Valentine’s day with the Kids

29 01 2010

I have never been a fan of Valentine’s day…well, I did always look forward to those little red hot Valetine’s heart candies.  The ones that make your tongue tingle and scream “CINAMMON” in your mouth.  Then there was the year abroad in college in the UK when I discovered they had candy hearts with mean sayings on them.  I had fun taping them to my friends’ doors.  All in love and with the true British sarcastic spirit.

So here we are and Valentine’s day is approaching somewhere between shuttling the children to and from classes and school, and working on projects, I guess I should consider what our plan is.  Do I buy/make cards from the children for family members? just my husband? no one?  I think I’ll do whatever I have time to do and whatever we feel like between now and then.  That’s got to be good enough. Then, if it strikes our fancy, everyone is healthy, we have it in our budget (money or time), perhaps we’ll do something around town.

For places to go and eat with the kids in tow at either breakfast, lunch, or dinner here are a few suggestions.  If it is chocolate that you’re after, either for your loved ones or for yourself, then here’s a full but not absolute list of where you can find everything from Cadbury chocolate to some exquisite hand-made chocolates.

Our slightly less local than it was toy store, Henry Bear’s Park, is having a chocolate lollipop workshop at each of their locations.  I am not sure how hands on the workshop will be, but it is free and when you call to reserve your spot you can get all the details.  Arlington’s workshop is on Saturday February 6th from 11:00 -1:00, Brookline’s is on Wednesday February 3rd from 3:30 to 5:30 and Cambridge’s is Friday February 5th from 4:30 to 6:30.  The recommended age from the Candy Factory Kit is ages 10 and up, but for the workshop (or using the kit with help) younger children will be fascinated as well.

You can’t eat it, but you can definitely cook in it and eat from it, if you made it at Made By Me.  Made By Me has some of the nicest options for pottery pieces to paint.   It turns out, on Monday February 1st you can eat it.  Made By Me is celebrating it’s 10th anniversary with cake and goodies.  There will be surprise specials for all painters (make something for the grandparents for Valentine’s day or plan way ahead for Mother’s day.)  If you can’t make it on Monday, then throughout the month of February, Monday through Friday will be Ten Dollar Days when some of the special, more expensive items will be offered for $10 while supplies last for any given item.  Items will vary throughout the month.

On Valentine’s Day proper, Sunday, February 14, paint with someone you love.  You each buy your item but the painting time will be two for the price of one.  Made by Me will provide the music, ambience, flowers, and even chocolates.  You are on your own for the creativity and affection.  We do enjoy eating our cereal or ice cream out of the hand-painted dishes the children have made at Made by Me.  I expect when they’re in college we’ll appreciate them even more.

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Steeling Home: Family Meals That Don’t Break the Bank

27 01 2009

This is a special edition Super Bowl article written for a mom in Arlington looking for something that will score a field goal with the family without breaking the bank.  So in honour of the Pittsburgh Steelers we are steeling (sic) home for some good food at a low price.  

A lot of typical bar food or Super Bowl party food can be a great starting point for fun family meals.  With a few modifications you can make some healthy, tasty, and inexpensive meals that will appeal to the whole family.

Tacos
Tacos are great with kids because if they are old enough they can help prep.  I had my 2 and 4 year olds help.  Yes, we had to throw out a tomato because my son decided that 1/4 cup of salt would be really fun to pour and mix with it, but aside from that all ingredients were spared and delicious.  The other benefit of tacos is they can be personalized (yes salsa, no cheese, extra sour cream).

In our house we have the following little bowls set up:  sour cream, grated cheddar, shredded lettuce, salsa, cubed tomatoes.  We have decided that soft corn tortillas make it a lot easier to eat so we microwave some soft corn tortillas ( you can use blue ones for more fun) and add the meat and toppings to your liking.

For the meat we use a taco seasoning mix (I prefer the ones at Whole Foods or in the “natural” food section of the grocery store).  If I can’t make it to Whole Foods for some organic, hormone free, etc. meat then I buy buffalo meat or organic turkey at the regular grocery store.

