they are portable and filling for winter school days.


We love to use pancake mix from Trader Joe’s — specifically the Pumpkin flavor. To make 6-8 pancakes, you need 1 Cup of Pancake Mix, 2 TBSP (or 1/4 stick) of melted butter, 3/4 Cup of Milk, and 1 Egg, lightly beaten. I’ll often do roughly double this. To make the whole box, follow those specific directions on the back of the packaging. Preheat a non-stick pan over medium (or a griddle to 350F). Place the dry mix into a large bowl, then in a separate bowl combine the egg, milk and melted butter and stir into the dry ingredient bowl until lumps disappear. You can always add more milk if the mix gets too thick while you’re cooking. Add a pat of butter to the pan. I use a soup ladle to drop about a 1/4 cup of batter into the pan once the butter is sizzling; flip the pancake once the edges start to look cooked and you see bubbles on top. You’ll only need to brown it lightly on the other side. Another good tip is to gradually turn the heat down a bit between each pancake so the butter doesn’t burn when it hits the pan each time. Allow the pancakes to cool on a plate, then begin assembling them for the freezer (or eat some right away, of course!)





To freeze, wrap each pancake with a layer of parchment paper in between, packaging about four into a quart-sized zip-top freezer bag. Make sure you label them with the contents and the date so you can find them easily in the fridge! I do in batches of three or four so I don’t have to thaw more than I need at one time. These can go straight into the toaster just like store-bought frozen pancakes or waffles.




That’s it! I sure am glad I did this when we get walloped by back to back storms like now. I’m supposed to fly out to D.C. in the morning…we’ll see if I get delayed or not. Poor Mark is driving to New York at 6 a.m., so please wish us both safe travels. Today we rested up, shoveled out, and made a snow man! If you’ve ever wondered what I look like with no makeup and a sinus infection, this is it.


I so value these days with my girl and think about them when I’m traveling for work or just stuck late at my desk or a meeting. You won’t hear me say anything bad about snow when it means I get quality play time like this! Stay safe and warm, everyone.

Books · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Gift Guide: Cookbooks

If there’s one thing even experienced cooks never mind receiving, it’s a new book about food. From cookbooks to travel writing, novels, and memoirs about eating, there’s always something new to whet the appetite of any foodie bookworm. Here are a few new cookbooks that I’ve got my eye on this year, plus some trusty favorites that would make great gifting for anyone on your list who is just starting out in a new home, new marriage, or with newly-acquired cooking skills. There are 3 DAYS LEFT for free two-day shipping with Amazon, so get shopping for those last-minute presents!

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Best of the New Cookbooks, clockwise from top left:

Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites: A Cookbook // Molly on the Range // The Flavor Bible // Cooking for Jeffrey // Small Victories // Damn Delicious // Thug Kitchen 101 // The Sprinkles Baking Book

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There were so many great cookbook releases this year, it’s hard to pick just one or two. All of these eight books appeal to different tastes, and all came out within the last two months, so they’re unlikely to be part of anyone’s collection yet — and all can be shipped before Christmas.

If you aren’t as concerned about getting something brand new and would rather help a budding cook or recent college grad in your family build their collection of go-to recipes, here are my selections — the tried and true, dog-eared favorites I turn to over and over, and still find something new to try.

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The Silver Spoon and the Silver Spoon For Children

This was the first cookbook my mother got me when I got out of school, and for good reason. Not only does it specialize in Italian cooking, which is what I know best, but it is indexed by ingredient, so a novice cook can flip to something like “parsnips” or “rutabaga” and figure out how to prepare it. The children’s version I received as a baby shower gift from my sister-in-law, and it’s equally wonderful — perfect for a first-time parent, or someone with a baby just starting to eat solids, or a toddler just starting to ask you if they can help in the kitchen!

Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

A classic for a reason, this is an encyclopedic look at one of the world’s best cuisines. With over 500 recipes, you will turn to it time and time again. Make a festive gift basket with this and her fascinating memoir, My Life in France, plus a nice bottle of wine.

