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Archive for November, 2009

It’s official!  Starting tomorrow, Dec. 1, we’ll be delivering groceries directly to Northstar Commuter Rail travelers at the Coon Rapids-Riverdale station.

We’ll deliver between 4 – 7 p.m. on weekdays, so you can pick up your groceries on the way home from work.  Orders placed by 10 a.m. can be picked up the same day – which means that you can order the ingredients you forgot for dinner and pick them up on your way home without having to run to the store!  Delivery will be free on any order of $25 or more.

For more information, click here.

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As soon as our children reach school age, we take on a whole host of new worries: Will my kid have friends? Is learning fun? Is the day too long?

But my constant concern since my oldest set out for the big world of kindergarten 12 years ago wasn’t the social or learning part of school, but rather the lack of nutritious school lunches. Just last week, my third-grader was offered the following menu: super nachos on Monday followed by cheese sticks (deep fried that is) Tuesday, chicken teriyaki dippers on Wednesday and Krisp n’ Krunchy chicken tenders Thursday.  With these menu offerings, I had to say thank goodness it was only a four-day week!

In an attempt to find healthier alternatives, I’ve been packing my youngest son’s school lunches lately and surprisingly he doesn’t seem to mind. I order my groceries once per week, so it takes careful planning for of each week’s snack and lunch.  I take pride in variety, creativity and a smile from my 8-year old! Most weeks look something like this:

  • Monday: Whole wheat sandwich with turkey and American cheese. Mandarin oranges serve as a nice side.
  • Tuesday: He brings a thermos with a little something warm – soup or chili or stew (often left over from the night before or frozen lunch portions planned in advance).  Some grapes or an apple complete the meal.
  • Wednesday: Whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and jelly or cheese and ham, and some carrot sticks on the side.
  • Thursday: At this point in the week I’m often low on groceries, but my commitment hasn’t wavered. As I rummage through my snack drawer and refrigerator I assemble his lunch box with nutritious and fun snacks. We call it the “snack ‘n pack” day because often it’s not a real meal, but rather a selection of snacks ranging from cheese sticks, sliced peppers, fruit a la mode (leftovers cubed or sliced), rolled up slices of ham or turkey, celery with peanut butter, and a few crackers.
  • Friday: Halleluja – he gets to buy the dreaded school lunch.  He’s happy (Fridays are special he says) and I’m fresh out of lunch ideas. Works for both of us!

Take the challenge! Try one month of homemade lunches and you too will feel that you are doing something important for the health of your child.

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The other night, my husband and I took our two small children to a local mall to do some holiday shopping.  I thought this would be fun.  Apparently I was suffering from some sort of short-term delusional fantasy brought on by seeing holiday ads depicting cute, smiling children and sprinkled Christmas cookies. There was no leisurely strolling and window shopping for us.  There was no relaxed sipping of hot chocolate while calmly meandering from store to store.  Our experience consisted of a little one who would not move away from the toy store displays and flailed about in her stroller yelling, “Down!  Down!” and an older child who incessantly begged to ride the rides, refused to try on Christmas dresses, and complained about how tired she was from walking (from the first moment we entered the mall).

After that, I’m all about on-line shopping.

If you’re like me, there are approximately three bazillion items on your to-do list.  And yes, sometimes it’s fun to get out in the hustle and bustle and hit the stores.  Those Black Friday “door buster” sales can give you a rush and a sense of adventurous bargain hunting.  But sometimes it’s easier and simpler to sit at your comfy desk, make yourself a cup of tea, and click your mouse.  No leaving the house.  No futilely seeking an elusive parking spot.  No standing in line.  No enduring pushy people.

Make this holiday season easier on yourself when you can.  You’re already running around like a crazy person, right?  So get your grocery shopping done on line—no need to leave the house.  Check out deals at your favorite online stores.  There are a number of free shipping offers and Black Friday deals online.  Take advantage of them.  Plus, if you get your grocery shopping done online, you have more time for hitting the stores and taking advantage of Black Friday deals.

Yes, we have our favorite local stores, and we should spend our dollars to support our local economy when we can.  We should also make life easier on ourselves when possible.  Learn from my mistake: shop online and save yourself a stop or two so that you can do in-person holiday shopping in a relatively relaxed way—maybe even while sipping a cup of hot chocolate.

