Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Babymoon & Philly Food Spots

This past weekend Matt and I had the chance to get away for a little babymoon weekend just the two of us. My parents came down from Vermont and wanted to spend some alone time with Riker, so after having a family dinner Friday evening, Matt and I hit the road for a two-night stay in Old City, Philadelphia. The first time we did a babymoon, when I was pregnant with Riker, we did a 4 day trip to Martha's Vineyard which I would've loved to do again, but the drive was too far. Philly is so close to us but we don't often go for overnighters, and this was the first time we stayed in Old City in a couple years. I forgot how much I love this town!

Matt and I really make an effort to have regular date nights and time alone, but we don't often get to do an overnight just the two of us these days, and I have to say I feel like taking a short getaway every now and then really is important to our relationship. We had so much fun just being spontaneous and eating leisurely meals and laughing, laughing, laughing. Not that I ever forget, but spending some alone time together reminds me all over again how much I love this man.


We were only in Philly for a short time, but we did a lot of walking, a little sightseeing, and a whole lot of eating. My sister's boyfriend Justyn had recommended a bunch of pubs and restaurants we might like, so we had a list of places to check out.

Friday night we wandered around Old City for a while and stopped into Eulogy, which was an awesome little spot. Matt had a few craft beers and we split an order of their famous fries with homemade dipping sauces.

Our concierge had told us about a famous ice cream spot around the corner, the Franklin Fountain, which has been there since the 1920s. The line is insane even in cold weather, but so, so worth it. We ended up going there both nights so we could sample a few of their flavors as well as their homemade hot fudge and peanut butter sauce. Amazing!


Saturday morning we slept in and laid in bed till 9:00 watching HGTV and eating some fruit I brought from home. I honestly can't remember the last time we stayed in bed till 9:00 watching TV. It felt amazing. After we got moving, we split up for a while to do his & hers workouts. Matt went for a run around the city, and I went for a jog/walk on the pier. We were staying right at Penns Landing so could see the water from our hotel room, which was really pretty in the morning light.

The rest of the day included some time at the hotel pool, about 6 miles of walking all around the city - from Old City through China Town to center city - some great food, a stop into the famous Reading Terminal Market for a snack, a visit to the Philly Art Museum, a nightcap (for Matt) at Monk's Cafe, a visit to a really old candy store (the place totally looked like Willy Wonka's) for a treat for Riker, and of course ice cream to top the whole night off. I mean, after a morning jog and then 6 miles of walking, I figured I'd earned it. ;)

Our favorite food spots included:

I had my heart set on a good brunch, so was excited when I found Farmicia on Yelp and it got such great brunch reviews. It was only a short walk from our hotel, too.

This place had a farm-to-table feel and the staff was incredibly friendly. We were starving by the time we got there, so ordered an appetizer of lox and capered cream cheese with bagel crisps.

For my meal I ordered a crab & spinach omelet with hollandaise and a side of cheese grits. I initially ordered a side salad, but the waiter convinced me to order the grits. Who knows when we'll be back again? They were pretty fantastic.

FarmiCia has a brunch happy hour where all drinks and cocktails are 50% off, and I definitely was feeling a little bummed that I couldn't have a Bloody Mary or mimosa like everyone else in the restaurant seemed to be doing. Oh well, only 2 more months till baby girl is here and then it'll be cocktail time. Until then, it's coffee for this girl.

Matt did partake in a breakfast stout to wash down his breakfast quesadilla and homemade scrapple.

We hit up Tria Taproom for dinner after walking the city and then walking around the museum for 3 hours, so it was quite the oasis when we arrived. Tria has a few different spots in the city, but we wanted the atmosphere of their taproom. Everything - both beer & wine - is on tap, and they have a list of really unique flatbreads.

We started with some oyster poppers, and what may have been the best salad I've ever had in my life. It was a burrata salad (if you've never had burrata, it's fresh mozzarella filled with basically strings of mozz that have been soaked in cream, and it's delicious), topped with wood grilled broccoli rabe, crispy shallots, red onions, greens, and fresh herbs.

We each ordered a flatbread too, which I really wanted to finish because it was so good, but I only made it about halfway through.

