School is out, the weather is warm, and the sun doesn’t set until late which means picnic season is here! Whether it’s an alfresco dinner with friends or an impromptu lunch at the park with the family, here are four of our favorite must-have picnic accessories for your next summer picnic.
1. The perfect picnic blanket
A great picnic blanket is key for setting the stage for your outdoor eating sesh. I want a blanket that is large enough to handle the food and guests, soft enough for lounging, and washable for the inevitable strawberry stains or wine spills. Lately, I’ve been eyeing these gorgeous Turkish towels (shown). First, the print – swoon! And I love that they are lightweight, roll up compactly and are versatile – you can use this towel for a picnic, yoga session, beach towel, even as a sarong! I also like this fold up JJ Cole blanket for picnics or playdate, this pocket-size picnic blanket that you can keep in your purse, or for something a bit different, a cute circular boho-chic blanket.
2. A cute picnic basket
True, you could just pack your food in any old reusable bag you have, but there’s something about a picnic basket that makes the whole thing a bit cuter, a bit more special, and who are we kidding, look better in that Instagram pic you know you’re going to take! You could opt for an all-in-one picnic basket kit like this affordable one from VonShef that comes with your plates, silverware and cups for four, a blanket and plenty of extra space so you’re always picnic-ready. Or an insulated picnic basket (shown) that has plenty of room for a family picnic but folds flat when you don’t need it. There’s also something about this PicnicTime basket with a removable lid that is so smart – a make-shift cutting board or flat surface to keep food upright.
3. Picnic-ready stemware
Skip the red Solo cups. Picnics are better when your beverages are in picnic-friendly, but still sophisticated stemware. I love these real glass, silicone-protected stemless wine glasses (shown) from Life Factory which we use for picnics and camping though these shatter-proof plastic ones are also an affordable option that is a step up from the Solo cup. If you’re packing your real stemware or using a picnic basket that comes with lightweight ones, check out these wine glass holders that you stick in the grass to keep your cup upright and free from curious ants.
4. Fun & Games
Yes, the food is key at a picnic, but so is a little entertainment for family and friends. I love this portable bocce set with four different colors so more people can play. Grass, sand, mulch or dirt – bocce is fun for kids and adults alike. Other fun portable picnic games are this fold-up ring toss game or lawn darts. Another simple option – a couple of frisbees. This one from Aerobie is easy to catch and flies ridiculously far – like football field far.
Momtrends was not paid for this review. It may contain affiliate links.
It’s berry season and I’m totally swooning for the fruits that are filling up the markets. Sometimes I go a bit overboard and purchase too many pints. Then I’m left with waste at the end of the week. It’s depressing…good fruit gone bad. Wasted time. Wasted money. Wasted fruit.
Here’s the scoop: Approximately 50% of food around the world is wasted each year. In the US alone, the USDA estimated in 2014 that approximately $24 BILLION worth of food, or about $192 per household, is thrown out each year due to spoiled produce.
That’s why I joined the Long Live Produce Challenge.
About a month ago, Rubbermaid contacted me about a media tour for a new food storage system. They needed someone to spread the word about a new storage container that keeps produce fresher up to 80% longer. Boom! Perfect gig. They sent me a three-pack of the Fresh Works Produce Storage to test.
I put store containers in the fridge next to FreshWorks–and then watched the fuzz grow. The berries lasted much longer in the containers.
How does it work?
The FreshWorks containers have two really cool features: the “FreshVent” lid which regulates the flow of oxygen and carbon dioxide in and out of the container and the “CrispTray” which elevates produce off the bottom of the container and helps reduce moisture and spoilage.
The containers are easy to use–just pop the fruit into the containers when you get home from the farmers market of grocery store (TIP: don’t clean the produce first, you need it to be dry)–and get a MUCH longer life out of the produce. Everything is dishwasher safe and BPA free.
Once it’s stored all you need to do is get your individual servings washed and cleaned each day. The containers work best for leafy greens and berries. Get ready to enjoy all the best fruits of the season without any waste.
Does this sound familiar: You’re out running errands or picking up a child from a playdate or afterschool practice and you drive by it – that store that you need that thing from! Except…you can’t remember exactly what that thing was. Or you remember one of the items, but not the other 12 that were also on your list. Gah!
