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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

With kids (ok, well, with my kid) it’s all about the shape. When we go out to a meal, I have to ask what shape the noodles are in for the macaroni and cheese. What can I say, my son likes elbows not penne.

So with Passover around the corner, we decided to take these fun Manischewitz kid’s kits for a spin. The pizza kit is extra fun because the matzo inside is triangle shaped (because regular square matzo with pizza toppings just wouldn’t cut in our house). You know that if I tried to break the square matzo into triangles on my own it would be a hot mess! My son has just discovered “cooking” and loves to “help”. So he hopped up on his kitchen helper and got to work. First, he and grandma made the matzo pizza. A really fun activity to do with the kids. We set my son up on a baking sheet to try and contain the inevitable mess, and let him have at it. He had a ball.

The kit comes with triangle shaped matzo and sauce packets. You use your own cheese and can add on whatever toppings you like. We ended up just making cheese pizza – my son’s favorite. He could have spent the whole day making pizzas! You should have seen the look on his face, he was so proud of the finished product!

Next up we made the s’mores together. I wish that the weather was nicer so that we could have made these outside, but since it has been non stop rain, we settled for making them in the microwave. While I miss the graham cracker flavor with the s’mores, can you really ever go wrong with chocolate and marshmallows? I didn’t think so. These were so simple to make, check out the video above for the step by step.

So when you’re out shopping at Stop and Shop this weekend for your sedar, make sure to pick up some of these kits to mix things up!

For more information, check out the Manischewitz website here.

Make sure to head back here on Tuesday – I’m going to be showing you some fun tartines made with the mini matzos pictured above!

Disclaimer: I was provided complimentary samples for a review. All opinions are my own.

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The Smoke Shop is Chef Andy Husbands’ newest venture and passion project. You may know him tom his other restaurants, Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel. The Smoke Shop opened last spring and is open for lunch and dinner. There are many different styles of BBQ going on here: Memphis, Texas AND Kansas City. They have a great dining room, but also do take out and catering.

Here’s what I like about the Smoke Shop, they don’t give you heaping portions of food, they give you just the right amount of high quality, delicious, filling meats. So here’s what you can find on the menu, BBQ plates all come with two sides:  a full slap of ribs, pulled pork, hot links, big beef rib (served only on Saturday nights), prime brisket, burnt ends, glazed chicken thighs of wings.

Feeling a little more hungry than that? Want to try a little bit of everything? Try the “pit crew” that has two meats and two sides or the “pit boss” that is three meats and three sides. Sides include items like corn bread, sweet and spicy coleslaw, Texas toast, zucchini salad, pit beans, crispy Brussels sprouts, mashed sweet potatoes, farro and butternut squash, bacon collards or half sour spears. The corn bread was top on my list, but the collards were surprisingly good – a little on the sweet side.

And like you’re going to have any room for dessert at the end of this meal….but if you do, they come in these small sizes so you don’t feel bad about wanting to try one of each. Order 1 choice for $2, 3 for $5.50, or 8 for $13 (2 of each). The butter cake was delicious – they were would of the butter cake crack, so I guess I’ll just have to go back and try it. They also offer magic bars and s’mores. YUM!

Kendall Square has a lot of offices nearby, so lunch was pretty jammed and I am sure that they have a decent after work crowd (and they are right around the corner from the movie theater, so you have those people who are going to see a show stopping in for a bite to eat before or after the movie). Service was good and you could certainly bring your family here.

Parking is on street at meters if you can find one (be careful, some of the spots are only 1 hour spots and you’ll want to leave enough time to digest and roll out). There are also garages nearby.

The Smoke Shop

One Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

www.thesmokeshopbbq.com

The Smoke Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I’m a little embarrassed to say that I don’t think I had ever been inside the Boston Public Library until very recently. You’ve probably seen photos on Instagram of the Reading Room and the courtyard, but did you know that there is a restaurant inside? Tucked inside the library is The Courtyard Restaurant, a beautiful room where you can enjoy afternoon tea. How very adult, don’t you think? My fellow “ladies of leisure” (#GoLocalBoston) headed out to do some research there.

I’ve always thought that tea comes with a a hefty price tag, $39 for tea and finger sandwiches? I usually walk away hungry and I don’t even like tea. So the adult me heads into this meeting with an open mind. I get a hot chocolate instead of tea, because again, adulting. The room is spacious, open, light and airy. I love the color scheme and not so secretly wish I had a room in my house like this. They present you with a real book, and tucked inside is this tea menu on the left.