Vegan with a Vengeance

Isa Chandra Moskowitz knows her stuff. Got a new vegan in the family, or just want to build some non-animal-protein foods into your regular rotation? This is the accessible, easy place to start, and the new 10-year-anniversary edition is even more beautifully laid out than the original. Looking for the fastest of the fast weeknight fare? Isa’s got you covered there, too, with Isa Does It, a digestible book of 30-minute meals with sumptuous photography to boot. No weird or expensive ingredients to be found in either one.

The Can’t Cook Book by Jessica Seinfeld

I got this when it first came out in 2013, because — even though I’m a seasoned cook — I knew that with a new baby in our family, we’d be needing to expand our repertoire of uncomplicated meals as well as help Mark gain the skills to do some cooking while I was busy nursing. It got us through that bumpy time and is now a solid favorite that I turn to time and again to get out of a rut.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

Made for busy families, this book is filled with supper recipes, freezer meals and other ideas that will quickly make their way onto your list of regulars. If you love her blog, this puts many of the favorites all in one place. And her writing style is such a kick, it’s like reading notes from a friend.

The Moosewood Cookbook

Timeless! A best seller since its publication in 1974, this is the most simple, delightful, hand-illustrated earthy little book of plant-based eating. Everything is comforting, no-frills and filling. If you’re looking to make more healthy, seasonal food, this is a great place to start.

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Good luck finishing up your shopping everyone! I’ll be sharing my Christmas menu soon! Need ideas now? Check out what we made last year.

 

Christmas · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Gift Guide: Cooks & Kitchens

Still looking for some inspiration for the food-loving friends and family on your shopping list? Fret not, there’s still eight days to get Amazon Prime shipping to your doorstep by Christmas, and I’ve got tons of great ideas lined up for you.

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Clockwise from top left: Hedley & Bennett American-Made Apron // Geo Porcelain Travel Mug // Epica Immersion Blender // Instant Pot Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker // Tea For One by CB2 // Splatter Enamelware Kitchen Utensils // Milk Street Magazine & Cooking School // Counter-Top Bacon Grease Keeper

A good apron is a must have, and these are the go-to brand for serious cooks right now. Made in the USA in several colors and extra durable, they will last a lifetime. I also can never seem to own enough stylish vessels for coffee and tea at home and on the go, so these are my picks for nice looking drinkware this winter! If you haven’t yet tried the Instant Pot, it’s like a slow cooker minus the “slow” and can be a very strategic gift for a new parent or someone who just got a promotion and is crunched for time! Ditto for the new Milk Street Magazine by Christopher Kimball, formerly of America’s Test Kitchen. He’s branched out on his own with a new venture meant to rethink home cooking; the new magazine is all about simple ingredients and fresh takes on familiar classics, with a blend of culinary science thrown in, and I’m already hooked. If you’re near Boston, there’s also the option of getting a gift card to their new cooking school in Downtown Crossing. An immersion blender is the workforce of any kitchen, making soups, sauces and stews a breeze, as well as an inexpensive yet thoughtful present. And who wouldn’t love a better way to save bacon grease instead of wasting it? Finally, these speckled spoons are sure to be a hit as a host/hostess gift at your New Year’s Eve celebration. So get gifting!

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If you’re looking to make more of an investment, no avid chef would turn down an opportunity to own a Vitamix blender (here’s the one I have, available in black or red), a versatile Le Creuset enameled cast iron Dutch oven or frying pan, or a Nespresso Coffee and Espresso Maker (with milk frother!) which seems to be one of this year’s hot gifts for home cooks. There also seem to be VERY good deals on KitchenAid stand mixers this holiday season, and I personally think you can’t go wrong there!

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Happy Shopping! I hope you’ve been less naughty than nice this year, or Georgia will tell Santa to skip your chimney come Christmas Eve … and she’s got an in with the big guy 😉