Stress-Free Holiday Planning

Tis the season to be…..stressed, panicked and overworked!! Fa la la la la la la la la!

I love the holidays. I really I do. The holiday season is one of the most magical times of the year. It brings friends and families together and reminds me of how fortunate I am to have such a great support system. HOWEVER the two weeks leading up to the holidays brings me nothing but “aceto” as my Italian mother would say!!  The stress of planning for the perfect holiday party, picking the perfect presents, serving amazing dishes and creating the best treat for our annual cookie swap is overwhelming to say the least.

Luckily I’ve done my research! Below are a list of tips, tricks, recipes and resources to help you tackle the stress so that you can relax and enjoy your loved ones this holiday season.

Controlled Chaos in the Kitchen!

During the holidays everything revolves around the kitchen. So I need to make sure all myholiday-kitchen equipment is in in tip-top shape! Sears Home Services, that nation’s number 1 provider of appliances, has some great tips to make sure your appliances are running properly so that you can entertain with ease.

One do-it-yourself project they recommend is cleaning your refrigerator’s condenser coils. It’s simple. Twice a year I take a coil brush and brush the condenser coils located either under or behind the fridge. This will remove dirt, pet hair and more. Something as simple as cleaning your condenser coils will prevent expensive repairs and will make your refrigerator run more efficiently.

If you don’t have time for DIY appliance maintenance, you can visit SearsHomeServices.com/checkup to schedule a Kitchen & Laundry Appliance Check-Up from Sears Home Services. One their expert technicians will come to your house to perform a 64 point-inspection of your kitchen or laundry appliances.  You will be ready to turn out dinner and dessert for the 30 guests you are expecting on Christmas day!!

Hostess with the Mostess

In my opinion a holiday is not a holiday without the French’s Classic Green Bean green-bean-casseroleCasserole. Apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way. Did you know that over 30 million will be served during the holiday season. And cant you just taste the French’s Crispy Fried Onions on top?

If you are looking to create a new classic yet timeless dish I would try French’s Crunchy Onion Bacon Potatoes. Both recipes are perfect for busy moms and home chefs to make during the holiday. Its delicious and made with Potatoes, Bacon, Cheese and French’s Crispy Fried Onions. Or if you want to update either classic and add some spice to your dish by toping it with French’s Crispy Jalapenos! You can find more recipes at Frenchs.com.

The Perfect Treat

festive-scotcheroosThe best part of making holiday treats, is making it with my family. Since my kids are just 6 and 8 years-old I love these easy, no-bake Scotcheroos. They are a delicious, chocolate-y and peanut butter-y rice cereal treat made with Karo Light Corn Syrup. These Christmas trees and classic Scotcheroos with candy toppings are a perfect addition to your holiday party or cookie swap.

They are an incredibly versatile treat. I love customizing them with candy decorations, cookie cutters or food coloring. Not only are they a great treat but my kids and I make several batches at once so we can gift them in gift bags and tins.

For mor recipes go to www.karosyrup.com/Recipes

Save More Stress Less

I’m always looking for ways to save around the holidays. It can be an expensive and sometimes stressful time of year.

My favorite budget stretching secret weapon is RedPlum. It helps you score the best deals and coupons not only on holiday gifts, but also on everything you’ll need for entertaining like groceries, serving trays, utensils…even coupons for dining out for when you need a break from it all you!

Be sure to check the mail for promotional offers from retailers you love or go to RedPlum.com for additional deals and steals! RedPlum will help you take the financial worry and stress out of the holidays.

Keeping the Magic Alive

My daughter Joslin is 8 and my son Harris is 5. They still believe in tooth fairies, elves and santa-2Santa. The magic is still alive in their hearts and I plan I keeping that way for as long as possible. My daughter Joslin’s face is going to light up this year because I got Santa to make a personalized message for her on PortableNorthPole.com

I cant wait to see her face when she sees this video…

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0Bw9-tIaFWpMybVppcHVHTHo4UWM

If you are looking to start a modern holiday tradition and bring Christmas magic to someone special in your life just go to PortableNorthPole.com and entered my child’s name, uploaded her photo, and what gift she’d like for Christmas. It’s FREE to try at PortableNorthPole.com, or download the app for IOS and Android.

