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 😉

 

 

 

 

 

kid-friendly · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Maple-Dijon Pork Chops with Chunky Apple Topping

This dish has become a fall tradition in our house. Every October we plan a date to go apple picking as a family, usually the first weekend Mark gets off after closing his first show of the season; then, with our bounty overflowing, we get started making apple crisp and this delicious dinner that tops succulent brined pork chops with a maple-dijon glaze and a chunky apple cider sauce. It’s something we all look forward to when the air turns chilly! I made this for the first time this year just last night, and I’m looking forward to baking a sweet apple crisp this weekend, too. I can’t wait to share that with you!

These pictures are actually from the last time I made a large quantity of this for a dinner party a couple years ago (hence the Johnny’s Foodmaster packaging, for a store that doesn’t exist anymore in the Boston area!) Also pictured are some garlic-chive mashed potatoes (click here for my basic mashed potato recipe) and my balsamic roasted green beans, which is my go-to way of baking green beans in the oven so the whole family will eat them. Although there are lots of steps pictured, I actually managed this just fine on a weeknight yesterday. I threw the chops into a freezer-size bag to brine them before work with some poultry seasoning (sage, thyme and rosemary) — see brining instructions below — and then when I got home, I just set the water on to boil for the potatoes, tossed the green beans into the oven to cook, set up the apple topping on a back burner, and cooked the pork chops in the last 7 minutes while I mashed the cooked potatoes. It wasn’t hard at all!!

HOW TO BRINE

Brining, or submerging meat in salt water for tenderizing and flavor, can be done overnight or during the workday so your meat is ready to be cooked when you get home in the evening. As I wrote about in this post for Citrus Pork, brining is a simple technique that does a great job of preventing dense cuts of meat (like pork chops!) from drying out while cooking. Yesterday I just threw the chops into a double-bagged freezer Ziploc with enough water to cover them, and eyeballed the salt and herbs. In general, you want to aim for a ratio of 1 TBSP of salt for every 1 CUP of water; as long as you make sure to cover the meat completely with water and rinse them off well when you are done brining, it’s pretty hard to mess this up. You also want to use flavorings such as onions, herbs, or aromatics like ginger, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, sugar or garlic in your brining bag. If you are hoping to brine a holiday bird, like a large turkey, or a roast, definitely make sure you give it overnight to soak. Want a more in depth guide by cut of meat? This article is a good place to start.

Recipe: Maple Dijon Pork Chops with Chunky Apple Topping

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 apples, cored and chopped
  • 1 CUP apple cider
  • 3 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 pork chops (or more for a crowd)
  • If brining: salt, water & herbs (I used a fresh poultry seasoning mix from the grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP Dijon or spicy brown mustard (I used the latter)
  • olive oil for the pan

DIRECTIONS

If you are making the green beans and/or mashed potatoes, set those up to boil and bake in the oven first, then turn your attention to making the apple sauce and finally to cooking the pork chops in a frying pan. If you boil the water then prep all your other ingredients, your potatoes will be done cooking around the same time as your apple topping and your green beans, meaning you can set those aside in a warm place and cook the chops while mashing the potatoes.

If you’ve brined the pork chops, make sure to rinse them well and discard any seasonings that brined with them.

To make the apple topping, cook the apples in a medium sauce pan with the cider and brown sugar and cinnamon over medium/high heat until tender, about 15 minutes, then set aside.

(I’ve listed out the step-by-step for both the green bean side and the potatoes below).

To make the pork chops, heat some olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat and add the chops, seasoning with a little pepper. Cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Then, stir the maple syrup and mustard into the pan, tossing to coat.

Top the pork chops with the chunky apple sauce and serve alongside the mashed potatoes and green beans or sides of your choice. And enjoy!

Here’s a quick recap of the green bean recipe if you don’t want to click over to my full post about it. I bought a pre-rinsed bag of cut green beans (16 oz) and added half of a sliced onion in a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and add in a bunch of whole garlic cloves — I usually do between 6 and 10, peeled of course. Roast in the oven at 350F until browned pretty well, about 30 minutes; you want the onions to be starting to caramelize. You can also do 400F for 20 minutes, but I was timing it to be ready alongside the pork chops and potatoes here. Set aside and while still warm add a few drops of balsamic to the finished beans, tossing to coat (a little goes a long way). Serve warm.

