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July 30th, 2012

Samsung Make Your House Work


The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of exciting new experiences and I have been dying to share them with you!  A few months ago I was asked to serve as an Expert Cooking Panelist for Samsung’s new line of smart appliances alongside Patricia Heaton, Liz Pryor and Julie Morgenstern. I was super excited to be asked to participate in the event, but wanted to make sure the product line was something I could get behind before signing on. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I don’t promote anything that I don’t truly believe in. And in true Christina form, I dug into some serious Samsung research before saying “yes!” to the project.

Most importantly and right off the bat, I want you to know that even though I am in a paid partnership with Samsung, I was not in any was asked to write about their products or this program on my blog or anywhere else. I was hired for my experience as a home cook and a mom. As a part of my work with Samsung I was asked to sit on a panel with three amazingly smart, funny and talented mamas to offer real parenting experiences at their Make Your House Work event. On top of that I got to get to know the people behind Samsung’s Home Appliances and work with them to create some really useful tips videos to share with you via their awesome facebook page. This information is something I am sharing with you because I really think their products rock and I want you to benefit from my first hand experiences with the product line and the company itself.

I must admit that before this project when I thought of home appliances, Samsung was not one of the first names that popped into my head, technology was. I knew from personal experience with their electronics that they were at the forefront with technology but wasn’t really sure how that translated to their home appliance division. I’m not a techie by any stretch of the imagination and so I am not easily impressed by digital enhancements. It takes a lot more than a digital display or fancy TV screen to get this mama going in the appliance department but boy or boy was I pleasantly surprised with my Samsung research.

 

Samsung really thought of everything with their new line of smart appliances. They are attractive, innovative and really offer the home cook some fantastic technological advancements that really will help you be more efficient, organized and therefore enable you to send more time with the people you love most. Samsung is really mindful about not just using technology for technology sake and as a consumer who really expects a lot out of her appliances (like I’m sure most of you do), I really appreciate that. Every advancement is there to make your house work for you! Anyone can slap an LCD screen on a fridge but it takes a smart and thoughtful company like Samsung to use that technology to enhance your life in a very real and useful way.

As the Expert Cooking Panelist, one of my jobs was to get to know the Samsung Flex Duo Oven. OMG!! You guys! There is no other oven like this around and it was so cool to get to work with this beauty. It’s gorgeous, yes! But that’s just the outside. It’s everything you want esthetically—sleek, sexy and professional looking without looking too hard or industrial. But it’s truly so much more than that. What grabbed me right from the get-go was the fact that it is the first freestanding electric range (they offer a gas and induction range as well) to incorporate two ovens in one. A 5.9 inch cu. ft oven that has the ability to split into two seperate ovens—2.7 cu. ft and 3.0 cu. ft with the aid of a Smart Divider. This amazing feature gives you the option of preparing two entirely different dishes with two different cooking temperatures at once!!! Think: fish and chocolate cake. No mixing of aromas!

For reals!

Could you die?

I know!

I have to say that I have ALWAYS coveted those double wall ovens but like many people, my kitchen could never accommodate one so the fact that the Flex Duo oven can easily slip into most kitchen layouts is HUGE for me. Having the option of a double oven but still maintaining the flexibility to convert back to one large oven is truly genius!

One look at their facebook page and you can see just why I was so impressed with Samsung and their awesome new appliance line. Not only are these appliances great looking, what really made me want to work with them was their belief in helping families work “smarter, not harder” that really sold me.

Check out the Samsung Home Appliance page, it’s a great online resource where you can gather inspiration and ideas on how to Make Your House Work. Not only will you get recommendations and information on Samsung Home appliances, you will also have access to my exclusive Tips Videos, recipes and gain entry to an awesome Meal Planner Sweepstakes where you can win great prizes.

July 23rd, 2012

{Snack Attack} Quick Homemade Bread And Butter Pickles

 

My three year old is really into fresh cucumbers tossed in red wine vinegar. I’m thrilled that he’s onto something new and any way I can get him to eat more veggies is alright with me so I offer them frequently. For some reason though, he still won’t try a pickle from a jar so I decided that I would try my hand at a quick pickling to see if he’d like a homemade version better.

