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A Little Bit About a Lot of Things

A lifestyle blog with a focus on my food adventures

I bet that you never want to look at another pot after just cooking that AMAZING Thanksgiving meal. Am I right? Well here’s a great option if you just want to whip up something quick and easy. Just Add Cooking. There are a ton of meal delivery options out there, so why choose Just Add Cooking? I know Amanda Mayo from her days at Pantry. I liked making those meals, and making these meals felt similar (easy to follow recipes and not a lot of cook time).

So how does it work? You pick what size box works for you, cooking for two or cooking for 4. You pick the recipes you want to create for the week. We picked with Polish Potato and Sausage Stew, the Beef Teriyaki and the West African Peanut Stew. Order by Wednesday and your meals are delivered on Sunday. They drop off your meals and send you a text that they have been dropped off (just in case you’re not home). Just Add Cooking works really hard to support local farmers and producers – my box came with organic cabbage from Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, orange potatoes from Atlas Farm in Deerfield, Kielbasa from New England Charcuterie in Waltham, and organic sweet potatoes from Next Barn Over Farm in Hadley.

All the ingredients are pre measured, so you don’t have to think about a thing. The recipes all come with a level of difficulty, cooking time and caloric information. I found that the beef teriyaki, which was marked medium, was actually super easy to make. So my welcome packet gave me a suggested order to cook things in. I started off with the Polish Potato and Sausage Stew. The brown paper bag has all I need to make the recipe, so I don’t have to worry that I’ll leave something out or mix up the ingredients with something from another recipe. There was very limited prep that i needed to do. Wash the potatoes, cut the kielbasa and onions and that was about it. Now granted, I rarely cook these days, so mine did not come out looking like the beautiful picture on the recipe, and you know what, that’s ok. What matters is that it was easy to make on a weeknight, it tasted good, and even my picky eater tried some and liked it.

They give you a copy of the recipe so you can make it again at home if you liked it. If you want to see how I made this recipe, check out the recipe on the Just Add Cooking website.

My second recipe I tried was the beef teriyaki. To be honest, I had to look up what mirin was, it’s not an ingredient I ever use in cooking. In case you don’t know either, it’s a staple in Japanese cooking, a type of rice wine with a lower alcohol content and a higher sugar content. You can find it in your local grocery store near the soy sauce. I had to admit that this was the easiest thing that I made. And it was AMAZING! I’ve already made it again on my own and people RAVED about it. Something about that sauce (the mirin probably!). Check out the recipe here. My other confession is that when I made it, I was contemplating not sharing it and eating all four portions myself. I can’t say enough good things about this recipe, oh and wait, it’s gluten free if that’s your thing. They have a whole bunch of gluten free meal options available.

Want to try Just Add Cooking for yourself? You can use my special code: Debbie30 for $30 off your first box. Head over to the Just Add Cooking website today.

Disclaimer: I was invited to try Just Add Cooking for this post. My box was provided complimentary. All opinions are my own.

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I have a confession to make. Thanksgiving is one of my least favorite holidays. I don’t even like turkey. (GASP!) So sometimes the idea of spending Thanksgiving away is very appealing. Cue the Boston Marriott Newton. A perfect place, close to home, where you don’t have to worry about making your bed or cleaning up the kitchen. I recently had the opportunity to check out their recently renovated rooms with my family. The views of the river from our room were amazing – while beautiful all year round, I was just imagining what fall foliage season would be like out this window! The hotel is easy to get to, with easy access to Route 128 and the Mass Pike. It’s close to Boston College and Brandeis University. The rooms have these amazing showers that are so much nicer than the one I have at home. And when traveling with a family, having a fridge in the room is such a pleasure. The kids can come back to a snack later in the day – perhaps a little something to refuel with after an afternoon of swimming in the heated pool. My kids are water babies, they love the pool. The pool at the Boston Marriott Newton is WARM, like amazingly warm that you never want to get out. We were in there for over and hour. There were some other families that were there so it was fun to play with other kids. The second day, we even met some kooky friends and had a Billy Joel sing along while swimming!

