Chilly Day… Warm Soup!

My dad and stepmother are visiting New York this weekend. They are now retired and spend most of their time in a warm climate.  New York decided to give them a taste of the winter weather they’ve been missing as winter came really early this year!  While the purpose of their trip is to spend time with their grandchildren, a visit to New York City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Times Square and more specifically a Broadway show! I became a little nostalgic thinking about my days working at db Bistro Moderne in the theater district.  Those pre-theater rushes were no joke! One of my favorite recipes from my days in the kitchen there is Butternut Squash Soup.  Here is the recipe so you can make it this weekend and warm your body from the inside out!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Butternut Squash Soup

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 large butternut squash, peeled, cubed and seeds removed

3 tablespoons olive oil

Jacobsen Salt Co Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, sliced thin

1 large carrot, chopped

1 quart vegetable stock

Method:

-Preheat oven to 400°F.  Toss the butternut squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Arrange butternut squash in an even layer on a large sheet pan. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes.

-Meanwhile in a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook 7-9 minutes, until tender.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

-Add roasted squash to the vegetable mixture and cover with vegetable stock. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

-Blend carefully in small batches until the soup is smooth and creamy.

-Serve garnished with fresh thyme, your favorite croutons or a drizzle of crème fraiche.

Eating for Energy

Feeding a family of 5 takes real work. I have to be organized enough to have food in the house that everyone likes and plan meals according to those likes and dislikes.  When will all the kids just eat what we are eating?!?! Sunday night is family night at our dinner table and I try my hardest to cook something that will please everyone. Some nights are more successful than others.

Feeding a family of 6 is something I have just begun to contemplate… at the moment I am really working out how to eat properly to be able to have enough nutrients for myself and the baby.

 Here are some tricks I remember from the last time I was taking care of a newborn.

Have Food Ready to Eat: While cutting a few pieces of cheese to go with some sliced apple sounds simple enough to put together for your afternoon snack; it is tricky to do that with a baby in your arms.  Cut up the cheese ahead of time and that snack is much easier to grab.    

Snacks are just as Important as Meals: Being able to grab a handful of almonds is  great way to get some energy through that afternoon slump without having too much sugar. Even better, mix those almonds with some chocolate chips and raisins for a trail mix of sorts. I also buy the snack size bags of my kids’ favorites and keep them in a big tub in the pantry.  They can help themselves and I know they aren’t eating too much with the smaller packages. Getting too hungry is a recipe for disaster for you and the kids.   

Water: Staying hydrated is super important but even more so when your body is creating milk for someone else. If you don’t love the taste add a little something to the water like sliced watermelon, fresh lemon, herbs or cucumber.  It will make the water a little more exciting and keep you going.

Protein:  This a big piece of staying focused and energized when taking care of a little one and a larger family.  I have hard boiled eggs ready to go in the refrigerator along with other high protein items like hummus and sliced deli meat.  A handle full of protein will go a long way.

I hope these tips will keep you going whether you’re taking care of a family of 6 or just yourself.  Let me know if you have any other tips to keep me going through the transition!

Happy Friday,

Julie

 

Do Your Kids Eat Veggies?

Everyone says kids are picky eaters and sometimes that is true.  Since my children were born, all three of them, I have put a lot of time and effort into introducing them to healthy foods and preparing them healthy meals. From breast milk to home-made purees, I started them early.  They all liked their vegetables, some fruits and for the most maintained a healthy diet.  Sometime about 2 years ago that slowly started falling apart, especially for my oldest son.  He now doesn’t eat any fruits or vegetables.  When he turned five he made the bold statement that he would start eating vegetables but I’m still waiting for that to happen.  My middle son, who is 3, is the best eater of the bunch. He loves fruit, specifically berries, and will eat greens like kale and spinach(not always but sometimes). My little one who is 1 ½, has started in the right direction and I’m really trying to hang on.  He does get macaroni and cheese and chicken fingers with French fries but he also eats yogurt, nuts, applesauce and a variety of other healthy items.

As a parent, and a chef, it disturbs me that my children don’t want to eat everything in sight. Also, that they don’t appreciate the effort I put in to prepare their meals but that could be a whole other issue.  I’ve turned to the internet many times for tricks to get my kids to like a variety of foods and most say exposure is key.  All of my boys like to cook with me, so they are exposed to everything from spinning kale in the salad spinner to making banana chocolate chip muffins and everything in between.  Because we cook together, it isn’t so easy for me to ‘hide’ fruits and vegetables in their food.  In an effort to get out of our weekly cycle of meals, I’ve turned to the internet again for suggestions.  Here are some good ones I found.  Follow our Pinterest Board, Kid’s Meals, where I will add more tips and recipes as I find them.

