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!

gift-guide-cookbooks

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

***

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.

***

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.

copy-of-stockholm

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 · kid-friendly · Recipes

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

Happy Cyber Monday! I’m pretty much done with my holiday shopping already, so today is more like Treat YoSelf Monday in my book — I’ve got my eye on a Beauty Blender and a new work bag that is way not in the budget this year (especially since we just had to buy a new car last month). Hard to resist when the sales are this good. I hope you all had a restful, relaxing Thanksgiving. We sure did! Eating out, while not something I’d want to do every year, was extremely stress-free, and I loved not having to wash a million dishes at the end of the night. The place we went was excellent, and it was so nice getting to talk, sip a cocktail, then enjoy a movie back at home while lounging on the couch together. I did a little Black Friday shopping from the comfort of my bed before I even got up the next morning, and then spent the weekend getting our Christmas decorations out! I’ll be sharing a 2016 gift guide later this week, but for now please enjoy this easy-peasy version of vegetarian stuffed shells that is comforting, savory, and just the right thing to throw together in those frazzled weeks between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah/Christmas when your brain just doesn’t have the capacity to cook anything complicated. Adding a salad to this — even a pre-made, store-bought salad — or some simple roasted veggies would complete the meal nutritionally and make your taste buds happy.

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package pasta shells (the jumbo kind with 24 shells per container)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups ricotta
  • 1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh sage
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the garlic cream sauce

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used almond milk
  • 1/2 cup light cream (or half n’ half)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 35o and spray (or butter) a 9×13 glass baking dish.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, not mushy or overdone. Drain well and transfer to a paper towel laid out on the counter to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, ricotta, parmesan, egg, sage and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

To make the cream sauce, melt butter in a skillet over medium and add the garlic, then cook, stirring, until fragrant (1-2 minutes). Whisk in the flour gradually until lightly browned, about a minute. Gradually whisk in the milk and cook, stirring continuously, until well mixed. Stir in the light cream and cheese until thickened, another couple of minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk. Season with salt and pepper.

Spread some of the cream sauce into the bottom of the buttered baking dish, enough to coat the bottom. Stuff the cooled shells with the pumpkin-ricotta mixture and nestle into the baking dish, then drizzle the remaining cream sauce over the top. Garnish with some sage if desired.

Bake 25 or until lightly browned and bubbling. Serve warm.

Adapted from Damn Delicious.

30798837135_37ab956b1e_o

***

Ready to start shopping and don’t want to miss the best sales today?

Check out my previous guides: Gifts for Toddlers (especially awesome for two and three year olds), Gifts for Babies (great for infants through 18 months), Gifts for the Guys, and eco-friendly gift ideas for that brand new baby in your life (like my special little niece!) Last but not least, in honor of #MakersMonday (which is today), here’s a post featuring Locally-Made Gifts.  

If you’re in Boston, don’t forget to swing by the grand opening of Eataly tomorrow. I’ll be there, ready to stock up on Lavazza, Fig Burrata, imported Olive Oil and Brunello. I might actually explode from excitement while shopping! Ping me if you want to meet up or plan to be there yourself. Doors open at 4 p.m. in the Prudential, off Boylston.

15156857_1785709551682907_56184515033052889_o

another sneak peak from our holiday photos. Have a great week 🙂

Uncategorized

Merry Christmas (+leftover ideas!)

To quote Georgia, “SANTA IS COMING!!” We started getting ready for the big day at our house by watching Christmas movies all day, finishing our wrapping, going to church at night, having dinner as a family and then making some of the food we’ll have tomorrow when relatives join us to celebrate.

Georgia_Christmas

We are sticking to the same menu we’ve had for the past few years, except that we are making turkey instead of spiral ham, and (sniffle) we’re omitting anything Italian like stuffed shells or lasagna. My mom is making the turkey, stuffing and gravy, with applesauce on the side, and then I’ll be making Corn Casserole, Swedish Meatballs with cream sauce and Lingonberry on the side (thanks Ikea!), and my in-laws are bringing potatoes. My brother and his girlfriend are making Stuffed Mushrooms and a salad, as well as apple pie cookies with vanilla ice cream. Finally, I’m making a Peppermint Ice Cream freezer cake (recipe coming shortly), and Mark is making his go-to appetizer, Pillsbury Crescent Sausage Rolls. I’m sure we’ll have lots of other snacks around, too.

SAUSAGE CRESCENT BITES

I’m pretty ready to relax with my family after going through two rounds of toddler illness recently, from that barking cough every kid seems to have caught, to the (blessedly brief) stomach bug that hit us last weekend. Better last week than on Christmas Day, I guess!

While prepping for our holiday cooking, I decided to throw together  a savory dip using leftover ingredients and a couple pantry staples this afternoon, and it came out great so I wanted to share. It’s perfect for the day after Christmas,  a New Year’s Eve party, or just relaxing on New Year’s Day. 

CARAMELIZED ONION DIP

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, sliced thin
  • 2 TBSP butter
  • 2 TBSP brown sugar
  • 1 container plain Greek yogurt such as Chobani (~7 oz.)
  • A little less than 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Directions

In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium then add the onions and brown sugar and cook until caramelized. Reserve about 1/4 cup.

In a blender, combine the applesauce, yogurt and the rest of the onions and mix until smooth. Add the minced garlic and give one last pulse. Taste, and add more garlic if you feel it’s needed.