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I love the holidays, mostly because of all the delicious food I get to sample.  My favorite dish by far is my dad’s creamy mashed potatoes; my love for it is so profound that it regularly makes an appearance at my birthday dinner, and my dad usually prepares a separate dish for me to take home.  If you’re looking for a break from the standard mashed potatoes and gravy this holiday season, these are definitely a crowd-pleaser.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes:

  • 10 medium potatoes
  • 6 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
  • 2 tsp. onion salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • Grated cheddar or parmesan cheese
  • Dash of paprika
  1. Peel and quarter potatoes, boil until done and drain.
  2. Mash potatoes until smooth, mix in cream cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Beat well.
  3. Refrigerate at least 12 hours.
  4. When ready to bake, place potatoes in greased casserole dish.  Dot with butter, top with cheese and paprika.
  5. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!

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If you’re like me, just thinking about being responsible for the main event on Thanksgiving – in other words, the TURKEY – is enough to keep you up at night.  I haven’t hosted very many years at my own home, but this year we are having 11 people up north to our cabin, which means I haven’t been sleeping!

Since we have a smaller crowd, it is a perfect year to use the deep fryer.  We have done this before, for other Thanksgivings (as a secondary turkey, mind you) or other occasions, like a New Year’s Day meal.  But this time, the ONLY option is our deep fried turkey, and the pressure is all on us, so we’ve made sure to plan ahead for our deep frying adventure.

If you’ve decided to take the plunge this year and fry your Thanksgiving turkey, the following are essentials: (more…)

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My holiday memories consist of baking with my mom, gathering with loved ones around the table and a decadent turkey dinner with all the trimmings.  But what I always looked forward to the most (and still do!) was dessert…specifically pie.  Nothing beats the smell of a freshly baked pie, except, of course, the taste of a freshly baked pie.

Now that the holidays are upon us, I wanted to share some favorite seasonal recipes so that you too can incorporate an enticing dessert into your holiday menu.  Choose one of these unique variations of traditional pecan or pumpkin pies or opt for something a little more unexpected.

If you’re thinking that baking a pie is too hard, rest assured because I chose easy-to-make recipes including a simple Best Ever Pie Crust recipe.  If you don’t feel up to the task of making your own crust, I recommend the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust.

Best Ever Pie Crust

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • ½ cup water
  1. In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.  Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.   Stir in water until mixture forms a ball.   Divide dough in half, and shape into balls.   Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight
  2. Roll out dough on a floured surface with rolling pin.   Roll out into a circle that is one inch larger than pie dish, but don’t over work it.  Use as directed in recipe.

Walnut Crunch Pumpkin Pie: With its own unique variation, this pumpkin pie makes a spectacular appearance at the table and is almost too pretty to eat! (more…)

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Throughout the year, the one thing that usually gives me comfort is planning meals and entertaining dear friends. I know, it sounds absurd but true – hosting gives me a great sense of joy! However, for some reason, this year the thought of all that entertaining makes me feel slightly stressed out.  Instead of giving myself a headache worrying, I’m going to try something new this year.

For the first time, I’m going to focus on creating memories while being relaxed! Sounds impossible? Not with these helpful hints in place:

  1. Order all groceries online: Nothing makes me more stressed out than visiting my local grocery store along with 1,000 of my neighbors.  My blood pressure (already high) rises to levels that can possibly send me to a much-early grave.
  2. Buy as many dishes ready-made as possible: Here’s the deal: whether you’re entertaining family, friends or neighbors, as long as you put the ready-made dishes into a gorgeous serving platter and place on a pretty table (table cloth, napkins, flowers and candles) no one will know the difference. And the selection of delicious pre-prepared side dishes has grown exponentially over the last few years.
  3. Have friends and family bring a dish or appetizer to pass: I usually hesitate to have people bring food to my home since I want to make it easy and fun for my guests to plan an evening out. But not this season. I’m getting past my hesitation to inconvenience my friends and family (and I’m sure they won’t mind bringing a little something to share).

It is hard for me to “just make it easy” because I enjoy the ceremony around gatherings at my home: the food, the table and the ambiance.  So, even as I’m focusing on making things easier on myself this year, I still want to host memorable holiday evenings that feel welcoming and elegant.

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