Easter Eats for Between-Meal Treats

Easter Eats for Between-Meal Treats

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Rebecca

Full of symbolism and rich with rituals, Easter is an exciting holiday for many families to celebrate. The menu for Easter dinner is always wonderful, though for those of us with little ones, we might be overheard muttering about the main meal being served at odd times of day. This is often the case when it comes to large holiday meal gatherings. Easter takes a little bit of extra planning so that no one becomes “hangry” when Easter dinner is served in the middle of the afternoon. Continue reading “Easter Eats for Between-Meal Treats”

New Year's Eve Traditions

New Year's Eve Traditions

 

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Rebecca

New Year’s Eve is right around the corner and no matter what part of the world you’re in, it’s a time of year that spins a little magic. People around the globe embrace many traditions, focus on good luck in the year ahead, and often enjoy one last night of celebrating holiday festivities before starting new resolutions.

At Coborn’s, we have guests and employees from around the world who grace our stores each week. In appreciation for the array of cultural richness among us, below you’ll find some New Year’s Eve food traditions from different countries. If you pay attention, you may notice that there are three overarching themes to many New Year’s foods: gold, round things, and pork. Gold symbolized wealth and good fortune. Rings symbolize the year coming full circle. And in many countries, pigs symbolize progress because they never walk backward.  Who knew?

Rice Pudding with a Surprise

Rice Pudding with a Surprise

As a child, one of my favorite New Year’s traditions came from my dad’s side of the family. His mom was Finnish and on New Year’s Day, she always served warm rice pudding with an almond hidden in the dish. The person who found the almond would certainly enjoy good luck in the New Year. I was about five or six when I first found it and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

Sauerkraut

When I married into my husband’s family (99% Polish heritage), I had never heard of sauerkraut as a New Year’s Day dish to bring forth good luck in the year ahead. I later learned that Germans traditionally eat sauerkraut on New Year’s Eve to ensure wealth and good fortune in the New Year. This is a tradition I gladly embraced. Yum! Pickled herring is also a favorite in Poland.

Twelve Grapes

12 Grapes

A friend of mine from college grew up in Spain and she shared her tradition of gobbling grapes. When the ball drops at midnight, party-goers in Spain quickly gobble a dozen grapes for good luck. Each grape represents a month, so if one is particularly sweet, the correlating month will be wonderful. If, say, the third grape is sour, your March may be unlucky. At my friend’s New Year’s Eve parties, she pokes the grapes onto a bamboo skewer and then uses this like a giant stir stick in each guest’s champagne flute. It’s a lovely presentation – until it’s time to gobble. The revelers try to get all the grapes into their mouth at once. It’s literally a mouthful and then some!

Soba Noodle Soup

In Japan, party-goers enjoy soba noodle soup on New Year’s Day. The long buckwheat noodles are known to symbolize longevity. Here’s a delicious recipe I tried from the Coborn’s website.

Soba Noodle Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-6
 
Ingredients
  • 6 to 8 Cups water
  • 6 to 8 Dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 8 Oz. Package Dried Soba Noodles
  • 1 Carrot, scrubbed and cut into matchsticks
  • 3 Scallions, white and pale green parts only, cut thinly or on the diagonal
  • ½ Lb. Firm Tofu, cut into 1-1/2-inch dice
  • 3 T. Shoyu
  • 3 T. Mirin
  • 1 T. Minced Fresh Ginger
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, heat 6 to 8 cups water (depending on how thick you want your soup) to boiling. Place the shiitakes in a medium bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let steep for 2 hours or as long as overnight.
  2. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions,* but undercook them slightly, as they will be reheated in the broth. Drain and rinse well. Set aside.
  3. Steam the carrots until they are brightly colored and just tender. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
  4. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Place the liquid in a soup pot. Remove and discard the stems from the mushrooms. Chop the mushroom caps and add to the saucepan.
  5. To the mixture add the scallions (reserving 1 tablespoon), tofu, shoyu, mirin, ginger, and garlic. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  6. Add the cooked noodles and steamed carrots to the saucepan. Simmer a few more minutes, until the noodles and carrots are heated through. Remove from the heat and add the sesame oil. Serve in warmed bowls, garnished with the reserved scallions.

