Friday, October 29, 2010

Bed, Bath, & Beyond; You get my Vote!

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE a good deal on something. Well, who doesn’t nowadays? And even better than a good deal is getting great customer service. I will share my story and it will run shivers down your spine (well, it did to mine, that’s how excited I am!).

After baby Nicolas was born just over 3 yrs ago, I realized if I was going to survive the 2nd Baby Syndrome, I would need lots of coffee to get me through. Lots. During my hazy days with him, I found a new love in “fancy hot drinks”, like cappuccinos and lattes. The sleep deprivation was doing a number on me and these hot totties were my own personal "mommy crack". Since I am not the type to blow 5 dollars on a Starbuck's, I decided I would buy my husband a Tassimo hot beverage maker for Christmas (I am all for a gift we both can use), you know the one that makes coffee, tea, hot choc, lattes and cappuccinos? That one. It was love at first sight. Until it wasn’t. Long story short, it ended up under the kitchen counter so I wouldn’t be reminded of my laziness in a rehab attempt. The poor thing just collected dust for almost 2 years.

Occasionally, the Mr. would ask about it and every time he did, I felt like an unfit mother and wife. Until this week.

I went on to troubleshoot to discover that I might need to “descale” the machine. But the catch was I needed the cleaning disc (that came with the machine but sadly went missing) and a descaling solution. Was able to find these online cheaply but the shipping was going to total more than the order. Sorry. Not my cup of tea.

Next step. Drive to Bed, Bath & Beyond to ask a sweet salesgirl what to do. She then told me (are you sitting down?), “Just bring in the machine and we’ll replace it for nothing. No receipt or box needed.”

I nearly collapsed.

Not trusting this information one bit, I naively approached a nice sales boy. Same question. Same answer. “Absolutely, bring it back, no hassles return policy.”


(Stay seated.)

I went back to B,B&B today lugging my disabled machine and the little reason I purchased it back in 2007. I was then given a BRAND NEW model and a receipt.

The salesgirl then broke the worst news of all. “You also have a rebate inside.”

“OK”, I said meekly, and ran like the wind out of B, B& B (or as my mom calls it “Bed, Bath, Body and Beyond”)

Got home, unloaded 2 grocery stores full of food, and my brand new Tassimo Bosch. Inside the bag was a rebate form for $50. All I needed to do was return the rebate form, UPC and receipt.

Gulp. I do not deserve this. I just scored a new machine and a rebate too? I am still not so sure I should qualify for the rebate. I’ll let you know in 6-8 weeks.

And just one more perk. After registering the product on line today, I also got 2 free boxes of T-Discs for my BRAND NEW COFFEE MAKER.

I am super impressed by Bed, Bath, Body & Beyond's return policy. I had NO idea this existed. The bottom line is, you can return anything if you are not happy with it or it doesn’t work properly. NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

And now, we’re back in business here at CafĂ© Nero! Would you like a biscotti with that?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Becky's Baked Chicken Tenders

Bye Bye "Mystery Meat", say hello to Becky's Baked Chicken Tenders. (I am the Anti-Nugget supastar, in case you didn't know.)

Here is a recipe you and the kids will love. Using plain panko bread crumbs and spices from your own pantry, you can create a healthy and VERY tasty new version of the dreaded nugget.

Panko is a Japanese breadcrumb and provides a nice crunch compared to regular breadcrumbs. They are also sold pre-seasoned but I like to control the sodium in my food. You can find these breadcrumbs anywhere now, even Ocean State Job Lot!

You can make these without the ground flax meal but why bother? I use it any chance I get. High in Omega 3, take a look (I love Bob's products and also find them at Job Lot.)


2 boneless chicken breasts washed, patted dry and cut into finger like strips

1 egg

1 cup plain panko bread crumbs

3 TBS ground flax meal

1 TBS kosher salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

2 shakes of cumin powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp oregano

1 TBS Parmesan or Romano grated cheese

grape seed oil and/or cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow bowl, whisk the egg and approx 1 tsp of water to thin it a bit.

In a separate pie plate or shallow dish, place your panko bread crumbs, flax meal, and all the spices and grated cheese. Mix well using your hands. At this point, smell the mixture, or even taste it if you think it needs more of something else. Don't be's your masterpiece, not mine!

Spray a baking sheet generously with cooking spray lined with aluminum foil (optional, but the foil helps the cleanup after).

Taking 2-3 tenders at a time, dip each in the egg mixture and let the egg drip off into the bowl. Then coat in the panko mixture, pressing down firmly so the crumbs stick well. Don't be afraid to turn them over a few times to get a good crunch on them. Repeat until done.

Place each tender on the baking sheet in one layer. Next, spray the tops generously with more cooking spray, or drizzle grape seed oil over each tender. (Grape seed oil is one of those super healthy oils and adds a nice flavor. Also very tolerant of high heat.)