Matt's flatbread was topped with smoked mozzarella, fig jam, smoked duck, foie gras mousse, and fresh tarragon. No joke, he said it was one of the best meals he'd ever eaten.

I ordered the "breakfast flatbread" which was topped with smoked mozzarella, blue cheese, potatoes, crispy shallots, green onions and a fried egg (it came with bacon too, but I ordered it without). I've seen egg on pizza a few times on Food Network and have been wanting to try it, and have to say it was really good. The yolk adds a nice creaminess to the pizza.

I would highly recommend both of these places if you're ever in Philly!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

St. Patty's Day Roundup

Good morning!

Today started off with a big bowl of oatmeal topped with strawberries & bananas, pecans, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a drizzle of real maple syrup. Plus the standard cup of coffee on the side, of course.

My sister Amanda and her boyfriend Justyn are coming into town this morning to stay with us for the weekend, which I've been looking forward to all week. Today Amanda and I are heading out to pick out decor for our little girl's room (so fun!) and the boys are going to paint the nursery. Normally I'd jump in and do the painting (little known fact: I'm crazy good at painting trim), but being prego I'm not allowed in there. I'm perfectly happy to do the shopping instead. ;) Then tonight we're all headed to my cousin's 50th birthday party, and tomorrow to another cousin's bridal shower. It's a family filled weekend!

So anyway, in case you hadn't noticed, St. Patty's Day is only two days away. If I hadn't remembered, my Instagram feed would've reminded me - it's been blowing up with photos and recipes all week long. St. Patty's Day weekends aren't what they used to be for me and Matt; they used to be a day-long Guinness-drinking event in Seaside with 50 of our closest friends.

Talk about throwback pics. We looked so young! Things have changed a bit in the last few years with the arrival of houses and kids to take care of (not that I could hang like that now even if I tried), but even if we aren't partying all day, St. Patty's Day is still a fun day and I like to decorate the house a bit and make some fun foods to celebrate.

Here's a roundup of some of my faves:

Old Fashioned Irish Soda Bread (not dry and crusty like your typical soda bread)

Orange Bourbon Marmalade (great on the soda bread!)

Crockpot Spicy Potato Leek Soup (we ate lots of this in Ireland)

Pesto Popcorn (not Irish, but green, and delicious)

From around the Web:

Jersey Bites St. Patty's Recipes (Make your own Irish Cream!)

Pinterest Inspiration (Paleo peppermint donuts?! I have to make those)

Boozy Lucky Charms Milkshakes (Ok, I probably won't actually make these, but they were too crazy unique not to share. If you make them, tell me how they are!)

Fun & Healthy Kids Recipes (No-dye green pancakes or green pepper shamrocks will likely be making an appearance on Monday morning here)

Happy St. Patty's Day, however you celebrate!

Tell me: What's your favorite St. Patty's recipe or way to celebrate?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Broccoli & Blue Greek Yogurt Mac & Cheese

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received a gift card to offset the expense of my ingredients in this recipe. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Milk Advisory Board and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.


March is National Nutrition Month, a month designated to focus on making healthier food choices for
better overall health and wellness. I do try to make healthy food choices on a daily basis, but when I heard the California Milk Advisory Board (we know them as "Real California Milk") was challenging bloggers to lighten up some of their favorite recipes this month with California dairy products, I got right on board.

Really for three reasons:

1. Cheese. It's delicious. And we all know I eat the stuff at least once a day.
2. I have to admit the Real California Milk commercials crack me up. Like this one.
3. Since I don't eat meat, dairy is a main component of my diet and I get a lot of my protein from milk and yogurt. I drink smoothies or eat a yogurt parfait in a jar almost every weekday morning to get a calcium and protein boost to last me till lunchtime.

I also always keep organic cheese and yogurt snacks on hand for Riker, which he always asks for when he wants a snack - 9 times out of 10 he will ask me for a string cheese when he's hungry, rather than crackers or other typical kid snacks, which makes me happy. So I'm a firm believer in making dairy a part of a healthy diet - at least in our family. (Note: You can grab some great dairy healthy eating tips, family meal planning guides and recipes from, the Dairy Council of California's website.)

