Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Tater Tots

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE tater tots. I never eat them, however, because they usually have a lot of unwanted ingredients. I decided to make my own one day and, to my surprise, they rivaled the frozen ones. Best of all, my kids loved them. I hope you do, too!
Homemade Tater Tots:
2 large White Potatoes, peeled and steamed until tender
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and steamed until tender
salt to taste
Mash separately in two bowls
1 cup crushed organic cornflakes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp any other seasoning you like-black pepper, cayenne pepper, cajun seasoning, cumin, etc.
Olive oil spray or Pam for spraying before oven time
Combine all above coating ingredients.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Form one-inch balls of mashed sweet and white potatoes.
Roll in the cornflake mixture. Makes about 2 dozen white potato and about a 2 dozen sweet potato balls.
Place the coated balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and spray with oil spray.
In preheated oven in the middle rack, place the baking sheet.
After about 15-20 minutes, when the balls start looking crispy, flip them all over so they brown on the other side and bake another 15-20 minutes or until the start getting crispy.
Serve with ketchup or a homemade aioli of two TBS Mayo with one medium sized clove of crushed garlic and a dash of salt.
For more great recipes please visit takebackthekitchen.com

Take Me Out to the Ball Game — A Citi Kids Event with the Mets

The weatherman couldn’t have dialed up a nicer day for Citi Kid day when the Mets took on the St. Louis Cardinals and handily claimed a 4 to 1 victory for the home town fans. Upon arrival into the Seaver entrance of the stadium, we were escorted to a pack filled room of middle and high school students who were treated to a reprieve from their daily school routines with a trip out to the ballgame. We arrived a few hours prior to the start of the game where we participated in a Citi Kids seminar on the benefits of financial savings and how making smart choices with your money can really make you “Cool.”
Citi Kids, now in its sixth season, is an educational and motivational community-based initiative for New York City middle and high school students developed by Citi in collaboration with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the Mets and various community-based organizations. Citi Kids was launched on April 15, 2009, in conjunction with Major League Baseball’s annual Jackie Robinson Day.
The series of in-season events has sought to positively impact students through the nine values and ideals of Jackie Robinson – courage, integrity, determination, persistence, citizenship, justice, commitment, teamwork and excellence. Each participant in the Citi Kids program receive a complimentary gift bag before enjoying the game.
This year’s program centers on the importance of financial education and savings via Citi’s Teach Children to Save program. Citi’s Teach Children to Save program, in partnership with the American Bankers Association, is designed to teach children in grades K – 12 about the importance of saving for the future and healthy money habits, such as understanding needs versus wants and spending money wisely.
Multiple speakers presented throughout the hour and all of the students showed a genuine interest in the subject matter. However, most of the attention was grabbed when luge bronze medal winner, Erin Hamlin from team USA made a guest appearance to talk about her 2014 Olympic achievement and how saving money is relevant even for star athletes.
Citi Field. Special guest Erin Hamlin, Olympic Games Luge Bronze Medalist, joined 150 students in grades 6-8 from The School of Integrated Learning for a program emphasizing the importance of financial education and savings via Citi’s Teach Children to Save initiative.
Erin Hamlin made history in Sochi when she claimed bronze in women’s luge, becoming the first American ever to win an Olympic medal in singles luge. Hamlin, a native New Yorker, also took home the gold medal at the 2009 FIL World Luge Championships, in Lake Placid, New York. She shared her inspirational story of triumph with students in grades 6-8 from The School of Integrated Learning.
After the seminar was over, kids were treated to a stadium ballpark lunch and off we went to our phenomenal 3rd base side field seats. Players were almost within arms reach, albeit from the opposing team. Nevertheless, being right behind the dugout of one of the most storied teams in baseball history, the St. Louis Cardinals, would make even the most casual fan a bit nostalgic.
The Mets made the day an even greater success, beating the Cardinals in convincing fashion 4 -1. Bartolo Colon started for the Mets and benefited from a brisk ballpark wind that helped him secure his second win of the season. While the offense for the Mets started off a bit slow, bats perked up a bit in later innings with key hits by Eric Young and newly acquired free agent, Curtis Granderson. Bullpen relief for the Mets proved solid, topped off by a first time save for former Japanese phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka.
There’s nothing better than a day at Citi Field…especially when the Mets win one for the home team!

