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...]

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

Palm Springs Plan: Personal chef and so much more

I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle Globis of The Palm Springs Plan a few weekends ago when my family took a little vacation to Palm Springs.  The family that we rented the house with suggested we look in to hiring a private chef for one evening so that we could all really enjoy the vacation without having to do tons of work.  Done.  Through a friend of my husbands, we found out about Michelle and we contacted her to see if she was available.  Luckily she was free for the night we wanted and I spoke with her over the phone about my son’s food allergy requirements.  She was so easy to talk with and made me feel completely comfortable that she had a handle on what he could and couldn’t eat.  The interesting part about working with her is that she follow a Paleo diet.  It is also known as the Hunt and Gather diet or Caveman diet.  I won’t go in to detail but it is basically a diet consisting of everything that man survived on before man got crazy futzing with crops and processing.  I really didn’t know too much about it but I was confident that we would love whatever she came up with.  I left it up to her to set the menu after telling her a few items we knew we didn’t want.

She showed up in the early afternoon with everything she would need to prepare and serve not only our dinner but also some appetizers and a beverage.  She served us this AMAZING basil lemon and lime ade.  I must have had at least 5 glasses of it.  SO amazingly refreshing.  She made a quick guacamole which we ate with plantain chips (as regular chips are out of the question on a Paleo diet).  Plantain chips, although they resemble bananas, are not sweet.  These were fried lightly in coconut oil and were the perfect accompaniment to the dip.  They have a potato like quality that made them feel substantial and satisfying.  I am totally going to give these a shot at home.

Along with the guacamole and crudite, she also made endive with a kalamata olive tapenade and another version with an artichoke heart salad.  Yum!  And I had never tried French radishes before but I am certainly going to seek those out.

Although I was kept pretty busy with one sick child and another one intent on keeping me from sitting down on vacation, I was able to chit chat with Michelle while she was preparing the dishes.  She is a wealth of knowledge and I found out that she is a food educator and works with several non profits on healthier eating.  Partially as a result of my son’s food allergies, I have become really interested in how food affects our health and shapes our lifestyles.  I could have talked with Michelle for days about all of those issues.  And she is just an amazing women.  I loved hearing about her background and world travels.

Hey you guys, bacon is totally part of the Paleo diet.  Grass fed beef with no nitrites, nitrates, etc. so you are getting really good bacon.

Our first course was a caesar salad with roasted heirloom tomatoes, and bacon with a delicious creamy dressing.  Because of the egg in the dressing and my son’s food allergies and kid’s general disregard for things that they aren’t that experienced with, she made the most amazingly simple and equally delicious vinaigrette for their salads.  I’m not kidding, she used a really good, fruity olive oil and some lemon juice.  I know this is going to sound odd, but it sort of tasted like frosting.  It was sweet and rich with the brightness from the lemon.  I am on the look out for that olive oil now.

She prepared 3 side dishes to go along with our main course.  She made mashed cauliflower which mimics mashed potatoes.  It had a depth of flavor that I wasn’t expecting which I think partially came from the fact that she used a homemade stock and other tricks to really up the ante.  I had several helpings.  Another side was this asparagus, mushroom and bacon saute.  INSANELY tasty.  I had several helpings of this too.  Michelle doesn’t judge. :)  The final side dish was cooked carrots.  I forgot to take a picture of these.  I even had more of those.  Watching her prepare these dishes was a good reminder that you don’t need to cook veggies very long which is totally something I need to work on.

For the main course Michelle prepared lamb chops.  Amen.  She worked with me to find the more well-done chops which is my preference and was not offended that I had that request.  Anyone who dines on meat with me knows I don’t like pink.  But by food knowledge (most of which I have gained from hours of tv watching of The Food Network and Bravo food themed shows) tells me that lamb chops should not be over cooked, pink is ok.  But I still don’t want to eat it.  The other awesome part of having lamb for dinner is that it is not something I would cook at home.  So it really was like getting a restaurant dinner in the comfort of your own home.  And for those of you with kids, you know that going to dinner at a restaurant is not something that is relaxing or even, at times, enjoyable.  And I didn’t have to get dressed up.  Word to your mother. Although refined sugars are not part of the Paleo diet, Michelle made sure that we had some dessert options.  The chocolate pudding she made for us was served in these adorable green vintage glasses with petite spoons.  Totally a girl after my own heart.  She nailed it with all her serving dishes.  Now let’s talk about the pudding.  Cocoa powder, avocados and a natural sweetener.  It was so good!!!!  I’m a dessert fanatic and this really excited me because it was such a revelation.  I can have dessert and get those intense flavors I love but they can be made in a healthier way.  The avocados provide good fats to your body and it was rich and creamy without adding processed ingredients.  I have made this twice since we’ve been home.

Along with providing personal chef and nutrition coaching services, Michelle also makes some ready-made items that can be purchased from her website.  These macaroons are one of those items and they are delightful.  Full of flavor with a really nice consistency these cookies were an awesome accompaniment to the pudding.

Even though my son didn’t get to eat the food that was tailored around his allergies, the adults thoroughly enjoyed the dishes that Michelle made for us.  I am so glad to have met her and hope that any of you who are planning a vacation to Palm Springs will consider having her over to cook for you!

*This is not a sponsored post.  I did not receive a discount and wanted to share an awesome experience with my readers.  Check out Michelle’s website for more info about what she can help you with and if you happen to see it, check out the July issue of Palm Springs Life Magazine to see her featured.