Bake It Happen: Pink Pumpkins, Sweet Treats and Raising Money for Breast Cancer Awareness

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It’s October – there’s a chill in the air, the leaves are starting to change, pumpkin flavored everything has invaded every food establishment and grocery aisle – and it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Last year, my friend Shari Brooks and her sister, launched a brand new campaign that took a very different approach to raising money for Breast Cancer research  - Bake it Happen.  Due to the tremendous success of that first year, Bake it Happen is happening once again – with the same premise, only bigger, better, and sweeter.

The idea is the same – bake it, share it, win it (and trigger donations and awareness at the same time.)  This year you can choose from 3 of the recipes from bakeithappen.net:

Simply bake the MyJudytheFoodie treat of your choice, and share it with the people in your life – and on social media with the hashtag #BakeitHappen.  Every time you share a pic of your Bake it Happen moment a $2 donation will be made to the Pink Pumpkin Patch Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.  (yes, pink pumpkins really exist – naturally!)

pink pumpkin

And, you will be entered to win an iPad Mini and 3 months of Baked by Melissa Mini of the Month Club.  

We baked up pumpkin brownies, with a slight variation – making them more like pumpkin blondies with chocolate chips – but super delicious just the same!

Check out the campaign at bakeithappen.net and start sharing and raising money now!  (and isn’t it so much better than dumping a bucket of ice on your head?)

Showing off our Disney Side at a Tweentastic Disney Tea Party -

Showing off our Disney Side at a Tweentastic Disney Tea Party -

I don’t think there is any bad age or best age for Disney.  The real magic of Disney is that all ages can find something fun, wonderful and plain ol’ optimistically wonderful to celebrate and explore.  My daughters never went through a Princess phase, but they did go through a fairy phase.  Even when my daughter dressed up like Belle for Halloween at 4 years-old she added a pair of wings…

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As my daughters have gotten older they’ve experienced more and more of the things that make Disney unique, from being able to stay up really late at Walt Disney World to the Broadway world of Disney.  So when we were given the opportunity to host a Disney Side party at our home we immediately brainstormed about what would be special and fun for them and their tween girl friends.  Given that we were throwing this event after school, a tea party made perfect sense – and one that could easily be made supercalifabulous enough for tweens.

The menu:

Cinderella Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

pumpkin chocolate chip bread

Belle Craisins® scones

craisins scones

Mickey Mouse shaped finger sandwiches (cream cheese and cucumber, tuna, and PB&J)

mickey mouse sandwiches

And of course, hot cocoa and tea.

The table was set for an afternoon of Disney fun…

disney side tea party

And then the fun began…

Of course no tween party is complete without some crafting.  The girls went to work on cutting, decorating and styling Hanes T-Shirts into personalized fashion statements…

It was great to get all these girls together and have them express their Disney Side!  Plus, that Mickey Mouse shaped cookie cutter makes every sandwich irresistible!

Want to learn more about Disney Side?   Check out DisneySide.com and DisneySideCelebrations.com and get inspired to show off your Disney Side!

I was provided a suitcase full of great supplies and ideas by Disney to create this fantastic party.  The ideas, opinions, and guests are all my own!

5 Foods to Break Up With in 2014

This is a guest post from Lauren Slayton, founder of Foodtrainers, and a friend of mine for the last 7 years.  Lauren’s new book, Little Book of Thin, just came out in time for your New Year’s Resolutions, and is chock full of simple, easy to follow advice on eating better and making healthier – but satisfying – choices. I’m thrilled to feature this post from Lauren with this great advice to follow for your whole family.

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Many of my clients are moms. I’ll sit down with them for initial sessions and hear “I have one soda a day” or “I have Splenda in my coffee”. When I ask if they allow their children to have Sprite or sugar substitutes without fail they’ll say, “of course not our house is totally organic” or  “never!”. Interesting.

I don’t overwhelm clients with “No’s” and I purposely opened Little Book of Thin with Ten Steps to Svelte or 10 tips that are proactive. However, with certain foods firm rules are easier to follow and if you absolutely want to feel your best. Here are the foods you should absolutely break up with, and keep out of your home, in 2014 to start off on a much healthier path.

