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Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013
With the food riches of Thanksgiving behind us, Christmas is looming just around the corner (about three weeks to be exact). Though many get caught up trying to find the perfect gifts for family and friends, it’s easy to forget that presents don’t always need to come in shiny packages.
Today’s #GivingTuesday, a national movement that started just last year. The goal: create a national day of giving where people can pay it forward. Whether that means donating to a favorite charity or volunteering at your local shelter, being charitable is all about finding the causes that matter to you.
One toy company is taking that mentality and spreading the joy throughout December. Tegu, known for its award-winning magnetic blocks, recently introduced a new member to the family: the Tegu Elf. And he’s on a mission to give back this holiday season.
From now until December 20, he will be tracking the hashtag #TeguElf across social media–Tegu’s Facebook wall, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Once he finds a person in need, he’ll send a special present your way, anything from free Tegu products to a restaurant gift card.
To get the elf’s attention, just send out a message with the hashtag and the thing you’d like most this Christmas. Don’t forget to look outside your immediate family, too. The elf is on the lookout for charities to donate to as well.
In the weeks to come, be sure to track his movements and announcements on Tegu’s Facebook page. Each day, he offers something new (such as free cubes placed in every fifth order on the site). In the meantime, if you have your own plans to give back today, share a picture explaining your good deeds using the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #UNselfie.
The time it takes you to do something for others will feel so much better than battling a sea of frenzied shoppers.
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charity, Christmas, giving back, giving tuesday, Holidays, social media, tegu, tegu elf, volunteer | Categories:
Doing Good, GoodyBlog, Holidays, Your Life
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
Just like many others, my family’s holiday season is all about tradition. Though Thanksgiving is a couple days away, I already know we’ll be having my aunt’s garlic “smashed” potatoes and my gram’s pimento-stuffed celery (even though she’s the only one who likes it). We keep these recipes in the rotation because they’re near and dear to us. But this year, sharing them with others gives bigger benefits to those in need.
Go to Dish Up the Love to submit your favorite recipe and $1 will be donated to Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight against hunger. Each dollar provides nine meals for families who need them.
Partnering with the program is Top Chef alum and mom Antonia Lofaso, whose first book The Busy Mom’s Cookbook was recently released in paperback. A single parent, Antonia relishes her time at home with her daughter, Xea, making memories through food.
“For me the holidays are about making memories with family and friends around the kitchen table and giving back. Dish Up the Love celebrates these special holiday moments,” Antonia says. “I shared the recipe for my grandma’s lasagna because it’s served at all Lofaso family holidays. At Thanksgiving, we have turkey, but there’s always lasagna and tons of other Italian food.”
Serves: 6 to 8
Total time: 85 minutes
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup chopped garlic (about 8 cloves)
• 3 (16-ounce) cans of peeled, whole plum tomatoes
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 ½ pounds ground turkey
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning, or 4 teaspoons fresh marjoram or oregano
• 1 (9-ounce) package of no-boil, oven-ready lasagna noodles
• Sauce (from above)
• ½ cup shredded or grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
• 4 cups shredded whole-milk, mozzarella cheese
• 3 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 6 to 8 slices each
• 12 medium to large fresh basil leaves
1. For the sauce, head the olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and just as it starts to brown around the edges, throw in the canned tomatoes. You don’t want the garlic to burn, so have the cans open and ready to go beforehand.
2. Add the salt and sugar and whisk it all together. Let the sauce simmer on medium-low for 40 minutes while you prep the other ingredients. If any foam rises to the top of the sauce, skim it off. That’s the acid from the tomatoes, and your sauce will taste better without it. Using a hand blender or counter top blender, blend on medium until smooth.
3. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a 10-inch sauté pan heat the olive oil on medium-high. Add the ground turkey and the salt. Cook the turkey for about 5 minutes, until it’s browned throughout. Just as it’s finishing the cooking process, stir in the Italian seasoning. Drain any excess fat or liquid from the pan.
4. Cover the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with 3 sheets of pasta. Ladle 1 cup of sauce over the noodles. You don’t want the sauce to soak through, so you don’t need to overdo it. Layer on half of the meat, followed by half of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and half of the ricotta cheese. Sprinkle on one-third of the mozzarella and arrange one-third of the fresh tomatoes on top of it. Top with one-third of the basil.
5. Repeat the process for the next layer: 3 sheets of pasta, a cup of sauce, the rest of the meat, the rest of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the remaining ricotta, a third of the mozzarella, a third of the fresh tomatoes, and another third of the basil. The last layer is your presentation layer, so make it pretty. Add three more sheets of pasta.