I hope all of these tips, products, recipes and resources help you relax and unwind this holiday season! Happy holiday to you all!

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My Back To School Essentials List!

On August 31 my youngest is heading to kindergarten. Where has the time gone? My baby is off and running and his mother is a nervous wreck. With 2 weeks to go and 2 kids in elementary school, the back-to-school panic is full-on. Gone are the lazy days of summer when we rise after 8am, throw on our bathing suits and rush off to the pool. I’m in mommy mode now, gearing up (literally) for the back-to-school madness.

I’ve been shopping for nearly 3 days straight and have come across a few gems that I must share with you.

Let’s start with a brilliant way to satisfy your child’s back-to-school snack attack. SnackingCheese Dippers is an essential part of our kid’s school day. The right snack gives them the energy they need to focus on the important stuff. I just came across the newest product form The Laughing Cow called Cheese Dippers. My kiddos LOVE these all-in-one on-the-go snacks. I love them because they are an excellent source of calcium, they have 4 grams of protein and they have no artificial flavors, preservatives or color. Each pack comes with the original creamy Swiss cheese and crunchy breadsticks. It’s a great a great alternative to all the sugary snacks we are use to.

ManagePhoto02This one is for all those busy parents who need some peace-of-mind. It’s basically your eyes and ears when you are not at home. The VTech VC931 Wireless Pan and Tilt camera has a free mobile app that allows you to access your camera from your smartphone. It sends push notifications alerts when it detects motion and sound so you know when your kids have made it home from school. The VC931 also includes a two way talk intercom and pan and tilt camera so you can easily stay connected with family or even your pets!

As I mentioned my youngest is off to kindergarten and I’d like the transition to be as easy 2015-wipesNewV3as possible for both him and me. I headed to Target to pick up tons of Kandoo Flushable Wipes as well as Boogie Wipes so he has what he needs to feel confident, stays clean and feel like the big boy that he is . The Kandoo Flushable Wipes clean 30% better than regular toilet paper plus they are flushable and biodegradable.

wipes-familyWe all know back-to-school is synonymous with cold and flu season which is why I always throw Boogie Wipes into his back pack. Boogie Wipes are made with natural saline which helps dissolve mucus plus they’re super gentle on tiny noses. These can also be found at Target.

 

My daughter’s first backpack was suppose to last her an entire school year, but only lasted 21510622three months!! I’m super excited to have finally found a backpack that handle my kids “buondless energy”. Embark Jartop backpack is extra durable with top loading zippers that can hold 5 to 6 books at a time. Plus the come with a ONE-YEAR GUARANTEE. They come in a range of stylish colors and patterns and pair nicely with the Embark lunch kits.

I hope this helps! Feel free to send me comments and suggestions and join me at @erekav on Instagram where I will be sharing my favorite back-to-school photos!

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Pistachio Pesto Gnocchi with Peas, Edamame & Avocado

Gnocchi

My 5 year-old son approached me after dinner the other night and in the softest, sweetest voice EVER said, “Mom, you know what we haven’t had in lowng (long) time? We haven’t had gnocchi (pronounced perfectly).” This only affirmed that my real title in the home is not “mom”, but rather “personal chef”….a title I should loathe, but instead I’m actually quite proud of.

My response to this sweet boy’s request was a delicious bowl of pistachio pesto gnocchi with peas, edamame and avocado….that’s how ya add a little color to gnocchi! I hope you enjoy it as much as he did. Spring has sprung!

Pistachio Pesto Ingredients:

  1. 2 garlic cloves
  2. 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
  3. 3 cups loosely packed basil
  4. 1 lemon zested and juiced
  5. 1 orange zested and juiced
  6. 2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  8. 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  9. 1/2 Avocado (DO NOT ADD AVOCADO IF YOU PLAN ON STORING THE SAUCE FOR LATER )
  10. 1/2 cup of thawed organic frozen peas
  11. 1/2 cup of thawed organic frozen edamame

Just like you, I’m a home cook learning the deets of healthy family cooking one day at a time so I borrowed the following gnocchi recipe from Geoffrey Zakarian of Food Network. It is SUPER simple. These fluffy and light gnocchi take about 5 minutes to make.