Musical Review: If/Then, Starring Idina Menzel


“What if?” 

That is the big question asked at the beginning of “If/Then,”
the new musical by the Pulitzer Prize winning team of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey.
  I’m sure it’s a question that many of us have
wondered ourselves throughout 
the years.  What if some small act completely changed
the course of our lives?

In “If/Then,” Elizabeth
(Idina Menzel) asks herself that same question. 
She is a recent divorcee looking to start a new chapter of her life in
New York City.  At the start of the show
she has to make a choice, hang in the park with her new friend Kate (LaChanze)
or go to a demonstration with her old college boyfriend Lucas (Anthony Rapp).  This decision, and many other seemingly small
ones, leads Elizabeth down two paths: as “Liz”
she finds happiness in her personal life and as “Beth” she moves up the
corporate ladder, becoming a successful career woman.  Elizabeth’s stories take many surprising twists and turn, mirroring life’s uncertain nature.  


Idina Menzel is astonishing onstage (if you don’t know her from past stage roles in “Wicked” or “Rent,” maybe that little ditty “Let It Go” will jog your memory).  She flawlessly weaves her way between her character’s dual story lines without skipping a beat.  Oh, and she belts out a song or ten along the way.  On of my favorite songs she sings in the who, “Learn to Live Without,” sent a wave of sniffles throughout the theater.

The supporting cast was also impressive.  Tony winner LaChanze (“The Color Purple”)
brings the laughs as Elizabeth’s new neighbor and friend, Kate.
  Anthony Rapp (“Rent”) portrays the lovable
Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend (and college ex-boyfriend) who might be eternally in the “friend zone.”
Snyder was most remarkable as Josh, a soldier fresh off of his second tour who happens to meet Liz in the park by chance.

The songs in “If/Then” offer tunes that range from heartwarming to hilarious.  There are moments in the show that might make you want to reach for a tissue or laugh out loud, but the highs and lows in Elizabeth’s journeys are what make this musical and it’s characters so relatable to the audience.  I would highly recommend seeing this show on a date night or with friends.

Even though Menzel is a newly minted Disney Princess, it might be best for the kids to miss this one.  There are many adult themes and some profanity (including a song titled “What the F—?”).

So if you find that you are asking yourself, “What if I don’t go see ‘If/Then?'”  Then you would be missing out.

To purchase tickets, please visit the If/Then site

Disclosure: I was given complimentary tickets to see “If/Then.”  However, al opinions are my own.

