Semi-Prepared Dinner Ideas

Take Back the Kitchen’s Alma Schneider shares quick dinner recipes for keeping her kids well fed even during the busiest time of year.
P1050602.jpgMy kids have a lot of homework lately which does not leave me a lot of time for din-din. Sometimes I need to take a short cut and have a semi-prepared dinner but still feel virtuous by making it semi-healthy. Try this ready made pizza dough vegetable roll on for size:
Broccoli Cheese Roll:
Store bought or homemade pizza dough from your supermarket or local pizzeria
3 cups steamed and then sauteed broccoli florets (or put the chopped broccoli in raw), cut into small pieces, optional sauteed in a tsp or two of olive oil. maybe add some :
minced garlic, 1-2 cloves
grated cheese like mozzarella, Asiago or Parmesan-2 cups
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 425 degrees
Take pizza dough and stretch it out with your hands to cover a baking sheet. Try not to let any holes exist (fill them in with pinched off dough if need be).
Mix broccoli with cheese, add salt and pepper to taste and lay on one end of the stretched out dough. Roll it up like a jelly roll and place in oven for 45 minutes or so. Cover if it starts to cook too quickly. Slice and serve hot. Yum!
For more great recipes from Alma Schneider, visit her at Take Back the Kitchen.

Halloween Sneak Peak: Regis & Kelly Costumes

JerseyShoreHalloween1.JPGIt’s that time of the year! On October 29, “LIVE! with Regis and Kelly” presents “LIVE’s” REALITY BITES AGAIN: CHOMPED FROM THE HEADLINES” Halloween spectacular. This year, LIVE will feature more than 30 costumes spotlighting the most talked-about names in pop culture, including the Kardashians, characters from “Modern Family,” the kids of “Jersey Shore” and many, many more. Hilarious actor Will Ferrell joins in on all the fun, and LIVE’s exciting Halloween costume contest will return as well. It’s open to any viewer who shows up at the LIVE studio by 8:00 a.m. on October 29 dressed in costume. This year’s grand prize is a $15,000 gift card for HomeGoods (love that store!!!) Check for local time and channel.

A Great Brussel Sprouts Recipe from Alma Schneider

P1050370.jpgI have a new found love for Brussel Sprouts. I really enjoyed roasting them but now I shred them and saute them. So quick and easy, nutritious and delicious. I hope you like them!
Shredded Brussel Sprouts with Pecans and Currants:
5 large Brussel sprouts put through a slicer attachment in a food processor or thinly sliced with a knife.
1 -2 TBS olive oil
1/4 tsp salt, more to taste
Ground pepper to taste
2 TBS currants or raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans
In a medium sized saute pan, heat up oil over low-medium heat. When hot (see if a piece of sprout sizzles), add the Brussel sprouts and stir to coat sprouts with the oil. Saute, stirring often for about 10 minutes or until sprouts are wilted. Add salt, pepper, currants and pecans and stir for another few minutes. Serve immediately.
For more great recipes from Alma Schneider, visit her at Take Back the Kitchen.