Turns out, making homemade pickles is easier than you would think and so much fun! My son had a blast filling the jars with cucumbers and watching them transform into something salty and delicious. These bread and butter pickle chips have a slightly sweet and tangy taste that’s great for sammies or anytime snacking and definitely a new family favorite.

 

 

 

July 13th, 2012

Summer Entertaining: Mojito Mocktails

 

Hey guys! Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. We just moved house and life has been, well, NUTS! I promise that a whole new slew of TBYT recipes are on their way, now that my kitchen equipment is out of boxes but until then, you simply MUST give one of my Classic or Blueberry Mojito Mocktails a try over at the Baby Gizmo Blog. I have to admit, I’ve made a few this past week (the boozy kind) to get me through the insanity that is unpacking an entire house with two wee ones underfoot.

They’re so delicious you’ll want to share them with the whole family, and you can! Make up a giant batch of the mocktail version to and add a shot or two (I won’t tell) of the “good stuff” to each adult glass. No matter what version you choose to sip, these recipes will definitely keep you refreshed and in good spirits. Whether you’re doing hard labor or just kicking back poolside you’re sure to be sippin’ in style.

 

Cheers, guys!

 

Get my Classic and Blueberry Mojito Mocktil Recipes here. 

 

June 20th, 2012

[CLOSED] Make Mealtime Fun: Tapas For Dinner And Zak Giveaway

Thank you for participating! A winner has been chosen .

Recently I was asked by Zak Designs to contribute to their blog by offering some ideas on how to make mealtime more fun. This request couldn’t have come at a better time for me because I have been working hard to find ways to spice up our own mealtime routine.

You see, my oldest son is three and he’s a bit of a toughie when it comes to dinnertime. Despite me making all of his baby food from scratch, trying my hardest to foster good eating habits and blah, blah, blah, he’s three and he’s a hard sell on some foods. He’s fidgety and picky at times and on many night’s it can be a real challenge to get him to eat dinner. I realize that his behavior is age appropriate and I do everything I can to encourage him to eat well and sit down with the family because, after all, that’s how we roll. Still, I cannot lie, his unwillingness to sit still and eat an entire meal frustrates me to no end and I find myself feeling exhausted and helpless at times. I know he’ll grow out of it and can only hope he will one day become the ravenous teenager that my friends warm me about, eating me out of house and home. But for now it’s my job to find ways to make dinner  more fun and exciting so I keep his interest and minimize my stress.

Yup! That’s my picky eaters hand reaching for the manchego. He proclaimed that this meal was the best he ever had  and I even got a “thanks mommy” for it! Yeah, buddy!

One of my new favorite ways to serve a meal is tapas style. My three year old went bonkers for this idea and I think your family will too. It’s fun and festive and takes some of the pressure off a more structured meal. Everyone has something to choose from and you can all feel a little more at ease. Plus, it’s fun! Using leftovers and some easy store bought goodies, you can turn a regular meal into a passport meal of adventure. Check out my blog on the Zak Design website and try some of my ideas at home.

CONTEST

 

PRIZE PACKAGE:
Zak was so cool to work with and wanted to offer one lucky winner not one, but two sets from their Table Art Collection—the Bloom 7 piece White and Yellow set and the Petals 7 piece Table Art Assorted Rainbow set. They’re BPA, PVC, Phthalate and lead free and oh-so-adorable. I have a set and just love it for al kinds of entertaining but especially for outdoor entertaining.

 

 

TO ENTER:

To be eligible to win, leave a comment below telling me what you do to make Mealtime More Fun in your house?