Serve warm or cold with chips, crudités or French fries, adding the reserved onion on top for guests to mix in as they dip. I also added a little bit of salt upon taste-tasting.

  


True confession: I dropped the applesauce in the measuring cup onto the floor as I was trying to carry it to the blender, so this was made with the kind of applesauce you find in toddler snack pouches (organic still, of course 😉 ). It made me think, though, that you could make this dip with lots of different types of leftover fruit sauces, chutneys or relish. Pump up the garlic if you like, too!

From my house to yours, I hope you have a wonderful, restful, peaceful, and relaxing holiday. Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night! 

Thanks to Chobani for partnering with us to inspire this post. Find more fun recipe ideas featuring Chobani Greek Yogurt here!

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

Toddler Gift Guide

Who better to make this gift guide than a bona fide two-year-old? Presented by Miss Georgia Vivien herself, I give you this year’s shopping list for toddlers, specifically those between 16 and 28 months. Need ideas for the younger babes? Visit last year’s Baby & Toddler Gift Guide, and don’t miss my Eco-Friendly Shopping List for little ones, too! I can tell you unequivocally that every single thing listed on both those pages remain in heavy rotation in our house. In fact, we had to hide some of the infant toys (Sophie the Giraffe, I’m looking at you!) because Georgia wouldn’t give them up. Thanks to Amazon Prime, most if not all of these gifts can be in your house by Christmas Eve — or even sooner, like Monday, if you order today. God speed!

A shopping cart: useful for toting play food and stuffed animal friends both indoors and out!
A shopping cart: useful to tote play food & stuffed animals, indoors & out!

Georgia, in addition to being spoiled rotten by her dad, is the only grandchild on my side of the family, which is a sprawling crew even before you add my in-laws…so she definitely cleans up on birthdays and Christmas. While it’s great to have a summer birthday to balance out this time of year, we still try very hard to squirrel away most of her presents in order to space out “new” things all year long. She also gets to play with many different toys at both daycare and the church nursery every week, so we’ve created a running Amazon list to share ideas of which toys she doesn’t have in either of those places that she might like at home. She gets lots of arts and crafts time at school and has a gigantic play kitchen as well as Play Doh at church, so while those are awesome gift ideas for any two-year-old, we are trying to get her some different things to have on her days home with us. So far, the system has worked pretty well. But we’ll see how it goes this year, as she’s newly aware of “Santa” and how many gifts await her under the tree!

Since she loves Play-Doh so much, I am putting a few smaller containers into her stocking this year, and I also picked up this fun kit for making different shapes and textures with it. Looks like so much fun for a rainy or snowy day!

I’ll also preface this list by saying that there are items both boys and girls seem to universally enjoy — the aforementioned play kitchens, toy strollers, and train sets come to mind — but there are definitely things some kids gravitate toward more than others. Georgia, for example, does not love coloring books, but lots of kids can sit and do crafty things for ages; meanwhile, she can spend hours with blocksLegoLittle People sets, making up buildings and imaginary story lines. Same goes for dress-up clothes. It’s so cute to see how their personalities emerge through play at this age! While she makes great use of her leftover Halloween costume and a set of fairy wings my mom got her, I’m definitely going to invest in more dress-up outfits for this year. And I may wait for Lincoln Logs to go on sale so I can grab some of those, too.

What Santa is Bringing This Year

Mark got Georgia a talking Lambie doll at Costco, because she would spend so long chatting to it while grocery shopping that we pretty much had to take it home. That, the Mickey & Minnie Birthday Train Duplo Set, the Ikea easel I mentioned last year, and two Anna and Elsa stuffed dolls from the Disney store have rounded out Georgia’s pile under the tree this year from Mom/Dad/Santa. I believe she’s getting Veggie Tales and an American Girl Doll play cradle for her Bitty Baby from her grandparents. She will not, however, be getting this $430 princess house despite informing us that “We buy it, for Christmas!”

I read about this interactive toy in a magazine last month, and two days later a certain Nani in Florida had already shipped it north for Christmas. But who came blame her?? Doc McStuffins is a preschool crowd-pleaser, and this talking checkup center looks totally fun. Plus it’s exactly the missing decor element my living room needed.

I’ll admit this one frightens me a little bit, but there’s no denying it: if given the opportunity, she would bounce, on something, all.day.LONG. What started as a phase has turned into a daily struggle to get her to quit jumping constantly on the couch or bed, and we finally channeled it into a weekly visit to our local “Skyzone,” which (thankfully) has toddler time every Monday and Wednesday morning. Even so, we are probably going to end up buying this to save our furniture. Hopefully it’ll last until we can get her into a proper gymnastics class!!

We are definitely in a puzzle phase! Georgia got several for her birthday, including some wooden jigsaw puzzles, some floor puzzles and a few adorable matching games. She has really grown to love this Very Hungry Caterpillar counting puzzle, both because it has brightly colored, large pieces and because it becomes an adventure to stretch it in one long line across our floor. Plus, she loves identifying the foods she knows on each piece, and she’s really into learning her numbers these days, so this helps her practice counting!

