Pepperidge Farm #PuffDay14

#puffday 14 at Pepperidge Farm Innovation Center in CT. // www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI mentioned a few weeks ago that I was in NY for a super quick trip.  But I wasn’t just in NY.  For one whole day I had the chance to go to Connecticut and visit the Pepperidge Farm Innovation Center for their #PuffDay14 event.  It was kind of the coolest thing ever.  For SO many reasons.  So how did I get invited, I bet you are wondering.  I totally won a contest!!! Tori (in the photo all the way to the right) of Thoughtfully Simple was already working with Pepperidge Farm on their Puff Pastry product.  She hosted a contest on her site and I got chosen to accompany her to their headquarters.  Fun, right!?  There were seven other gals invited so it was super intimate and we had a blast!  And it is such a small world.  That is Cheri, of Adventures in the Kitchen, standing next to me.  Turns out she lives 15 minutes from me and used to work with one of my best friends!

@hostesstori and I at Pepperidge Farm #PuffDay14 event //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comWe got a tour of their massive facility and got to see their testing rooms, a small-ish factory where they test out new ideas for products, their employee cafe (yes – this is worth mentioning especially because you can order dinner to take home with you on your way out! Genius!) and so much more.  We got to hang out in their test kitchen area and met tons of Pepperidge Farm staff, from the culinary side, marketing, packaging, development, etc.  It was so neat to hear from all the different people and see the crazy amount of teamwork it takes to create and market each individual product.  This is a well oiled machine, folks.   [Read more...]

Easy Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream Recipe

Homemade chocolate coconut milk ice cream.  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThis chocolate coconut milk ice cream is ridiculous.  Like, super tasty, delicious ridiculousness.  And it is super easy to make.  The flavor is rich, a little bit bitter but sweet and nutty from the coconut milk.  And the texture!  It’s smooth with a touch of grit.  Reading that back, it doesn’t sound like it should be good.  But it is SO good!  I first made this recipe when my son couldn’t eat traditional ice cream because of his allergies.  It was an awesome alternative for him during the summer months.  I recently made it again and guess what, I like this ice cream more than he does.  He has been able to add some milk back in to his diet so it has opened up the door to some ice creams.  So these days his tastes run sweeter.  But I love that when I want something cold, creamy and easy, I can make this in about an hour.

The easiest chocolate coconut milk ice cream you can make at home. //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThe biggest hurdle is making sure that you remember to put the freezer bowl in the freezer ahead of time.  Once that is well chilled (overnight) you just mix up the ingredients in a blender and then add them to the ice cream maker.  The ice cream is made up of cocoa powder, sugar and coconut milk.  I prefer the Trader Joe’s coconut milk and keep a few cans in the cupboard.  They last for a long time so it is easy to keep them around, at the ready, for this recipe.  Pretty awesome that the ingredients are simple and not chemical laden.

Easy chocolate coconut milk ice cream.  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThe original recipe also included crushed up Oreos which my son never wanted to add in.  Which is crazy since he LOVES Oreos like a fat kid loves Oreos.  You should definitely put this on your “to make” list immediately.  I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.  And I think I am going to make this again and try it out with the Oreos.  That just sounds amazing.  And maybe my son will like it more that way.  If he doesn’t that is just more for me!

I followed this recipe for Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream.

 

New Red Robin Allergy Friendly Interactive Menu

*The Red Robin information and gift cards have been provided by Red Robin.  I was sent a gift card to Red Robin to try out their new Interactive Allergen Friendly Menu Builder portion of their website.  I jumped at the chance because Red Robin was one of the first restaurants that I let my food allergic son eat out at because the staff and management ALWAYS went out of their way to ensure his safety.  With the creation and launch of this new meal planning feature, making allergen free dining even easier and safer, I wanted to share my experience with you all.  All opinions are mine.Whiskey River BBQ wrap at Red Robin.  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.com #sponsoredI LOVE Red Robin.  And always have.  From their high octane cocktails that I discovered in college (Sand in Your Shorts was always my go-to but I probably haven’t had that in about 10 years!) to their fries (I’m obsessed with their fries!) and on to my current favorite the Whiskey River BBQ wrap, I could eat at Red Robin daily.  But I don’t.  We really don’t eat out all that much.  I prefer to save money and make dinner at home.  But it wasn’t always like that.  I pretty much unconsciously set out to NOT learn how to cook from my mom growing up.  So when I got married, and even after I had my first child, I was getting some homemade meals on the table but they were NOT nutritious, particularly tasty or frequent.  All of that changed when I found out my son had tons of food allergies at one year old.  He had had continual, severe eczema for 6 months and I was desperate to get to the root of the problem.  I will never forget one Monday night, however, when the phone rang and it was his doctor.  After months of trying crazy harsh creams and steroids, we finally did a blood test to see if it was food allergies.  It was after 5 pm when the call came and she said, “He’s allergic to milk, eggs, soy, peanut, probably shellfish and other tree nuts.  You can give him Rice Milk.  They sell it at Whole Foods.”  And with that, I was left to navigate his food allergies on my own.  We changed pediatricians and I got to work trying to figure out what would be safe to feed him.  I did my research online and in books and by wandering Sprouts and Whole Foods.  I immediately had teach myself to cook and made pretty much all of his food.  I didn’t feel confidant with reading labels to know if I was going to give him something that would harm him.  And I certainly didn’t feel comfortable taking him out to restaurants and having to rely on someone else’s knowledge, or lack thereof, of food allergies to keep him safe.