6. Top the noodles with the last of the sauce, mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The top should be a crispy golden brown when the lasagna is done, and the pasta sauce around the sides of the dish should be thick, not runny. Let the lasagna stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. If you cut into it while it is still piping hot, it will fall apart.
For more information and to share your favorite family recipe, visit worldkitchen.com/dishupthelove. After submitting a recipe, you’ll be entered for weekly sweepstakes to win Pyrex, Baker’s Secret, and CorningWare products.
Get more kid-friendly recipes from Antonia Lofaso.
Recipe and image reprinted from The Busy Mom’s Cookbook with permission from Avery, an imprint of Penguin Group.
Image of Antonia and Xea by Alex Martinez.
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antonia lofaso, charity, chef, Christmas, cooking, dish up the love, Feeding America, Food, giving, holiday, recipe, Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo, thanksgiving, the busy mom cookbook, top chef, world kitchen | Categories:
celebrities, Doing Good, Food, GoodyBlog, Holidays
Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
** guest-edited by Amy Tara Koch, style expert and author of the pregnancy-style bible Bump It Up
To the pregnant woman, there’s one aspect of this season that triggers anxiety: shopping for dressy maternity clothes. From mid-November until January, women must step up their style to express the celebratory verve of the holidays. But with a watermelon in the belly, dressing for the parade of parties can be stressful.
Here’s the deal: you don’t need to invest in an entirely new wardrobe to create festive and flattering outfits. The secret is having key maternity basics (namely a great dress or tunic) that can be layered into holiday-worthy ensembles. Dramatic accessories are the difference between ho-hum and high wattage. By pairing a flattering silhouette with glammy statement jewelry, fashionable footwear and a great bag, you can pack away your holiday-dressing jitters. Here are four standout looks based on maternity fashion finds from our Parents.com shop.
ON THE EDGE
This starts with one of the ASOS Maternity Swing Dresses on our site for between $26 and $80. Forever 21 accessories kick it up, including Sleek Long Fringe Earrings ($5.80) and a Paneled Clutch ($19.80). The stack of bracelets might be something you already own, or you can consider these from Baublebar for $52. Pull on booties instead of heels for the added edge. These Nine West Junia Booties are $139.
Here we begin with our store’s ASOS Maternity Midi Tulip Dress with Wrap Front for $62. It gets an instant cool factor with the DKNY Jeans Chunky ZigZag Long Cardigan, a splurge at $91 but something you’ll use all winter and, because it’s not maternity, you can wear forever. The chain bracelet is $7.80 at Forever 21 and the Merona Satchel is $35 at Target. Add your own jewelry and booties or try this necklace is One by Dallas + Carlos for $98 and the Marana booties from DV by Dolce Vita for $129.
POISED & POLISHED
This cheery look starts at our shop with A Pea in the Pod’s ¾ Sleeve Drape Front Maternity Dress for $60. Add a gold skinny belt like this $10 number from BDG. The $50 H&M Boucle Jacket, which isn’t maternity and will serve you after pregnancy, too, looks professional and gives you coverage if you’re self-concious about your shape. Add your own gold hoops (these are $25 Sequin NYC Studded Hoops from Nordsrom) and wedge pumps (these are $80 Calvin Klein pumps from DSW). The $144 Heather Belle & Co. wristlet is cool; Vegan Leather!
If you’re more comfy in pants, grab a dressy tunic like our shop’s Jessica Simpson for Destination Maternity Long Sleeve Lace Trim Maternity Tunic for $59 and put them over the AG Jeans Secret Belly Fit Corduroy Pants for $210 (worth it because you’ll wear those suckers twice a week for all nine months, trust us!). Forever 21 has the Rock & Roll Faux Leather Clutch for $21.80, and H&M has the $6 20 Pack of Bracelets and $8 ring. A scarf gives added color; it doesn’t have to be fancy but we do love this Yarnz Geo Eye Scarf for $145. Enzo Angiolini’s Zeric Riding Boots finish things off at $100.
For more pregnancy style tips follow Amy on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. Also browse our maternity store; we add new items every day!
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Friday, November 8th, 2013
“When my daughter wakes up, she opens her eyes and asks ‘What’s for dinner?’”
“I wish I was kidding,” Alex Guarnaschelli laughs. ”By the time she’s eating breakfast, I better have an answer for her.”
Like moms everywhere, this Food Network star faces The Dinner Question. (And thus, trips to the market and food storage tasks.)