While there are some restaurants in the area, if you’re like us and having a staycation, why bother leaving the property? The Riverbend Bar and Grill was a perfect place for our family to catch an early dinner. We had the same great view from our room at dinner, overlooking the river. In the warmer weather, you can rent a canoe or a kayak and take in the scenery from a different viewpoint. The restaurant was super kid friendly, with coloring pages and stickers for the kids. The portion size for the kid’s meals were huge, we had leftovers – thank goodness for that in room fridge! It was a little chilly outside, so I was in the mood for some comfort food. I started with the Portuguese Mussels with chorizo sausage, peppers and onions in a spicy tomato broth. Such a good combination. Give me all of that Italian ciabatta bread to soak up every last bit of that sauce!! For my main meal I had the braised short rib ragu, served over orecchiette pasta. Again, huge portions and it was so stick to your ribs tasty. What other items can you find on the menu? Pollo Arrosto, a boneless chicken breast with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach; Roasted Atlantic Sea Scallops with grilled rainbow swiss chard; Grilled Australian Lamb Sirloin with mascarpone cheese polenta and roasted seasonal vegetables; and a Grass Fed Beef Ternderloin with fresh locally made herb butter. Many of the items on the menu can be made gluten free. Desserts were equally tasty, I finished my meal with a sweet and tart key lime pie – one of my favorites!

The lobby has a Starbucks kiosk, because mama needs her caffeine (am i right?). They have coffee, tea and snacks all day long. Need a snack to go? The lobby has you covered with sweet and salty snacks, cold drinks and fun souvenirs. Looking for something to do for the day? My kids liked checking out all the area had to offer. Additionally, they have a business center if you need to hop on a computer or print something out.

Breakfast the next morning was at the Riverbend Bar and Grill and we were enticed by the buffet (they also offer an a la carte menu). I’m a sucker for an omelette. The spread was so impressive that I almost missed the omelette station tucked into the corner. Fresh shellfish, tasty green beans, and holy chicken! The dessert bar was a favorite among most guest of the restaurant with lots of oohs and ahhh. I do love a mini cannoli or 3. Breakfast is all about balance, so I did stop at the fresh fruit station, where they had all my favorite things – that pineapple was oh so tart and I loved the mixed berry option. Service was top notch, both at dinner and at breakfast. We were well looked after but also given the space to catch up and chat about the day.

Have you ever spent Thanksgiving at a hotel?

Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to stay at the Boston Marriott Newton. My stay and my meals were provided complimentary. All opinions are my own.

Boston Marriott Newton

2345 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton, MA

Riverbend Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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I’ve had cranberries on the brain lately, so Leah and I got together and made some tasty Cranberry Corn muffins, adapted from Ina Garten’s Raspberry Corn Muffin recipe. So first you will need Leah’s cranberry sauce recipe. If this were just me making cranberry sauce, I’d do the water, sugar and cranberry recipe, but Leah is way more fancy than that. She swears the recipe is super simple, and to be honest, I just made a batch and it really is (except I didn’t have the port, or the cloves, or the orange zest at my house, but hey, minor details…) Also, disclosure that I didn’t use flavored sugar, I just used regular old white granulated sugar.

Next you’ll need the recipe from Ina for her corn muffins, which you can find here. For our cranberry corn muffins, just swap out Ina’s 3/4 cup of good raspberry preserves for Leah’s cranberry sauce.

Leah had some fancy cornmeal from Plymouth or something like that. I had to go out and buy some from the market since I’m making these for Thanksgiving this year (yup, I steal most of Leah’s good ideas!) We whipped up the muffins in no time, even with the little hands in the kitchen slowing us down a bit…

Pop those muffins in the oven for 30 minutes and then you get these! They look beautiful as is, but we took to filling them with the delicious cranberry sauce.

If you’re like me and don’t have an apple corer at home, you can just fill a ziplock bag with the preserves and push the tip into the top of each muffin. Verdict, they’re delicious. Leah sent me home with a few and I have to admit, I didn’t share (oops)!

What is your favorite dish at Thanksgiving?

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For the past 70 years, the Rhodes family has been harvesting cranberries, and has made Cape Cod Select Cranberries a household name. If you’re like me, you probably only think of cranberries at Thanksgiving time, but they are great all year round. The Cape Cod Select website has a bunch of great recipes to choose from, both sweet and savory, that sound pretty darn tasty. I was most excited about these cranberry squares that we got to try when we arrived in Carver for our tour. They’re super easy to make and you can even get the kids involved. Find the recipe here.