Also in regular rotation in our house is this play purse by Kidoozie, featuring a toy phone (“I check my email, see what’s going ON”), keys, compact, lipstick, debit card, and unbreakable mirror. She has endless fun pretending to be, well, ME, looping it over her arm the same way I carry my bag (ugh) and taking the phone everywhere with her (the shame). This is a great one for bringing in the car.

Another awesome toy for travel is this LeapFrog Touch Magic Bus, which is lightweight and flatter than a storybook, and just the right size to play with in a carseat. It counts, sings and helps children learn letters and numbers, and isn’t so loud that you’d go crazy hearing it.

Melissa & Doug also make these awesome “Water Wow” coloring books that use special paper and a refillable water pen (really more like a paint brush). They are the perfect size for small hands to hold on their own in the car or on a plane, and the refillable water pen lasts forever without having to be refilled, which is handy when you can’t stop that often. There are several scenes in the book on thick, sturdy, spiral-bound paper, with vibrant colors that appear when wet then dry for reuse a few minutes later. Georgia loves hers at home AND on the go!

Melissa & Doug makes really great toys across the board, and we also love their cutting food kit to practice knife skills. Another great toy of theirs that we have are these fridge magnets, which come in a variety of themes. Great for occupying little ones safely while you cook, especially if you’re home alone with them a lot like I am! And, speaking of food, if you — like us — felt frustrated by the dominance of junk food in toy sets, check out these great sets by Learning Resources:

They have kits for each meal of the day with real food and healthy options, not Hamburger Helper and Macaroni and Cheese like some play food I’ve seen! Plus, they come with these adorable baskets, which Georgia loves carrying and which help us to keep our house tidy. She also adores this Leap Frog toy oven, which she received as a birthday gift and hasn’t stopped playing with for a day. Paired with the tea set she got when she was one, she just loves cooking and serving us “dinner!”

The other thing she is loving these days is musical instruments. She gets to play with a ukulele and tambourine at school, and every time we are in a toy store, she gravitates toward play instruments. Since she loves her toy keyboard so much, we are thinking of getting her either this guitar or even a toddler drum set!

Books we Love

Georgia, like her parents, has enjoyed reading since day one. While I’ve been meaning to do a comprehensive post on all of her favorite books, for now, here are the ones she’s loving for story time before nap and bed.

Quick as a Cricket has beautiful illustrations and is a quick, simple read.
Ten Little Babies has an appealing rhyme and lots of little details to search for in each picture. Nice and compact for travel or for leaving in the crib!
Hugaroo has adorable animals on every page which Georgia loved to find over and over, and is a sweet story about the many different kinds of hugs you can get!
I am a Bunny is a classic for a reason. It takes you from summer to winter, just in time for toddlers learning about weather and seasons at school.
You’ll be reciting If You Give a Moose a Muffin in your sleep, I promise! Sames goes for its companion, If You Give a Mouse A Cookie, another hit in our house.
The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge is perfect for explaining that small can be mighty!
I don’t know if it’s the mischief in the story or the cute illustrations, but Georgia has loved Harry the Dirty Dog since before she could possibly understand the story. It’s very endearing.
We bought this when Georgia was an infant because WE liked it, but she has really taken to it. We ended up getting her more in this Baby Lit series, and she loves them all! Vibrant pictures and simple text with counting means they can follow along easily.
Ferdinand is one of the best-selling children’s books of all time, with a beautiful message about non-violence and tranquility.

Others that make great gifts: The Napping House, Big Red Barn,  The Story About Ping, Make Way for DucklingsGolden Book’s The Night Before Christmas, and The Snowman. We are also buying Princess Potty to help with toilet training this holiday break 🙂

For bedtime

Georgia hasn’t transitioned to a toddler bed yet, but we are getting ready. When we do, I’m already plotting to buy these sheets from aden + anais, maker of those super-soft swaddling blankets that everyone loves (for good reason) when they have a newborn. What I like about this set, aside from the adorable colors, is the fact that it includes a thin transitional pillow ergonomically designed for toddlers’ heads and necks, as well as a top sheet and blanket that attach to the bottom sheet near the feet, which is designed to prevent you getting a 2 a.m. call to come fix kicked-off covers! I can vouch for the quality of their linens since we already use them in her crib.

Around 18 months, I decided to buy Georgia what I call her “glow worm,” even though it’s blatantly a sea horse, because I fondly remember them from childhood. We inadvertently got one that was sewn together wrong, so the eyes don’t line up, but she is REALLY attached to it so I never swapped it for a less cock-eyed version. On the rare occasions when she wakes up in the middle of the night, she just touches the belly and it lights up and soothes her back to sleep with music. It has also helped us to transition to many a strange bed while traveling! She calls it “my horsey” and you can buy it in either blue or pink.

Outdoor Toys

We don’t have a very big yard, so we held off on getting a climbing structure or play house, though I know Georgia has loved exploring them at school and the local tot lot. We did just fine in our 1/10-acre yard (seriously) and three-season porch with a few key toys that are easy to store in the garage for the winter, with help from a strategically-placed tent on the sunny end of the driveway where we do sidewalk chalk. We may not have a large yard, but we feel pretty lucky to have any grass at all, since most houses on our block have no driveway and the kids play in the street. Grilling and eating outside, watering the plants, kicking a ball around and chasing one another with squirt guns were all the ingredients we needed for summer fun in our city-sized back yard this year!

