Celebrating Not Just Surviving New Year’s Eve With Young Children

26 12 2008

Staying up for midnight on New Year’s Eve was never a problem for me.  We celebrated at parties with friends.  We went out to First Night in Boston, and Stamford, CT.  We stayed in for a fabulous home cooked dinner with friends in Maine.  We had large celebrations and small parties.

Then, I married an early bird.  Okay, so night owl and early bird doesn’t always work, but we would just have parties that ended very close to midnight or duck out early and watch the ball drop in NYC on television in our jammies.  Then came children…

Now by the time we’ve done all our Chanukah, Christmas, and Boxing Day celebrations, I’ve had a good many nights of exceptionally bad sleep.  The children sleep poorly at home and much worse away from home.  I unpack our bags, get the wonderful new toys put away and donate the toys the children no longer use, open the rest of the Christmas cards, read through the holiday newsletters, sit down ready to collapse, turn on the Food Network and see chefs whipping up delicious appetizers and meals for New Year’s Eve.

I look at the calendar and see that we have two days before New Year’s Eve.  I have no plans.  I’m not exactly a party girl, but I love to throw a good party and have participated in a good many as well.  Most of my friends with young children have vague plans if any.  So what do we baggy-eyed parents with children still unwinding from the sleepless, sugar-full state of the holidays do?  We celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris.

Last year, we celebrated New Year’s Eve in Paris, with many of our French friends who are living in the US.  We don’t celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris because we have many French friends.  I would celebrate it if we had no connection to France at all.  However, we celebrate New Year’s Eve in Paris because it is midnight six hours earlier there.

New Year’s in Paris is a perfect solution for families with young children.  If you happen to be a francophile, even better.  You can play French music.  We had some great French wine, Champagne and cheeses.  I’m not for overdoing a theme, but you really can’t go wrong by having French food for a New Year’s Eve party.

So, if you have no plans this year, send out an evite.  Have a New Year’s in Paris celebration and ring in the New Year at 6 p.m. Eastern Standard time.   Have a selection of good French wines and real Champagne.  You can head over to Formaggio Kitchen for some great French cheeses and some French-style baguette from the wide range of bakeries in the Boston/Cambridge area (see the information box).  Everyone will be home just in time for dinner.  If you’re lucky you might even be able to find some good gourmandises, such as les papillottes, from Cardullo’s for a special treat.  Keep the menu simple, olives, cheese bread, perhaps some warm appetizers.  My daughter and I love to make crepes and they can be filled with savory or sweet filling.  A frozen sheet of puff pastry, some good gruyere and mustard can also go a long way.  I made this savory palmier recipe for a Solstice party and it was a huge hit.  They are also very simple to prepare.

Bonne année et bon appetit.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Hi Rise BakeryIggy’s Bread of the World,Clear Flour BreadSel de la TerreB & R Bread

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Hearth ‘n Kettle Celebrates the Holidays in Traditional New England Style

23 12 2008

While we were on Cape Cod for the weekend, we had the pleasure of good, simple, family meals.  TheHearth ‘n Kettle is a local Cape Cod chain of restaurants that I had known only in name until recently.

I’m not a snob, but I’ve definitely been spoiled when it comes to food.  I grew up in Canada where we got a great deal of our food at the nearby, primarily Mennonite, farmer’s market.  My mom made almost everything from scratch, and she shopped to get the best quality ingredients.  I don’t mean that she shopped at little foodie boutiques and high end stores, but she got the best quality for the best prices she could find.  We often drove out to get our meat from a farm’s meat coop.  We went to the health food store for a lot of our bulk flour and other ingredients.  We went to one grocery store for produce and another for meat.  I have also lived in France, when I was 7 and when I was 12 as well as travelled throughout Europe during my junior year abroad.  So I have eaten well in many a place.  I live in Cambridge now and continue to be spoiled.  Though I am definitely a foodie, I am not a food snob because I can appreciate a good grilled cheese sandwich with Kraft singles (my parents are rolling their eyes at this I know).  I enjoy a drippy, assembly line Burger King burger every once in a while.  I’ll even admit I like theChik-fil-A salad, hold the chicken, when I’m shopping at the Mall.