This is an inexpensive dish because a little meat goes a long way as do most of the toppings.

Nachos

I know nachos are not typically a meal, but you can add some shredded chicken (from a store bought rotisserie chicken or your own roasted chicken), a side of re-fried beans or home-made bean dip to add to it, add some extra diced tomatoes and guacamole and you might find more protein and vegetables on your child’s plate than usual.  To really make it a whole meal I would serve a dish like this with a salad, or some vegetable crudites (just the kids favourite raw veggies and dip).  This would also pair well with a bowl of tomato soup or black bean soup.

If you buy a store bought chicken it may cost a little more in money but save a lot on time and you can usually stretch it for at least two meals.

Soups and chilis
The secret to soups and chilis for the kids is the “add ons”.  Make a soup or chili (Vegetarian, poultry or red meat) and set up an “add on” bar of sorts.  You can have a little dish of grated cheese, sour cream (that’s my daughter’s favourite), oyster crackers, croutons, or strips of toast.  You can always add a grilled cheese sandwich to this (with Tomato on whole wheat is what we like to make) and you have a very hearty meal.  For soups, know your children well.  My daughter loves miso soup with bean curd.  She used to call the little tofu cubes noodles.  In the beginning that was all she would eat.  Another family favourite is Matzoh ball soup.  Some children will only eat the noodles at first, but eventually they acquire a taste for the broth and veggies too.

Dips and dippers

You can get a pretty decent meal of dips and dippers.  Cut up some raw veggies.  Have some pita (whole wheat or white) on hand.  The children often like the mini pitas.  You can also use baguette rounds, crackers, tortilla chips.  Then for the dips it is easy to make a light white bean dip , some hummus, perhaps a good guacamole, and a warm artichoke dip if you feel like having something warm to dig into.

The thing about dips is that sometimes the children need to participate in the making of it so they know what’s in it.  It can work either way.  My children won’t try something that looks mysterious.  They like to know what they’re getting into.  So we have much more success when they help make the dips.

To round out the meal serve this with a filling smoothie (call it a milk shake and it’s even better) and you have a nice light, healthy, inexpensive dinner.

Pizza
You can use pita bread or english muffins to make quick pizzas.  If you make your own pizza sauce you can add some extra veggies by adding veggie purees into the sauce.  I prefer to take a little extra time and use a fresh pizza dough (store bought) and let each child customize a section of the pizza. You can add slices of ham cut into strips, peppers, fresh tomatoes, or whatever the children are likely to eat.

When you are really out of ideas and just want something quick and easy then you can almost always score a touch down with the children if you make breakfast for dinner.

Finally, a great resource for meals that both you and your children can enjoy I highly recommend checking out Annabel Karmel’s recipes on her website.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more inspiration check out these Super Bowl menus: Rachel RayMartha Stewart





I love the Naked Chef: Smoothie Recipe

11 01 2009

I’m not sure I can handle his energy live.  I am sure that I would never have wanted him in my classroom, but there is something so adorable, fun and vibrant about Jamie Oliver and it is reflected in his recipes and his cooking.

I have been lucky enough to eat at the bar at Fifteen in London.  Everything was fab and I believe my husband and my mom were enjoying even sampling the salt!  It was a while ago so I don’t remember precisely what we ate, but I do remember the breads being divine.

Tonight we made his fresh pasta recipe and it was delicious paired with grandma’s home made Pound Ridge, NY pesto.  I decided to check out his other recipes and couldn’t resist sharing this one:

Jamie Oliver’s Fruit Smoothie

Ingredients

• 1 banana
• 2 ripe mangoes
• 400ml can coconut milk
• zest and juice of 1 lime
• a pinch of cardamom seeds, pods and husks removed, seeds pounded
a handful of ice cubes

to garnish
• a little lime zest
• freshly ground black pepper

Peel the banana slice it. Peel the mangoes, remove the pit and roughly chop the flesh. Put the fruit in a food processor or blender and blend together with the rest of the ingredients. Make sure you blend the mixture really well, then pour the fruit smoothie into a tall, chilled glass. Sprinkle over a bit of lime zest and some freshly ground black pepper. Drink straight away.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Jamie OliverFifteenFood Network(Jamie Oliver), Facebook (Jamie Oliver), Jamie’s Dinners(Book)