 

THE RULES:

  • Contest begins on Wednesday, June 20th @- 10pm EST and closes on Friday, June 22nd @ 10pm EST. One entry per participant, please.
  • Contest is open to all US residents but prize cannot be shipped to PO Boxes (sorry!).
  • Winner will need to provide email address and physical address so that prize may be shipped out.
  • A winner will be selected by the Randomizer tool on Random.org and contacted via email. If winner does not respond within one week of being contacted, a second winner will be chosen.
  • Prize will be shipped directly to winner by Zak.

 

*This will be shipped directly to the winner by Zak. I was paid for my participation in this program (recipe writing) and given some product samples for recipe development purposes, however, all opinions are strictly my own. I was not asked to review the products at all. If I didn’t like this product, I would not be writing about it. Trust.

 

June 6th, 2012

Cooking With Kids: The Edible Schoolyard

Avocado, Radish and Pea Shoot Open Faced Sandwich

My love for cooking came from the experiences I had as a child in our family kitchen. I have fond memories of being a pint sized sous chef to my grandmother, mother and aunt as they prepared our family meals. It was that early exposure that I feel led me to my passion for cooking and love for the family meal. To this day it is cooking that is my solace during times of turmoil, my respite during distress and the one thing that always centers me. My mother always says that I look most at peace when I am cooking. She is right.

I started my blog TakeBackYourTable.com as a way to share my passion for cooking and the family meal. My goal was to use my culinary skills to offer up easy, healthy recipes to families everywhere. Growing up Italian American, food and family went hand-in-hand. The family meal means everything and after I had my own children, my passion for it solidified. Each day I get to see first hand just how meaningful it is to teach children the importance of food and nutrition at an early age. The old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” always rings in my head whenever I have my babies by my side in the kitchen. It’s so true!  Although my kids are only one and three years old, I know that the moments they spend with us in the kitchen and around the dinner table are invaluable both physically and emotionally.

My three year old son working at the ESNYC Garden.

Pulling the cart was one of his favorite parts!

Teaching kids about food, where it comes from and how it’s prepared is less about making them into little foodies and more about giving them the tools to help them sustain a healthy lifestyle. Getting them involved in the kitchen teaches them to be confident and self-sufficient (among many other things) and those are powerful traits to have. In a time where our kids are surrounded by fast food, poor school provided lunches and childhood obesity is at an all time high, it has never been more important to arm them with the tools they’ll need to lead healthy lives and that all starts in the kitchen.

Learning so much thanks to the amazing ESNYC teachers and garden staff.

My passion for family and food lead me to my work with the Edible Schoolyard of New York—the first Edible Schoolyard on the east coast and the first ever, four season one at that! If you aren’t familiar with the program, it’s creation of Chef Alice Waters that started over 16 years ago in Berkley California. Their mission is simple: “ to create and sustain an organic garden and landscape that is wholly integrated into the school’s curriculum, culture, and food program. ESY involves students in all aspects of farming the garden and preparing, serving, and eating food as a means of awakening their senses and encouraging awareness and appreciation of the trans-formative values of nourishment, community, and stewardship of the land.”

My dream come true! Teaching a cooking class at my alma mater, P.S. 216.

Showing the students how to make dressing using an empty jar. We all love to shake it (hence the blurry image)!

 

Before 2010, there was no Edible Schoolyard on the east coast. Lucky for me the first east coast school to receive an Edible Schoolyard was P.S. 216 in Brooklyn, my alma mater! I worked with Director Christiane Baker and her amazing team to start the first ever PS 216 Family Nights. They understood my attachment to the school and my love for the program and were extremely encouraging and welcoming. Christiane and her team are everything you would want surrounding your children, kind, inspiring, encouraging and passionate, a true testament to exactly how special the program is.

One work station all ready to go for a basic vinaigrette lesson.