So, when we went to Cape Cod for the weekend, I’ll have to be honest I didn’t expect much.  When I think of the Cape, I think of ice cream stands that sell friend food, I think of sandwiches on white soft bread.  I think I’m miles away from my culinary home of Cambridge with my crusty Iggy’s bread and my Hi Rise sandwiches.  I know there are some fabulous restaurants sprinkled across the Cape.  Portuguesebakeries and other hidden jewels have built a name for themselves.  Most of the restaurants are on the “high end” side and tend to be not particularly family friendly.  With our kids, we love going to the Wicked Oyster in Wellfleet and when they were babies we even dined outside at Winslow Tavern.  I wouldn’t want to try to take the kids to some of the other gems of the Cape like Black-Eyed Susan’s on Nantucket where the wait with a reservation can be a while and the restaurant is a bit too intimate for young kids. The other thing that you have to remember is that during late fall and many restaurants are seasonal and I know that.  During our weekend of family time on the Cape, we had our meals at the Hearth ‘n Kettle(H’nK). I was pleasantly surprised.  The menu had a a wide variety of choices.  I always like to get whatever “makes sense” for where I am. If I’m by the water I’m going to get some fish. The seafood was cooked well as was the prime rib my husband ordered.   The best dishes to get are New England classics:  Cape Scrod, Fisherman’s Platter, Traditional roast turkey dinner.  You aren’t going to get the updated gourmet version of these.  You’re going to get the classic rendition.  I can get “modern, nouvelle, updated, fusion” food at home in the city.  When I eat somewhere like the H’nK I want simple, classic and comfort and that’s what they serve.

As I was flipping through the menu, I noticed that they had started to include organic ingredients.  This was more than I expected from such a restaurant, but it just goes to show the influence that huge grocery chains such as Whole Foods Market have had on the food we eat and are served.

When I met with Debra Catania, VP of the Catania Hospitality Group, we talked about how important our family is to each of us.  Love, tradition, and family are at the core of both our our lives, mine as a stay at home mother of two little ones, hers as a working mother of grown children.  This is something that you feel at the restaurant.  It is a well run restaurant, not a well-run money-making machine.  The staff are extremely nice and genuine.  The quality of the food is very good, they go the extra step to make the dining experience a good one and the portions are more than generous.  They had local high school students caroling while we dined.  This brought me back in time to where I grew up, before I lived in New York and Boston.  It was nice to have the small town experience.  Live music doesn’t have to be the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I had wanted to take my daughter to hear Elgar but couldn’t coordinate schedules, any live music is an experience for them.  Both kids appreciated a few simple carols sung by the students.  They asked questions about the pitch pipe, their outfits and about the singers.  They got so excited when a familiar song was sung.

So if you are lucky enough to escape and carve out some family time this winter, I definitely recommend a weekend on the Cape and you can rely on the Hearth ‘n Kettle for a friendly, family feel with good, classic New England style cooking.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For More Information:  Classic New England Recipes(Yankee Magazine), Hearth ‘n Kettle





2008 Year in Review: Food, Poverty, Hunger, Waste and the One Dollar Diet Project

22 12 2008

You’ve seen the books and the television shows: Frommer’s Australia from $50 a day among others and Rachel Ray’s $40 a day on the Food Network.  It turns out that, according to NetAid, more than 1 billion people (that’s 1 in 6 people around the world) live in extreme poverty.  Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1 a day.   In reaction to this, among other things, two social justice teachers started their experiment. Christopher Greenslate and Kerri Leonard decided to eat on a dollar a day for one month and they document it clearly and in detail in their blogOne Dollar Diet Project.

In this country we waste so much of probably everything we consume, but food in particular.  The portions we get in restaurants could easily feed two to four people.  The food our children throw out, I see it at the end of the day every day when I empty my daughter’s lunch box and I do it myself after trying to get them to eat a decent meal.  Just thinking about the project and browsing the blog will affect how I shop for food and serve to my family.  With kids there is always that delicate balance (at least with mine) of getting the right food for them so they will eat well and encouraging them to try new things.  I always said that I would never prepare separate meals for the children.  That is rarely the case for two reasons:  the children eat before we do, and although they’ll try new foods (well one of them will and the other will if the stars are aligned right), they won’t necessarily eat them.

The first recipe I saw on the One Dollar Diet Project, was from one of my favourite college recipe books.  I still use it today.  In college my roomates and I ate very well for very little because I shopped at the markets and local grocery store Warshaw’s (no longer around).  The recipe is Chana Masala.  One of my favourite.  As a child, my mom cooked a lot of vegetarian Indian food because it was cheap and it was tasty.  In college I did the same.  Having read the blog, I am more aware of how I shop and eat.  I only wish that my caution would provide food for others.

Bon appetit.  Appreciate what you have and take care of those who don’t.  ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: Help out in your community all year round.





The First Night of Chanukah: A Latke Recipe or Two

20 12 2008

I made these latkes last year and have had a special request to serve them again. I am not a huge fan of variations on a theme, except perhaps in classical music, because I love tradition and tend to be a bit of a purist.  So to get around this, I usually prepare the classics and then try one new thing.

Last year, I made the No-Fry Potato Latkas (the Sweet Potato variation).  The con is that No-Fry kind of goes against the whole point of latkes and the story of Chanukah and the oil.  The pros are that you can prepare them in advance, they bake in the oven all at once so they are good for a party, and they are healthier.