Recipe: Pease Porridge Hot, Pease Porridge Cold

3 01 2009

Pease porridge hot
Pease porridge cold
Some like it hot
Some like it cold
Some like it in the pot
Nine days old.
unknown

It has come to my attention that among other things this month, such as President Obama’s inauguration, January is Oatmeal month.  Growing up, my mother would often make oatmeal porridge in the winter.  It was so delicious and warm.  It’s not that grey drippy stuff in those little packets that you shake, pour and add water to.  That oatmeal is just not worth it.  Her porridge would have dried apricots and figs and would be thick and delicious.  We would melt brown sugar into it and pour a dash of cream on top.  Sometimes maple syrup would be drizzled over the porridge instead of the sugar.

I confess that I have yet to make my own batch of porridge, but the other day my daughter and I made some delicious oatmeal bread and I am going to share that recipe with you.  I love making bread.  It’s a perfect weekend activity on a cold winter’s day.  It takes very little hands on time but has this nice way of pacing your day slowly and deliberately.  You mix the dough, wait a couple hours and do a little activity with your children, perhaps clean up a little.  Then you peek under the cloth and when it’s ready you punch it down, always a great stress reliever and a lot of fun for children too, as it’s rare they get permission to hit or punch something.  (Jen perhaps you need to start making bread.)  Then it rises again until perhaps just before bedtime a nice warm slice of oatmeal bread with butter and a drop of honey make the perfect bedtime snack.

So here it is Norene Gillitz‘s slightly modified Wholesome Oatmeal Bread:

Ingredients

1 tsp. sugar
1/4 c. warm water
1 pkg of yeast
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
(We don’t buy margarine as I was brought up in a household that considered it to be too unnatural to be any good.)
2Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 c. molasses or honey
(We did one batch with molasses and one with honey.  I love molasses but my daughter liked the honey since it was milder.)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. oatmeal (rolled oats, not the quick-cook variety)
1 cup boiling water
2 3/4 c. flour (approx.  We did 1/2 cup whole wheat and the rest unbleached white)

Dissolve sugar in warm water. Add the yeast and let it stand for 8-10 minutes.  Isabelle had the urge to stir it, which is fine, but just note that the yeast will stick onto the spoon so be sure to get it all off when the time comes.

In a food processor with the steel knife:

Place the remaining ingredients except the flour into the food processor and pulse to mix.  Let stand until cool, otherwise you will kill the yeast.  Add the yeast mixture plus 1 cup of the flour and process for 4 or 5 seconds.  Add the remaining flour and process until the dough forms a ball.  Keep mixing for another 30 seconds or so to knead the dough.

On a lightly floured board or counter:

Turn out the dough and knead for 1 or 2 minutes. The dough should feel smooth and elastic.  If it is a bit too sticky just add a bit more dough to the kneading surface and continue kneading until it is smooth again.  Place the dough in a greased bowl.  Turn the dough over in the bowl and cover with a damp, warm towel.  Let it rise for 90 minutes to 2 hours until doubled in size.  Punch down and let it rise again until doubled in size.  Shape the dough into a loaf pan.  We had one loaf pan and one round 9 inch pie pan.  Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled again another 2 hours.  (I told you this paces your day out nicely).

Preheat oven to 350°F for about 45 minutes.  The bread will sound hollow when tapped.  We didnt’ do this, but you can brush the top of the crust with a little butter when you take it out of the oven.

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

This is dedicated to Jen K. and her broken hand.  Happy New Year Jen!