  1. No Soda:  Ok let’s get this one out of the way since I already mentioned it. You probably know it’s unhealthy but did you know soda (diet included) promotes weight gain, not loss? Diet soda drinkers have higher levels of abdominal fat too
  2. No Skim Dairy:  This one is perhaps a little more surprising. Skim milk doesn’t help you lose weight. One study with 20,000 women over 9 years found that those who increased skim dairy gained 10 percent. Those who increased whole milk consumption lost 9% on average. Fat in milk helps assimilate Vitamin D, which is crucial for our bones and also appetite control.
  3. No Fro Yo:  Fro yo on the surface seems great. Imagine a life where you can have dessert and lose weight until you realize you’re not losing weight. At most yogurt shops the portions are huge, the toppings too tempting and the ingredients? Read them and let me know what you think.
  4. No Bottled Salad Dressing:  I’m guessing you wouldn’t put two to three teaspoons of sugar on a salad not to mention salt. If you’re going to the trouble of getting or bringing a salad for your lunch make your own dressing with olive or walnut oil, apple cider vinegar, lemons or limes. We have a Thin-I-Gette dressing in LBT that uses miso, it’s really delicious.
  5. No Gum:  Gum makes you gassy. Gum contains multiple artificial sweeteners, preservatives and food dyes. Sweet begets sweet too and the more sweet (real or fake) you eat the more you crave. Plus, gum chewing doesn’t look nice.

If you’re rolling your eyes thinking “are we supposed to be perfect all the time”? Not at all. I’m not typing this while nibbling on arugula but I’m in favor of planning. A well-planned wholesome dessert here and there (ok once a week) will leave you so much better off than having these “No” items often or daily.  If something on this list makes a regular appearance, perhaps it’s time to break up. Just hum Tom Petty “I’ll probably feel a whole lot better when you’re gone.”

I wish you a healthy, happy and “thin” New Year.

Bake it Happen for Breast Cancer Research

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I recently had a discussion with my daughters about friendship.  It’s hard to explain to an 11 year-old that friendships ebb and flow, and more importantly, that if you keep your heart open you will continue to make new friends throughout your life.

Some of your friends will stick.  Some won’t.  And that’s okay.  It doesn’t diminish the power of the friendship you had in that time of your life.

If you’re lucky you will have one or two great friends.  If you’re really lucky you will continue to stumble upon those rare people with whom you immediately click – the ones that maybe make you believe in past lives – in all phases of your life.  The ones that feel like family.

I have been that lucky, and I know how special and rare it is.

When my daughters were born I was the only one of my friends to have a baby (babies!).  My cousin, with whom I am extremely close, also had a baby, just a few week before me, but she lived in Michigan.  So aside from talking on the phone all the time, I didn’t have “mom” friends.  And, because I had twins, the thought of schlepping to baby groups between pumping, and feeding, and changing, and wrapping them up to take naps – while also being social in some carpeted basement of the Y, was really more than I could bear.

So, I was nervous when my girls finally started preschool and there were all of these other MOMs.  And, most of the time, it was just me and the nannies.  I seemed to be the only stay at home mom on the Upper West Side – but really it was just the blur of drop off and separation that made it seem so.  Eventually, I met the other moms – at the school auction, at the endless school parties, at playdates.  And I don’t know how it happened, but I met some of the best women I will ever know.  I am still amazed that we were all randomly put into this 2 morning a week class together.

One of these women was Shari Brooks.  And while there are a lot of things I could list about Shari that make her, well, her – there is one that tops the list – Shari is a Do-er, not because she wants recognition, and not because she’s keeping a mental tab in her mind of what someone now owes her, but because she really, really has a heart and mind that just go there.  She is continually thinking about what is the right thing to do, the best way to do it, and then just doing it.  It’s not Type A, it’s Type A to Z.  She’s got it covered.

Knowing Shari like I do, it was not surprising to me that she turned her energy towards creating something positive out of the loss of her mom Judy from metastatic breast cancer five years ago.  I feel incredibly lucky that Shari entered my life at a time when I could get to know her mom, even though her mom was sick from almost the moment I met her.  I have never wondered where Shari gets her energy and love of life from because I saw it firsthand in her mom.  Even at her frailest, after years of ongoing chemo and radiation, Judy would come up on the train from Baltimore – by herself! – to spend time with her grandkids, just be with her family and share more experiences.

A while after Judy passed, Shari started an amazing blog called My Judy the Foodie, where she has kept her mom’s memory alive through her mom’s recipes and special meals.  When I met Shari she literally couldn’t boil water.  I once watched her throw pasta into a pot of cold water and then turn it on.  No joke.  So to watch Shari teach herself to cook through doing, and then through sharing, all the while keeping her mom’s memory alive for her kids, and really everyone, has been a real revelation.

Now Shari has teamed up with her equally awesome sister to create another endeavor that will honor Judy and advance the cause of breast cancer research, Bake it Happen (aka Bananas for Boobies, which if you know Shari makes perfect sense, but Facebook doesn’t know Shari that well so they didn’t like it).