 

Cotechino con Lenticchie

For those looking for a little more substance, perhaps the Italian dish Cotechino con Lenticchie will be satisfying. It features lentils that look like miniature gold coins and pork sausage medallions that are supposed to guarantee good luck. The dish stands for prosperity and good fortune in the New Year. You can find the recipe here.

Cotechino with Lentils
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Cotechino Sausage
  • 1 1/1 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 Cloves
  • ¾ Lb. Dried Lentils
  • 3½ Oz. Canned Tomatoes
  • 1 Cup Broth
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lentils, then soak them in a bowl full of cold water for 12 hours. If you prefer, you can used jarred lentils.
  2. Using the tip of a skewer or a fork, poke holes in the cotechino. Place it in a pot of cold, unsalted water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook over low heat for 2 hours.
  3. In the meantime, peel and dice the onion. Place a frying pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil and, once hot, add the onion, bay leaf and cloves. Once the onion is translucent, but not yet brown, add the lentils, drained of their soaking water and rinsed. Saute for 30 seconds, then add the tomato. Mix well and cover with broth.
  4. Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft, but aren’t falling apart. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Once done cooking, remove the cotechino and cut off any kitchen twine. Cut into ½ to 1 inch slices. Remove the casing and serve with the lentils. If you like, you can grind extra pepper on top.
Notes
When you cook lentils, remember to salt them at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning, so that they don’t remain hard.

 

St. Basil’s Bread 

The Greeks have a delicious tradition of savoring St. Basil’s Bread, which is also called Vassilópita, on New Year’s Day. It’s a sweet bread that tastes sort of like a Brioche; what makes it really special is that the baker drops a gold coin inside. The person who finds the coin will be blessed for the New Year. The bread was originally baked as an act of charity by St. Basil, who generously helped the poor in a sneaky way. He had the church ladies bake the bread with coins inside so he could feed the hungry and surprise them with money without damaging their pride. The recipe is below.

St. Basil's Bread
 
Ingredients
  • ½ Cup Warm Milk
  • 1 (.25 ounce) Package Active Dry Yeast
  • ½ Cup Bread Flour
  • 6 Cups Bread Flour
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ½ Cup White Sugar
  • ½ tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. Cinnamon
  • ¾ Cup Butter, melted
  • 3 Eggs
  • ½ Cup Almonds, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup milk, yeast and ½ cup flour. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  2. Place 6 cups flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add contents of small bowl, salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ¾ cup melted butter, 3 eggs and 2 cups milk. Mix thoroughly to make a thick dough.
  3. Scoop the dough into a lightly greased 8x8 inch baking pan. Brush dough with melted butter, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  5. When dough has risen, insert a clean silver coin into the loaf. Brush dough with beaten egg and sprinkle with chopped almonds. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 40 minutes.

 

Alcoholic Beverages

Regardless of the country you’re in when the clock strikes midnight, there will likely be some revelers enjoying some sort of alcoholic drink. Here in the US, it’s common to celebrate with some sparkling wine. At my house, we grownups partake in the German mulled wine called Feuerzangenbowle. The kids enjoy mulled cider (sans spirits, of course). In Japan, they sip a cup of sake.

Mulled Wine
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Bottles Red Wine
  • 2 Cups Orange Juice
  • 1 Orange, sliced into four thick slices
  • 50 Cloves (or so) 4-5 Cinnamon Sticks
Instructions
  1. Combine the wine and juice in a pot and simmer over low heat.
  2. Poke the cloves into the white part of the orange slices on both the top and bottom side.
  3. Add the orange slices and cinnamon sticks to the wine.
  4. After mulled wine is hot (not boiling), remove the pot from the stove and place it on a trivet in an open area.
  5. Atop the pot, balance a metal “stand” for setting the sugar cone onto (metal cooling rack works, so does a pair of metal shish kebab skewers).
  6. Carefully place the sugar cone onto the stand.
  7. With a ladle, slowly pour the Bacardi 151 over the sugar cone until it is fully covered.
  8. Then light the cone and enjoy the blue flames that dance from the cone.
  9. As the sugar and rum melt, they caramelize and drip into the wine, adding to the already amazing mulled wine flavor.

 

No matter where you are or which traditions you adopt as you ring in the New Year, I offer you this toast: To good health, good friends, and good cheer. Happy New Year!