 

When Mark started bringing Georgia outside to garden with him last spring, she was so much more into it than we expected, so we immediately ordered her this garden set from Amazon. She loves it!! What I like about it is the fact that you can store the scoop and trowel in the watering can, and that the rope handle makes it easy to carry for little hands. In fact we are ordering her this matching indoor gardening set for next year so she can keep on practicing her planting skills.

Another thing we are hoping to get G this year is a toy workbench for our back yard and porch, which she can enjoy during the upcoming spring and summer. It’ll go great with the tool set she already has!

Her other fave outdoor toys this year included this sandbox, which comes in a variety of animal shapes (and can be left out for the winter, as long as it’s covered with a tarp weighted down by bricks), as well as and this awesome water table. I even know some parents have moved their water table indoors for the winter and put beans or rice in it to make a sensory table, which sounds really fun.

Last but not least, we loved this basketball hoop for our porch and this play side at daycare. We never got Georgia any toy cars like this because they have so many at daycare, but we did purchase an indoor-outdoor picnic table for next year, and we also put away a balance bike for her third birthday in 2016. Also on next year’s list: a Micro Kickboard for scooting around!

***

Did I miss anything that your kids love?? If so, let me know! And good luck shopping!! Just one week to go …

***

This post contains some affiliate links, which means that your purchase helps to support my blog through small commissions offered by each merchant. Everything in this post is something that Georgia already owns and that we purchased with our own money, never offered to us under a promotional agreement — and you never pay more by clicking on any of the links shared here. I humbly appreciate your support of Organic Glory, and hope you enjoy these holiday gift ideas!

Christmas · Holidays · minted · shutterfly

My most popular Fall posts

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas and Hanukkah coming right around the corner, I thought I’d do a quick post highlighting both my go-to holiday recipes, as well as a roundup of my most popular Fall recipes. Some of them might surprise you! Before I dive in, though, here are a few photos from our Thanksgiving in New Bedford. It was a lovely day with grandparents and cousins, and we were so fortunate to have warm weather, too. Because it was so nice out, Georgia and I went to visit Zoo Lights in Stoneham the next day. I highly recommend it if you’re Boston local!

And here are my top winter holiday recipes.

This year, we are actually making turkey again for Christmas, because my brother gets one free from his company! So, while we’ve done ham in the past, this time around we are trying a new menu. I’m also planning to make swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce, and my mom, my brother, and his girlfriend are going to bring lots of sides. They are always such a huge help!

I finally got my holiday cards ordered from Minted this week, and I can’t wait to start sending them off to friends and family! It’s one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. If you’ve been waiting to make yours, today is the day — their Cyber Monday 20% off deal ends at Noon Pacific Time! Shutterfly and TinyPrints also have great deals (up top 50% off!) going on right now.

Here is a low-res sneak peak of our card:

Minted_2015_Holiday_Card

photographs // TDM Photography

My most popular Fall recipes

So I always knew that my Brown Sugar Kielbasa recipe for the slow cooker was a hit on Superbowl Sunday, but apparently you all like making it every game day, because it’s been my most popular post — by a margin of at least 500 views — every single DAY this year! I guess you really can’t go wrong with this one, and I make it all the time myself. So I’m right there with you all!

brown_sugar_kielbasa1
Next up: My step by step guide to making pumpkin bread from scratch, using fresh pumpkin puree. Talk about an oldie but goodie! I don’t really have time anymore for a labor of love like that one, from cutting, roasting and scooping fresh pumpkin, to toasting the seeds and making pumpkin bread on TOP of it all, much less in one afternoon. But it sure did turn out amazing.

This next one is tried and true: Shepherd’s Pie with Corn. It looks like the “corn” is the critical ingredient everyone’s interested in, if Google Analytics are to be believed. That combo of fresh and creamed corn really does make the dish in my opinion! Check it out for yourself. I made two of these last weekend because we had so many potatoes left over from Thanksgiving!

Here’s another one that surprises me with its popularity because it’s nothing ground-breaking, and yet I understand its appeal. This doesn’t require any time-consuming cheese grating (or, for that matter, purchasing of any unusual cheese varieties) and it turns out a family-friendly, filling, warm dinner that’s guaranteed to leave you with lots of leftovers. It’s from a book designed for novice cooks, and that’s because it is very foolproof. If you haven’t yet, give these Baked Egg Noodles with Cheese a try.

Another popular post, I assume because it’s great for both watching the game and having a party (as well as for appetizers on Thanksgiving or Christmas!) is this Vegan Spinach-Artichoke Dip. The dairy in the full-fat version is just too rich for me, so I’ve relied on this healthier and more climate-friendly version for a while now. I realize that sounded preachy! But I think small swaps matter when trying to decrease your carbon footprint and eat better, and eliminating some meat and dairy is one of the most impactful things you can do.

There are a couple other trends that I get a kick out of every fall. The first: there’s always an uptick in the number of visits to my smoothie recipes, as well as this Kale Salad with Avocado and Lemon, right after Thanksgiving. People are also clicking through and buying my most-recommended smoothie container from Amazon, and I think these all point to people wanting to eat a little bit healthier right after an indulgent holiday! I’ve had a lot of salad this week myself.