This is no 26 mile marathon where you must exhaust yourself to prove you care.  This is not pinkwashing to make companies look like they care.  This is a very basic way to share purpose and care.

  1. Bake a loaf, or two or three, of Judy’s amazing banana chocolate chip loaf.
  2. Take a pic of your fabulous creation.
  3. Then share it on Facebook or email it to bananasforboobies@gmail.com
  4. Then share a loaf in real life.   Take a pic of that too!
  5. You could win an iPad!

Every time a photo is shared a dollar is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Here’s how we baked it happen last weekend:

See?  Simple, delicious, and meaningful.   Just like good friends.

Head on over now to Bananas For Boobies and Bake it Happen!!!

Marcus Samuelsson and Uncle Ben’s (Beginners) Get Kids Cooking!

at red roosterLast month I had the pleasure of dining at one of the best restaurants in NYC: Red Rooster Harlem.  Yes, the food is wonderful, but really it’s not just about the food – it’s about the incredible sense of community and care that fills the space that makes it so special.  After meeting Marcus Samuelsson, and having him give us a tour where he pointed out all of the thoughtful features that went into building Red Rooster it was easy to see why the restaurant exudes warmth and an authentic identity.  From the art that features local customers, to the books that reflect the history of Harlem, food, music and culture, to the artists they feature in the space – you know that there are conscious, purposeful choices put into the restaurant.

That thoughtfulness extends to the food and work of Marcus Samuelsson, who has teamed up with Uncle Ben’s Rice to get kids and families cooking together.

The campaign, Ben’s Beginners Cooking Contest asks families to create a cooking video together and show how cooking can bring you together – and teach kids better food habits.  You could win $15,000 for your family – and $30,000 for a cafeteria makeover for your school!

When you talk to chefs they usually point to a family member as the reason they got into cooking – a grandmother, an uncle or aunt, their mom.  Cooking in the home is one of the most fundamental experiences we can share with our kids – it doesn’t have to be a big deal – it’s actually better if it isn’t.  Unfortunately, I think we spend more time watching impossibly hard cooking shows that have nothing to do with real life cooking – and less time actually chopping, peeling, and turning on a stove to make a simple dinner with our kids.

Marcus spent a lot of time with my daughters and niece at the lunch – asking them all about their school lunch program, what they’d like to see in school lunch, what the kids actually eat – and about the conditions of the lunch room and the experience of lunch time at school (hot, rushed, and overcrowded – all while being yelled at by cafeteria aides).

Marcus Samuelson

It was really interesting to me that he partnered with Uncle Ben’s, but I totally understood it when you looked at this program that was trying to get families to not just cook together, but celebrate it too.  And if using quick rice can make it easier to create that dinner, and get it on the table faster, then I’m all for it.

At Red Rooster they started with the brown Uncle Ben’s Rice, added lobster stock, herbs and spices and created their dirty rice:

It was delish.  Along with the rest of the meal of shrimp, jerk chicken, kale salad and cornbread.  Plus they made Shirley Temples for my girls.  They felt very swanky.

If you’re in NYC be sure to go to Red Rooster for a really special meal.  (We also picked up cupcakes for our Rosh Hashanah dinner that night.  And they were amazing)

So, grab your kids, and get cooking together today.  You can shoot the video on your smartphone – nothing fancy.  Just like you can make some simple pasta, nothing fancy, but at least you’re doing it together, and showing your kids that cooking is not a big deal – it’s something you do to take care of yourself and the people you love, in the most basic way.  And then enter the Uncle Ben’s Beginners Contest – you could even end up on Rachel Ray!  But hurry!  The contest ends October 6th!

 

Nesting for Baby – 2 weeks to go

This is a guest post by Jess Levey as part of Maternity Mondays.

We are now at 38 weeks, and as Braxton Hicks contractions (or ‘practice labor surges’ as we say in hypnobirthing) appear as quickly as they dissipate, the reality has definitely set in, that yes, we will soon be experiencing a life changing event, probably the most altering life event that we have yet encountered and may ever encounter. And, like any great adventure there is that amazing excitement and fear of the unknown that I have learned to embrace while trying as much as possible to control what’s to come, as futile an attempt that may be. We all do it- we try our hardest to control parts of our lives that we know are uncontrollable, and as much as I have prepared mentally and physically for labor, I know deep down that most of what will transpire is really out of my hands.