 

Rebecca
Coborn’s, Inc. Communications Manager

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Tons of Tomatoes!

Neighborhood-Salsa

www.cobornsblog.com - Coborn's Blogger - Rebecca K.
Rebecca

Does it ever seem like you have tomatoes coming out of your ears? Each fall, my family pulls in the last of the half-green tomatoes and sets them on the front porch to finish ripening. It never seems like much, until pail after pail is unloaded and eventually we realize we overplanted once again.

Typically, this means we have a wonderful salsa-making session in store, along with making a bunch of spaghetti sauce. The whole family gets involved in the tomato prep process, and it’s great to involve even itsy bitsy children. Our little guy has the very important job of making sure the tomatoes are clean. We give him a couple of big bowls of water, a wooden spoon and some towels. He sticks some tomatoes into one water bowl, dunks them with the spoon, and then transfers them to the next bowl of water to rinse, dunking them again with the spoon before moving them to the towels. We found that one of our twins is naturally persnickety, which makes her a perfect tomato skin peeler. HerSalsa-Chefs twin sister loves getting messy. Her job is to take the skinned tomato, shove her thumbs up inside the walls of it, and scrape the seeds down into the sink.

Last year, our autumn got away from us, so I simply washed those tomatoes, stuck them in zippered freezer bags, and froze them until we had a free weekend later in the year. Sure enough, as they thawed, the skins slid right off, saving us a step of having to par-boil in order to remove the bitter skins.

A few years ago, our neighbors were trading jars of salsa, everyone sampling the others and enjoying the variety of flavors. We discovered that our next door neighbors’ salsa tasted remarkably similar to ours. A comparison of “family” recipes revealed that our recipes were nearly identical – the only difference was that ours included carrots! We all had a good laugh over that and both adjusted our recipe cards to say “Neighborhood Salsa.”

This year, we’re freezing a bunch of tomatoes again for salsas and sauces, but not before pulling out a handful of the reddest cherry tomatoes out for my favorite lunch dish: Tabouli. This fresh meal originates from Lebanon and is very healthy and delicious (it’s sometimes spelled Tabbouleh). It’s full of parsley, tomatoes, onion, herbs, lemon, quinoa and bulgur wheat, which is a rich source of protein, fiber and minerals, and yet is low in calories and fat. I like to serve it in pitas and while it may look pretty earthy, even my meat-loving family enjoys it.

Below are the recipes for my favorite Neighborhood Salsa and Tabouli. Enjoy!

Neighborhood Salsa
 
Ingredients
  • ⅓ Cup Sugar
  • 8 Cups Tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 2½ Cups Onions, chopped
  • 1½ Cups Green Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Cup Jalapeño, diced
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. Cumin
  • 2 tsp. Ground Pepper
  • ⅛ Cup Canning Salt
  • ⅓ Cup White Vinegar
  • 15 Oz. Can Tomato Sauce
  • 12 Oz. Can Tomato Paste
  • 1 Cup Carrots, shredded (if you need to mellow out the heat of the Jalapeños)
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 10 minutes.
  2. Taste test. If it’s too hot, add a half cup of shredded carrots and let cook for another 10 minutes.
  3. Taste test again. If it’s still too hot, add another half cup of carrots and look for 10 more minutes.
  4. Seal in jars and cook in a hot bath for 10 minutes. (I follow the Ball canning instructions exactly for food safety.)
Notes
Tomato skins and seeds both are bitter, so you can get rid of them.

 Tabouli

Tabouli

Tabouli
 
Ingredients
  • 2 Cups Prepared Quinoa/Bulgur Blend (Full Circle brand in the Natural Foods department)
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • ¼ Cup Olive or Grape Seed Oil
  • ½ tsp. Pepper
  • ¼ Cup Lemon Juice
  • 3 Medium Tomatoes, diced
  • 2 Bunches Green Onions, diced
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Parsley, destemmed and chopped coarsely
  • 2 tsp. Fresh Mint, chopped finely
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients and cover tightly.
  2. Let the mixture marinate in the refrigerator for a couple days.
  3. Serve in pita pockets, in lettuce wraps, or on crackers.
Notes
• Invite others to help with plucking the parsley off the stems. The stems are bitter. It’s a tedious process, but the kids are great helpers and it’s an easy way for them to use their fine motor skills.
• Some chefs mince the parsley up very finely, but we prefer ours a little heartier. It stays fluffier – more like a salad and less like a dip.
• If your tabouli is not flavorful enough, add more salt and more lemon juice. My family prefers the recipe as listed above, but I always set aside some for myself and then I sprinkle a lot more lemon juice over the top of it.