Another trend I’ve noticed is a big jump in the number of people reading my posts on Beating Morning Sickness and tips for Prenatal Workouts. And no wonder! I found out I was pregnant with Georgia this time three years ago, and the morning sickness kicked in not long after. Everyone else who’s having a Summer 2016 baby is in that boat right now, so I guess it’s no surprise those posts do so well this time every year. If you are one of these people, don’t miss my post on buying maternity clothing and equipping your life for newborn gear without wasting money. (I’d hold off on jumping to the “tips on pumping” post until later, though, because I don’t want to be the one to drop the knowledge on you that breastfeeding can be super hard. Get through labor first).

must haves

I’ll have more info soon about how to roast a turkey (based on my one and only experience doing so) as well as how I made a delicious gravy from the pan drippings. Looking for ideas for using up extra turkey, stuffing, cranberry and more? Check out this leftover turkey casserole and keep it handy for next year. I made it this year and it was really yummy!

Happy shopping and cooking everyone 🙂

XOXOXO

Christmas · Holidays · kid-friendly · Recipes · Uncategorized

Michelle’s Stuffed Mushrooms

By popular demand, I’ve got Michelle, my brother’s girlfriend and an awesome cook, to guest blog about how she makes her easy yet delicious stuffed mushrooms. They’ve been a staple at our holiday celebrations this year, and are truly addictive! Interested in finding out how she makes this healthy dish? Keep reading!

IMG_9376

Michelle’s Famous Stuffed Mushrooms

INGREDIENTS

  • White mushrooms, 3 or 4 packages
  • Plain bread crumbs, any brand
  • Butter (5 TBSP total)

DIRECTIONS

The number of people you are planning to serve determines how many packages of mushrooms to buy. I buy the white mushrooms that still have the stems attached. For Christmas, when we had 12 guests, I got four packages, and for Easter I got three. It may seem like a lot, but remember that mushrooms shrink! I also use the 4C Plain Bread Crumbs but you can use your favorite kind.

Usually the night before I am going to make them, I take the stems out and I save about 10 of them. Then I wash all the mushrooms to make sure I have all the dirt off, and put them back in the fridge. (Don’t forget to wash the stems too!)

IMG_9374

To make them, I get a pot of boiling water and put the mushrooms in the water for 5 minutes. Make sure not to leave them in any longer then that! I have a limited amount of large pots in my house so I boiled them in three batches, and it works well either way. Then use a (clean) towel and put them facing down so the water doesn’t pool. Then, you want to use the stems: chop them up very fine and use about 1-2 tablespoons of butter (it can be salted or unsalted). I use salted butter for mine. Have the butter melt in the frying pan then put your stems in and let them cook until they get a deeper brown color. Make sure to keep stirring them so they don’t burn. That usually takes about 3 to 5 minutes on medium heat.

In a bowl, have your bread crumbs ready. The amount will vary depending on how many mushrooms you have. I used a little less than a cup. If you’re making more mushrooms, then add more breadcrumbs. Once the stems are done cooking you add those in with your bread crumbs.

IMG_9375

You will need to melt about 2-3 more tablespoons of butter (just use the same frying pan you cooked the stems in) and once that is melted add that to your bread crumbs and mix it all up until it kind of looks like wet sand. (You can do a taste test here ~ I promise you it doesn’t taste like sand!) You just want to make sure that all the breadcrumbs are coated.

**At this time if you wanted, you could add whatever spices you like, for example garlic powder, cheese, onion powder, etc. You can get creative, but I keep things plain.**

Now time for stuffing! I have a large round glass dish that I like to cook my mushrooms in. By this time they will be cooled from being boiled so just move them into whatever dish you baking them in and stuff them! I use a small spoon and make sure I really pack the stuffing into each mushroom by using the back of the spoon. You will more than likely have a little left over stuffing, so that’s what I sprinkle over the top. Put them in the oven at 350F for about 20-25 minutes (or until the stuffing looks golden brown) and that’s it! Very easy and delicious!

Thanks, Michelle! We are so glad to have you sharing your recipe with us by popular demand, and can’t wait to see what you cook up next 🙂

Christmas · Holidays · Recipes

Scalloped Potatoes

As promised, here’s my recipe for scalloped potatoes from Christmas Dinner! Usually, I serve mashed potatoes at the holidays using this make-ahead recipe, but I wanted to change things up. This is simpler because it doesn’t require peeling or boiling, and it can be made the day before. In fact, next year that’s what I plan to do in order to save myself some stress on Christmas morning.

IMG_7677

SCALLOPED POTATOES WITH ONION & CHEDDAR

also known as Potatoes Gratiné en Français 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 or 6 medium baking potatoes (about 2.5 lbs.)
  • 1.5 C grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 4 C whole milk
  • 3/4 C light cream
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a large casserole/baking dish.

Slice the potatoes very thin. I am terrified of the mandoline and don’t own a large food processor, so I did this by hand, very carefully with a large, freshly-sharpened chef’s knife. Do not rinse. Set aside.

Prep the onions and garlic: slice the onion thin and smash the cloves of garlic with the side of a knife and your fist, or a meat pounder or heavy mug (I put mine in a plastic bag to contain the splatter).

In a good-sized Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium (medium-low if using a cast iron or enameled cast iron pot). Add the onions and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the milk, garlic and Dijon and bring to a boil over medium. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Add the potatoes and allow to simmer until they are nearly tender, about 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, and discarding the milk once you’re done, transfer half the potatoes and onions to your greased baking dish, then cover with half of the cheese. Repeat, seasoning generously with salt and pepper, then spoon the potatoes and onions into the dish in a second layer and top with the remaining cheese. Season again, then pour the cream evenly over the top.