For more oatmeal recipes: Oatmeal Cookie Mix,Homesick Texan’s Oatmeal BreadOatmeal Cookie Pancakes (Rachel Ray), PorridgePorridge with fruit(Annabel Karmel), Chocolate Oatmeal





Last Minute Gift Ideas: Forgot the Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker

19 12 2008

I can say it is officially crunch time.  As we walk to the car around the puddles, there are little tiny ridges of crunchy white snowy ice.  School is having it’s all-school sing and pot-luck.  In a couple days the children will be home for the holidays whatever they may be in your home.  Some people have already started there travels and it sends off a domino effect of families hopping in trains, airplanes, cars, and bicycles traveling to a party somewhere.  Others are pulling their blankets up around them and staying put.

If you’re not a naturally gifted shopper or you’ve had a busy year then perhaps you’re not quite where you’d like to be on the shopping and/or making gift front.  Perhaps you forgot about your favourite librarian, the man who serves you coffee every day, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.  So here is a quick list of last minute gifts.

Get a gift certificate to a favourite restaurant.  Some suggestions might be:  Rialto, Chez Henri, Oleanna, the Blue Room, Ole, Craigie on Main, Upstairs on the Square, Small Plates, T. W. Food, EVOO, the Elephant Walk among many others.  If you want some guidance you can check out chowhound, ask someone at your favourite foodie market or store.  You may be able to get some great deals on restaurant gift certificates at  restaurant.com.  You don’t have to go to the restaurant, as mentioned in this thread on Chowhound, you can often call the restaurant and have the certificate mailed to you or to the recipient.

You can also get gift certificates to boutique foodie stores such as Formaggio Kitchen, Savenor’s, even local little stores.  Just make sure that it’s not a drag for the recipient to go to said store and that they actually would use the certificate otherwise it is not much of a gift.

If you’re feeling creative, you can put together a gift basket.  I purchased some baskets from China Fair this week and my daughter’s classmates all contributed something special to put in it store bought, home-made, hand-sewn and hand-written.  I think this would be a perfect gift from any group.  If you don’t feel like making your own, Wilson’s farm makes some great food baskets, as do Winston Flowers, and Pemberton Farms

Finally, for the chocolate lovers you can’t beat the offerings at local chocolaterie L.A. Burdick.

For more info: Restaurant.com, Formaggio Kitchen
Petsi PiesWilson’s Farm ,  Winston FlowersSavenor’s MarketBakers’ BestFlour BakeryVicki Lee’s,
Verill FarmPemberton FarmsCardullo’s L.A. Burdick Chocolate





Christmas in Carver: From Carving Turkey To Carving Out Family Time

14 12 2008

What does a family of New York (once or twice removed) Jews do when Chanukah falls right around Christmas?  We carve out some family time.  You can’t have a Chanukah party two weeks before Chanukah starts because waiting for the first night will be an eternity for the kids.  It is bad enough that they couldn’t wait so they filled their Chanukiah‘s with candles already even though the first candle won’t be lit for another week.  So, we were invited to the Cape to check out the John Carver Inn and Edaville, USA. and scheduled a weekend together just the four of us.  Family time is hard to come by these days.  Even though, I am a stay at home mom and my husband works in town, we are usually just ships passing in the day and night. We are lucky if we can break bread together as a family once or twice a week.

As a child growing up, I always knew how important it was to sit together and have a family meal.  My brother and I both had busy schedules, and I know we didn’t have dinner together every night, but we always had meals together on weekends and on as many nights as possible.  As a parent, I feel that what I know to be best for my family has to be attained in a modified way.  So we drove a couple of hours to get away, relax, play, and break bread as a family.

The problem with some vacations is that you spend almost as long planning, and packing and traveling as you do “vacationing”.  The great thing about a mini-vacation on the Cape is that it doesn’t take that long (in the Winter) to get to your destination.  I am not a fan of crowds so the Cape in the winter is idyllic.  The John Carver Inn & Spa had everything we needed.  A great pool for the kids to play in, a spa for me to relax in, and a several nearby activities, and attractions for us to enjoy as a family.