Alex, the author of Old-School Comfort Food and mother to a 6-year-old, is the executive chef at Butter in New York City. Last year, she became one of Food Network’s Iron Chefs, and she is a regular judge on Chopped.
Every morning Alex goes to the kitchen to plan her entire day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner included.
Making a plan of attack on your groceries will save time, money, and cut back on waste, she says, which is why she partnered with Glad for the Save It Sunday campaign. The movement, which encourages participants to protect and preserve food, centers on the Sunday ritual of grocery shopping.
“It’s the one day of the week when you can commit to setting aside time: for shopping, cooking ahead meals, and storing other items—it’s about starting the week on the right foot,” she says.
Alex does a lot of her cooking on Sunday, which is why the pledge really speaks to her. But it also goes a step further.
“Ironically, the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook—because I’m doing it all day everyday and by mid-week I’m fried,” she says. “Taking that time on Sunday, and getting joy from it, is wonderful.”
A proponent of reducing waste, Alex is extremely conscious of the issue both at work and at home.
“When I talk to my team about how to prep and store 100 pounds of beans for the restaurant, the same thing applies when I go home and make braised short ribs for my daughter,” she says. “You have to be very proactive.”
According to a 2012 study by the National Resources Defense Council, the average American household throws out 25 percent of the food purchased—roughly $1,500 worth each year.
Try Alex’s tips for saving time, money, and reducing food waste:
• Make a meal plan.
“Figure out what you are going to do with everything you buy,” she says. “It’s a pleasure to have an agenda—you’ll feel like you’re pulling a fast one on everybody because it’s so easy!”
Read the Parents meal-plan guide to get started.
• Stop thinking about leftovers as, well, leftovers.
“Instead of looking at packaging as something that lets you recycle and throw back in the scraps no one ate, think about it as a new beginning,” she says. “And, by making a plan, you’re actually ensuring there aren’t any leftovers.”
Plus, “leftovers” can be better than the first time around: “Growing up my mom would make a big batch of meatballs and sauce and, to me, the sauce tasted better two days later,” she says. “It’s not a leftover—it’s something you created that got better with age or other ingredients.”
• Don’t be hard on yourself.
“Some weeks, I don’t have my act together,” she says. “As a busy working mom, there are nights when I have to say, ‘Guess what kid, it’s fried eggs tonight.’ And that’s okay.”
• Reorganize your fridge.
“The crisper can be the kiss of death. Don’t put your fruits and veggies in there,” she says. “Instead, fill it with club soda and put your produce on display. My favorite thing to do is put herbs in a jar of water on the top shelf, or sometimes right on the kitchen table.”
• Buy different ingredients.
“Challenge yourself to use new items—like a bunch of thyme or mint—by taking one little step each day for a week. In order to use it up, you’ll find creative ways to add the ingredient to dishes.”
To join the #SaveItSunday movement, visit glad.com. If you pledge, you’ll be entered to win a meal prepared by a personal chef.
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alex guarneschelli, cooking, expert advice, family dinner, food storage, food waste, glad, going green, grocery shopping, how-to, meal plan, meal planning, reduce waste, Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo, save it sunday, save money | Categories:
celebrities, Doing Good, Food, GoodyBlog, Green, Solutions, Your Life
Friday, October 18th, 2013
Cribs, rompers, and blankies, oh my! When it comes to furnishing the perfect room for Baby, sometimes there’s just too much décor. Take it from the lifestyle department at American Baby; we conceive a new nursery theme each month for our “Nesting” page.
So how do we manage to scout a set of items that mesh? You’d be surprised where we find inspiration.
1. It’s not about matching.
Yes, ideally you want your nursery to flow well. But that doesn’t mean it has to match to the point where all creativity is drained. The best ideas come when you make unexpected choices, like using a spotted orange crib sheet to mimic bedrock pebbles for a dinosaur theme. Definitely beats the traditional creature-filled bedding.
2. It can start with one product.
Despite how put together our layouts seem, it doesn’t take long to develop a theme. It can be sparked by anything really at a moment’s notice. When we came across this brigade of dolls, they inspired a Japanese-centered nursery that would go on to include florals and the cutest wrap dress for November–subscribers look out for your issue soon!
3. Practicality outweighs design.
Don’t just choose décor because it looks nice. Think about longevity and the drain on your wallet, too. A $300 diaper pail may match your coveted color scheme, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth it in the long run. Be sure to research multiple sources and consider timeless pieces that will last beyond your child’s early years, like cool mirrors or sophisticated lamp bases.
Before you know it, you’ll want to sleep in Baby’s room instead of your own!