Choices: Kids love being in charge so instead of saying we’re having carrots with dinner tonight, offer a choice…  “Would you like carrots or cucumbers with your dinner tonight?” By being ‘the boss’ of what they eat, mealtime is more likely to be successful.

Serve a family meal: It is really nice when a family can sit down and eat together and even nicer when you all eat the same meal.  Kids look at their grown-ups for cues so if you are enjoying something sitting next to your child, there is a  higher probability they will try it and like it too.

Reward ‘good’ Eating:  My grandmother used to say “There is no such thing as I don’t like” and if we complained we would get more of whatever we didn’t like.  We got smart and started complaining about dessert.  She didn’t fall for that one but it is true that kids like sweets and treats.  Offer dessert for finishing dinner or even tasting their vegetables.  You’ll be surprised how motivated a child gets over a small treat like a chocolate chip or a mini marshmallow.

Do Your Best:  Don’t get frustrated if a meal doesn’t go as planned. Kids are unpredictable at best so what gets eaten one night might get turned down another.  Keep trying and something will stick.

If you have any other tricks that work for you please let me know. I’m all ears when it comes to getting kids to eat something that isn’t sugar coated or fried! On that note, have a great Cinco di Mayo this weekend!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Minnesota Christmas

Christmas time has always been my favorite time of year. From all of the lights, to the snow frosted trees, to the dancing notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and baked apples, to the love and warmth of being surrounded and sharing in holiday joy with friends and family, the holiday season is unlike any other time of year. The spirit of the season is seemingly alive, finding shelter in nearly all of those whom you come into contact with, which can only be described as an all-encompassing blissful wonderment.

As young children, and even into our late teens and early twenties, my siblings and I would wake up at nearly 3am on Christmas morning and rush downstairs to see what Santa had left for us, carefully tiptoeing past our parents room as to not wake up our mom. As we sat surrounded by stacks of gifts and overflowing stockings, my siblings and I would rifle through the loot in our stockings before trying to guess what each of our wrapped packages contained. My dad, who is the only person that I know who starts his day at 4am, would soon find us downstairs eating candy and eagerly waiting to open our gifts. My dad would put on a movie or TV show for us and we would each find a spot on the couch, and if excitement allowed us, we’d fall back asleep until our mom was awake and ready to document each of us opening up our gifts. I treasure these memories dearly, and I hope to one day create the same magical experiences with my own children.

As per tradition, each Christmas morning before gifts were opened, my mom or I would make cinnamon rolls, pancakes, and scrambled eggs, which, due to anticipation for gift opening, hardly got eaten. Each of my siblings and I would take turns opening gifts, taking turns sitting on a chair positioned in front of the Christmas tree so that my mom could photograph each gift being opened, as my dad sat on the corner of the couch videotaping the madness. This is something we still do to this day, however, as each of my siblings and I get older, the less focused we are on receiving gifts, but we rather appreciate the time spent together so much more. This year, instead of asking for a plethora of material gifts we asked for an experience, so my parents are taking us to the Dominican Republic for a week of fun in the sun!

The older I get, the more and more I love just being present and sharing in love, joy, and laughter with my friends and family, and it’s now my favorite part about Christmas. I love cooking together, sharing in laughter together, eating together, celebrating together, more over, just being together, all encased in the warmth and love of the season. I cherish this time of year dearly.

I hope you all have the chance to experience the magic of the holiday season!

Happy holidays and happy Friday!

Payton

Road trip time!

Last Friday, I loaded up our minivan with all the supplies my family and I would need for our ‘vacation’ to Rhode Island. (My four-year-old thinks any night away from home is a vacation.)  We were headed to our friend’s house for their annual Lambaste. The trip did not get off to a good start. I woke up that morning with a stiff neck that got worse over the course of the day. Driving for 3 plus hours didn’t sound like fun to begin with and add in the traffic getting out of New York City on a Friday evening and our trip seemed doomed.  In the first hour we drove less than 20 miles, took three wrong turns because our navigation wasn’t working, stopped to use the bathroom and my son threw up his dinner.  At that point I asked my husband if we should just go home.  He convinced me otherwise and I’m glad he did as the trip got easier once we were out of the traffic and on the ‘open road’.

Our friends hold their Lambaste annually and it is something we look forward to attending. Not entirely for the lamb, but for the amazing afternoon that surrounds the lamb.  The lamb is slowly roasted over an open fire with someone holding the responsibility of constantly turning a crank to rotate the lamb to roasted perfection.  The party has changed over the years as we have gotten older.  What used to be a bunch of twenty-somethings drinking all afternoon and eating lamb has now turned into a family affair.  There are lawn games, non-alcoholic beverages, an amazing array of pot-luck sides and even a band.  This year the lamb was perfectly roasted, tender with just a hint of garlic.  In years past there have been large quantities of lamb remaining to be turned into breakfast the next morning.  This year, there wasn’t a piece that didn’t get gobbled up.