 

Rebecca
Coborn’s, Inc. Communications Manager

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DIY Microwavable Heating Pad

DIY Microwavable Heating Pad www.cobornsblog.com

www.cobornsblog.com - Fun with Family with Rebecca
Rebecca

Our family mantra is that some of the best memories are made outside. We’re an active family, enjoying fresh air as much as possible – all year long. Believe it or not, we do don’t even keep our television plugged in. Along with all of our outdoor adventures comes many owies to tend to, from scratches and bruises to deep muscle aches. Years ago, my mom tipped me off on the kid-safe heating pad/ice pack idea of using reusable rice bags; I’ve adapted her recipe into an anti-inflammatory bag of wonder.

DIY Microwavable Heating Pad www.cobornsblog.comThese rice bags are not difficult or expensive to make, but they do take a little time. I have made a simple square one for each of my children, and have given many more shoulder-size rectangles to friends and family. You can use your rice bag as a heating pad by nuking it in the microwave for a couple minutes and you also can keep one in the freezer as an “ice pack.”

Supplies for Shoulder-Size Rice Bag

¼ yard of heavy 100% cotton flannel
¼ yard of heavy 100% cotton flannel in a coordinating color
All-purpose thread to match fabric
Rotary cutter and mat, or sharp scissors
Straight pins
4 cups jasmine rice
1/3 cup whole allspice
1/3 cup cinnamon sticks – busted up into little chunks
1/3 cup black peppercorns
1/3 cup whole cloves

Instructions

Combine the rice and spices in a bowl and set aside. Then, cut one 9″ x 23″ rectangle from each piece of flannel.

At Your Sewing Machine

1. Pin the fabric rectangles right sides together.
2. Sew all the way around the two long sides and one short side, leaving one short end open for adding rice. Remember to pivot at the corners and to lock your seam at the beginning and end of these seams.
3. Trim the three sides and cut the corners at an angle.
4. Flip the bag right side out again.
5. Fold the bag into thirds and mark with pins.
6. Open the bag and pour a third of the rice mix to fill the first pocket. Note, you want to be able to conform the pad to your neck, so don’t overfill it.
7. Hold the pad up vertically so the rice falls to the bottom of the first pocket you marked earlier with pins. I find it helpful to hold the rice pocket with one hand and guide the fabric as it is sewn using the other hand. This way, little pieces of the rice mixture don’t sneak over and get in the way of your needle. If you need to, you can pin along the line.
8. Sew a vertical line of stitching at the first line to make the bottom pocket.
9. Repeat for the next pocket.
10. Fill the last pocket, then fold the open edges inward and sew the edge shut.

Using Your Rice Bag as a Heating Pad

To use your rice bag as a heating pad, microwave the bag for 1-2 minutes. Test the bag to make sure it’s not too hot, as microwaves vary with how quickly they heat.

Using Your Rice Bag as an Ice Pack

To use your rice bag as an ice pack, simply toss the bag into the freezer for an hour. We keep one in the freezer at all times.

Words to the Wise

You can make any size rice bag you want – simply cut the fabric with a 1” margin. I have made 2”x2” rice bags to use as reusable hand warmers in mittens and boots during the cold snaps of winter.

Be sure to keep the rice bag dry. If it gets wet, your rice will begin to swell and cook and need to be thrown away.

My favorite materials are heavy 100% cotton flannel remnants from our local quilt store, jasmine rice, and a blend of anti-inflammatory herbs from the Bulk Foods section. Alone, whole peppercorn isn’t all that interesting. But when you pair it with allspice, cloves and cinnamon, the combination is incredibly good. It has soothed more achy muscles than I care to remember.
If I could find a way to share how incredibly wonderful this all smells, I would love to send you a whiff through your screen. Once you make your first rice bag, don’t be surprised when you soon find yourself shopping for flannel. These little anti-inflammatory bags of wonder truly are terrific!