So from now on, I make this recipe to have ready to go and then I have a batch of traditional latkes and some gluten-free ready to cook and serve fresh to our guests.

This no-fry recipe is from Norene Gilletz‘s Meal Lean I Yumm! I believe my bubbe bought it for me one year.  It was kind of an I love you and “have you put on more weight?” kind of gift that so many good Jewish mother and grandmothers buy for their children.  It’s the classic Jewish dilemma of “What you’re not eating?  You don’ t like my famous (name food here).  Have some more!” followed by “It looks like you might have put on a little weight.  Have you been eating too much chocolate?  I know it’s the noshing.”  The pros are: I love everything my grandmother cooks and no I can’t eat the quantity she offers, yes I like to nosh, and yes I put on weight.  The cons are:  I don’t really feel like talking about this right now in front of all these people and I’ll just take my cook book and get myself a glass of water…okay and perhaps a little nosh and find a quiet corner.  The reality is that once I flipped through the cook book I found a lot of good ideas and tips for healthier cooking and some great recipes.  This is one that’s a real crowd pleaser.

No-Fry Potato Latkas

I will list the ingredients, in case you need to make your shopping list and also because when I made the recipe I modified the ingredients slightly.

4 tsp. canola or vegetable oil, divided
1 large sweet potato (I prefer the white ones as they are less sweet)
Idaho potatoes (I think these are Russets)
1 medium onion
(if you still have some left from the farmer’s market this year…good for you!  If not buy more and store next season)
1 clove garlic, if desired (I don’t use garlic)
1 tbsp. fresh dill ( I don’t use dill either)
2 eggs plus 2 egg whites (or 3 whole eggs)
1/4 cup of flour (white or whole wheat)
1/2 tsp of baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp pepper

For the cooking directions you can visit the recipe link here.   If you want you can also make some greatapplesauce with this simple method explained in the second to last paragraph of a post on making food approachable for my very picky son.

Bon appetit. ttyl your BFF (Boston Family Foodie)

For more info: No-Fry LatkesLatkes on Chowhound,Gluten-free latkes (we serve these too), Chanukah Dinner Menu ideas (Food Network), traditional latkes





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





Weekly Holiday Bump: Cupcakes, Latkes, Giving, and Santa Claus

16 12 2008

Kickass Cupcakes is holding a cupcake cocktail tastings all week.
COCKTAIL CUPCAKE HAPPY HOURS!
December 15th, 16th & 17th from 5pm-7pm
Free tastings of mini cupcakes with cocktail inspired flavors

On Sunday December 21st from 1pm-5pm they will host a Kids holiday cupcake decorating day.  The cost is $5 and includes 2 plain cupcakes and all the frosting, sprinkles and sugars one could possibly dream of.   They even offer a child-friendly “nickname” for themselves by suggestingj, “You can tell your wee ones we’re kick stars cupcakes!”

The Blue Room in Kendall Square will be hosting it’s 5th Annual Lynn Shelter Lunch on Thursday, December 18th from 12 – 2 p.m.  100% of the $35 donation goes to help the children at the shelter have a warm bed, a good meal and a present under the tree on Christmas morning!.

Latkes. The Second Annual Everyone Loves Latkes Party is Saturday, December 20th from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m..  There will be Latke donations and cooking demonstrations provided by some of the restaurants in Harvard Square.  There will also be storytelling and music for the whole family.  The party will be in Winthrop Park (corner of JFK and Mt. Auburn Street.)

Breakfast with Santa.   From 11:00am to 12:00pm Santa Claus will lead everyone on a Holiday Parade, which will arrive at the Harvard Square Welcome Tent in the center of Harvard Square.

Breakfast is at the Atrium Living Room at the Inn at Harvard and is additionally priced at $14.95 for adults and $8.95 for children.

Breakfast with Santa Menu:

Seasonal Sliced Fruit & Berries, French Toast & Waffles, Scrambled Eggs, Bacon & Sausage, Breakfast Potatoes, Homemade Muffins, Danish, Pastries, Breads & Croissants, Bagels with Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese Spread, Vine Ripened Tomatoes, Onions & Capers.  Omelet Station (Made to Order with only the Freshest Ingredients to Include: Sautéed Mushroom, Fresh Herbs, Cheese, and Julienne of Ham, Red & Green Peppers, Diced Tomatoes, Spinach and Onions). Holiday Cookies Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice & Grapefruit Juice, Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, and Tea

Wilson’s Farm.  Just in case you were wondering, Wilson’s farm has some great gift baskets and prepared foods for the holidays.  They are open on Tuesdays this month.

For more info: Kickass CupcakesThe Blue Room Lynne Shelter LunchEveryone Loves Latkes Party, Sparklefest in Harvard Square





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