The solution? Kiss your paper shopping lists goodbye. Use one of these shopping list apps to ensure your list is always with you as you’re out running errands. Most shopping apps allow you to create lists for multiple stores so you know what you need at the grocery store and your favorite beauty store and farmer’s market all the same time. Plus you can even share the list with others so, you know, your husband could grab milk and tampons on his way home from work…..a girl can hope right?
I love that the OurGroceries app has a web-based portal too so that I can enter items whether I am on my computer or my phone. The app also remembers items I’ve entered in the past and makes it easy to up the quantity of items on my list. I haven’t used it before, but the app also has a recipe feature that lets you add your family’s favorite meals. It does take some input time since you have to put in all the ingredients, but then, each week you can look at your list of favorite eats and and then easily add all the needed ingredients to your list at once. Meal planning and shopping list making made easy. (free, iOS, Android)
First, they had me at pie. Second, this is another great shopping app! It too has a website for entering list items online or via the app and lets you make separate lists for different stores. Buy Me a Pie is one of the prettier apps, and I love that when you’re adding items, you can type them in or choose from past items you’ve added organized in one of three ways – by alphabetical order, their color-coded category (dairy, veggies, etc.), or your most frequently used items. Love this! This app is also one of the best for syncing with an Apple Watch since it doesn’t truncate the item name. (free, iOS, Android)
Are you a couponer? If you love to clip and save while you shop, you’ll love the Grocery Pal app that allows you to build your weekly shopping list while you check sales and compare prices at dozens of local grocery and chain stores. Whether you shop at Target or CVS, Fred Meyers, Vons or Kroger, this app helps you find the best deals in town. (free, iOS, Android)
Aspiring chefs will love the Paprika app for menu planning, recipe finding and shopping list making. It’s like if your Pinterest recipe board and a shopping list app had a baby. Browse through Paprika’s beautiful collection of recipes on the app or website or add your own from your favorite recipe websites with a single click. Then add the ingredients seamlessly to your shopping list. You can also adjust the number of servings (which will automatically adjust your ingredients), set multiple timers for cooking, and store nutritional info about your meals. There is even a calendar to help you plan out meals for a week or month at a time – you over-achievers, you. ($5, iOS, Android, Kindle, Nook)
Looking for a tasty dessert that won’t ruin all the resolutions you’ve made? Did you know half a grapefruit is roughly 60 calories and 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C!
While I grew up loving the grapefruits my great grandparents sent from Florida once a year, I’ve got to tell you, this is a whole different realm of deliciousness. Red grapefruit is sweeter and more nuanced than what I used to eat as a child. This is a grown-up fruit with a bold taste. And it’s most certainly not just for breakfast.
Wonderful Sweet Scarletts are a new brand of Texas Red Grapefruits that will change the way you think about grapefruits. These grapefruits are so sweet, you won’t even need to add sugar.
This holiday season we were invited to a special lunch hosted by Wonderful Sweet Scarletts. Bloggers gathered at the Andaz Hotel to taste Sweet Scarletts Texas Red Grapefruit recipes from Haylie Duff. The adorable Texan chef wears many hats: actress, author and host of The Cooking Channel’s, The Real Girl’s Kitchen.
Haylie dreamed up a menu that highlighted the versatility of the fruit. Lucky me, I got to taste all of her creations and she really got me thinking out of the breakfast box. From ceviche to salad to BBQ, grapefruit can be the centerpiece of your healthy meal planning in 2016. While the ceviche certainly wowed me, it was the dessert that really changed my mind about how I’m going to work grapefruits into my life.
1. Combine ricotta cream ingredients in a small bowl and chill for 30 minutes.
2. Using a food processor, pulverize shelled pistachios.
3. Using a culinary torch or oven broiler, melt the brown sugar across the Wonderful Sweet Scarletts grapefruit wedges.
4. Arrange sweet cream, grapefruit wedges and garnish with pistachio dust.
5. Drizzle with honey or agave, if desired.
The dessert is shown in the feature photo and it was out of this world. There was terrific contrast in flavors and a tangy richness. Total crowd pleaser!