Bake in the oven for about 12-14 minutes and then turn each tender over and bake another 12 minutes or so. You are looking for a golden brown color and a decent crunch.

  • Double up when making the panko mixture so you'll have extra for next time. You can store them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for later use.
  • Put your own twist on this, using more of less of certain spices. Try adding chili powder, cayenne, dried thyme or lemon pepper.
  • Use the crumb mixture for homemade fish sticks. Choose a sturdy white fish. (I haven't tried this yet. Cooking time would probably be shorter)
  • I've turned them into Buffalo style by dousing them in hot sauce just after cooking and dunking in blue cheese dressing.
  • You can also slice them after cooking and put in a salad for your lunch.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trick-or-Treat, Smell my Feet

The other night we had our friends, Mark & Mia over for sup. After the kids went to bed, we got a little giggly thinking about the suckiest things a kid could receive in his/her trick-or-treat bag.

What started as a top ten list turned into a monster. You may have to relocate the fam after giving out any of the following to your neighborhood goblins:
  1. Sweet & Low packet
  2. pennies in a plastic sandwich bag
  3. religious pamphlet
  4. a Cheez-it
  5. dental floss
  6. staples
  7. Chapstick
  8. apple
  9. Dum Dums
  10. Communion wafer
  11. your old hockey trophies
  12. circus peanuts
  13. 1 Uno card
  14. a rock
  15. Fortune cookie
  16. 1 shoe lace
  17. leftover Pink Peeps
  18. a can of chick peas
  19. 1 Pez
  20. empty bubble wand
  21. an enema
  22. pierogis
  23. a raw pumpkin seed, pulp attached
  24. fire safety booklets
  25. a raisin
  26. pine cones
  27. baby carrots
  28. Feenamint
  29. dog biscuits
  30. 1 orange Tic Tac
  31. anti-bacterial soap
  32. a Mentos
  33. can of sardines
  34. a ball of dryer lint
  35. 1 cheese ball
  36. ketchup & mustard packets
  37. a peanut
  38. used tea bags
  39. broken crayons
  40. hemorrhoid cream
  41. lighter fluid
  42. push pins
  43. H1N1 symptom list
  44. the list of approved snack items from their school

If you think of any other great give-aways, do share below!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thinking Outside the Lunchbox

We've covered breakfast in a recent blog with a breakfast cookie. Now, onto lunch.

So many parents complain about making the lunches, especially after seeing what comes home in the lunch bag at the end of the day. I hate throwing food away, too!

I only have to make 1 lunch so I don't feel it's a big deal. I know people who have multiple lunches on the assembly line each morning so the task can be a bit more daunting, especially if they all don't like the same thing.

As a kid, I loved tuna sandwiches and plain old peanut butter. I used to buy lunch once a week when they served spaghetti and salad or pizza (little did my taste buds know just how disgusting the pizza was). My son never buys lunch and doesn't care to. I know they are trying to improve the school menus but truly, I know enough teachers who suffer severe nausea on a daily basis from the "aromas" wafting from the cafs. Nuf said.

What's a parent to do? We are brainwashed by the food industry to pack items like "Lunchables" (code for processed, high-sodium, the anti- food) and 100 calorie snack packs (code for processed and overpriced). Whatever happened to packing as my friend Gina calls it, "a piece of fruit"? An orange or an apple, remember that in your lunch bag?

My son is not a "lunch meater" (did I just coin a new phrase?) so I have to be creative. Here is what I have made for his lunches over the last 2 years:

  • cold whole wheat spaghetti drizzled with olive oil and parsley
  • peanut butter and fluff on whole wheat bread
  • whole wheat tortillas wrapped with cheese
  • egg noodles
  • homemade chicken soup in a thermos
  • homemade pizza or bakery pizza strips
  • homemade spinach calzones

That's pretty much the running list. Snack items include:

  • Triscuits or Wheat Thins
  • granola bars
  • string cheese
  • sliced cheddar cheese
  • homemade muffin or cookie
  • always a vegetable; either sugar snap peas, cut up carrots, celery, cukes, peas, green beans or salad
  • water bottle and sometimes a 100% fruit juice. Sometimes I let him buy the sugar laden chocolate milk

Readers submitted their own ideas on the Facebook fan page. I'm including some extras that I wish my son would eat!