For the mashed potato recipe you see here, I used half a bag of red potatoes (~1 pound) plus 1 stick of butter, about a half cup of milk (any kind; I used almond) and a hefty dollop of sour cream (a bit of cream cheese would also work), adding a generous sprinkling of salt to taste. I boil the potatoes, chopped in half, until fork-tender, then drain them, add them back into the stockpot and mash them by hand (skin still on) with all the ingredients mentioned above. So creamy and delicious!

I hope you enjoy this one. Stay tuned for a recap of our apple picking trip, some pictures from my recent travel to Detroit (where the food scene is bustling if you know where to look), and that apple crisp recipe I mentioned. The best part of fall is definitely the food if you ask me!

kid-friendly · News · Tips and Tricks · Travel

August Day Trips from Boston!

It’s definitely late August now. Georgia has had her birthday party, my Florida squad has left town after their annual visit, and the fall calendar of meetings is already filling up at work (big, heavy sigh). I’ll share more photos of G’s party at the Stone Zoo soon, but here’s a sneak peek plus a couple snaps from some day trips that we have been taking while warm weather is still around us here in Boston. There’s nothing like summer in New England!  

We made trips to the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford, Gary’s Best Hot Dogs, Bedford Farms Ice Cream, the waterfront and shops in Newburyport, and a fun new restaurant called City Streets where they put cooked pasta on top of tossed salad — what?!? Sounds crazy, tastes really good.


Order like a native with the works: mustard, relish, onions and celery salt. Junk food overload not required but encouraged.img_8312Awesome waterfront dining in Newburyport at the Black Cow, where I sampled an amazing veggie burger, fries and cole slaw alongside a crisp glass of Pinot Grigio.We rolled up on the night of a gigantic classic car show, complete with propped hoods and blaring 50’s music. It was awesome!img_8234img_8236

This past weekend, we had the rare treat of Mark being off both Saturday and Sunday, so we decided to take a trip to Revere Beach, home of the famous international sand-sculpting festival, which takes place every July. We love this beach because, at 9 a.m. on a weekend morning, you can have the place to yourself, and there’s parking right on the parkway along the shore. On Sundays, the parking is free and pretty easy, especially if you arrive early! Georgia was over the moon that Mom and Dad were off work at the same time, which hasn’t happened probably since we flew to Florida as a family this past winter. She kept Mark busy building sand castles and wading with me in the low tide for hours, and we made it home in time for lunch and a nap. Sometimes I can’t believe we are lucky enough to live within 15 minutes of the subwayhiking, and the ocean.

I feel like we’ve done our best to make the most of our summer before Georgia starts preschool in early September. Where did my baby go?? In preparation for going to the “big kids school” after Labor Day, we all decided it was time to give up the pacificer, which G has used for naps and long car rides since she was less than a year old. Last Sunday morning, we set the binkies out on her window sill, and after church we came home to find that the “Binky Fairy” — whose arrival we’d been discussing together for months — had swapped her binks for a big girl preschool backpack and lunch bag, some sticker books, some fruit snacks and a couple new stuffed animals to cuddle. She even left Binky Fairy Dust! So far, it’s been over a week and she’s made barely a passing comment about wanting them, so I am ready to call it a success.

I also wanted to share that we lost a dear family member this past week — Georgia’s Great Granddad, who lived a long, full life and passed peacefully just a few weeks after turning 94. He was very special to both Mark and G, who always wanted to be held by her Great Granddad and lovingly referred to him as “my friend.” Here are a couple of my favorite photos of them together, from the year she was born and again this past winter. He will be so very missed.

I’ll be back after the services ~ hope you all have a very restful week ahead.

Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Last-Minute Father’s Day Gift Ideas

We had a little makeover here on the blog — hope you like it 🙂 Leave me some feedback in the comments below!

I’m all done with Mark’s Father’s Day gifts, and because his birthday is the day before, we are going to have a cookout at our house to celebrate this weekend. Also, we are going to a wedding on Father’s Day! Crap, I just realized that means I need to find a fancy dress for Georgia (and me) to wear. She’s also starting preschool the next week (eek! how did that happen so soon??) so I REALLY need to exercise my plan-ahead mom muscle.

If you’re still looking for gift ideas, and the dad in your life neither golfs, wears a tie every day or likes to BBQ already has all the grilling tools under the sun, here are a few ideas even picky fellows like Mark — collector of musical theater cast albums, books about the American Revolution, and ridiculously expensive PC games — would enjoy.