Ricotta Gnocchi Recipe: Click Here For Gnocchi Recipe

Put It All Together!

  1. In a food processor combine ingredients 1 through 9.
  2. Pour into a bowl and add the peas and edamame
  3. While the gnocchi are still warm add about 2 to 3 heaping table spoons of the pesto sauce, garnish with grated cheese and serve immediately.

 

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Crunchy Baked Eggplant Sticks!

IMG_3533

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups of grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 1 cup of planko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup of Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 large eggplant cut into 3 inch long by 1/2 inch wide sticks

Let’s Cook!

  1. Preheat oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Beat 1/2 cup of grated cheese and 1/4 tsp of salt into the eggs.
  3. In a medium sized bowl mix together; planko bread crumbs, Italian bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1 cup of the grated cheese.
  4. With one hand dip the eggplant sticks into the egg mixture and coat all sides. Allow the excess to drip back into the bowl, then gently drop into the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. With your other hand coat the eggplant stick in the bread crumb mixture. Pat gently to thoroughly coat the eggplant.
  6. Place the coated sticks onto the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then move to the middle shelf and broil for an additional 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with your kids favorite dipping sauce. These taste great with tomato sauce, pesto sauce and even ranch dressing.

Click here to see if my kiddos liked them…

 

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Boozy Limoncello Panettone Bread Pudding! Say What?!!

bread pudding

What to do with all that leftover Panettone from Christmas???? Turn it into a delightfully warm and gooey bread pudding. My recipe takes it to another level by adding limoncello and lemon curd!! This is my husband’s all-time favorite dessert.

Ingredients for Bread Pudding :

  1. 1 loaf of Panettone broken into small pieces (break apart by hand so that it looks more rustic)
  2. 1 1/2 cups of Milk
  3. 2 1/2 cups of Heavy Cream
  4. 4 Eggs
  5. 1/2 cups of Sugar
  6. 1 cup of Limoncello
  7. 1/4 cup of Lemon Curd

Ingredients for Whipped Cream:

  • 3 Tbsp of Sugar
  • 1 cup of Whipping Cream
  • 2 Tbsp Limoncello

Let’s Get Baking!

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Grease a 1.8 quart rectangular baking dish with butter.
  3. layer the bottom of the pan with the pieces of Panettone.
  4. In a large bowl whisk together ingredients 2 through 7.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into the pan.
  6. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  7. Bake on middle rack for 35-45 minutes. Pudding should be lightly brown and a toothpick, when inserted, should come out clean.
  8. Let cool (slightly) then top with gelato or limoncello whipped Cream (see recipe below)

Whipped Cream Directions:

  1. Place your mixing bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  2. Add 2 Tbsp of sugar and 1 cup of whipping cream to the bowl.
  3. Whisk until you begin to see stiff peaks. Whisking with an electric mixer will work best.
  4. Fold 2 Tbsp of limoncello into the whipped cream.

panettone 2

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No Zuppa For You!! Pasta e Fagioli Recipe

pasta e fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli is a comforting classic Italian soup that I loved as a kid. My mother always served it with a large piece of crusty bread that went down before I even picked up my spoon.

As a mom, I love Pasta e Fagioli because it’s a great way to get even the most “Veggie Averse” child to eat their vegetable and legumes. Below is my family recipe along with ideas for how you can get even your most picky eater to gobble it up.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb orcchiette pasta (swap with your kids favorite pasta)
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans rinsed
  • 1 can of pinto beans rinsed
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped
  • 3 medium carrots chopped
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves diced
  • 3 rosemary sprigs
  • 2 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 cups of chicken Stock
  • 3/4 cup of your favorite pasta sauce (preferably homemade)
  • grated parmigiana to top each bowl
  • CRUSTY BREAD to dip!