Over the holiday I had plenty of Sweet Scarletts on hand, but not the ingredients to make the ricotta, so I reworked the recipe a little. Instead of ricotta, I used Greek yogurt. I then sprinkled honey and pistachios on top for a quick and easy lo-cal dessert. Check out my work:
My family was impressed when I served this up after a meal of holiday leftovers. They gobbled it up! Don’t wait to get yours, the season runs Nov through April. Once they’re gone, you’ve got to wait until the next growing season.
This is not a sponsored post. We did get loads of grapefruits!
Are you crazy about your slow cooker or crock pot but frustrated about being in a recipe rut? Low N’ Slow Box to the rescue.
Low N’ Slow Box is a new subscription-based service for slow cooking meals and it just launched. You know I love to cook, but don’t have oodles of time to pour over complicated recipes. The slow cooker revolution appealed to me–I can use fresh ingredients to create a tasty, nutritious meal. And I do. Trouble is, I ran out of recipes and inspiration.
Low N’ Slow delivers easy-to-make recipes each month. In your box, you’ll get a couple recipe cards, ingredients (minus the meat and perishables) and tips on how to prepare some great slow cooked meals. I’m already sold on subscription boxes and I love my how my slow cooker delivers flavorful meals with minimal effort. Heck yes, I wanted to try this.
My first box arrived. There’s nothing fancy or cute about the packaging (I’m sure they’re working on that. And the recipes were on paper, not cards (the paper got trashed in my kitchen, thicker card stock would be great).
I started with a slow cooker chicken recipe–the Sweet Apple BBQ Chicken. True to the promise, most everything was included except for the chicken, apples carrots and celery–they even tossed onions into the box. I didn’t have to shop for much. And I loved the pre-measured spices in tiny ziploc bags.
The recipe was simple to follow with plenty of flair. I appreciated that they also sourced unique products like the finishing touch Kosmo’s BBQ sauce. The clever chefs also give you ideas for other ways to use up the ingredients. I simply did a bit of chopping and prepping in Sunday morning and popped my bird into the slow cooker. Here’s how it looked.
The Killer Bee spice was great–we’ll definitely use that again! After the slow cooker did it’s magic. I put the fully cooked chicken into the fridge for a day.
Looks like boiled chicken. Fine. But not too exciting. The exciting part was the final step–adding the BBQ sauce and broiling the bird until the skin got crisp.
Now that’s better! The chicken came out moist and quite flavorful. All I had to do on Monday night after work was pop it under the broiler. We’re going to try the other recipe (pork loin) this weekend. It’s an easy way to keep things fresh in the kitchen and I’m excited to see what next month brings.
This makes a great last-minute gift for any of your busy friends that want to make more home-cooked meals. Order your subscription here www.lownslowbox.com
Rather than release the Scrooge inside, I reached for a Foodstirs playdate to mix up some holiday magic. Thanks to Foodstirs baking kits, my girls got to to roll and cut and decorate and I got to keep my sanity in check.
Foodstirs are baking kits sourced with the best ingredients possible. Imagine if you had all the time in the world to read labels and shop all over town for the best of the best to put into your baked goods. The ladies behind the brand do all that hard work for you AND they deliver to you in a tidy little package. Thankfully, I’d gotten a special delivery of the Foodstirs Sugar Cookie Mix this week at a special Momtrends event.
To celebrate the season, and the genius of Foodstirs, we co-hosted a holiday blogger breakfast at the Crosby Hotel in NYC. Foodstirs Founders, Galit Laibow and Sarah Michelle Gellar brought the food, we brought our favorite NYC influencers. We gathered to chat about food, parenting trends and social media trends.
What we heard is that moms and dads are stretched thin. We want to carve out those special moments and we most certainly don’t want to feed our kids crud. But oh, there’s so much to do. Especially this time of year. We all agreed that baking with kids is awesome–especially when the Foodstirs kits make it so easy.
Some of the big trends we see coming–more cooking kits geared towards boys, more grandparents hosting cooking playdates, and more parents relying upon delivery services to make life simpler. Foodstirs is one trend for moms we think is here to stay.
Wisconsin and cheese. They just go together. When the cheeseheads sent out a press release about a new Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Academy microsite, I had to check it out. The site features 30 delectable grilled cheese sandwich recipes with stunning photography.