With our bellies full of lamb, and maybe a few brownies and cookies for dessert, we packed into the minivan for our trip back to New York City.  With the excitement of the day behind us, the drive home seemed like a nice way to wind down.  Everyone in the car was asleep within the first 30 minutes (except me, the driver!).  Almost a week later, the kids are still talking about our vacation to Rhode Island and looking forward to when we’ll return. I hope you have a chance to getaway and enjoy all that fall has to offer.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Lessons from a Mom

This Sunday marks my fifth Mother’s Day as a mom and my first as a mother of three boys!  While most of my days are filled playing trains, running around and cleaning up messes I couldn’t be happier with my sons.  One of our favorite activities is reading books.  I feel like I have learned a lot from the books we read (beyond the names of the entire set of Thomas and his friends) and I’d like to share some of the lessons with you.

  1. You need help from your friends In The Little Blue Truck, the big, mean dump truck gets stuck in the mud.  With the help of Little Blue and Little Blue’s friends they are able to get the dump truck out of the mud.  As a working mother of three I know I cannot do it all on my own and my friends are always there when I need them.
  2. Team work is important In Mighty, Mighty Construction Site the trucks realize they all have to work together to get the job done. While I always new it was important to work as a team, I’ve found this is a lesson I apply at work and home.  At Julie’s Beet we collaborate on ideas for the site and marketplace and work together to get our many thoughts out to you. At home, I work with my husband to make sure we provide the best environment for our children.
  3. You must work hard and be patient to get recognized. In The Little Red Caboose, the caboose is sad because he always comes last and no one is excited to see him.  Then one day the train starts slipping down the mountain and the caboose saves the day by putting his breaks on.  After that the caboose gets all of the cheers and waves.  In life (personal & professional) nothing comes easy. I’ve learned that a lot of hard work pays off.  This is especially important as Julie’s Beet enters our fourth year.  We’re going to keep at it to make our marketplace the best around and cannot wait for more recognition from others.

I have grand plans to plant a garden this Mother’s Day.  We’ll see if the weather cooperates and the boys do too. I’ll have a great Mother’s Day as long as I am with my three boys… I know we’ll get to read at least one story!

Happy Friday,

Julie

Happy Birthday President Jefferson!

We all know Thomas Jefferson as one of the founding fathers of the United States of America and the third president of our country.  Today, April 13th, marks his birthday.  While Jefferson was a very influential in writing the Declaration of Independence and made many great contributions to our country, he is often overlooked for his influence on farming and his love of food.

As a farmer, Jefferson was obsessed with new crops, soil conditions, scientific agricultural techniques, and garden designs.  His main cash crop was tobacco, although it was rarely profitable.  Jefferson tried to achieve self-sufficiency with many vegetables, wheat, corn, hogs, and cattle to supply his family, slaves, and employees. Unfortunately, he was always in debt due to his other interests.  Among other interests, Jefferson was an inventor.  He is credited with making the moldboard plow.  This plow allowed farmers to turn the top soil on their fields and greatly reduce the time needed to prepare a field.  This in turn allowed farmers to work a larger area of land.

Thomas Jefferson was also interested in wine and considered a gourmet of his time.  As president, Jefferson, is remember for his elaborate entertaining.  Meals often consisted of wild fowl including pheasants, partridges, and wild pigeons.  Even when he wasn’t entertaining President Jefferson often began his day with Squab baked in a flaky crust or beef tongue.  He loved exotic fruits like pineapple and always had a supply of fresh-baked bread.  Jefferson continue to enjoy these foods beyond the end of his term.

As you can see Thomas Jefferson wasn’t only important in the founding of our country but was also a key player in adjusting the social norms around growing and eating food!  I can relate to his love of dining and entertaining. I also see that he set the precedent that our nation’s leaders should be a renaissance man with many different passions.

Happy Birthday President Jefferson!

Happy Friday,

Julie

In like a Lion, out like a Lamb

March has been a very busy month… it came in roaring like a lion and hopefully, will go out like a lamb.  Tonight we begin the celebration of Passover with the first Seder. It is a time to be with family and friends to re-tell the story of the Jewish People’s exodus from Egypt.  One great part of any holiday is the traditions that go along with it.  As my children grow our traditions bring on new meaning and continue to grow as well. Here are some of my favorite family Passover traditions… you’ll notice most of them involve food.