I can practice my hypnobirthing meditations every night, do my squats, begrudgingly do perineal massages, walk and walk and walk, insert and ingest primrose oil, eat my greens and omega 3s, talk to baby, stay positive, drink my pregnancy tea, and visualize the ‘perfect’ birthing experience, but in the end, something major or minor can occur and I can end up with an emergency C-section, or maybe I won’t be able to breast feed, or maybe our baby will be jaundice for a few days. As much as we can try to prepare and control what is to come, I know deep down that placing too much attachment on this ideal labor is dangerous.

That said, my husband and I have been greatly enjoying nesting and preparing as much as we can. If we can’t fully control the birthing experience, we may as well control what will happen when baby comes home. After my ridiculously fun baby shower a couple of weeks ago, we had to find room in our tiny one bedroom apartment for all the baby goodies- a task which has been quite an overwhelming challenge. The more stuff we get, the more anxious I seem to get. But, with subtle furniture re-arrangements I am hoping we can make it work. The most satisfying preparation we have done thus far is cooking home-made meals and freezing them so that we have yummy food to just heat up and enjoy during those sleepless first few weeks (or is it months?). So far we have made butternut squash soup, meatloaf, chili, lentil stew, sweet potato Quiche, broccoli Quiche, and currently my husband is cooking up a shepherd’s pie and some kugel.

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If there is one thing that Jewish people do when they are anxious, it’s eat, and in our case, it is cooking that has given us this wonderful sense of control and ease, and a feeling that we will be well taken care of when we bring baby home- not just by our close family and friends, but also by ourselves. My mother keeps telling me how much help we will need when the baby arrives. I keep trying to remind her that we are only having one baby (while my sister had the great challenge of two at the same time), that it’s not THAT hard, and that in case she forgot, my husband is actually a domestic maven who works from home, so there are two of us here supporting each other, doing the laundry, cooking, and cleaning together. While we are constantly in sync organizing and cooking and cleaning, I am reminded how lucky I am to be in this situation and it just boggles my mind how women have been doing this alone for so many years. Every time I go to do the dishes with my aching back, my husband looks over and says “you want me to finish that up?” And, as much as I want to continue to praise him for his ‘modern ways’ I also believe that this is really how it should be- we are in this together, preparing for what’s to come, even if I am the only one pushing through the pain.

And, with that, I wish you all a very HAPPY NEW YEAR full of adventurous unknowns…20121231-094739.jpg

 

A Very Chocolatey Halloween with Jacques Torres

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This week we were seriously delighted to go to Jacques Torres in Tribeca and create chocolate Halloween confections with Jacques and his amazing team.  If you follow me on twitter you already know that I documented my first Wicked Hot Chocolate of the season on the first chilly day in October.

I love Jacques Torres chocolates, so when he opened a store near my daughters’ school it was a mixed blessing – for my dark chocolate tooth.  I sort of hid how awesome it was from my daughters, because the last thing I need are girls who love lobster AND high quality chocolate.  If a 50 cent Kit Kat makes them happy who am I to tell them otherwise?

But, I was super excited to bring my girls to have this incredible experience of both meeting Jacques and getting to work with his delicious chocolate to create really fabulous Halloween chocolate treats.  I had no idea how awesome it was going to be, but it was one of the experiences that surpassed my expectations.

First, the girls were given chef hats and smocks and I was given a hair net (this is why there are no pictures of me!)  Then they were led into the back of the store to the actual chocolate factory.  Vats of chocolate were stirring, racks of finished products were stacked to the ceiling, and the tables were laid out with jars of candy, sheets of molds, containers of fruits.

colored chocolate for decorating

All the fixings for candy chocolate making

They immediately dove in and started making Halloween lollipops and giant tombstones.  After filling in the details with colored chocolate they used a huge pastry bag full of dark, milk or white chocolate to fill the molds to the top, and then they were whisked off to the refrigerators to set.

Filling the tombstone mold

That would have been fabulous enough, but then wax lined baking sheets appeared with huge dollops of chocolate waiting to be decorated and candy covered.

Then, a giant Jack o’lantern (Jacques o’lantern) puzzle mold.  And finally, the huge haunted house molds.   Before I knew it my girls had created 40 pieces of chocolate Halloween goodness.  40!!!

Entire Halloween chocolate creation haul!

On top of all that, Jacques Torres couldn’t have been more wonderful with the kids.  He obviously loves what he does, and loves sharing it.  His team was incredibly gracious, patient and encouraging even though they were over run with sugared up kids (and parents.)   They even packaged everything up professionally to take home.

40 chocolate Halloween creations!

And now, I think that little Jacques Torres store near my daughters’ school will never be just my place ever again.  Also, I’m totally ordering the chocolate turkeys for Thanksgiving!

Get ready for Thanksgiving next!