If you loved grilled cheese, try something new like the The Lil’ Kahuna a sweet-spicy flavor of the islands with Wisconsin Pepper Jack, ham, pineapple, sautéed bell peppers and onions on King’s Hawaiian Bread.
Ingredients (Servings: 4)
* 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
* 4 fresh or canned sliced pineapple rings
* 1 yellow or Spanish onion, sliced about 1/8″ thick
* 1 large red bell pepper, sliced about 1/8″ thick
* 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, divided
* 4 slices King’??s Hawaiian Sweet Bread, split
* 8 slices Wisconsin Pepper Jack cheese
* 8 ounces smoked ham, sliced
Heat a saute pan over high heat. Add olive oil and pineapple slices; cook each side for about 1 minute to caramelize. Remove pineapple and return pan to heat. Add onions and peppers and sauté 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Heat large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 4 slices of bread. Top each with 1 slice Pepper Jack, 2 ounces ham, 1 pineapple ring, 1/4 of the peppers and onions, and another slice of Pepper Jack, in that order. Place tops on sandwiches. Spread tops with about 1/2 tablespoon butter and grill until sandwiches are golden brown on both sides and the cheese is melted, turning once during grilling and adding additional butter to pan, if necessary.
Emily Franklin is the mother of four kids ages 9 and under. That she manages to cook dinner most nights is a feat in my eyes. That she cooks with passion, humor and wisdom–well she must be a force of nature. Oh and did I mention she also writes book?
Emily’s latest is called Too Many Cooks: Kitchen Adventures with 1 Mom, 4 Kids, and 102 Recipes($16.31 on Amazon). It’s more motherhood tale than kitchen manual. The recipes are all things you or I might take on–one chapter features root beer floats and a simple maple vinaigrette. If you love kids or love food or a combination of the two, you’ve found your summer reading.
The real joy of the book is watching Emily navigate her kitchen with her kids underfoot. She doesn’t shoo them away. She invites them to explore and watches them like a social scientist. Emily won’t let her brood be lazy eaters and is constantly challenging their taste buds. Lassi (a traditional Indian beverage that pairs perfectly with spicy food) makes its way into the diet seamlessly–what a trick.
Emily comes up against tough criticism from her pint-sized diners, but she never backs down on her mission to share her love of food with her family. We’ve all been there, but she captures the moment perfectly. Her kids turn their noses up at plenty but she moves ahead.
I admire her pluck and her prose. Bad mommies seem to be glorified these days and I for one find it refreshing to find a mom who is in the moment and embracing every minute of it.
Let’s start by saying I am not an accomplished baker. So many rules and measurements. But I do love cooking with my older daughter. So when McCormick sent me a goodie package loaded with food coloring, tools and a cupcake cookbook, I had to get into the spirit.
I adore cooking–it’s a creative outlet and rules are made to be broken. No so with baking, but here’s the twist with Hello, Cupcake! cookbook and McCormick food coloring I was able to experiment a bit. The recipes in the book looked daunting, but then I realized it was just the decorating that was scary. I picked a simple lemon poppy seed
cupcake recipe from the book and it was delish. Then I added the cream cheese icing–here is where the food color came in–we turned them sherbet colored (I wanted yellow, but the 3 y.o. was in charge). So baking turned into a fun learning session thanks to the food color (the color creator on the McCormick site is a fun way to teach kids about mixing).
I encourage you to try something new too. Log onto McCormick for some free spring recipes like flower cupcakes (see picture at very top). There are also non-cooking craft projects too. While mine don’t look professional, they were a ton of fun to make. Here’s what mine looked like (and they were a big hit at last night’s picnic):
The easiest way to tame a picky eater is to get him (or her) involved in the kitchen. I’m always on the hunt for products that make cooking for and with kids easier. I was delighted to check out the offerings from Handstand Kids.
A team of artists and writers contributes to the cookbooks. So the variety is inspiring, from Mexican to Italian followto Chinese, there is something for every taste. All the cookbooks contain bright illustrations and a 1-2-3 type instructions. The ideas are easy to follow, but will require a bit of prep and shopping.