Essex Resort & Spa: The Perfect Family Destination

Written by Role Mommy’s Danielle Feigenbaum

DSC00473.JPG I am a lucky lady. Besides all of the obvious things – fantastic family, health, friends, etc. – my job takes me to amazing places and lets me have experiences that I can then share with our fabulous Role Mommy readers! Last weekend my hubby and I packed up the car and our two kids (ages 10 and 7) and headed to the gorgeous state of Vermont. I was invited by The Essex Resort & Spa to experience a special family getaway and get a taste of the dining and cooking academy.
230.jpg We spent a lovely day driving up North from New York to Vermont. There are many things you can do to break up the drive. The Basketball Hall of Fame is in Springfield, MA for you basketball fans. We stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Waterbury, VT (less than half an hour from The Essex Resort & Spa) which was really fun and yummy. You can also stop in Quechee, VT and watch glassblowers at work in the original Simon Pearce workshop, savor a locally sourced meal in their riverfront restaurant, and visit their retail store at the Simon Pearce Factory, it was pretty amazing. We were greeted at the Essex by a very friendly staff and checked right in to our lovely one bedroom suite. There was a kitchen, table, pull out couch and cot (so the kids wouldn’t kick each other all night) and a big bathroom with jacuzzi tub that we all enjoyed!
Besides the comfy and cozy accommodations, the food was the real star of the weekend. The Essex prides itself on farm to table dining and award winning chefs. We had dinner one night and breakfast both days at one of their two restaurants, The Tavern. Here are pics of our delicious dinner appetizers and breakfast (what’s better than fresh Vermont maple Syrup?), try not to drool…
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1-DSC00415.JPG We had a chance to explore the resort a little bit, the spa looks fantastic and the kids had a blast swimming in the beautiful indoor pool! At night we joined a big campfire where they were roasting marshmallows. The main event for us for the weekend was a family cooking class. The fabulous chefs at the Essex teach a variety of different cooking classes and offer outings such as “Vermont Guided Tours: Wine & Maple Tour & Lunch”. Here are some pictures from our awesome Italian cooking class with incredible Chef Brandy! We made caesar salad, pasta and tomato sauce (from SCRATCH!) and as the grand finale, molten… chocolate… cake! The best part, besides having fun and eating the yummy food, is you get to take home the recipes and, even though I am not an executive chef, I can totally make all this food! (Once I buy a pasta maker, which my kids are begging me for!)
A picture is worth a thousand words, and as you can see by the cooking class pictures, it was a huge success! If you are looking for something to do with your family this summer, Essex Resort & Spa has a camp for kids! Camp Cook is a week long culinary journey that takes kids from a fully equipped teaching kitchen to the source of the foods, herbs and vegetables used daily. Available during nine five-day sessions this summer, beginning June 16, Camp Cook is available to children ages 10-16. From 9:00 am to 4:00 pm each day, kids collect eggs from the onsite chicken coop, pick local berries at nearby farms, learn knife skills and kitchen safety, prepare mouth-watering recipes, swim, and more. Parents too can have a culinary vacation by booking the 2014 Family Camp Cook Package, which includes five night’s deluxe accommodations, one week enrollment for one child in Camp Cook, 25 percent off spa services for the entire week, and buy one get one free cooking classes for adults throughout the week.
Mallett's bay north.jpg What are you waiting for? Book your trip now for this summer and you could be taking a ride in a hot air balloon over Lake Champlain and looking at this breathtaking view! Their second restaurant is currently being renovated and will reopen the beginning of June with a Vermont interactive “farm to table” culinary experience. You will be able to see the chefs cooking and interact with them.
As you can tell, we had a fantastic weekend at The Essex Resort & Spa. This would make an unforgettable family getaway any time of the year… book your summer vacation now and experience Camp Cook for yourself!
Disclaimer: This was a complimentary weekend at The Essex Resort and Spa, but all opinions are completely my own.

Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Roasted Lemon and Artichoke Dip

Looking for a new recipe for your upcoming BBQs and potlucks? Try this new sophisticated twist on everyone’s favorite artichoke dip. The lemons give it a surprising tangy zing.
Roasted lemon Artichoke Dip:
*1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts in water, drained (can also use in oil but wash them with water ,drain them, and dry them).
*1-2 lemons cut up into 1/2 inch pieces with the rind (the more lemon, the more lemony it is-I use 2 lemons b/c I like it really tart)
*1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp mayonnaise
*2 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese or other block kind
*About 1/2 cup of bread crumbs mixed with 2 tsp melted butter or olive oil
*Salt and pepper to taste
Roast lemons and artichoke hearts on a parchment paper lined baking sheet until they turn fragrant and brown, about 20 minutes but only you know the power of your oven so watch them! Let cool.
Put lemons, artichokes, mayo and cream cheese in a food processor and pulse until it all combined. Bake in a small baking dish at 350 degrees with the breadcrumbs until bubbling, about 20 minutes or so. Add salt and pepper to taste.
For more great recipes check out takebackthekitchen.com

Baseball Season: Pursuing Your Field of Dreams

iStock_000001717350Medium.jpgAbout seven years ago, I had a long talk with my husband. I was a vice president at a major television network and yet, I felt like there was still something out there for me to do. At the time, I was bitten by the blogging bug and had launched a company called Role Mommy where I was producing events for women at the top of their game balancing work and family. The more I spoke to female entrepreneurs, the more I felt the energy and excitement about leaving a safe career behind and jumping into the deep end to experience what it’s like to be a business owner.
Fast forward to 2014 and I am still a business owner. Role Mommy is still alive and well and my public relations business, Beyond PR Group is thriving with the help of my business partner and a talented staff comprised of superstar writers, publicists and client service dynamos. As I continue to build my business, it’s now time for my husband to soar.
Though he spent two decades in finance, he’s finally decided to leave that world behind to finally do what he loves. This past month, he and a good friend have teamed up to launch A-Game Sports, a summer baseball day camp for kids in Westchester County and New York City offering training, game play, strength and conditioning and field trips each week to minor and major league baseball games. The program will also offer a scholarship program where qualified students from Westchester and New York City could be eligible to attend day camp for free.
While it might be nerve wracking to finally pursue your passion full time, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want my husband and his friend to grow A-Game Sports together, thrive and enjoy every minute of it. Sure there will be ups and downs and obstacles they never expected would be thrown their way, but I am confident that they will succeed. Because when you get to do what you truly love, no matter how much money you make, it really doesn’t matter. It’s more about finding out what makes you tick and right now, we are on the clock in a very big way.
I am really thrilled for my husband because he is living the Role Mommy motto: Helping your children realize their hopes and dreams doesn’t mean you have to give up on your own. Here’s to building our own field of dreams. People will come…you’ve just gotta believe!