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Babies, baby, baby's nursery, baby's room, decor, home decor, home design, interior design, nursery, nursery decor | Categories:
GoodyBlog, Shopping & Gear, Your Child, Your Life
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Blogger Jessica Fisher is a meal-planning and food-prepping guru. On weekends you’ll find her cooking up a storm, making up to 30 dinners to freeze and then reheat as needed throughout the month. This freezer-cooking method inspired her first book, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead & Freeze Cookbook, which hit bookstores recently. Fisher also shares tips for managing meals, home, and family on her two websites: LifeasMOM and GoodCheapEats. We asked the mom of six (!) how she gets dinner on the table in a flash so that you can, too.
What inspired you to share your cooking and home-making experiences in a blog?
I have always been a home cook, starting when I was about six or seven years old. My mom let me have free reign in the kitchen, so I was primarily self-taught. Many of my jobs as a teen and in college were food-related, including catering and waiting tables in restaurants. Over time I learned about food, from prepping to eating.
GoodCheapEats is all about food for families: how to get dinner on the table in a timely manner, make it fun for kids, and remain economical. I started it because, at the time, our family was in debt. By cutting back and being smarter about spending and saving, we paid off $18,000 in about a year and a half.
How does freezer-cooking fit in?
When I was pregnant, my friend and I decided to try freezer cooking for the first time. We spent the whole weekend cooking up a bunch of meals, packaging them, and then freezing them. That week, it was incredibly nice to come home and reheat a dish the oven, on the stove, or in the microwave. To have that luxury for a month was totally worth the two days I invested!
That was 17 years ago. Since then, I’ve conducted personal research and it’s been all trial and error. My family is used to my experiments, many of which have led to culinary adventures and memory-making!
You have six children ranging in ages from 5 to 16. How do you manage such a large dinner table while staying on budget?
We typically serve buffet style up at the counter. I will plate for little ones and everyone else serves themselves—it’s so much easier this way.
By planning and cooking everything in advance, the cost-savings are huge. This way, I can buy in bulk and then make a month’s worth of dinners for about $300. That means each meal for eight people costs about $10—that’s a great ratio. Plus, I’ve saved on energy bills from using the stove and other appliances less often.
What other benefits might families see from using the freezer-cooking method?
Saving time, keeping a healthy diet, and having peace of mind. Once I fill my freezer, I don’t have to think about, “What’s for dinner?” until next month. Freezing is my sanity saver. Plus, it saves us from going for fast food when we’re in a pinch—that’s why I always keep burritos or soup in the freezer!
So what exactly can we put in the freezer?
There is so much that can freeze, that it’s more about what can’t: soft cheeses, anything with mayo, deli cheese or meats, and obvious items like salads. The “What Can’t You Freeze?” section of the book goes into more detail.
How does your freezer-cooking method work?
Choose recipes that have common ingredients. When chopping onions for one dish, you’re doing so for multiple dishes—just like a larger commercial kitchen that has a prep cook. Once everything is prepped, you simply put the items together in different ways. This is what cuts down on time and hassle.
To save time, get as many things as you can. I call it getting my “maids” working: my two slow cookers, bread machine, and stock pots on all stove burners. Use the technology at your disposal to help get your timing right.
When you’re ready to freeze, plastic zip-top bags are good options, but I love heavy-duty plastic containers with lids. Just be sure all food cools completely before stowing it away. Chilling dishes in the refrigerator first works well.
Label dates and names clearly, not only for food-safety reasons but also to avoid mistaken identities. One night, my husband thought beef gravy was chocolate ice cream. Yuck! And don’t forget to rotate your stock—all items should be used within two to three months.
So can moms combine pre-made, frozen items with fresh items?
Of course! I highly recommend stir-fries: freeze your choice of protein prepared in a sauce. Then, when you’re reheating, add fresh peppers, onion, and snap peas.
How can moms who’ve never cooked in bulk get started with make-ahead freezer cooking? What are good learning curve tips? What about easy first recipes?
It depends on how comfortable you are with cooking to begin with. If you’re a home cook with a little experience, it can be a smooth transition. If you haven’t cooked from scratch very much, it can be overwhelming.
I always suggest that if you have a favorite meal, start with that. This way, you know your family likes it and you simply make a double or triple batch. If you’re only freezing two meals during your week of cooking, you can experiment with how you package it and how your freezer responds. Then, move on to making short meal plans.
To get started, choose a couple of recipes and just go for it—it takes practice so try, try again. You can’t really lose with the plans in the book, especially because I’ve already made grocery lists for you!
Does this mean mom has to sacrifice her entire weekend cooking to make the weeknights easier?