Edaville‘s Christmas Festival of Lights is a sight to see.  I don’t think I could drive there just for Edaville, but it’s definitely an experience to be had in New England at least once.  We got there a bit early so we drove around and were fascinated with the deep red fields that were cranberry bogs.  Edaville USA has that old New England, “back in the day”, kind of feel.  The entry ticket includes a train ride through the night in a heated narrow gauge train.  The landscape has more than seven million holiday lights both still and animated sprinkled over the landscape of the two mile round trip.  The entry fee includes all the classic, “old school”, carnival rides, but the games are three dollars each.  There is the scent of fried dough and popcorn in the air.  Nothing tempted us.  A few people were inside grabbing a bite to eat, but I think they really just wanted to get out of the bitter cold air.  Only in New England with the wind whipping at our faces do you see families out in the freezing night bundled up with pink cheeks nestled on scarves zooming by on the tilt-a-whirl or gliding up and down on the ferris wheel.  This is a night when you appreciate hot chocolate.  The children loved all the lights and the trains.

As a Jew growing up in a mostly Christian environment, I definitely felt like I was back in my home town twenty years ago.  There was one menorah in the lit up landscape.  It was nice, but I really didn’t feel it was necessary.  The children know about Christmas, they celebrate it at Grandma’s but they don’t live the whole Santa and elves fantasy.  It didn’t matter though.  They loved all the lights and decorations.  They’re magical to the children and their reactions bring back the magic to us as adults.  This is a side of Christmas that anyone could enjoy.    Even though we celebrate Chanukah I still remember as a child being certain that I heard Santa and his sleigh fly over our house on Christmas or around Christmas time anyway.

After a couple of hours, it was nice to hop into the wind-free car and head over the to the hotel and the Hearth ‘N Kettle for dinner and a quiet evening by the fire.  And what I mean by quiet evening by the fire is that the gas was light in the fire place and the kids had quieted from jumping on the beds to giggling and making a tent with the sheets by crawling under them and kicking their feet in the air.  Eventually the excitement from the trip to Edaville, having a night in a hotel, and hearing carolers at dinner dissipated and all was quiet until morning where a new adventure awaited.

The morning included a generous breakfast at the Hearth ‘n Kettle, a spa treatment (one of the best massages I have had – Thanks Chandra), playtime in the Mayflower themed pool and water play area for daddy and the children, and a short trip down to Hyannis for our next night of holiday enchantment at the Cape Codder.   As part of our package, we stayed at both the Cape Codder and the John Carver Inn and had our meals at the Hearth ‘n Kettle.

For more on the classic New England Christmas experience, look for upcoming articles on the Hearth ‘n Kettle Restaurant and a night at The Cape Codder.

Bonne vacances. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Edaville Christmas Festival of Lights, Hearth ‘n KettleCranberry BogsJohn Carver Inn & Spa,Festival of Lights PackageFamily Vacation PackageSpa Packages





Holiday Survival Series: Breakfast For Dinner

12 12 2008

Okay parents.  It is that time of year.  We’re festive, we’re fun, we’re decorating, we’re shopping a little, we’re planning, we’re travelling, and we’re starting to get tired and cranky already.

Take a deep breath.  I decided that I would re-evaluate everything I am doing right now.  First I think: Is it necessary?  Yes, I suppose the kids do need to eat dinner.  Will they care or notice?  No, I don’t think the neighbour will care if I don’t drop off a jar of home-made cookie mix.  Will it make me stressed?  Yes, I don’t want to plan it right now, but If we have time, we’ll makes mixes as an afternoon activity before bed.

Okay, so dinner has to be made.  No groceries.  No problem.

“Kids!” I say and I know it’s not so novel to us but to them it’s a big deal to switch things up.  “We’re having breakfast for dinner!  Isn’t that funny?!”   Of course my daughter is a bit concerned that this isn’t quiteKosher to have breakfast for dinner, but she gets over it once I tell her she can have some dinner foods and some breakfast foods.  I make some french toast and feel good that my son is eating eggs that way.  I slice up some ham (or whatever cold cuts you have left in the fridge).  I found grapes, but apple slices are good too or bananas.  Et voila!  Dinner for breakfast.  We’re cleaned up and in bed by 7:00.  Phew!

Bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Breakfast for Dinner (Wondertime)