Our goal with Family Night was to give the families of PS 216 a better sense of the program and what it entailed. As parents, we all know how hard it is to get an answer to “what did you do in school today?” from our kids so i wanted to show them first hand what their kids were doing. During these events, they were given the opportunity to explore the garden, meet the staff, get a greater sense of the program and it’s amazing facilities. Beyond checking out the garden, parents, caregivers and students were given the opportunity to participate in small cooking classes that I conducted using in-season ingredients fresh from the garden to create delicious recipes like this Opened Face Avocado and Cheddar Sandwich and a leafy green salad with homemade vinaigrette. At the end of each event, everyone sits down together to enjoy the fruit of their labor. It’s wonderful to see children so eager to try what they made, even if they have never tried it before—confirmation that getting your kids involved in the growing and preparation of their food will make them healthier eaters.

 

The beautifully set ESNYC table, ready for us to taste the fruits veggies of our labor. : )

Mise en place aka everything we need to make a rockin’ fig vinaigrette!

According to the ESYNYC website, plans are in effect to establish five showcase schools, one in each borough of New York City. Their goal is to provide New York City’s one million public school students with access to an Edible Education. If you live in or around the NYC area, find out how you can volunteer with the program. Check out the ESYNYC website for community events and open garden hours when you and your family can get your hands dirty and learn something while you work in the garden. If you don’t live in the NYC area, get in contact with your local community to see if there are similar programs available. It will truly be an experience you and your family will never forget.

 

 

May 22nd, 2012

[CLOSED] Plum Organics Baby Food Giveaway. Plus, A Recipe For Baked Strawberry Breakfast Pockets!

I’m a big proponent of making your own baby food and I loved every minute of creating delicious meals for my babies. I felt like a total scientist in the kitchen when I was combining different flavors and textures to come up with exciting creations for my little ones to gobble up or spit out. Whatever. : )

Making my own baby food was a lot of fun and an experience I won’t ever forget. It definitely took time to make a stockpile of food, but I found the experience very rewarding.  Still, like every parent I definitely appreciated the convenience of pre-made organic baby food when I needed it.  Life as a parent is crazy busy and you are always running around and let’s face it, sometimes most of the time, we can use all the help we can get. There were definitely times when I relied upon organic baby food like Plum to get us through a plane ride, a rode trip or just as back up snacks in my diaper bag for emergencies. Trust me, those squeeze pouches are a godsend when you have a screaming toddler in the backseat of your car and you need food. Fast! I learned to pop those suckers open with one hand on the steering wheel. Saving grace, indeed.

When my first son was born, the organic baby food market was really beginning to explode and by the time I had my second son in 2011, Plum Organics had definitely proven to be one of the top companies on the market. Anyone can make a veggie or fruit puree, but it takes an extremely knowledgeable and thoughtful company to go beyond the basics to really make their product something special.  I have to say I am most impressed with their grain blends.  Being a big fan of millet and quinoa, I find it refreshing and super convenient to be able to find fruit and veggie purees that contain these super grains in an easy squeezable BPA-free pouch. Not only is plum giving people a change to explore new and exciting foods with their babies, their making it easy and delicious! Love. That!

The people at Plum make nutritious foods in order to inspire healthy eating habits. Not only are is their entire line certified organic, they never use artificial ingredients, trans fats or corn syrup in any of their foods and adhere to strict cooking methods that preserve both the nutrients and the flavor of the ingredients they use. From the BPA-free packaging to the flavor combos, every aspect of the Plum Organics line is well thought out and executed.

Plum organics obviously cares about the consumer and they truly believe that the product they make really matters and that’s something I can get behind. So, when I was asked to write a recipe for their Facebook Little Foodies Cookbox, I was more than happy to oblige. Using one of our favorite pouches—Strawberry Mish Mash—I created a Baked Strawberry Breakfast Pocket that easily rivals any store bought breakfast strudel and is nutritious enough to serve to your little eaters. Think mini pies filled with cream cheese and sweetened naturally thanks to the delicious Strawberry Mish Mash Pouch—the best excuse to eat pie for breakfast. Warning: you WILL want to eat the entire batch. Just remember to save some for the kids!

Find the Baked Strawberry Breakfast Pocket  recipe HERE!