So back to this recipe. Mac & cheese is a favorite for pretty much everyone, but I don't make it very often because my traditional version is laden with tons of cheese, whole milk, butter, get it. It's clearly not very healthy and is reserved for special occasions. So I figured it was the perfect dish to lighten up on this challenge.

I swapped out a bunch of the high calorie ingredients for some really flavor-packed, lower fat dairy products that made the mac & cheese really tasty (zingy you might even say) and also creamy even after baked in the oven. 

Since Greek yogurt is already naturally thick, I didn't need to make the traditional roux of butter, flour and milk to thicken the sauce up. And I promise - you don't actually taste yogurt in this. It's just a blank canvas for the cheese and seasonings. 

I used California Monterey Jack & Blue Monterey Jack cheeses, which melt incredibly well and give a nice tangy flavor to the sauce, so you don't need as much cheese as usual. I loved using the California Blue Monterey Jack because it had the flavor of blue cheese but was much more mild than your typical blue cheese. That meant in addition to melting well, it was kid-friendly (Riker loved it).

Add whole wheat pasta and a helping of green veggies, and this is one protein, fiber and vitamin packed dinner all in one bowl. It tastes like comfort food but without all the guilt!

**Note: While I was compensated for the ingredients used in this recipe, as always, all opinions are my own.**

Broccoli & Blue Greek Yogurt Mac & Cheese

Serves 3-4

8 oz. whole wheat pasta
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
5 oz. California Monterey Jack Cheese, grated* 
5 oz. California Blue Monterey Jack Cheese, grated* 
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt (I used 2%)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions. During last two minutes of cooking, add the broccoli florets. Drain the cooked pasta and broccoli, reserving 1/4 of the cooking liquid.

Return the pasta and broccoli to the pot, and add the 1/4 cup cooking liquid and grated cheeses. Turn the the heat on low, and stir together until the cheese is melted. Add the yogurt, garlic powder, salt, pepper, mustard and red pepper flakes. Stir until well combined, then remove from the heat and set aside.

In a small dish, microwave the butter for a few seconds until melted. Add the panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, and stir to combine.

Grease a 1.5 quart baking dish and pour the pasta mixture in. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake in the oven uncovered for about 10 minutes, until breadcrumbs are golden brown and cheese is bubbling around the edges.

*I used Sonoma Creamery cheeses. Real California dairy products can be recognized by their seals:

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Foodie Favorites

Spring is in the air! At least for the next few days. And I'm soaking it up while it's here. Walks in the park, sunflowers in the kitchen, an impromptu BBQ in the backyard, and a fresh manicure swapping my winter dark red for a springy light pink. That about sums up the weekend so far, and it's been lovely.

So over the last few weeks I've been amassing a few new food favorites that have popped up weekly, if not daily around here, so I figured a roundup post that touched on some of the things I'm loving lately would be fun. A few of my favorite bloggers do "favorite things" posts here and there and I always love seeing what products and things they're loving, so hopefully you feel the same. Here we go!

1. Tri Color Quinoa

I picked this up at Trader Joe's last month during my stock-up, and was really surprised at how different it is from traditional quinoa. It has a nuttier, chewier texture, and of course the color is fun for something different. I've used in it quinoa salads, veggie curries and just plain as a side dish, but my favorite way to use it so far is paired with TJ's baked tofu, broccoli, sesame oil and Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Super quick and super delish.

2. Fresh Mango

In my first shipment from Door to Door Organics, I received a super ripe mango that needed to be used that same day. I already had a plan for dinner and couldn't figure out a way to incorporate the mango, so in the end just cut it up and served up dishes of mango for dessert. Why have I not done this more often?! Half the time our mangos go unused because I can never decide what to do with them before they go bad, so why I never eat them plain is beyond me. This was so juicy, sweet and delicious and the perfect way to end a meal. I've been ordering them in my D2D box every week now for a fruity dessert.

3. Green Smoothies

Riker loves 'em too! Every time I make one - which is almost daily - he asks for his own or for sips of mine. I change up the ingredients based on what I have around or what I'm in the mood for - swapping between different fruits, regular milk, almond milk or coconut milk, and occasionally using Greek yogurt instead of protein powder - but my most-used combo includes:

- 1 frozen banana
- 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use Sun Warrior "Warrior Blend" or Garden of Life Raw)
- About 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk or organic whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 ice cube
- About 1 tsp. raw organic honey

Slurp! I love the energy I get from drinking so many vitamins first thing in the morning.