Our tower arrives with both sweet and savory goodies. While never a fan of finger sandwiches, these didn’t blow my mind, but were certainly fancy enough to make this feel like you’re celebrating a special occasion (oh wait, it’s just Monday). Side note: what do you think they do with all the crusts that they cut off these sandwiches? I digress. So the wild mushroom butter on Pain de Mie was one of my favorites, as well as the roasted ham and sharp cheddar. Such a lovely presentation. The top tier was adorned with plain and currant scones, fruit preserves, Devonshire double cream and lemon curd. Now we are talking. The scones were perfect, not too sweet, and the lemon curd just made me swoon. The lemon poppy seed cake was a hit, as were the raspberry thumbprints. The macarons came in assorted flavors and were a little out of the ordinary!

Service was decent and there were only a few other people there besides our group. Head over and have yourself a spot of tea and treat yourself to some tasty treats (make sure to eat with your pinky up for good measure 😉 )

The Courtyard Restaurant and the Boston Public Library

700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA

www.thecateredaffair.com/bpl/restaurant-cafe/the-courtyard-restaurant

The Courtyard Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Easter is just over a week away and I wanted to give you some ideas for the perfect Easter baskets! You know, something a little different, not your average Reese’s and Cadbury baskets (although, Cadbury mini eggs are my weakness!). All of these items (with an exception of a few things) are from small (mostly local) businesses, which I hope that you will support.

So here we go: Are you throwing an Easter brunch? What a perfect Pinterest way to showcase your amazing Easter baskets! Our party included home made chocolate covered pretzel rods and treats made by Bisous Sweet. Karen Collins is the talented baker behind the Bisous Sweet name. I’ve loved her linzer heart cookies and rugelach for some time now, and was delighted to see that she’s adding new things to her repertoire. These iced cookies are adorable, great for individual place settings or served on a platter. They come individually wrapped, so they can also go in your Easter basket. Look at that chocolate tart – so rich, with topping light as air! It’s sure to impress all of your guests. The chocolate cupcakes were a hit with us, the dark chocolate cupcake was filled with vanilla Italian meringue buttercream and glazed with dark chocolate ganache (and topped with my favorite, a Cadbury mini egg). Her bakery is located in Shirley, MA, but we have found Bisous Sweet goodies at Brothers Market in Weston, Volante Farms in Needham and Donelan’s Market in Lincoln. Check out her website to see where you can find Bisous Sweet treats near you.

I always like to send my guests away with something sweet – something from Spindler Confections would be perfect. I love the chocolate caramel pretzels because they come covered in white, milk AND dark chocolate. The caramel is made in house and the sea salt it’s topped with is from Gloucester. You can buy these goodies online, or if you are local, check out their shop in Davis Square.

I’ve been a big fan of EHChocolatier, so I am excited to show you an ENTIRE Easter basket with their goodies in it. The company started in 2010, by Elaine Hsieh and Catharine Sweeney. Their chocolates are top notch, trust me, you’ll love them. You can order these goodies online or you can visit their shop in Somerville during the week. So let’s talk about what’s in this basket: (clockwise from top right) Hand piped marshmallow chicks (4 for $8.00); Salted caramel Easter domes made with dark chocolate and filled with their popular salted caramel (5 for $15.95); Honey Bunnies filled with honey caramel (made with local Carlisle honey) (6 for $15.95); the classic chocolate rabbit that comes in white, milk or dark chocolate is approximately 5″ tall ($9.95) and the bunny pop ($3.50) comes in caramelized white chocolate, 70% dark chocolate or 45% milk chocolate; and the marshmallow caramel bunnies (3 for $11.95) are made with homemade vanilla marshmallow with a touch of honey and a dollop of dark caramel.

Do you have a sports fanatic at home? I filled this basket with a Red Sox hat (because, hometown pride and all), a Si’p by S’well 15oz aluminum water bottle (it’s important to stay hydrated when consuming this amount of Easter candy!) which I bought at Target for $24.99 (it comes in a variety of colors), chocolate sports ball candy (basketballs, golf balls, and soccer balls) that I picked up at the Wayside Country Store in Marlborough, and some hard candy sports balls from Pure Sugar Candy. Stacey Nectow runs Pure Sugar Candy, based in Needham, and makes all kinds of custom hard candy. Basically anything you can dream of: basketballs, golf balls, tennis balls, baseballs, footballs, hockey players etc. And that is just the sports themed things, you’ll have to check out her Facebook page to see a larger sample of what she can make! (Continue reading to see some of her other goodies below) Their new spot in Holliston is almost ready, so keep an eye out for their brick and mortar shop to open!