We’ve been looking at recipes in the HSK Chinese Cookbook Kit($28). The Belly Bowl of Beef and Broccoli in the Chinese cookbook requires fresh ginger root and sesame oil–things you may not regularly keep in the kitchen. The recipes are ranked to indicate the level of difficulty. Chocolate Noodle Clusters are one chopstick (and look really yummy), while the Spring-a-licious Rolls earn four chopsticks (17 ingredients and a trip to a special market to get spring roll wrappers).
If you’ve got a budding chef on your hands, I highly recommend picking up one or two of these books and trying some ethnic food with the kids. While you’re shopping, you might want to pick up a all-purpose mat. We got the China one. It has vocabulary lessons, pictures and teaches geography.
And here’s a special treat. The Handstand Kids Cookbook Company honors father figures by creating a fun and easy-to-use platform for children to show dads their appreciation this Father’s Day. www.toasttodads.com, offers numerous easy-to-use features to honor dads, including: stories from famous chefs about cooking with their fathers; a unique e-card service with foodie-friendly messages of appreciation; daily quotes and news from celebrity fathers over the past 100 years; and much more.
This Friday I am taking a break from showing you my kitchen escapades to review a new book: Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill ($17.95).
Part financial guide, part self-help, part cookbook, this has a little something for everyone trying to feed a family and stick to a budget. Author Mary Ostyn has 10 kids–so she knows a thing or two about staying organized and planning. According to the author, an average dinner for her entire family costs $15. She’s loaded the book with practical advice. I like the section about when veggies are freshest and cheapest. There are also tips for navigating the grocery store with an eye for savings and helpful advice to keep your food fresher longer (keep your ginger in the freezer!)
In addition to her food guidance, Ostyn has packed the book with easy to make recipes (I’ve tabbed her hummus to try over the weekend)–most with fewer than a dozen ingredients. There is nothing boring about her picks. She shakes things up with global picks such as Mongolian Beef and Broccoli and Ethiopian Chicken Stew (Doro Wat).
All in Family Feasts for $75 a Weekfollow is a great book for moms trying to do more with less, or a chef who wants a little inspiration in the kitchen. My one wish? For some color pictures of the recipes. Maybe for her next book!
One of the most incredible aspects of living in NYC is having access to so many unique and varied food choices.
However, with there being so many restaurants and cultural neighborhoods it can be challenging to see and experience everything! Enter, Foods Of NY, an interactive and fun tour experience that started in 1999 by Todd Lefkovic whose goal was to introduce locals and visitors to the ultimate, off-the-beaten-path, food and cultural experiences.
Originating the Food Tourism concept 15 years ago with his Original Greenwich Village Food Tour, FoodsOfNY tours offer an “insider” experience at the best local restaurants and specialty gourmet shops in each neighborhood, with a concentration on historic family owned and operated businesses.
My daughter and I recently experienced this fun and interesting tour where we started out at Murray’s Cheese Shop and enjoyed a walking (and tasting) excursion of this historic area. This included an experience with a licensed tour guides who had an in-depth knowledge of history, culture and architecture of NY, a contagious love of food and true New Yorker’s point of view.
During the intimate tour, this included visits to so many different and unique places that I have never experienced – even as a native New Yorker – including enjoying olive oil at O & Co Olive Oil Shop, pizza at Joe Pizza, rice balls at FAICCO’S ITALIAN SPECIALTIES, meatballs at PESCE PASTA and much more where we were able to soak in the history and culture of these amazing eateries. We also enjoyed a history of Cornelia Street – stopping in the Cornelia Street Cafe and learning all about this distinct and special street that is filled with small restaurants. Personally, I loved hearing about the history of the area as well as how some of the most renowned restaurants in the area got their start.
With so many chain stores dominating NYC, it was really nice to see a different side of NYC through the eyes of Mom & Pop owned specialty food shops. This is fantastic for tourists to experience NYC as well as residents as they experience in ultimate food and cultural experience “off the beaten” path.
With a company whose mission to continually seek out and share food and cultural finds, we loved how the Foods of New York Tours took us on an incredible three-hour journey into the Greenwich Village as we explored the neighborhood, food, and venues that made for a truly special NYC experience.