Red Robin has a new allergen free meal builder to create your perfect, and safe meal.  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.com #sponsoredI brought all of his food with me wherever we went.  If he did come to a restaurant with us I carefully wiped down the table and made sure he wasn’t sitting by anyone that had one of the food’s he couldn’t have.  But finally, when he was about 4, I decided that if I wanted to give him more of a normal childhood experience in terms of dining out, that I should take the next step of trying to navigate restaurant menus.  One of the first places I went was Red Robin.  I did some research on line and felt that there was at least some conversation about allergies on their site.  I called a manager and inquired about food allergies and decided to try it out.  Even back then they handled food allergies with ease.  And it was a place he could eat where I felt he was safe with fries no less!  So when I got an email asking if I would like to check out the new Red Robin allergy friendly interactive menu builder, I jumped at the chance.  A few Saturdays ago, the family and I headed to Red Robin for lunch.

Dining out with food allergies.  //  www.cupcakesandcutlery.com #sponsoredWhile it is possible to pull up the website on your own phone (and of course from your home computer), the manager at our Red Robin location brought us out an iPad to view the menu builder on.  Of course my son had to try it out first.  I think he really just wanted to see if they had Minecraft on the iPad.  Red Robin trains all team members on how to deal with dietary restrictions and modifications to their menus.  The use special allergy alerts in different type so it is clear on every order.  The alert notifies the kitchen that a special allergen kit is required for the order.  The kit includes tools that are to be used on allergen orders only and are purple to clearly distinguish them from other kitchen tools.  Awesome! [Read more...]

Healthier Snack Ideas for Kids

Motts logo

There are decent granola bar options for kids to snack on.I decided to sit my kids down the other day to see if I could figure out some healthier snacking options for them.  I started off by asking them what their favorite junk foods are.  My oldest said, “the middle of those chocolate sandwich cookies, chocolate caramel pretzel granola bars, lattes (He’s joking, he’s never had a latte.  That I am aware of.) and ice cream.  My youngest said, “ice cream, any kind of chocolate, pretty much all candy and gummy fruit snacks.”  I wasn’t surprised by their answers.  And that was a good starting point for trying to give them better options while still getting a little bit of what they want.  What do you think your kids would say?

Both of my kids love chocolate so I try to cut down the amount they get by pairing it with fruit or pretzels. Studies show that dark chocolate has good properties, right?  And moderation is the key.  So I am fine including chocolate in their snacking.  But I make sure that it isn’t the entire snack and that I pair it with fruit or pretzels, both of which go AMAZING with dark chocolate.  This way, they aren’t eating an entire chocolate bar, or a bunch of chocolate candy, but getting a little to satisfy their cravings.

Dried fruit can take the place of high sugar gummy snacks.My youngest would happily survive on gummy snacks if I let him.  So I decided to try swapping them with straight up dried fruit.  While there is still a lot of sugar in dried fruit, there isn’t all the other funky chemicals like in those crazy-colored, super chewy fruit gummies.  At least I am pretty sure there isn’t all that other stuff in there…

sunflower seeds make a healthier snack for kids but is still crunchy with some salt.Sometimes they ask for chips or sugar cereals for a snack.  Due to food allergies, we can’t give them nuts, but salted sunflower seeds are a great substitute.  They are crunchy and salty with good fats which their little bodies need.  I, on the other hand, need to be careful with these in the house because I want to eat them by the spoonful.  So yummy.

sunbutter and banana "quesadilla" is a great after school snack idea.When they get home from school I like to give them a snack that is a little bit more hearty.  If I don’t, I find they ask for more food several times leading up to dinner.  For this snack I make Sunbutter and banana “quesadillas”.  There is no cheese in these, they just look like a quesadilla.  The Sunbutter is a great substitute for peanut butter (dumb allergies) and the banana is a nice sweet touch.  You can make it even a little bit more decadent by spraying a non-stick pan with a little bit of spray oil and then grilling it up.  Oh man.  Try this.   [Read more...]