Role Mommy Q & A with the authors of “The Confidence Code” Katty Kay & Claire Shipman
1. Why were you inspired to write ” The Confidence Code”?
It really grew out of our work on our book Womenomics.  We’d noticed, in our reporting, that many of the extremely successful women we would interview would often express a certain hesitation about their abilities. They might laughingly confess they didn’t know how they’d achieved what they had – or suggest they weren’t sure they were really qualified.  Since we’d often felt that way ourselves we understood it, but when we kept hearing it, we thought it was worth digging into. And, in fact, we found out that what had always seemed to be harmless or “natural” feelings, were in fact a manifestation of a widespread lack of confidence.
2. Does “fake it ’til you make it” work?
No! It sure sounds good though, doesn’t it? Here’s why: First, humans are quite adept at reading non-verbal cues. It turns out we can sniff out frauds quite handily. Second, knowingly “faking it” actually contributes to a sense of underlying insecurity and unworthiness.  Authenticity is critical to true confidence.  It’s true that the ability to create real confidence can require a jump-start – sometimes you will experience fear, and you need to overcome it. But a façade doesn’t work.
3. Tell us about the research you learned about while writing “The Confidence Code.”
There was more than we imagined about the science and biology of confidence in some ways. We really did not expect to find that confidence, for example, is genetic.  But it is – to some extent. Most experts believe it’s a trait that is somewhere between 25 and 50 percent inherited.  There isn’t one “confidence gene,” but there are a number of genes that have been identified that play a key role in supporting confident behavior.  Some of them are the genes that control Serotonin, Dopamine and Oxytocin in our brains, for example.  
We didn’t find a clear gender gap genetically, however. But we also found substantial research that suggests there are some biological, or structural differences in male and female brains that could affect confidence.  This is a hugely controversial subject – and we initially hoped to avoid it – but we found we couldn’t in good faith.  Research in ongoing, nothing is definitive, and male and female brains are much more alike than different. Still, some scans show different levels of activity, or different sorts of matter, or a different use of parts of our brains when looking at gender-differentiated brain scans. And some researchers believe that could account for the fact that women might operate more cautiously, or might be prone to ruminate. Both of those things can affect confidence.
Hormones play a big role as well. A multitude of studies show that testosterone encourages risk-taking, and sometimes a herd-like mentality. Men have substantially more testosterone, obviously.
4. Is confidence the same as self-esteem?
No, actually. We took a long an tangled journey through the many definitions of confidence and its cousins: self-esteem, optimism, self-efficacy, self-compassion. Confidence means many things to many people, it turns out. But what we filtered out, after all of our research, is that confidence has an element of action about it. Indeed, one academic put it in very clear terms for us. “Confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action,” according to Dr. Richard Petty of Ohio State University. That action might not be running a marathon, or storming into your boss’s office. It can be the action of making a decision. But it’s the frame of mind that allows us to believe we are able to do what we set out to do. And you can see why that frame of mind would make action of all sorts more likely. You can also see why, therefore, experience matters. The more experience we have taking action, learning, and mastering things – the more we create a frame of mind that says we think we can.
5. Do you have any advice for raising confident daughters? 
Yes – let them fail! Let them be messy. Let them make mistakes. We found that our girls are being taught to be too perfect – not always consciously. Who doesn’t want a child who’s helpful and contentious and who does extremely well in school? Our girls today are academic superstars, but they aren’t learning the lessons that will help them in the real world – that failure is ok, and that risks are worthwhile. Sports help enormously, but despite Title lX, girls are dropping out of sports at a much higher rate than boys as they hit puberty.
6. Public speaking is an iconic issue for women’s confidence. Do you have any tips?
Practice helps. But that’s obvious. What we found is that, first of all, it’s important to see making mistakes here and there in public speaking as natural. The audience actually likes that, because the speaker seems more human. Knowing your mistake might help you connect can ease some of your tension.