Don’t want to go with a theme? No problem, this Easter basket will make anyone happy! I had this bunny from Jellycat that I couldn’t resist adding in, along with the Duck & Goose Here Comes the Easter Bunny book. Duck & Goose books are favorites in our house, and the board book fits perfectly in this adorable Spritz basket that I found at Target. The pink bunny pajamas are from Gap ($26.95) and come in sizes 6 months to 5 years. The Spindler Confections caramel pretzels are in here, as well as a Bisous Sweet cookie. No Easter basket would be complete without Peeps ($5.95), these ones, dipped in chocolate (white, milk or dark) are from Phillips Chocolates, Boston’s oldest chocolatier. You can order Phillips candy online, head to their corporate headquarters on Morrissey Blvd., or check out their store in the South Shore Plaza. Side note: they make the most delicious turtles, so you should pick some up for yourself while you’re shopping for others.

I thought that a farm themed basket would be cute. This basket was a Spritz basket I picked up at Target. Again, the pajamas from the basket above from the GAP. I added in a chicken stuffed animal by my favorite brand, Jellycat. I realize that lumberjacks aren’t found on a farm, but I love this guy, Duke, made by ChickPea Studios out of Waterbury, VT. I found him on Etsy, one of my favorite places to support small businesses. We love these “Bernie’s Farm Animal Cookies” by Annie’s in my house. The individual packages are perfect for snacking on the go and they come in fun shapes like a cow, a tractor, a barn and a chicken. They are made with organic wheat and are naturally colored with fruit and vegetable extracts (if that’s important to you!). Harbor Sweets makes my favorite candy, Sweet Sloops, but they make other delicious goodies as well. The peanut butter pony ($13.95) is perfect for this farm themed basket, and a lot more fun (and tasty) than those other peanut butter and chocolate treats. Farm shaped lollipops from Pure Sugar Candy are an adorable addition to this basket and they come in a variety of flavors. Those Donald and Daisy duck macarons are made by Tamy, of Maca Boston. Tamy makes some of the best macarons I’ve had outside of Paris, check out my previous post about her here.

My last basket is a nautical themed basket. The bags are bucket bags from Sea Bags, located in Portland, ME. I use these bags at Christmas as “stockings” for our family, so I was happy to find another holiday to use them for. I may have a small (ahem, large) addiction to Sea Bags, I probably have half a dozen tote bags in addition to 6 of these bucket bags. They are super functional and easy to clean, perfect for a family on the go. I filled these bags with a box of sweet sloops from Harbor Sweets (12 piece box for $13.50) and some Barque Sarah’s (my second favorite candy they make) which are whole toasted almonds in milk chocolate, chocolate mini turtles from the Wayside Country Store, sailboat lollipops and a lighthouse from Pure Sugar Candy, and a notepad and set of little notes from my new favorite company, E. Frances Paper, located in Newport, RI. How can you resist these adorable sailboats or the adorable seagull in a striped shirt (also, not to be missed are the crab and whale in the striped shirt). They’re so cute you almost don’t want to use them!

Not hosting an Easter brunch, but going to one? I always like to bring a little hostess gift. I filled a blue and white striped mixing bowl from Crate and Barrel  ($19.95) with some delicious goodies. The bowl will be used long after the treats are gone!

