Wednesday, October 30, 2013

List Obsessed | How I use my iPhone to get it all done.

I like lists.

Lists keep me on budget. They give me a place to dump preoccupying thoughts. Lists encourage me to plan ahead. They make me look like I have it all together when I'm called out on the spot.

I used to keep lists on paper. This worked well, but inevitably I'd lose the paper and be all out of sorts without my list. Now I keep all of my lists on my iPhone. If you don't have an iPhone there are list apps on other smart phones (and even regular mobile phones now), so you could apply these organization techniques to whatever mobile phone situation you have right now.

Organization is a big factor in family meal planning. You need to know what is in your fridge, freezer and pantry and you need to know what you still need to purchase. Having organized lists can help you stay on budget and can prevent the frustration of not having an ingredient you need when you get ready to prepare a meal.

I use something simple and free that comes with your iPhone: the "Reminders" app. If you have a Mac computer or you haven't updated your iPhone/iPad lately the icon looks like a checklist:

If you have an iPhone with the newest iOS (operating system), the icon looks like a list with colorful buttons in the left margin:

Either way, click on it and open it up. I keep the following lists running at all times:

Mall - When I get to the mall, what do I need and from what stores? I don't go to the mall as often as I used to, so this is helpful when I am in a time crunch.

ShopRite - I do most of my grocery shopping here, so this is a basic grocery list.

Target - I go here enough that the store deserves its own list.

Costco - I love Costco, but the store is overwhelming, so this list keeps me on track.

Menu Plan - This keeps me from losing my mind about what's for dinner. I also have a board on Pinterest where I re-pin recipes that I intend to use in the upcoming week.

Farmer's Market - I don't get here often, but they have great deals on grains, produce and spices, so I'm prepared whenever I finally get there

Pediatrician - Baby health questions for upcoming medical appointments

Resolutions 2013 - I keep my New Year's Resolutions in this app. When I'm losing focus, I pull them up. I also check them off as I complete them.

Trader Joe's - Another store I don't get to very often, but I like specific items, so a list keeps me on track if I ever end up in the store.

Blog Updates - Blog article ideas, design inspiration.

Errands - If I need to go to five places in one day, I actually make a list of the order of the errands to keep me on track. Life is hectic.

Freezer Meals - This helps me remember that I have three chicken pot pies and 72 homemade meatballs in our extra freezer. I add meals to this list as I add food to the freezer... otherwise they'd be lost in the abyss and found in the summer of 2015.

Packages - Because I order a lot of stuff online and I need to remember who may be leaving a package at the door while I'm at work during the day. I check off packages as they arrive.

HomeGoods/TJ Maxx - I love these stores for home items, so I make a list of what I'm looking for (pillows for the living room, artwork for Max's room, etc.) to keep me on track when I get there.

How does it work? Well, each of the categories above is the name of a list. First, create the categories that work for you. You can always edit or delete them. Next, click on the list and add items to your heart's content. I just add items to the list as time goes on. When I accomplish or purchase an item, I check it off and it disappears. Making eggs for breakfast and realize that you're almost out? Add "eggs" to the appropriate list. Clicking through Pinterest and see an awesome recipe, but you're all out of unsalted butter? Pick up the phone and add "unsalted butter" to the list. Does your baby have a strange rash on his hand, but you're already scheduled for an appointment next week? Add "rash" to the Pediatrician list.

Once you complete an item, just click on the check box/button and it disappears. The app also archives everything that's ever been on the list, just in case you need to un-click something. I get so much satisfaction from clearing a list, but I always leave the blank list there for future items.

You can also tell the Reminders app to give you an actual reminder (pop up on screen or an alarm) at a specific time. You can even take it one step further and tell it to remind you at a location. Yes, this means my phone will remind me to buy eggs the second I pull into the parking lot at ShopRite! Crazy, right? It can also remind you to grab your glasses when you get to your mom's house. The possibilities are endless.

My favorite part is that if you have multiple Apple devices/computers (iPad, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iPhone) your Reminders app syncs seamlessly among your devices. This is a huge advantage if you end up using all Apple products. If I'm at work and I realize I need to pick up a pork roast on the way home, I just add it to the Reminders app on my work computer and I know it will show up on my iPhone as I'm walking into the grocery store on my way home.

Mobile phones aren't cheap, so you may as well make the best of them. I use my iPhone as my personal assistant and it really helps me stay on track.

Is anyone else using a list application to keep their life in order? Which one do you use?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Barilla Pasta with Chorizo and Chickpeas

If you're looking for a weeknight pasta dish that's not run-of-the-mill, check out my most recent recipe on the ShopRite Potluck Blog for Barilla Pasta with Chorizo and Chickpeas. You can use whatever shape pasta you have on hand and if you don't have or don't enjoy chorizo, Italian sausage (turkey or pork) is a great alternative. The leftovers are good for lunch the following day and the chickpeas are an affordable healthy way to add bulk and flavor to this dish.

Check out the recipe here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

New York City Wine and Food Festival 2013

Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the New York City Wine and Food Festival, compliments of ShopRite. I've attended the past four festivals with support from ShopRite and I've contributed to ShopRite Potluck blog since 2010.