But we also found that for women, it can be hugely helpful to reframe your remarks. Women feel more confident and more at ease when they are speaking on behalf of others – whether it’s a cause, a company or friends. It shifts the mental spotlight off of us somehow, and allows us to display our passion and knowledge with more ease. So if you can find a way to recast your remarks, or even the way you think about your remarks – it can be a huge boost for speaking with confidence. 
7. Studies suggest there are a number of reasons women tend to earn less than comparably educated/experienced male colleagues. Which one (or two) do you feel is most notable, or easiest to address?
We need to ask for more. Straight out of college women don’t negotiate for higher salaries but men do. We need to ask ourselves, “What’s going to happen if I ask for a raise?” The worst is that you don’t get the extra money; you’re not going to die because you ask for something, so give it a go. That’s what men do. And if you don’t get it the first time, don’t give up. One day it will work and that will give you the confidence to ask again the next time. Women should remember they are just as competent as their male colleagues so they are worth as much.
8. Women tend to be underrepresented in leadership positions, from the C Suite to Capitol Hill. What gives? What can we do about it?
There are lots of reasons. We still don’t have as many role models at the top as men do, so we tend not to see ourselves so easily in those leadership positions. As one woman put it to us, men look in the mirror and see a senator; a woman would never be so presumptuous. It’s certainly not lack of competence. Women are better educated than men. But we also hold ourselves back, somehow doubting our right to rule at the top. That’s where the confidence gap between men and women really shows itself. Confidence is the missing link to our success.
9. What advice might you offer women who want to climb the corporate ladder or negotiate their salaries/benefits? What about new college graduates ready to launch their careers?
Know that you are valuable and don’t assume that just by keeping your head down and working hard, your natural talents will be recognized. You need to ask for what you want – whether it’s more money or a promotion or better benefits. Often your bosses are so busy, they haven’t even thought about your situation. It’s up to you to let them know what you need and up to you to believe that you deserve it.
10. Is there anything you would like to add?
Everyone can choose confidence. It’s hard, deliberative work building self-assurance – but it is a choice. You can choose to walk across the room and introduce yourself to that interesting looking stranger  – or choose not to. You can choose to raise your hand in that meeting – or choose not to. It’s not easy but confidence is a decision. But the two most inspiring things we uncovered are that – as you choose to take action here and there, as you choose to take risks, and learn, and master situations, you are not only building confidence – you are changing your brain. You are building a new way of thinking. The research on brain plasticity is extraordinary.
Claire_Katty_GreyBG.png And a cornerstone of confidence, we found, is authenticity. We don’t have to try to emulate a male style of confidence – that might look just too macho for us. It doesn’t always have to be about speaking up first, or being the loudest, most aggressive person at the table. True confidence comes from knowing and expressing our values. 
For more information, please visit www.theconfidencecode.com.

Take Back the Kitchen: Alma’s Chili for 40

Are you looking for a HUGE recipe to feed a crowd that is not the typical pizza go-to? I created this with two friends for a middle school chili fest. We contributed to a chili party for 280 people and everyone enjoyed it. I hope you do, too!
Three Lady Chili:
6tbsp olive oil
6 Large onions, chopped
2 HUGE cans peeled tomatoes (105 oz. cans from Costco)
1 HUGE can corn (105 oz. cans from Costco)
6 15 oz cans black beans
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
3 tbsp kosher salt
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp black pepper
4 cups chopped cilantro
Heat up a large skillet over low-medium flame and add oil.
Add in the chopped onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes.
In a huge pot, add in the cooked onions, all the rinsed off beans and corn from the cans, add in all the spices except the cilantro and simmer until the liquid is reduced to your liking, about 1 hour.
At the end, either top with cilantro or stir in at the last moment so it is fragrant.
Serve with rice, quiona or cous cous.
For more great recipes, please visit takebackthekitchen.com

5 Ways to Keep Clothes Looking Great–Wherever You Go

If you are lucky enough to be going away for Spring break, or planning a Summer vacation… here are 5 great tips to help you pack up your clothes and keep them looking fresh!