Here’s what’s inside:

  • A large chocolate Easter egg from Pao Brasil Bakery in Framingham ($16.95)
  • Custom flower cookies by A Dozen eggs. These all butter vanilla sugar cookies come individually wrapped and are just amazing. Beautifully decorated AND delicious. (Lilies are 4 for $15.95, 12 for $39.95, 24 for $78.95) (Tulips are 4 for $15.95, 12 for $34.95, 24 for $68.95). Laura started her business in Boston in 2004, and has since moved up to Mount Holly, VT.
  • Fudge filled egg from Phillips Chocolate ($14.95) which you can get in milk or dark chocolate. Other filled egg flavors include: dark coconut, dark yolk, milk coconut, milk rocky road, and milk turtle. (YUM!! Turtle filled egg, sign me up!!)
  • Gather Chocolates by Harbor Sweets (6 piece box for $12.50). These are the newest addition to the Harbor Sweets family, and they are raising awareness of the plight of the honeybee. Harbor Sweets will be donating 2.5% of all sales to the Pollinator Partnership to aid inn their efforts to preserve and protect the honeybees. Flavors in this box include: caramelized honey, pomegranate molasses, sour cherry, sesame crunch, coconut cluster and cashew caramel. Each chocolate is flavored with a  note of local wildflower honey.
  • A Robert L. Strohecker Assorted Rabbit ($18) by Harbor Sweets that is filled with caramel and pecans, almond butter crunch toffee and whole toasted almonds. It comes in two halves, each individually wrapped in gold foil.
  • Easter Marshmallows from Williams Sonoma
  • Assorted chocolates from Spindler Confections
  • Bottom left is a nice selection of treats from Formaggio Kitchen. You can order online or visit one of their stores in Boston, Cambridge, or New York. Greek Honey Botanic Blossoms ($14.95), P&T Sprite’s Delite tea ($23.95)  a green team with hints of strawberry and basil, Generous Stracciatella ($8.95) gluten free cookies that are made in Belgium,
    Sorelle Nurzia Classic Brittle Nougat with Almonds ($16.95), and Pietro Romanengo Fondant Candies ($32.95) that come in a variety of flavors, such as raspberry, pear, strawberry and licorice.

So now that I’ve told you all of my favorite things to add into my Easter baskets, what are your favorite things to add into your Easter baskets?

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Located in a small strip mall in Wayland, Water Lily offers a nice selection of Chinese food. They do a ton of take out business, so it was nice to have almost the whole place to ourselves. This would be great for families and there were even people dining solo here. The staff was attentive and friendly.

We order the same things these days, with kids it’s hard to try new things when we are out at a restaurant. So we went with the General Gao chicken, served with steamed broccoli, the scallion pancakes and the chicken lo mein. The chicken was crispy, sweet and had a nice little kick to it. The broccoli was so tasty that even my son ate it. The scallion pancakes were good – perfectly crisp on the outside and just the right amount of salty goodness. They weren’t too greasy, which I really liked. The lo mein wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, it was a little heavy on the sauce, but the noodles were good and there was a good amount of chicken in the dish.

Where is your go to Chinese take out spot?

Water Lily

309 Boston Post Road, Wayland, MA

http://www.waterlilyrestaurant.com/

Water Lily Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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When you have an almost 13 year old coming to visit, it’s hard to find things that she would want to do. We finally settled on heading over to Patriot Place to do “Espionage” at 5Wits (which she ended up thinking was pretty cool) and ended up doing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea afterwards. Red Robin wouldn’t be my first choice to eat, but it was guest’s choice.

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They serve over the top milkshakes and malts in flavors like mint brownie and nana nana moo moo (banana puree and Hershey’s syrup), smoothies and ice cream sodas.

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They also have a selection of bottomless beverages like prickly pear lemonade and very berry limeade.

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This place is great for kids. They have something that will appeal to even the fussiest – pasta with red sauce, pepperoni pizza, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, meatballs, mac and cheese, and even bite sized corn dogs. Kids also get bottomless sides: fries, carrots, salad, broccoli, apples, fruit salad or mandarin oranges. My son would be in heaven! While I’m not sure that I would categorize this burger as “gourmet” ike Red Robin does, it was certainly edible. The sautéed shroom burger comes topped with swiss and a little too tough mushrooms. I chuckled a bit when it says, “pair with Heineken” on the menu.

Our server was friendly and attentive. The restaurant is great for large parties or those stopping in for a quick bite.

Red Robin

201 Patriot Place, Foxboro, MA

http://www.redrobin.com/

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I had never heard of Noodles and Company before, but I was picking up my cousin at the Route 128 train station and we were looking for a place to grab a quick bite. Now let me tell you how much I love noodles. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be noodles. I love them plain with butter and with bolognese sauce. So a place called Noodles and Company seemed like there would be something I’d like, right?