Bake uncovered for 50 minutes to one hour, or until the cheese is crispy and golden. Let cool a few minutes and serve!

Recipe inspired by thekitchn

scalloped potatoes 1

scalloped potatoes 2

This is actually easy enough to do for a regular weeknight dinner, and would definitely give you enough to use a second time in one week (unless you have a family of teenage boys, in which case, I can’t help you! And hats off, my friend). I used packaged shredded cheddar this time around, but you could grate fresh — I just can’t deal with that stress on my wrists, which still battle some carpal tunnel syndrome left over from my pregnancy. And, of course, another type of cheese (gruyere? hmm) will do just fine.

IMG_7555

If you prefer, you can use another kind of milk — almond, soy, etc. — and you can substitute 2 cups of milk and 2 cups of water for the full 4 cups of whole milk called for. Many recipes also call for heavy cream in scalloped potatoes, but I don’t find that to be necessary. You can still get a very rich effect by using light cream as I did here. Some recipes also call for cooking the potatoes on lower heat for longer in the oven, but I like how this recipe recommends par-cooking on the stove top before you place them in the oven to ensure they are adequately and evenly seasoned. You can always save the discarded milk for another culinary use. And, if you’re interested, I used russet potatoes here; I was looking for yukon gold, but they weren’t available so I decided to try my luck and I’m pleased with the result. These held up very well structurally. If you want a tremendously thick sauce in the dish, you could thicken your milk with flour at the par-cooking stage.

IMG_7554

I really hope you like this recipe and that it broadens your taste buds if you grew up accustomed to the boxed version! These made great leftovers with some of the spiral ham and casseroles we had on Christmas. Georgia ate them enthusiastically, but then again the main ingredients are cheese, milk and potatoes, so I’m not surprised. The onion and garlic lend a visible flavor but don’t overwhelm, making them perfect for picky eaters while still being a little more interesting than mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

Baby & Toddler · Christmas · Holidays

What I Got for Christmas

Happy 2015! I hope you had as wonderful a holiday and New Year as we did. Mark, Georgia and I were all home on a “staycation” from Christmas Eve until yesterday, and it was awesome! We relaxed, hosted Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at our house, visited with one of my best friends from New York, and had a family reunion of sorts this past weekend. We even hit a New Year’s Eve party like grownups (thanks, Grammie, for babysitting at our house overnight!) Georgia loved the concept of tearing wrapping paper off gifts, and “helped” everyone with theirs all day long.

What we cooked

  • Lasagna
  • Spiral Ham with applesauce
  • Scalloped Potatoes (recipe coming soon!)
  • Cranberry Bread
  • Broccoli Casserole
  • Tossed Salad
  • Buttered Corn
  • Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Salted Caramel Cupcakes

And, Mark made his famous sausage crescent rolls, which are a tasty and crowd-pleasing appetizer — he’ll be guest blogging here about the recipe just in time for your Superbowl parties!!

IMG_7527

I think this was the first time since we were married that Mark and I both didn’t have to work during the week between Christmas and the New Year. With Georgia’s daycare closed for the duration, we really had a lot of family time together, which was so amazing. Even though going back to work was crazy after almost two weeks off, it was well worth it to snuggle with my baby in the “big people bed” every morning, lounge around the house, and do brunch with friends at a few of our favorite places, like Cabot’s in Newton, In a Pickle in Waltham, and Pignone’s Cafe in Stoneham. We already knew Georgia liked pancakes and fruit, but this week we discovered that she LOVES nutella, grilled cheese and milkshakes…I mean, who doesn’t?

As for gifts? We made out pretty good. I walked away with lots of new clothes from Mark, and I got him some new LuLu gear, plus these headphones and this scale that he’s been eyeing to go along with his FitBit for ages. I also received these three books on food that I am beyond excited about:

omnivore’s dilemma, michael pollan // super natural every day, heidi swanson // plenty more, yotam ottolenghi

I am particularly excited to try Heidi Swanson’s Yogurt Biscuits and Millet Muffins, which are supposed to be healthy and appealing for lovers of corn bread (ahem, Mark and Baby G!) You may know Heidi as the founder of 101 cookbooks. I just love how simple and adaptable her recipes are; they are approachable, comforting and easy, which is a great balance to Plenty More, which highlights some more exotic and innovative ways to use unusual vegetables. If you don’t know Yotam’s story, read about the Israeli chef in this fascinating New Yorker piece from 2012; to get to know Heidi Swanson, visit her website and see a sampler of recipes from her book here.

And what did Georgia get? Well, LOTS. She (and, somewhat annoyingly, Tasha) is thrilled with her Anywhere Chair, which Mark has been waiting to get her since pretty much the day I found out I was pregnant. She also loved the Little People farm set that she got for Christmas, and the play stroller my mother-in-law got her, complete with a vintage Cabbage Patch doll! She also got lots of books and outfits and a special bracelet from my mom.