  1. Singing Songs – At the end of a long seder, it is late and everyone has had a couple of glasses of wine(technically 4, but who’s counting?). It is the perfect time to sing all of the songs at the end of the Hagadah. One of my favorites is a counting song where each person takes a phrase. It is always a hoot to see who forgets and who remembers their number to keep the song going.
  2. Egg Soup – Eggs are a strong symbol at Passover representing life. It is common to eat a hard boiled egg at the seder but my friends take it a step further. They mix the hard boiled egg with salt water to produce egg soup and it is delicious.
  3. Chocolate – Since you cannot eat anything leavened during Passover most of the sweets tend to be chocolate related. I’m definitely okay with that and plan to eat chocolate before, during and after the Seder.
  4. Practicing our Hebrew – At my family’s Seder we take turns reading from the Hagadah. You are always encouraged to read the Hebrew rather than the English. The best part is that my mother-in-law follows along and corrects any mistakes along the way!  If someone is a good(meaning quick) reader we always make sure they take a long turn.  The faster you read, the sooner you get to eat!
  5. Family & Friends – At the end of the day, the best part of the holiday is spending it with family and friends. I’m lucky that I have 2 very special seders to attend and hope this tradition continues year after year.

Whatever holiday you are celebrating this weekend, I hope it is happy and meaningful and filled with all the traditions you love.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Entertaining Made Easier

Entertaining can fun but also overwhelming, especially when you have kids.  For example, this weekend I’m hosting a brunch for my family which happens to be 20 people. Over the years I’ve discovered a few tricks that allow me to actually enjoy the celebration instead of feeling like I am slaving away in the kitchen or as the clean up crew.

Divide and conquer: This means get some help. At my house, I typically take care of the food while my husband takes care of the beverages. That means everything from selecting the wine to stocking the bar with ice, cups and garnishes, and ensuring the champagne saber is handy(usually just for New Year’s Eve).

For brunch on Sunday, my husband is in charge of picking up at the coffee at Dunkin Donuts and also responsible for picking up the bagels and smoked fish the day before. It isn’t a big drinking crowd so he should be able to handle both!

DO NOT try to make everything from scratch: I’ve learned that having 1 or 2 homemade items mixed in with some open and serve items creates the impression that you’ve done a lot of work and your guests will be really impressed.

For the brunch, I’m making my favorite Sour Cream Coffee Cake and an egg casserole.  We’re serving those along side bagels & lox with all of the fixings and a fruit tray.  My two amazing dishes show I put some effort into the meal but I wasn’t cooking for days to have it ready.

Preparation is key! I learned this when I was working in restaurants. You never know what you are going to walk into at the beginning of your shift so the more you can prepare ahead of time the better.  I also select menu items that require little hands on attention. For our New Years Eve Party we serve a large selection of cheese and I always make a brie en croute.  The brie looks really impressive and all I have to do is pop it in the oven and serve.

This weekend the casserole is the only item that needs to bake the day of. Everything else will be ready and waiting the night before.

Paper and Plastic are okay. This one really came into effect when my second son was born and since my third son was born it is the rule, not the exception. I just don’t have time anymore to wash all of those dishes.  Of course if I am serving a fancy sit down dinner for 6 or 8, I’ll pull out the fine china and silver but when it is a party with kids present, disposable is the way to go!

Luckily, I live down the block from Party City. We’ve already purchased our Thomas the Tank Engine Plates, disposable tablecloths and everything else we’ll need for the party.

I hope you’ll put my tips to good use next time you are entertaining. Please let me know if you have tips you’d like to add.

Happy Friday,

Julie

Happy 2nd Birthday!

Today is a very special day at my house, it is my son’s 2nd birthday. I was feeling very nostalgic this week and took a trip back to when he was a baby. Looking at pictures of him just a year ago, it is amazing to see how far he has come.  On his first birthday he wasn’t even walking… now’s he is running, climbing, and jumping! He’s starting to use lots of words and showing us just how smart he really is.

The growing pains of starting a business are very similar to those young children experience.  While Julie’s Beet isn’t learning to walk or talk, I am still discovering a lot about the business world.  Like a one-year-old, I am learning about likes and dislikes.  Instead of learning what I like and dislike, I am learning about what you all (my customers) like and dislike.  I am working to build a marketplace to support other new businesses but need to stock it full of products you like to make it successful. I am working to streamline the offering to make your shopping experience even better.  I do feel like we are gaining our balance and running legs as we continue to master our customer service and marketing plans.  We also continue to learn how to engage our following through recipes, promotions, and contests.

While it is great to see that changes that have happened with my son over the past year it is also amazing to see that he still has the same cheerful disposition and outgoing personality.  He is going to be the life of the party wherever he goes and I’m glad he brings that excitement to his everyday life. Julie’s Beet continues to be a marketplace supporting smaller artisans and following our goal of expanding the audience of these specialty products.  I’m not sure what he is going to wish for when he blows out the candles on his Elmo cake tonight, but if I could wish for him, it would be that he continues to enjoy a happy and healthy life.

Happy Friday,

Julie