BJ’s Restaurants and Big Poppa’s Smokers Make BBQ Heaven

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group and BJ’s Restaurants but all my opinions are my own. #PMedia #BJsrestaurants http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO

BJ's Tustin MarketplaceLast week I had a dear friend staying with my family.  As a teacher she has summers off and decided to leave her home in Texas and spend the summer with her parents in Arizona and friends in California.  She’s been away from the Lone Star State for a few weeks already.  So of course, we had to track down some barbecue to make her feel a little more at home.  BJ’s restaurants just announced their collaboration with Big Poppa’s Smokers on their Blue Ribbon Barbecue menu so you know we had to go check it out.

Bj's waiting areaThere wasn’t a wait when we arrived, but you know my boys had to check out every inch of the restaurant.

BJ's Pizza and BreweryI have had so many amazing BJ’s Restaurants.  In college, my friends and I spent many a late night happy hour enjoying their ciders and handcrafted beers.  Good times.  BJ’s makes the only lemonade I like (I’m VERY picky about my lemonade) and of course they are home to the Pizookie.  If you haven’t had one I suggest you march yourself to your nearest location and order.  Life changing.

 

Looking over the new Big Poppa's BBQ menuK and I perused the barbecue menu which has everything from ribs and sandwiches, to sides and salads and even suggests beer pairings.

Iced tea and bbqSince I had the kids with me, I decided to stick with an iced tea but my heart really wanted some beer to go with my barbecue.  I guess that just means I’ll have to go back and sample the menu again…

Kid's menu at BJ'sI love any restaurant that tries to keep my kids entertained and was truly grateful for the coloring page and crayons.  And both my boys sucked down their strawberry lemonade immediately.

hugs with auntie kMy boys love their auntie K and she ended up with both of them on her side of the table.  Ha ha.  That meant I got to actually use my fork without someone leaning on my arm the way they usually do.  For some reason my boys can’t sit upright in a booth and they often pin my elbow to my side with their body weight.  I imagine that I look like a T-Rex trying to eat with a fork.  Clothes get stained.  But auntie K didn’t mind it.

Pulled pork sandwich at BJ'sSo then the food came.  Mmmmmm.  We ordered the Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich with fries and coleslaw.  BJ’s Restaurants offers three different BBQ sauces with their Blue Ribbon Barbecue entrees.  I went with a sweet, mild version.  The meat was super tender and the crunchy fried onions were a match made in heaven.  And fries dipped in barbecue sauce…yum.

Big Poppa Smokers BBQ at BJ'sAnd I totally went out on a limb with the Baby Back Pork Ribs.  I have never ordered ribs out in a restaurant before.  I don’t like to get messy and sometimes they are super fatty.  These were phenomenal.  Not only were they absolutely delicious, but the meat totally fell right off the bone.  I could use my fork and get every piece of meat without getting messy.  The flavor was smokey and sweet and I would totally order these again!  Hooray for having a new go-to dish at BJ’s!  Up until the barbecue menu came out I only ever ordered an individual Great White pizza with added broccoli.  Which is crazy since BJ’s has a really well-rounded menu.  But when you love something, sometimes you don’t want to leave it.

Delicious pork ribs at BJsI’m so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone with the ribs!  K and I ordered the dishes to share but we each gravitated to one dish more.  She ended up finishing off the sandwich and I attacked the ribs.  We had the half order but next time I just may order the bigger portion!  So yummy!

Corn Fritters at BJsAnd then there were these Corn Fritters with Bacon Aioli.  Do it.  They were sweet and soft with a hint of heat from the jalapeno.  Crazy good.

photo bombOn a side note, who taught my youngest son how to “photo bomb”?  As always, the customer service at BJ’s Restaurants was awesome.  This is the first time I have taken my oldest son.  When I mentioned he had food allergies the chef came out to speak with me about his needs and then came back to check on us later in the meal as well.  It made me feel well taken care of.  Big thumbs up on the food allergy front.

Great BBQ at BJsBJ’s Restaurants Blue Ribbon Barbecue menu is available at most locations through September 2 so hurry in to try it today.  I will definitely be heading back for more ribs and the corn bread which I didn’t get to try on this visit.  Oh and something called Jallelujah-spiced fries.  I’ll probably take my husband back with me for a date night.  There is no chance that men won’t love this menu.   And as for Auntie K, she got her barbecue fix and was again a happy girl.

Find out more about Big Poppa’s Smokers here

BJ’s Restaurant is totally social:  Follow on TwitterFacebook

This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group and BJ’s Restaurants but all my opinions are my own. #PMedia #BJsrestaurants http://cmp.ly/3/8vNxcO