 Recipe Link

 

As part of my participation in the Plum Organics Facebook Little Foodies Cookbox, Plum has generously donated a gift bag filled with lots of goodies for you to win!! Check out the contest details below. Good luck!

 

THE SWAG:

Prize package includes one Plum tote bag, 7 Plum Organic pouches, 3 Teensy Fruit packets, coupons, stickers and buttons.

 

TO ENTER:

To be eligible to win, leave a comment below telling me what you or your kids favorite breakfast food is. That’s it. That’s all!!

 

THE RULES:

  • Contest begins on Wednesday, Tuesday, May 22nd at 10:30am EST and closes on Friday, May 25th @- 10pm EST. One entry per participant, please.
  • Contest is open to all US residents but prize cannot be shipped to PO Boxes (sorry!).
  • Winner will need to provide email address and physical address so that prize may be shipped out.
  • A winner will be selected by the Randomizer tool on Random.org and contacted via email. If winner does not respond within one week of being contacted, a second winner will be chosen.

 

*This prize is valued at about $18.99 plus shipping and will be shipped directly to the winner by me. I was paid for my participation in this program (recipe writing) and given some samples for recipe development purposes, however, all opinions are strictly my own. If I didn’t like this product, I would not be writing about it. Trust.
April 23rd, 2012

Strawberry, Sour Cream, Cornmeal Cake

I’m obviously on a strawberry kick because this is my second post in a row utilizing these luscious red berries. What can I say? We are suckers for strawberries around these parts and my new obsession is baking with them. Believe it or not up until recently, I never even baked a cake using fresh strawberries. Craazaaay!

 

Anyway, last week I was in the mood for a breakfast-y type of cake, one that wasn’t too sweet—something that would be delicious served for brunch or dessert.  I decided to develop a cornmeal cake because I knew the texture of the cornmeal would be a nice savory balance to the sweetness of the berries. Turns out, cornmeal produced a lovely sturdy cake with an equally delicious earthy, chew. This cake also has olive oil and sour cream in it—both ingredients help to make the cake incredibly moist and it stays that way for days and days. Also, the olive oil gives it a gorgeous golden color and is really just perfect for this cake.

I recommend you make this cake ahead of time because it really only gets better as it hangs out. I’m actually thinking of making this again for Mothers Day as a treat for my mama (how’s that for thinking ahead?!) because she tried a piece during testing mode and has not stopped raving about it since then (a biggie for me since this gal is a tough critic!!). My Strawberry, Sour Cream, Cornmeal Cake is the perfect make-ahead sweet for Breakfast, Brunch or Dessert. Serve with a cold glass of milk or a steaming cup of coffee. Oh yeah, and put your feet up while you’re at it. You deserve it!

 

Hop on over to Momtastic for the recipe and while your cake’s in the oven, zip on over to the Webby Awards site and vote for Momtastic!!!!!

 

April 16th, 2012

Homemade Strawberry-Lime Gelatin

Up until very recently, my three year old had never tasted Jello. Weird, right? I just never grew up on it and I was not reallt a fan of the texture or weirdo fake taste.  Well, thanks to my mother-in-law, my three year old is now a fan and in a BIG way. I’m not sure if it’s the color, the jiggle or the sugar content but, whatever it is he thinks it’s super fun! And I guess if I look at it through his eyes, food that wiggles really, really is—FUN!

 

Since my big boys first taste of Jello he’s asked me a few times to make it at home and I’ve only actually done so once. In my humble opinion, the ingredient list is hella junky (duh, right?), it’s all artificial dyes and flavorings (yuck!) and there is definitely more sugar in it than I like my little guy to have. Rather than buy another box of that powdered concoction, I decided to do some research on making it myself using…(wait for it…), REAL FRUIT!! Novel idea, eh?