This chain restaurant was founded in 1995 by a Pepsi marketing executive. While I like the idea of the restaurant chain, it leaves something to be desired. It felt like the McDonald’s of noodles. When you look at the pictures on the website, they look delicious. Yes, that penne rosa looks like I would want to eat it, and hey, that spicy Korean beef noodle dish looks totally edible. What we got was totally different. Let me also mention that we were one of the only people at the restaurant, so there wasn’t a big lunch rush we were competing with…

Noodles were tossed into bowls, it looked sloppy, half of the things that we ordered came out cold. If they say that you eat with your eyes, I’m thinking I’ll pass.

They do have gluten free options and vegetarian dishes. They have options with 500 calories or less for those watching their figures and they call out options for those watching their sugar or watching their sodium intake. While they have all the right potential to be great, I felt let down. Perhaps another location would be different.

Have you ever been to a Noodles and Company location? Love it or hate it? What did you get? How was the service?

Noodles and Company

125 University Ave., Westwood, MA

https://www.noodles.com/

Noodles & Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Located just past the Wayside Inn, AJ Cakes is a new (ish) bakery located just over the line in Marlborough. While the majority of Ashley Miller’s business is in custom cakes and pastries, they do have a great pastry case that is filled with lots of goodies. Selections change often, but you can usually find a nice assortment of croissants, scones, and breads. They have coffee and tea if you want to stay and eat and even offer free wifi!

I’m there pretty often, so my favorite thing that Ashley makes are these enormous cinnamon rolls. Cue diabetes. Make sure to go early if you want one of these, they sell out pretty quickly!

These bars were super tasty, how can you go wrong with anything chocolate. And how cute are these iced cookies?

Another favorite of mine are her raspberry pop tarts. Never ate these as a kid (…shocking I know…). Justin Samson re-introduced me to them (after I broke an unhealthy work addiction to the boxed kind) and now that he’s moved to North Carolina ( 🙁 ), I can get my fix again at AJ’s. Seriously, go and try one for yourself.

The girls behind the counter are always friendly and you can usually catch Ashley baking away in the back.

AJ Cakes

1019 Boston Post Road

Marlborough, MA

http://www.aj-cakes.com

AJ Cakes Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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East Boston is not really on my radar, but it should be. First, because KO Pies is located in the shipyard. Second, on a nice day, it’s a great place to wander around. There’s free parking on the street and lots of cool things to see. KO Pies is on the smaller side, but they have a tent next door when the weather gets nice (when will that be exactly?!?!) and you can eat outside.

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You can eat in or take out (oh, and they do catering as well). They’re open for lunch and dinner (Southie is now actually open for “brekkie” as well). You can even grab a frozen pie to go, which is what we did. KO Pies was founded in 2010, and they were the first Australian inspired food business in New England. Let me tell you, they make the BEST pie crusts! Light and flakey, perfectly matched with savory fillings. I am a big fan of the classic beef pie ($6.85). They have other flavors, such as: Irish beef stew, braised lamb shank, classic beef with cheese, and curried vegetable. I highly recommend trying one of their sausage rolls!

If you’ve decided to eat in, work off your lunch by walking around the shipyard and taking  look at some of the art!

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a spin afterwards on the water taxi! Fun for kids and adults, and I think out of town guests would also really enjoy it!

KO Pies at the Shipyard

256 Marginal Way, Building 16

East Boston, MA

http://www.kocateringandpies.com/

KO Pies at the Shipyard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I always enjoyed Iggy’s bread when I bought it at the store. I didn’t realize they have their own little shop over in Cambridge. It’s out of the way, and not super obvious to find, I drove by two or three times before I figured out where the lot was. Call me directionally challenged.

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Iggy’s sells their bread (obviously), but they also offer a nice selection of baked goods, sandwiches and lunch offerings. Make sure to try their pizza, they have some great topping combinations. I especially love their jam cookies ($2 each) and their linzer cookies ($2 each). They remind me of similar ones that my grandmother used to make. I can’t get enough of them!

They have a variety of different breads: country, whole wheat, Frances, white rye, dark rye, French, breadsticks, olive, ficelle, focaccia, brioche, 7 grain, raisin pecan, cranberry pecan, bagels, croissants, ciabatta and pain de mie.

Iggy’s Bread

130 Fawcett Street, Cambridge, MA

http://www.iggysbread.com/

Iggy's Bread of the World Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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  • The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015
  • A Little Bit About a Lot of Things