IMG_7486

IMG_7474

I have to say, I thought that last year was overwhelming with a newborn who was in the midst of her four-month sleep regression leading up to Christmas, but that couldn’t hold a candle to trying to juggle a toddler with cooking and cleaning for a holiday. Thank goodness for a pared-down menu, family who brought plenty of dishes so I didn’t have to do it all, and not having to work the next day. Georgia was so excited by all her visitors that she couldn’t fall asleep Christmas night, which is completely unlike her, and she woke up at 1 a.m. hysterical again. The next day we felt like a wreck and didn’t even get dressed until 3 in the afternoon. To think we don’t even have a child old enough to believe in Santa yet — we are doomed next year!

I definitely fantasized about taking a cruise or otherwise abandoning all the chaos in the future. 

Shopping the after-Christmas sales.
Shopping the after-Christmas sales.

Speaking of bad baby sleep, if your little one started going to bed late and sleeping in because the whole house was on vacay like Georgia did, check out this great site for getting back on track. I’m definitely reading it, because I had to get Georgia up at 8 a.m. today in order to make it to daycare on time, and for the past three days I’ve had to wake her at 9 a.m. (!!!) It’s too cute, because every time I walk in, she goes “uh oh!” as if to say “oops mom, slept late again!”

I hope you had a great holiday, and I’ll be sharing by recipe for Scalloped Potatoes soon, as well as Mark’s guest post for sausage crescent rolls. Stay warm in this deep freeze we’ve landed in!

Books · DIY · Drinks & Smoothies · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Last-minute Foodie Gifts

Have you procrastinated and are just now desperately looking for something to gift that home cook or restaurant lover in your life? I’ve got you covered.

IMG_7368
salt cellar // anthropologie

Make something edible

Find some pretty containers, make your own gifts tags, tie them on with festive ribbon, and you’re done! If you aren’t artsy, Etsy has loads of designers whose gift tags can be personalized, purchased and downloaded for immediate printing, no waiting by mail.

Send a magazine subscription

I love Food Network Magazine, Vegetarian Times, and EveryDay with Rachael Ray. Great recipes can also be found in Real Simple and (duh) Martha Stewart. Subscribe online, print out an e-card, and package in a fun little card or bag. Better yet, include the current issue with a bow around it and a note saying a subscription is on the way.

Join a wine club

A distinguished investment that won’t soon be forgotten.

Anthropologie

This place is a hidden treasure trove of cute food gifts. Mugs aren’t the most creative thing you can give someone, but if you go that route, the ones at anthro are as unique as you could hope for. They have lots of edible things to package with their pretty serve ware and accessories. Lots of preppy, boho, and hipster finds here. I also love their decorations! They can still ship by Dec. 24, too.

marshmallows, canape plates, wine openers, cocktail mix, mugs // anthropologie

Make personalized stationery for their food gifts

Check out Minted for personalized wrapping paper, gift tags and labels for goodies from the home cook. I would love to receive something like this!

$19 for 25, minted.com
$15 for 5 sheets, minted.com

Cookbooks

On Amazon, you’ve got until Monday for free two-day shipping with Prime and still make it by Christmas.

thekitchn

Use code BOOKDEAL25 to get an extra 25% off any book on Amazon through today (December 16).

Basket of goodies from Trader Joe’s

Someone did this for me one year, and I loved it. Inside were things I’d never tried from TJs, even though I go all the time. It totally inspired me to craft some new recipes! Throw in some wine or seasonal beer, snacks, a pretty dish towel or kitchen tool, and nestle in a nice basket for anyone who loves to cook. Round it out with one of the many popular Trader Joe’s cookbooks available for two-day shipping on Amazon, like this one or this one.

THEMES TO TRY

Winter Favorites: Cranberry apple butter, gingerbread cake mix, pumpkin waffle mix, winter blend coffee or peppermint tea, some holiday sweets (such as peanut brittle, salted caramels or candy-cane joe-joes), and dish towels in holiday colors.

Taste of Italy: Nice olive oil, flavored pasta (they have lemon, spinach & chive, and more), marinara or vodka sauce, Parmesan cheese, arborio rice, red pepper flakes, olives, capers, oregano. Package with a new colander, large serving bowl, pasta scoop, or cutting board.

Taste of Asia: Toasted sesame oil, rice sticks, Thai lime & chili cashews, coconut milk, red curry sauce, jasmine rice, soyaki sauce, and green tea. Include a unique tea cup and saucer, a sushi plate, pretty chopsticks, or noodle bowl.

Coffee Lover: Chocolate covered espresso beans, an assortment of coffees, dunk-able chocolate biscotti, after-dinner mints, chai or yerba mate mix. Do the same thing for a tea lover and package with a mug or a tea strainer.

reusable produce bags // facebook.com/victorybags

Finally, for new parents, it’s fast and easy to have weeks worth of meals delivered to them by organizing a mealtrain with your friends and family. This is also a great idea for anyone who is sick, new to your neighborhood, deployed, or recovering from an accident or surgery during the holidays.

And if you’re still looking for somewhere to donate toys, Boston’s Christmas in the City is taking orders to its Amazon wish list, which will distribute gifts to thousands — yes, thousands — of homeless children this weekend. Read more about last year’s event in today’s Globe and click here to donate. They continue to hand out toys after Christmas to kids of all ages who are living in shelters, motels or other unstable situations in Boston, so it’s never too late to give, and donations purchased from their Amazon wish list get delivered directly to their headquarters.