The NYCWFF is a charity event and 100% of the net proceeds go to feeding hungry children and families in NYC and throughout the nation, via Share Our Strength. If you ever have the opportunity to attend it's great to know that the proceeds from your ticket prices are going to a great cause.

This year I was accompanied by my mom and I'm so excited that she finally got to experience this event. For the past three years my husband was my +1, but this year he had a professional obligation, so mom stepped in. My mom deserved every bit of fun and excitement this past weekend. While my  husband and I are out working hard all day she's at our house working hard with Max. And believe me, that 15 month-old is a lot of work!

We stayed at the Hudson Hotel. It was very boutique-ish with dark wood, dim lighting, ivy climbing the walls, neon lights. It's an interesting fusion between traditional and modern.

The check-in desk
The bar is amazing. I had one drink there Saturday night. The drink menu reads like a cookbook and my rumtopf cocktail was definitely a one and done. I'd love to try to re-create it at home.

Of course most of my time was spent out enjoying the festival and my weekend got off to a fabulous start with a cake decorating class with Martha Stewart. Yes, true story. I was there and I can't believe it happened!

There were about 45 people in the class and it was held at the International Culinary Center. I'm still in awe of the facility, the perfect organization and structure of the class, Martha Stewart, the buttercream frosting, and Martha Stewart. Did I mention Martha Stewart?

We were greeted at the door with glasses of prosecco. Martha was very warm and friendly and came around to every single member of the class to give pointers and feedback. I already had respect for her, but after this class I had even more.

The class included an unexpected book signing and we all received copies of her latest book, Cakes. We also got to keep the cake decorating tools at our work station and each person left with her own decorated cake. The cake was exceptional and that buttercream was the best I've ever eaten. Here's hoping the recipe is in the book!

Our next stop after Martha's class was the Grand Tasting, which is the main event for the NYCWFF. There are hundreds of food and beverage vendors and an overwhelming amount of free samples and SWAG.

I spent a few hours at ShopRite's booth promoting the Potluck blog and we were busier than we've ever been! If you're a new reader that I met this weekend, welcome and thank you!

My favorite food idea from the Grand tasting was the apple cider cocktail you see above in the bottom right corner. It was made from orange-infused apple cider mixed with vodka. The rim was coated in cinnamon sugar. I'm looking forward to trying that one at home.

We ended Saturday with a private dinner at De Gustibus Cooking School by cookbook author Judith Choate.  She was amazing, approachable, funny and so experienced. I was so impressed by her style and her skills that I'm ordering her latest book, An American Family Cooks. The entire menu featured ShopRite products, many of which we've used previously in our posts for the Potluck blog. It was great to see those ingredients shine in these gourmet dishes and I am excited to try the recipes at home.

If all of this wasn't enough, I spent Sunday morning in Pasta Making 101 at Macelleria. We were able to taste a few of the chef's creations and I'll just say that I have a new appreciation for homemade pasta!

You can read about my past experiences at the NYC Wine and Food Festival here and here. (Please forgive the lack of information about the 2012 festival. I was there, but I was deep in the new parent/newborn baby haze at that time.)

ShopRite generously provided me with event tickets and hotel accommodations, but all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tailgating... at home!

I'm on a quest to enjoy autumn this year. I normally associate fall with cool weather, short days, and back to school chaos, but now that we have a toddler I am also trying to embrace the family time, cozy nights and fall colors.

A few weeks ago my mom, brother and cousin went to an Eagles home game and raved about their tailgating experience. I'm not sure if I'll get to an NFL game this year, so I decided to do my best to re-create the party atmosphere at home this past Sunday.

Earlier this year, we invested in a Traeger grill. I had never heard of them, but I'm so glad that we bought one. They aren't cheap, but our Traeger (we have the 'Lil Tex Elite) has replaced our big, dirty charcoal smoker and we often use it instead of a regular charcoal grill. Yes, the Traeger is expensive, but we paid way less than retail at our local Costco. And remember, we love to grill, so we feel that it was a worthwhile investment for our family. We used our Traeger earlier this month to smoke a turkey breast and a pork shoulder.

The key to smoking is to cook your meat low and slow. This requires a controlled temperature and a lot of patience. It's also best if you burn wood to flavor your meat. Using our Traeger is like Wood Smoking for Dummies because you just load the smoker, set the digital thermostat and let it run. I baste the meat occasionally, but it's so low-maintenance that I feel comfortable running to the store or watching a movie while our dinner cooks.

We put our turkey and pork shoulder on the Traeger right after breakfast and they were ready to eat by early to mid-afternoon. We enjoyed the meat later as pulled pork sandwiches with and turkey, bacon and cheddar paninis. The leftovers were amazing.

While we're on the topic of tailgating, here are a few of my favorite party recipes for football season:

Super Bowl Meatballs - You can make these in advance and freeze them.
Roasted Tomato Salsa - This one uses Roma (plum) tomatoes, which are available at a decent price year-round.
Spicy Salsa Wings - Pick your favorite salsa (jarred works great here!) and adjust the heat to your liking.

In all honesty, I'm not a big football fan, but I love the opportunity to cook and eat game day food, so tailgating at home is a winning idea for me. Do you have any favorite football food recipes? Link them up in the comments!

P.S. Traeger doesn't know I exist, I'm just sharing my experience with our new grill.
Related Posts with Thumbnails