 

Rebecca
Coborn’s, Inc. Communications Manager

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Simple Summer Meals on the Run

Simple Summer Meals on the Run! www.cobornsblog.com

www.cobornsblog.com - Fun with Family with Rebecca
Rebecca

We’re getting into my favorite season of the year: lake season! For those who are lucky enough to live on the water year round, perhaps the excitement doesn’t overcome them quite like it does me. This is the time of year when my family gives up dusting and vacuuming for the summer, doesn’t invite company to visit our home, and perpetually leaves the suitcases out on the coffee tables in our family room – always in packing and unpacking mode throughout the week – all summer long until the new school year starts. When each Thursday night comes, we tuck the kids into bed, then load up the car so that at 5:00 on Friday, we can hit to the road!

During particularly hectic weeks, I order groceries for the weekend menu and a bag of ice from CobornsDelivers and have them deliver my order to my office. I meet them in the parking lot with a cooler in my trunk and voila! I’m all set for the weekend.

In order to survive the madness of constantly being on the go, we plan our weekend meals to be as simple as possible. Yes, sometimes we bring a box of cereal for breakfast or PB&Js for a boat ride, but we honestly eat pretty delicious food by simply planning smart. For instance, we don’t ever bring loaves of bread – they always get smooshed; instead we use pitas, tortillas or sandwich rounds. And there’s nothing wrong with the occasional meat/cheese/crackers combo or veggie tray on the boat if it’s too nice to come in to shore for a meal.

This year for Memorial Day weekend, here’s what we are bringing.

Friday Dinner – BLT Wraps & Grapes

Simple Summer Meals on the Run - BLT Wraps

Time- Saving Tip: Use precooked bacon.


Saturday Breakfast – Campfire Omelets & Sliced Watermelon

Simple Summer Meals on the Run - Campfire Omelets

Time- Saving Tip: At home, mix eggs, cooked sausage, chopped peppers and onions, milk and cheese and bring along in a Ziplock.


Saturday Lunch: Tacos in a Bag

Simple Summer Meals on the Run - Tacos in a Bag

Time- Saving Tip: At home, brown taco meat and simply reheat before filling chip bags. Have kids help chop olives, avocado, lettuce and tomatoes.


Saturday Dinner: Pie Iron Pizza Pockets, Lettuce Salad & S’mores

Simple Summer Meals on the Run - Pie Iron Pizza Pockets

Time- Saving Tip: Use pizza sauce in a squeeze bottle and Deli Flats for the crust


Sunday Brunch: Campfire Oatmeal, Skewered Bacon & Cut Watermelon

Simple Summer Meals on the Run - Campfire OatmealSimple Summer Meals on the Run - Campfire Bacon

Time- Saving Tip: At home, combine all the dry ingredients for the oatmeal and bring along in a Ziplock.


Sunday Lunch: Tabbouleh Salad in Pitas, Celery and Hummus

Simple Summer Meals on the Run - Tabbouleh Salad in Pitas

Time- Saving Tip: At home, prepare Tabbouleh – the longer it marinates, the better the flavor.


Sunday Dinner: Sausage Hobo Dinners, Jiffy Pop & Fruit Pies on the Fire

Simple Summer Meals on the Run - Sausage Hobo Dinners

Time- Saving Tip: If you’ve caught some fish, you can easily sub fish for the sausage.
Use biscuits in a tube for pie crust – simply flatten one out inside each pie iron side, then scoop in some pie filling and close them tightly before cooking on the fire.


Monday Breakfast: Cereal, Milk, Yogurt & Leftover Fruit


Monday Lunch: Leftovers!

It never hurts to resort to PB&J if you run out of leftovers; although, I’ve never once had that happen. Ever.


 

The key to all of this is to relax and go with however the weekend flows. You might have an impromptu potluck with neighbors or a rainstorm that sends you to a nearby restaurant. Or maybe you’ll get lucky like we once did and find a fantastic wild blueberry patch and eat an entire lunch of blueberries. Wherever your summer weekends take you, make some memories without having to spend your weekend in the kitchen!

Rebecca
Coborn’s, Inc. Communications Manager

Click Here for more articles written by Rebecca.
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