There are shorter ways to cook in bulk. Sometimes I make several dishes over the course of a few weeknights, after kids are asleep. If you don’t want or need to do a full 30-day prep, it can be as easy as doubling or tripling dinner.
Or try recycling menu plans. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every week. Try having a meatloaf night on Monday, or tacos on Tuesday. That takes the guesswork out of it. With things like pizza, you can vary the toppings each week and keep it healthy with salad and veggie dippers on the side.
Okay, so you had a crazy weekend and your freezer stock is out. What is your go-to recipe during the week?
If worse comes to worse, I always have red sauce frozen and pasta in the cupboard. Having a back-up plan takes the pressure off—because sometimes, we just don’t have the time or energy!
Interview has been edited and condensed.
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cookbook, cookbook Q&A, cooking techniques, cooking tips, Food, food prep, freezer, freezer-cooking, good cheap eats, GoodCheapEats, Jessica Fisher, life as mom, LifeasMOM, make-ahead meals, not your mother's, recipes, Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo | Categories:
Food, GoodyBlog, Your Life
Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
Looking back on my childhood, I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t some type of pet in the house. From three dogs to two cats (there was a hamster stint somewhere between the two), it’s safe to say my family was always a pack of animal lovers.
When I got the invite to attend Rolf C. Hagen’s showing of pet products, I couldn’t pass the chance to spot cool items for furry friends (and play with some kitties and puppies in the process)! Here are my favorites:
Want to get your feline active? Consider investing in the Senses series of toys. They can be set up like a race track with fun obstacles and resting points along the way. Kitty will love swatting the glowing balls as they pass through the elevated tunnels of the Super Roller Circuit. After play, naps can commence on the Comfort Zone, featuring a massager, catnip holder, and cushion that can be cooled. There’s plenty more Senses stations you can add to the track as well!
Nothing beats toys that multitask. Chew bones from Hagen’s GUMI collection double as teeth cleaners and breath fresheners, so Fido can keep his gums healthy during playtime. They come in mini, medium and large versions, too, for dogs of every size. When it comes to washing his bowl, the Design Dog Dish makes cleaning simple. Just lift the stainless steel piece out; no need to carry everything to the sink. Bonus: it’s dishwasher safe. Plus, the wood finish is much more decorative than the average dog bowl.
And because I can’t resist sharing cute cat pictures, meet Bastian, a 4-month-old kitten brought to demonstrate products. The Hagen event sponsored New York’s Animal Haven shelter, home to this little guy and other critters on scene. With products approved by pets themselves, it’s clear Hagen knows how to reach babies of the animal variety.
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Animal Haven, animal shelters, animals, caitit, Cats, comfort zone, Design Dog Dish, dogit, Dogs, GUMI chew toys, New York, pet adoption, pet gear, pets, Rolf C. Hagen, Senses toys, super speed circuit | Categories:
GoodyBlog, Shopping & Gear, Your Life
Friday, September 27th, 2013
There isn’t a mom out there who doesn’t understand the importance of time. Between chauffeuring kids to school and running household errands, it’s a wonder you keep it all together.
Momtrepreneur Erin Condren aims to make scheduling your life a little easier and, dare I say, fun. Just two years after the birth of her twins, she founded her own custom stationery company, creating everything from her signature Life Planner to personalized iPhone cases. Now her site has become a go-to resource for busy parents wanting some organization with flair.
I recently had the chance to preview Erin’s fall collection; my three favorites are sure to shed stress from your routine AND let your family’s style shine.
1. FUNctional Family Organizer
A dry-erase clipboard will help you remember important contacts, goals, even meal schedules for the week. Add in the chore chart as well as magnetic notepad for groceries, and nothing will escape you.
2. Gold Edition Life Planner
Erin’s classic planner got a regal upgrade. Gold foil stamps dot the cover inside and out while a new elastic band holds everything in place. Along with her trademark colorful spreads, it’s a total score!
3. Lunch Box Set
The straight edges of this lunch box and container assortment equal easy washing. Plus, the decorative faceplate doubles as an emergency card while your child’s at school (just fill out the personal info on the backside).
Erin’s motto is all about making more time for play in life. With these products in toe, there’s no reason you can’t start living a little yourself.
SAVINGS ALERT: Her new holiday card collection is half off for a limited time. Who says you can’t “’tis the season” early?
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Erin Condren, Fall, FUNctional Family Organizer, Gold Edition Life Planner, iPhone case, lunch box, organizing, planner, schedule, stationery | Categories:
GoodyBlog, Shopping & Gear, Time for Fun, Your Life