Time To Cook!

  1. Cook your pasta al dente, drain and set aside.
  2. In a blender, blend together 2 cups of chicken stock and one can of cannellini beans.
  3. In a deep pot saute the carrots, onion, garlic and celery in 1/4 cup of olive oil until tender. Add the rosemary sprigs to the veggies while they cook. (NOTE: feel free to add pancetta or sausage to make heartier meal)
  4. Add 1 tsp of salt.
  5. Once the veggies are tender add the chicken stock/cannellini bean puree from blender to the pot with the veggies. (NOTE: IF YOUR CHILD IS VEGGIE AVERSE; 1. remove the rosemary sprigs, 2. to the blender with the chicken stock/bean puree, add the veggies, 3. blend thoroughly. Return the mixture to the pot.)
  6. Add 1 can of rinsed cannellini beans and 1 can of rinsed pinto beans.
  7. Add 1 cup of chicken stock.
  8. Add 3/4 cup of pasta sauce.
  9. Add cooked pasta.
  10. Add 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of ground pepper.
  11. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  12. Remove the rosemary sprigs.
  13. Ladle into a soup bowl, top with grated cheese and serve with a big hunk of crusty bread!

Be sure to encourage your kids to break up the bread and dunk it into the veggie rich sauce!

 

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Spaghetti, Zucchini and Turkey Pie! Oh My!

spaghetti pie

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium Zucchini Spiralized
  • 1/2 lb of Spaghetti
  • 3/4 lb or Ground Turkey
  • 2 Cups of Tomato Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup of ricotta
  • 1 Cup of Italian Blend Shredded Cheese (Provolone, Asiago, Fontina). You can also use high quality Mozzarella.
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup of Grated Parmigiana
  • Salt and Pepper

Let’s Start Cookin!

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Cook the ground turkey, breaking the meat into small pieces. Season with salt, pepper and any of your favorite Italian spice.
  3. Cook spaghetti al dente, drain and add about 1/4 cup of sauce to keep the pasta from sticking.
  4. Combine the spiralized zucchini and the cooked spaghetti. Set aside.
  5. Beat together eggs and 1/2 cup of the grated parmigiana.
  6. Add 1 cup of sauce, ricotta and egg mixture to the ground meat. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Add the ground meat mixture to the spaghetti. Mix thoroughly.
  8. Add the spaghetti mixture to you pie dish.
  9. Top with 1/2 cup sauce and shredded cheeses.
  10. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  11. Just before serving broil for 5 minutes.
  12. Devour!

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Roasted Corn Salad!

Roasted Corn

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my fruits and veggies. I’m always going out of my way to make my barbecue sides more than just an after thought.

Here are two dishes that I make regularly. They are quick, easy and huge crowd pleasers for the young and old.

Spicy Roasted Corn with Cotijo Cheese:

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Frozen Roasted Corn
  • 2 green jalapeno, deseeded and diced
  • 1 large red pepper, deseeded and diced
  • 2 shallots minced
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 4 tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 tsp of Salt
  • 1/2 cup Grated Cotijo Cheese
  • Cilantro
  1. In a large skillet melt the butter
  2. Add the shallots, red onion, jalapeno pepper and red pepper. Cook until they begin to get tender
  3. Add the roasted corn and salt. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes or until the corn is warm.
  4. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with Cotijo cheese and garnish with cilantro

 

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Raising a Fruitivore

images-1

I’m on a mission to convert my youngest child, my little carnivore, into a part-time fruitivore. My four year-old son Harris loves his animal protein. He has no problem putting down lamb chops, burgers, salmon, mahi mahi or shrimp when prepared to his liking and dipped in massive amounts of ketchup (not complaining). But when it comes to fruit, he won’t bite.

So this summer I decided I was up for the challenge. I realized that my child’s long term health was more important than my short term sanity and so I devised a plan.