In true New England style, it poured like crazy for the tour of the bog. Good thing we brought boots! We slipped on some waders and headed into the cranberry bog to see what it was all about. Cape Cod Select grows four types of cranberries, two that are harvested early in the season and two that are harvested late in the season. The type of cranberry depends on if they are wet or dry harvested.

They laser level the bogs so that they can efficiently reuse the water on the next bog when they flood them. When do they flood the bogs? Three times a year: to harvest, in the winter to preserve the bog (they let the water freeze and add sand on top), and occasionally for pest control (those pesky bugs can’t live under water 😉 ). They have about 800 acres of land, 200 bogs and it takes about 4 hours to harvest a whole bog. That big machine you see gently shakes the cranberries up to the surface where they are collected and packed into bins.

Cape Cod Select offers fresh and frozen cranberries and you can find them in most major retailers. If you want to find a store near you that sells Cape Cod Select Cranberries, click here.

After we got out of the rain, we toured the inside of the facility. We watched how the cranberries were sorted and separated from the stems.

This cool machine looks at the conveyor belt below it (that has cranberries on it) and can see the damaged, undersized or discolored berries. It then shoots air down at those berries and they go into a different bin – the “perfect” berries move on to packaging. Each bag is stamped with a code so that each bag can be traced to a particular bog and it can tell you when it was harvested. Pretty cool!

What is your go to cranberry recipe?

For more information, check out the Cape Cod Select website.

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Right after we went to Pumpkin Day, we headed over to Wareham to go to the Cranberry Festival. The festival was held on a Saturday and a Sunday in October, and it was rumored that they saw over 14,000 people! So what should you expect? Long lines, we probably waited 20 minutes just to get to the parking lot. Once we got to the “lot” we realized that it was a big sand pit. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. They have busses to take you from the lot to the ticket tent, but it’s hard to get a stroller on. I suggest getting there first thing. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children and seniors and free to kids under 7.

When you first walk in there are tons of booths for sampling and activities for the kids. We went straight to the back to catch  a bus to the bog. We probably waited in line for about 10 minutes – there was a bus every few minutes, it was very efficient. Once you arrive at your destination, you were able to see the flooded cranberry bogs and for $25 a person, you could throw on some waders and jump right into the bog! Made for some super cute photos. For $50 per person you could go up in a helicopter and see the bogs from above. They had a tractor ride that took you around the bog and a fun activity for the kids where they could make a ‘bog in a cup’.

There was live music, local artisans, paddle boat rides and food for sale. All in all, a long, but fun day.

Did you miss the festival? You can take a public tour of the bogs as well, head over to the website for more details.  Tours are about an hour and a half. There isn’t a lot of walking, but make sure to wear boots! (Soggy feet are no fun) (Note: public tours are finished for the 2017 season) If you have a group of 10 or more, you can arrange for a private tour. From the website:

Visit any time of year! April and May is when the bogs come back to life; June and July is our typical Blossom Season; August through early September the berries are growing as we prepare for harvest; Mid-September through early November is our Harvest Season; December/March is time for winter care and maintenance.

AD Makepeace Company

158 Tihonet Road, Wareham, MA



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Trying to wrap up all things fall since December is right around the corner. Wanted to share some fun images from Pumpkin Day at Bourne Farm. It takes place every year (rain or shine) at Salt Pond Bird Sanctuary. Parking and admission is free, but you pay for tickets per activity. Not only is there a large pumpkin patch for the kids to pick out their own pumpkins, but they have crafts, a petting zoo, pony rides, hay rides, tractor hay tides (the kids went 3 times!), face painting, bounce houses and the biggest hit for us was the bubble guy.

There is lunch and baked goods available for sale under the tent and you can hang out and enjoy the scenery (the grounds are beautiful) or relax to the live music. We had a super tasty pizza from Wolf Pizza. Don’t want to wait until their next event, don’t worry, they cater too.

For more information about Bourne Farm, check out their website.