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Clockwise from top left: Klean Kanteen stainless cups // Banana Republic Performance Stretch Crew // Smartphone Instant Photo Lab // Hot/cold insulated howler with vacuum-seal lid // steampunk cuff links // Hamilton: The Revolution

I’m forever teasing Mark about the time he lost my really expensive (and amazing) hot/cold thermos from Japan. Gift one with some of his favorite tea or coffee! Same goes for stainless steel drinking cups, which are reusable, odorless, unbreakable and easily washable by hand. Pair with a favorite beverage, and you’re all set. These performance stretch t-shirts are literally all Mark wears, and he (like most of us) is obsessed with the stories behind the making of Hamilton. These cuff links and smart phone photo lab are just a little bit unexpected and fun.

If you’re local, the Boston Public Market also has tons of gift ideas from their vendors, plus a complimentary gift-wrapping station at the market all week, while supplies last. Check out some of their gift ideas, things you can do for Dad to celebrate this weekend, and special deals available now through Sunday:

  • Jennifer Lee’s Gourmet Bakery: BBQ themed cupcakes, plus 30% off hot dog burgers and buns, 6/15-6/19.
  • Massachusetts Wine Shop: Hosts an “On the house wine tasting” with Dad on Father’s Day Sunday.
  • Peterman’s Boards and Bowls: Handsome, hand-crafted wood bowls, great for a healthy appetite! 20% off 15″ and larger wooden bowls, 6/15 – 6/19.
  • Red’s Best: For every $50 gift card purchased, receive $5 bonus bucks free.
  • Wolf Meadow Farm: Cheese Basket for Dad including scamorza, caciotta and surprise 3rd cheese, plus wine jelly & spreader: $35 with mention of Father’s Day promotion, available through 6/19.
  • Red Apple Farm Presents Apple Butter Glazed Pork Chops (in the KITCHEN; Friday, June 17, 1:30-2:30pm): Learn how to make pork chops glazed with Red Apple Farm’s apple butter and you’ve got a special meal planned for Father’s Day.
  • Father’s Day BBQ Bites (in the KITCHEN, 11am-4pm): On Sunday, enjoy activities for families and children of all ages, including crafting a gift for dad and hands-on gardening, cooking and baking activities, such as how to make BBQ sauce. $25.

Have a Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

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Tips and Tricks

Taming a Sweet Tooth

Work is crazy these days, and I’ve noticed a distinct uptick in the number of people dropping by my office to dip into the candy bowl I keep on my desk as a result! I have an assertive sweet tooth myself, and am always battling to keep my sugar intake in check, especially during times of stress. As a mom, it seems like I’m always reading articles about how much sugar sneaks into our food and feeling as though I always have to be on guard, reading labels, and watching my family’s intake of junk food. Added sugar shows up in salad dressings, ketchup, many breads, spaghetti sauce, granola bars, cereal, canned fruit, and of course in candy, cookies and juices. My personal downfall has always been candy and sweet drinks, in particular lemonade (ok fine, and white wine!) and I’m sorry to say I passed this right along to my kid! Nothing is too sweet for her, but we try to limit her to one small organic juice box per day, with water as her only other drink. To keep my own snacking in check, I try to make sure I stay hydrated with seltzer or filtered water with lemon or lime in it, and I surround our whole family with healthy, filling snacks, like pre-packaged, roasted nuts, hummus with veggies and pretzels, string cheese, green smoothies, overnight oats, Greek yogurt and fresh fruit.

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When that snack-y sweet tooth strikes, I try to keep myself away from the candy dish by adding fruit, granola, or honey to Greek yogurt. Or, I pick up one of my new favorite indulgent snacks: Chobani flips, which pair low-fat Greek yogurt with a little sidecar of treats, such as coconut, granola, dried fruit, nuts and dark chocolate, and you can flip the entire thing in or add just a little hint of decadence.


They recently shared this fun flow chart to help you find your own flavor soulmate. Mine came up Sweet n’ Sweet, no matter where I started at the top! (My favorite guilty pleasure, by the way, is hands down tacos. And I like to put fried fish, shredded purple cabbage and diced avocado in them, drizzled with lime juice!) Boy, have they got me pegged.

What’s your flavor match?

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I personally can’t wait for the weekend to arrive. We are heading up to Rockport tomorrow after swim class, and then Sunday we are having a mommy-Georgia day in while daddy works. I hope you are all having a great Friday — here’s to powering through the afternoon slump together! 🙂

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