 

I knew it would be fun to start making Jello at home because would be fun to experiment with different flavors using in season fruit and fresh fruit juices. And now that that the Summer bounty is nearly upon us, we will have a lot to choose from for our gelatin making explorations. For my first attempt, I  knew I wanted to make strawberry gelatins because my entire family is obsessed with strawberries. During my research, I came across this recipe from the every fabulous Martha Stewart and it seemed simple enough so I figured I’d give it a whirl. I felt it could use a little less sugar (especially since my strawberries were crazy sweet all on their own) so I cut the original recipe back to 1/2 cup. I also swapped out the lemon for a lime because I looovre the taste of strawberries and lime. The taste and texture turned out great! It wasn’t as stiff as store bought Jello and that made me very happy. The final texture was gelatin-like but in a much more creamy and delicious kind of way. Best of all, my three year old who has a very picky  discerning palate stated that it was “Delicious! Thank you mommy for the best dessert ever!”. Success!

 

If you don’t feel like making a fresh fruit puree/juice for this recipe, you can certainly use a store bought, just be sure you use 3 cups total. Have fun!

 


 

 

April 4th, 2012

Easy Pan Pizza

 

My husband and I have been making homemade pizza for years and now that we have kids, it’s even more fun and exciting. It’s something we love to do, along with making homemade mozzarella. When we decide to have a pizza night, we break out the pizza stone, fire up the oven to 500 degrees and do it up right with only the freshest ingredients. Everyone gets involved and has a blast creating different pies. It’s an activity as much as it is a meal so we usually reserve “pizza nights” for Friday’s or the weekend when we have time to cook leisurely and clean up the mess that undoubtedly comes when children mix with flour.

Recently I found myself in a homemade pizza mood mid-week but I was alone with the kids and definitely  didn’t have the time or energy for a pizza making party. I wanted to keep things simple and relatively mess free so I decided to make a pan pizza instead of our usual thin crust/stone baked one. When making a margarita-style pan pizza, I like to add a deeper flavor to it by slathering the dough with a layer of tomato paste before topping with sauce and cheese. Tomato paste adds a deeper, slightly richer tomato flavor to the pie and really makes it a little different. Most people can’t pinpoint my “trick” but they know there’s something special about my pan pizza and now you know the secret too.

 

Pan pizza or “Sicillian” pizza (as we call it in Brooklyn) is made in a pan rather than on a stone and therefore has a thicker , heartier crust. It’s as equally delicious as a thin crust but in my opinion, much less fussy to make. You simply take store bought dough and press it into a greased 18″ x 13″ x 1″ (half sheet) pan, top it and bake it and in 15 minutes (or less) you have yourself a piping hot pie that’s bubbling with cheesy goodness. It’s easy clean up because, if your dough is properly rested, you don’t need to roll or toss the dough to form it, simply press it to fit the pan and your done! This is also a great way to feed a lot of people because it comes together in minutes and you can make two half sheet pans of pizza in the same time as it takes to make one. Make two different types (maybe one sweet and one savory?), cut them into smaller squares and you have yourself lunch for a crowd or a bunch delicious appetizers.

 

 

March 12th, 2012

Super Side: Braised Cabbage and Apples

Last week I gave you my recipe for Mustard and  Brown Sugar Baked Corned Beef. Wasn’t that a goodie?  But if you ditch the boiling method and go for baked for your corned beef this year, how the heck are you gonna get all that cabbage cooked? Well, worry not, my friends, you know I wouldn’t  leave you hangin’ without a deliciously unexpected way to prepare a Saint Patty’s Day side. I give you Braised Cabbage and Apples.

 

This is a recipe I created back in September after our annual apple picking extravaganza. As usual, we came home with one too many apples and I was looking for a more savory way to prepare them, one that would offset all of the baking I was doing at the time. I had a head of cabbage in my fridge that needed cooking so I decided to braise it up with a bunch of thinly sliced apples and before you know it, I had a winning side perfect for any day of the week but particularily great for Saint Patrick’s Day.

 

This is NOT your mama’s cabbage. Sightly sweet and a little tart, this side is one that will stand up beautifully to any roasted meat but is particularly delicious with my Mustard and Brown Sugar Baked Corned Beef. It’s super simple to make and can be made the night before. Enjoy!