1. I  starved him. I’m kidding! But seriously I made sure that come snack time he was hungry. Over-snacking  is an epidemic in this country. All of those delish crunchy prepackaged foods work wonders on curbing our children’s appetite for whole foods. So yeah, we nipped that in the bud. Click here to read a fab article from the Chicago Tribune which discusses America’s “culture for snackism” and its effect on our children.

2. I cut the convenience food & made it mandatory.  In the same way that I taught my son to share, not to hit when he is frustrated, to say “excuse me” and “thank you,” I also decided to teach him how to eat well. Teaching our children healthy eating habits should be a priority. We owe it to them. The new rule effective immediately was that all snacks had to be fruit. Done and done. We got rid of  the chips, crackers and snack bars and replaced them with fruit (mostly in season). The result:my kids ate more of their actual lunch/dinner and you’ll see what happened next.

3. I found a”Gateway Food.” The “polite one bite” wasn’t working for us. There were tears, foot stopping, irrational conversations. I knew I needed a vehicle to get the juicy, in-season fruit into his adorable little mouth.  I needed a Gateway Food.

The tricky part was finding a Gateway Food that was just as healthy as the fruit. He loves anything covered in whipped cream (who doesn’t?), but that would defeat the purpose. Then it hit me his Gateway Food is yogurt! The kid cannot go a single morning without a yogurt.

Introducing Yogurt Fruit Fondue*!fruit fondue

  1. Mix Greek yogurt with cinnamon and honey (alternatives: orange zest, applesauce, agave, peanut butter, maple syrup)
  2. Finely crushed walnuts
  3. Finely crushed granola
  4. Finely crushed graham crackers

Skewer the fruit with toothpicks and let your kids dip the fruit into the yogurt then into a crunchy topping of choice.

*to all the foodies out there…I know that fondue traditionally uses a HOT cooking medium

How did it go you ask? Check it out for yourself!

Homemade yogurt fruit pops, parfaits and shakes are all great ways to introduce fruit into your kids diets.  I’ll be posting a few of my favorite fruit pop recipes next week!

Follow me on Twitter @finicky2foodie for more tips on how to convert your finicky eater into a full-fledged foodie!

 

 

 

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#TheNewDadBod- Father’s Day Fit Guide

From “DadBod” to Fab Bod-dab bod 2
U.S. student Mackenzie Pearson may have made squishy male physiques or what she coined #DadBods sexy (click here for full blog post), but this Father’s Day we’re gonna help dads everywhere show boys 20 years their junior how to swap a beer gut for a different kind of six pack. #TheNewDadBod.
Put down the beer and slowly back away from the bacon!Here is my heart healthy Father’s Day gift guide that will help keep dads motivated, healthy and fit this summer! 
 
Peloton1. For the commitment phobe- 
Many men shy away from traditional gyms and gym classes….something about the commitment makes them skittish (cough cough). No more excuses! Peloton Bike brings the class to him! This bike offers live steaming spin classes as well as on-demand classes in the privacy or your own home. Click here for more info.
 
2. We are going to pump you up! U-33-Stage-2-no-stand
It’s hard to find space for a full set of dumbbells which is why Power Blocks are genius. Replace racks of dumbbells with ONE set of Power Blocks….the ultimate home dumbbells.
3. If your hubby is anything like mine then he hates to be hot and sweaty. Mission Athleticare Cooling Hat and Towels are the perfect gifts. The hats and towels have proprietary technology that works by absorbing moisture and perspiration into the fabric core where the unique radiator-like fiber construction circulates water molecules and regulates the rate of evaporation to create a prolonged cooling effect. 
powerbeats-2-black-standard-custom-1-O-O
4. For the gear guy-Music motivate and well we know how much Dads like their gear. Beats Wireless headset is the ultimate wireless headset. It’s got a 6 hour rechargeable battery, awesome sound, lightweight design, flexible earhooks and it’s sweat resistant.
 
5 Hike it off- Gift dad a great pair of hiking boots and a light weight backpack then head to Alltrails.com to find a local kid friendly hike for the whole family to enjoy!
 
Click on all of the hyperlinks for more info and pricing!
 

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