  • Gogurts (freeze and throw in the lunch in the a.m)
  • hummus and crackers or pita bread
  • edamame
  • egg, chicken, tuna, turkey, or ham salad
  • lean cuts of deli meat in a sandwich (Hormel Naturals makes a very healthy turkey & ham; no nitrates or preservatives. You will pay slightly more than your usual deli meat.)
  • apple slices and peanut butter (if allowed in school)
  • Nutella on whole grain bread (for me that is DESSERT!)
  • Sunbutter ( a great peanut butter substitute if your child has an allergy or the school has banned PB products) sandwich, or as a dip for apple slices.
  • any kind of leftovers from the night before. Kids don't care as much as you think about having HOT food. Or use a Thermos.
  • refried beans spread on a whole wheat tortilla with cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, salsa
  • Laughing Cow cheese or cream cheese used as a spread with shredded carrots, sliced olives, leftover cooked chicken in a wrap
  • Tri-colored pasta salad with shredded carrots, celery, broccoli florets with Italian dressing
  • dried fruit, raisins, cranberries, apricots, banana chips
  • Greek yogurt with granola (the Greek stuff is so rich and creamy and packed with protein) or topped with mini chocolate chips
  • your child's favorite fruit either whole or cut up

Other Tips:

  • Use your kid's creativity and let him/her make lunch. Challenge them to use at least 3 colors in the rainbow in their lunch and you are sure to be packing in some good vitamins!

  • Don't pack massive quantities of one thing. They only have so much time to eat. Picking on a few items will hopefully guarantee that they are getting a variety of nutrients.

  • Use an ice pack to keep cold stuff cold

  • Ask your kids what other kids eat at school to either, 1. Get ideas or 2. Help you feel better about what you are sending in : )

  • Remember, your kids' tastes will change so keep trying new things and don't give up or you'll both be in the same food rut for years to come

  • Make sure you have a good mix of protein and carbs to keep their brains and bodies at optimal speed for a great day of learning

Foods to Avoid Like the Plague:

  • Ramen noodles: Devoid of nutrients and extremely high in sodium

  • Lunchables or anything that comes in a can or plastic package. I just think homemade is the way to go, as much as you can. Do what is best for the child and not necessarily the easy/lazy way out.

  • Happy Meals. Yes, I have heard that some parents deliver these to their kids at school. I can't even go there right now.

  • Any junk food: Twinkies, Yodels, candy bars, Doritos, potato get the idea. I think putting these in a kid's lunch on a daily basis is a recipe for disaster. NOTE: I do not believe in depriving ANYONE of sweets. Give them a cookie or baked good that is homemade. At least you know what's in it, right?

Please share your lunch tips here and what works for you. We can all benefit from each other's wisdom : ). Thank you so much to all the Facebook fans who helped contribute to this article!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Too Much "Boo"ze in Halloween

I don't know how many people are reading my blog. I think after this posting, I will find out!

I’ve written this one in my head for 4 years now and finally have the guts to publish it. Putting these words on paper will mean one of the following:

Someone will;
  1. Call me a "stick in the mud"
  2. Agree with me
  3. Think I should live on another planet
  4. Defriend me, either on Facebook or in real life

At this over 40 stage of my life I worry less and less about others’ opinions. (Wait til I’m 80).

Here goes. I just have a question.

When did Trick or Treating with children become a drink fest? I am not talking about the tots running amok with Grey Goose and Bud Light. I am speaking of the parents who carry a cooler on their backs while the kids are running door to door to score some sugar. Seriously, it’s everywhere. No matter which neighborhood you venture into; the high class and the not so high class. The parents are chugging beer while the kids are chomping on Charleston Chews.

When exactly did this happen? Has it been going on for years and I was just unconscious?

Here’s the thing. I do not drink at all. Was never much of a drinker before I had kids and then once I did have them, I somehow developed a strange allergy to booze. I might have a sip of wine and seriously, that is more than my body can handle. So, it’s easy for me to sit on my wagon and judge. Alcoholic beverages are not my thing. Now, if you’re going to criticize people who eat chocolate excessively.....

I digress. I don't judge people for drinking responsibly. BUT....

I think that childhood is a very short ride and kids only have a very brief window of time to be innocent. And I look at Halloween as a fun and carefree childhood activity. Why do parents have to infuse alcohol into it? Is Trick or Treating so stressful that you need to get through it by drinking a 6 pack? I just. Don’t. Get it.

And it’s not just Halloween. It’s kids’ birthday parties, it’s play dates with mommies drinking margaritas, it’s the “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” attitude. It’s those damn “Real Housewives” on Bravo TV. Whenever the ladies get together you never see anyone drinking a cup of coffee. They are too drunk, hooked up to Pinot I.Vs. One couple could not endure a family photo shoot without a gallon of burgundy red on the side. I don’t find it funny. I find it pathetic and I think it sets a horrible example for children. Growing up thinking that this amount of alcohol consumption is normal, is not normal. And I really feel like part of the minority.

There's a time and a place for everything. Children's events should be just that; for children. The adults should plan their adult parties another time.

I’d love to know what the audience thinks. Does it bother anyone else? Please share your comments below!