Have a wonderful week everyone and good luck finishing your shopping. 

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

Gift Guide: The Guys

I won’t spoil the surprise even though he doesn’t read the blog, but Mark is definitely getting at least one of the things below for Christmas. And the rest are things he (or my awesome brother) already own and love. Read on and get inspired for the guys in your life!

For makers and DIY enthusiasts

Make Magazine, the home of 3-D printing, robotics, woodworking, programmable LEDs, fiber crafts and canning. It’s all in there! If your guy likes to tinker, build, and code, as my little bro does, you have just finished shopping.

MAKE_magazine

A book for a new dad or papa-to-be

The Faith of a Child, by Stefan Lanfer. The author, a colleague of mine in Boston, says “if you want tips, tactics, and advice for childbirth and parenting, you’ve got dozens of choices. But, if you want real stories that actually let you picture fatherhood, The Faith of a Child is for you.” It’s artistic and lovely to read and appealing for men who are about to become first-time fathers as well as those with a bit more practice who might enjoy a book to relate to on that level.

For tall dudes who work out

We have spent years trying to find workout pants for Mark that have a long enough inseam. When you are 6’4″ tall, this can seem an impossible task. Enter LuLu Lemon, that haven of ‘athleisure’ wear for stay-at-home moms! Miraculously, their pants come extra-long as a matter of course, and they offer complimentary hemming for customers of more average heights. The only other brand we’ve found that does this is Under Armour. I guess that’s why famously tall QB Tom Brady is their pitch man! Places like Old Navy actually make tall athletic gear for men too, but only by special order and only online…and they sell out of desirable styles very quickly. Mark’s favorite for running, dance class, rehearsal and lounging is hands-down the LuLu Kung Fu pant.

kung fu pant

Man-pampering

This organic, all natural shave oil by Honest is sure to leave his face calm, smooth, and razor-burn-free. It smells divine and is good for ladies too (bonus!)

Mark is also a fan of this hand cream for chapped knuckles after working in the yard or doing a tour in the wind. Which reminds me: if you are looking for work gloves for your handyman, these are tops.

Wishful thinking: for men who cook

“Men” and “cooking” are not two words that typically run into one another much at my house, but if yours is different then I envy you. Mark makes one thing: this Spaghetti Carbonara, which I taught him. Somebody help!

heritage

But these two books are supposed to be pretty awesome and I think they’d appeal to men (OR women) who are looking to bring some badassery to their kitchen repertoire.

Meat

The crowd-pleaser

Bose wireless headphones. There’s no way you’ll find someone who wouldn’t like that. I have them, I’ve given them as gifts, and they are about a bazillion times better than beats if you ask me. Especially great, according to Mark, if you have a ginormous head! 🙂

For entertaining

For cookouts, dinner parties, holidays, you name it: a portable speaker is handy, and in the case of this new one from Bose, adorable and available in many colors. The other thing I got Mark about five years ago, which he loves? A retro-looking record player that also has a radio, CD and tape deck hidden in it. Now we actually can listen to the vinyl collection we’ve been growing for so many years, and the sound fills the house.

bose speaker

And speaking of retro, vintage cocktails remain popular. If the man in your life fancies himself an at-home bartender, whet his appetite with these Moscow Mule mugs from Pottery Barn. Enclose the following recipe on a simple note card, and you’re set.

Moscow Mule Recipe

  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 2 oz vodka
  • 4 – 6 oz ginger beer

Squeeze lime juice into a Moscow Mule mug and drop in the spent shell. Add a few ice cubes, add in the vodka, and finish with the ginger beer. Voila!

moscow_mule

For the health freak

They may be getting a tad ubiquitous at this point, but the FitBit is a truly remarkable and effective fitness and weight loss tool. It tracks not only your activity but your food intake, calories burned, and length and quality of sleep, syncing wirelessly with your smartphone and waking you up (silently) every morning. Mark has found his to be the last bit of motivation he needed to drop about 15 pounds of weight that snuck on while I was pregnant, and he wears the thing 24/7. It’s an ever-present reminder to eat better, take the stairs, and forgo the second helping of cookies….so much so that I ended up losing a few pounds too, just by being around it!

fitbit

For the coffee lover/me

I am hoping someone gets this for myself. Once a year, Dunkin’ Donuts unveils the large coffee deal card — 10 of ’em for $14.99! Seriously, I get very little sleep and need this.

Another coffee related idea, or I should say a more serious one, would be a pour-over set. Both Hario and Chemex make popular versions. Custom-brew your cup and enjoy!

chemex-8-cup-coffee-maker

Got any great ideas that I missed? Do tell!

If you’re still shopping for others in the family, don’t miss my guide to eco-friendly baby gifts, my list of must haves for little ones from birth through toddlerhood, and my own Christmas wish list from last year, a guide to gifts for new moms.

**Psst! If you’ve been waiting to buy any VTech toys, today is your day. They are on sale for up to 50% off on Amazon, right now!**

And if YOU are newly pregnant right now, like I was this time two years ago (SOB!), check out my maternity shopping guide and my tips for beating morning sickness (I am a straight-up expert). Later on, when it no longer feels like you need 20 hours of sleep a day, my prenatal fitness post may come in handy.

 Good luck finishing your shopping, everyone!

2744-twitter 2744-twitter 2744-twitter 2744-twitter 2744-twitter