4. Rigoni di Asiago Fiordifrutta Cherry Jam

That's quite a mouthful, huh? I found Fiordefrutta when browsing the jam section in our local healthfood store, and was so excited since it's been tough to find an organic jam (that I don't have to make myself, since I'm fresh out until summertime) that also doesn't have sugar in it and is sweetened only with fruit juice. This stuff is crazy good. It's tart and sweet at the same time, and has big chunks of cherries. Riker eats it on PB&J, but Matt and I have been eating it on crackers with goat cheese or cheddar for snacks, and omg what a flavor combo. 

I've also been using it to make salad dressings for salads that have fruit in them - I just thin the jam with a little red wine vinegar, then add olive oil, salt and pepper. Could not be easier, and it pairs so well with leafy greens tossed with berries, apples or pears. Next time I'm going to try the fig spread. Yum.

5. Mint Tea

This is a simple one, I know. But I've been on a huge mint tea kick lately - only not using tea bags, just plain mint. Over the last few weeks I've had two work lunches at Le Pain Quotidien in the city, and was a little surprised the first time I ordered mint tea and was given a little tea pot of just hot water and mint leaves. But it was amazing. It was so fragrant and SO minty, but not in a toothpaste kind of way. I fell in love. I've been keeping mint in the house lately and sipping on this in the afternoons or after dinner. It's a great way to relax and is also good for digestion. I can't wait until my herb garden comes in this summer because I always grow chocolate mint, and how good would chocolate mint tea be??

And there you have it, 5 of my faves the last few weeks. Now I'm off to do some recipe testing in the kitchen for a Real California Milk post I'm working on. I see something cheesy in my future.

Hope you're enjoying your weekend!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Baby Weekend

We're almost halfway through the week already, how did that happen? I'll take it though. This past weekend was a busy one and I'm feeling that midweek tiredness kick in.

Saturday afternoon we had a surprise pop up on our agenda. My good friend Lindsay and her husband Ryan welcomed baby Jackson into the world!

He is just adorable and Lindsay and Ryan were absolutely glowing. I'm so happy for them, and so excited to have another little one in the group!

On Sunday I had a few things on my list before heading out for the day, including making some homemade granola bars. I usually buy Larabars for quickie snacks (mostly for my bus rides home from the city); they have so few ingredients (just dates, other fruits & nuts) and are pretty tasty. But they aren't organic, and we're really trying to eat organic as much as we can these days. I didn't have any dates on hand so couldn't make knockoff Larabars, so granola bars were next on the list. I put together a pan of organic oats, seeds, nuts, flax, dried fruits, natural peanut butter and raw honey, then stuck it in the freezer to firm up.

The end result was quite delicious, but they fell apart when I cut them. They were more like granola shards & pieces. That didn't stop Riker from eating it out of the pan by the handful. He loved 'em.

I stored the granola pieces in a container in the fridge, and they've been quite the snacking sensation for all 3 of us this week. I just need to work on the recipe a bit to get the bars to stick together so they're more portable.

After granola testing, I met up with Matt's mom, sister and MomMom to take a drive south for a baby shower for Matt's cousin Monica. My own sister came too since she's friends with Monica, so I was happy to get to spend some time with her and the rest of the Baratta women.

The shower was ladybug-themed, which I thought was really cute.

I'm a sucker for themed parties.

I didn't snap any pictures of the food, but I definitely indulged a little much on pesto & goat cheese bruschetta, Caesar salad, lasagna and some asparagus. They also served beignets during the gift opening, and I couldn't resist a piping hot crispy powder sugared beignet with my tea. So I had one, along with a little slice of cake.

I woke up the next morning ready for my green smoothie. And not quite so ready for this:

More snow! The amount of snow we are getting this winter is insane. I feel like I live in New England again. Matt and Riker had a snow day while I worked in my office, since all the schools were closed again. I think we're supposed to get one more storm next week, and although I love the snow, I'm actually itching to see some spring weather soon. Here's to hoping.

Have a good hump day!