Bourne Farm

6 North Falmouth Highway, North Falmouth, MA

Wolf Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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While Leah and I were in the kitchen making the risotto that was on the blog yesterday, we also made Thanksgiving croutons with Bell’s Seasoning. Does this fit into my every day lifestyle, not really, but Leah said it was so easy. I played along, and yes, it did end up being very easy (if you don’t have little kids running around – which I do). Maybe in 10 years I’ll have time to make these, until then, croutons from the bag it is (or maybe even no croutons at all) 😉

So what do you need? Stale bread, Bell’s Seasoning and a little oil. THAT’S IT! Leah whipped up a really beautiful fall salad to go with our Bell’s Seasoning croutons, made with roasted delicata squash.

Cube up stale bread (4 cups). Pour 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil into a cast iron skilled and warm in pan over medium heat. Add in cubed bread and coat with oil from pan. Sprinkle bread with Bell’s Seasoning (to taste) and cook for 20 minutes. Let cool in pan and enjoy!

How beautiful does this fall salad look?

Disclaimer: I was sent a box of Bell’s Seasoning to make this recipe. All opinions are my own.

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I feel like the holidays are just sneaking up on me. I needed to start thinking about Thanksgiving like…. three months ago, and am just getting started, talk about cutting it close. Good thing I have Leah from Boston City Living. We got together and made some really simple holiday recipes – which I need these days because of the kiddos. We teamed up with Bell’s Seasoning, and made a delicious risotto. Really tasty, made in about 10 minutes, and is the perfect gluten free side that you need on your table.

Here’s the recipe:
3 Tablespoons of olive oil
3 Tablespoons  butter, divided
1 medium  onion, diced
2 shallot or 1 small onion, minced
2 carrots, sliced
1 1⁄2cups  arborio rice or 1 1⁄2 cups  risotto rice
4 cups  chicken broth
1 -1 1⁄2cup fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 TBSP of Bell’s Seasoning

In a presssure cooker, heat 3 Tbs Olive oil and 1 Tbs Butter.
Add shallot or onion and carrots. Saute until shallots or onions are translucent.
Add rice. Stir until rice is coated with oil.
Add Chicken broth and 2 Tbsp of Bell’s Seasoning.
Cover and cook under high pressure for 7 minutes.
Release pressure and add remaining 2 Tbsp of butter. Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve.

Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of Bell’s Seasoning to make this recipe. All opinions are my own.

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It has been SO cold lately – I’ve been dreaming of warmer weather. How many more days until spring? So while we wait for them to re-open for their 81st season, in April of 2018, I thought I’d give a shout out to one of my favorite ice cream spots, Erikson’s Ice Cream in Maynard. Erikson’s serves old fashioned ice cream, many of their flavors are from recipes created in the 1930’s.

In the warmer months, the parking lot is packed and the small patio out back is filled with the sounds of summer. The serving size is enormous – so order accordingly. They offer regular ice cream as well as soft serve as well as a variety of other ice cream treats. While I generally go with strawberry, some other favorites include: banana oreo, avalanche (vanilla, caramel swirl and caramel truffles), chocolate mint oreo, dark and stormy and pistachio pumpkin.

Where is your favorite ice cream spot?

Erikson’s Ice Cream

12 Great Road, Maynard, MA

Erikson's Dairy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We stopped into Oath Craft Pizza one day to sample their new limited time flavor, “Mr. Crunch”. You’ve probably heard Bobby Flay talking about how he loves potato chips on sandwiches and burgers, but let’s be honest, what do potato chips taste bad on?

The Davis Square location appeared to do a lot of take out while we were there, but there are tables if you want to stay and eat. The kids loved watching the pizza being made, and I loved how the pizzas were ready in no time at all.

The Mr. Crunch pizza has creme fraiche/ricotta sauce, artisanal smoked ham, gruyere cheese, crushed Cape Cod potato chips and chives. And even better, 10% of the sales from this pizza help sponsor their Nantucket Project Scholar, Genevieve Liang, Executive Director of Cardborigami.

The pizza was all kinds of salty goodness, cheese, ham and chips? I was pleasantly surprised that the chips were still crunchy after being cooked in the oven. Stop in to one of their locations to try one for yourself (Nantucket, South Station, Chestnut Hill, Davis Square, Central Square, Coolidge Corner and they are coming soon to Fenway!)

Oath Craft Pizza

280 Elm Street, Somerville, MA

oath craft piza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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