A Mexican Getaway by Marcie Pickelsimer

Marcie Pickelsimer, founder of Grown in My Heart and a member of the Villa Group travel affiliate network, got the chance to visit Nuevo Vallarta and shares priceless vacation memories and tips.
PV Mexico 2010 226.jpgI’m beginning to think that living in Mexico might not be so bad as long as I can live at the Del Palmar Flamingos and had my food delivered to me poolside everyday. I don’t think Jenny Craig would go for it though and with all the money I’ve been paying her lately it would be such a waste, wouldn’t it? Oh, but I could dream.
The entire family returned home last Saturday from Mexico, sun drenched and beer logged (at least the adults, that is). After literally living in paradise for seven days the leaves on the ground were not a welcome sight.
But I digress…Since this is a review I’ll make it easy and outline a few things.
The Food:
While the resort only sports two restaurants and two bars (open at different times), the food is fabulous. The Bellavista Restaurant offers a causal breakfast buffet or menu dining, à la carte lunches, and buffet or à la carte dinners with themes such as lobster, Mexican, Argentinian grilled meats, and pasta. The open air Cafe is both pool and beachside and serves pizza, burgers, sandwiches, Mexican items, and tropical drinks (and beer and liquor) from late morning to early evening. The Cafe turns into an Italian restaurant, La Trattoria, at 6 pm for beachfront dining. They serve fabulous pizza, onion rings, quesadillas, and fruit plates. They also have the most incredible gelato.
During the day, servers cater to quests every whim: one only has to raise an empty glass or lift an eyebrow to signal their attention. Servers are hospitable, kind, gracious, and very child friendly. Although the all-inclusive information states no tipping the servers do expect tips and because the minimum wage in Mexico is so low we actually didn’t mind. It is the way they make their living.
The all-inclusive package:
My family chose the all-inclusive package because we took two young children and knew they would want to snack during the day. This was actually a great deal for us and in my opinion the only way to go if you eat more than one meal and drink more than two drinks at the resort per day. The daily cost for the all inclusive is $70 for an adult and $35 for a child under 12. When you add up food prices and drink prices it makes complete sense. Additionally, the all-inclusive package includes all of your non-motorized water sports, kids club, and the fitness center.
Children’s activities:
DSC_0702.JPGI have two boys that LOVE the water but they can only get so much of the beach and the pool. SO, it was a great option for us that the Flamingos had a Kid-Certified Staff. Everyday there were age-specific activities for our seven year old (two was too young). He could make bracelets, paint ceramic animals, play bubbles, join movie time, or even join in some good Pirate fun. During Prime Vacation season they also have Kids Nights that include dinner, arcades, discos and movies. My boys were exhausted by 5 pm because ALL they wanted to do was surf the waves or play in the pool waterfalls.
The resort also offers babysitting services which we used once. The service is $15 an hour and if you use it after 10 pm you will also need to pay $15 for a taxi. Pretty reasonable. The babysitter we used was the concierge from the hotel next door (also part of the Villas) who had a child the same age as our oldest.
The BEST activity of the week was the Sea Lions. Every Tuesday the resort brings in a Sea Lion named Maggie for all of the hotel guests (and neighboring hotel guests) to see. (It’s part of a tour promotion) Maggie was absolutely gorgeous and super sweet. She smiled, gave kisses to Gus, and was a blast to see.
Adult Activities:
My husband loved the adult activities, as he was able to play some vigorous beach volleyball, pool volleyball, and water polo.
The resort also has theme dinners on Sunday nights. It’s a little over the top but they have interesting Mexican entertainment, good food, great drinks, and entertainment for the kids.
Additional Activities:
Because my family was at the resort to review the property the General Manager offered us some fabulous extras so that we could see all the resort had to offer. I would not generally pay for these activities because, well, we can’t really afford these extravagances on just my husband’s salary. However, I do HIGHLY recommend that if you get the chance to try one or two of these please, do. They were absolutely fabulous.
Spa treatment;
My husband and I were offered the Honeymoon spa treatment at the Tatewari Spa that would include a European Seaweed Facial, Therapeutic Hot Towel Massage, Tropical Exfoliation, a bottle of champagne and Hors d’oeuvres. It is valued at $225. However, my husband is not really into spas. So, I offered to take my mother who was along for the trip with us. We were able to choose whatever treatment we wanted and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The spa is absolutely beautiful, a little pricey (but they are always offering deals), and the treatments are incredible. We both chose the mud massage and a facial and I honestly LOVED it, as I had never had either.
Dinner at La Casona;
Um, Heaven? We hired a babysitter for this evening because we wanted to be able to have at least one dinner without a child on our lap or food flung at us. It was well worth it. Chef Eugenio knows his way around organic foods, raw foods, gourmet delights, and even fabulous desserts. The menu includes specials like Kobe beef and his own specialty, Creme Brulee. Dining at La Casona is not included in the all-inclusive.
En Villa Dining with Chef Eugenio
The Villa La Estancia directly next door to Flamingos is an ownership community that is absolutely divine. We were invited to tour THE Penthouse and enjoy dinner created by Chef Eugenio and his staff. I can’t explain how special this was to my family. We were able to enjoy the sunset from the top of the resort, sip a cocktail, and dine with one of Mexico’s premier chef’s.
Cooking Lessons with Chef Eugenio
The last day of our trip Eric and I had the unique opportunity to have an afternoon cooking lesson with chef Eugenio. Yes, me…the one who does not cook. I actually learned to cut vegetables the correct way, learned a fabulous secret to REALLY good guacamole, and I now have an incredible recipe for Tortilla Soup (that I can’t wait to try!).
The afternoon included a Personalized Chef Jacket, lunch and wine, a recipe book, diplomas, and the lesson. The afternoon is valued at $200 per couple.
You can take a tour of the entire facility online at the Villa Del Palmar Flamingos.
*As a member of the Villa Group Travel Affiliate Network, The Villa Group Resorts gave my family the spa treatment, several dinners, the cooking class, and a portion of our stay in return for this review.
Visit Marcie online at Grown in My Heart, an adoption community where everyone can grow together.

Money Matters by Susan Hirshman

The author of Does This Make My Assets Look Fat shares her tips on how to manage your finances and invest like a pro!
book cover.jpgHere at Role Mommy, we are pleased to announce a new eight week financial advice series featuring author, corporate executive and money expert Susan Hirshman. Susan is the author of the brand new book “Does This Make My Assets Look Fat.” A former financial executive, Susan breaks down the concept of money, investing, budgeting and puts it into terms any woman can understand.
As Susan sees it, the rules of successful dieting are the same rules that apply to successful money management. In her new book, Susan offers women a 3-phase personalized plan that follows common dieting programs to help them understand their finances.
Susan’s program completely removes the intimidation factor that often accompanies the words ‘personal finance’ and ‘investing’ and provides women with all the information they need to take control of their financial situations once and for all.
We’ve asked Susan to answer our readers burning financial questions and here’s what she had to say:
Question: How do I set aside funds to invest when I never know how much money will be brought in by my next project? Can you still invest even if your budget is tiny?
Susan: I am so glad you asked this question; because it is a common concern amongst entrepreneurs. The best way to answer this question is to ask you a question: how do you deal with your basic fixed expenses when you never know how much money will be brought in by your next project? If you think of investing for retirement as a fixed expense, it becomes part of your overall cash flow management.
The questions you should be asking are: What is the lifestyle I will require in retirement? What is my time frame? What do I have saved currently towards that goal? What is my risk tolerance? Once we answer these questions you will be to determine how much you need to save on a monthly basis to achieve your retirement goal. Many websites have calculators to help you do this (see for example.) Now, the question becomes – Is this a realistic amount to be adding to my fixed expenses?
If you feel comfortable, that you will be able to manage it within your fixed expenses, bravo – you are on your way to meeting your goals!
If you feel uncomfortable adding that amount to your fixed expenses, I will say bravo as well. Bravo? Yes, because now you know what your situation looks like and are able to make more educated, conscious decisions between your needs versus your wants. You are the only one who can make the choice between your long-term goals and your current spending.
Furthermore, the amount you invest should not be an all or nothing situation. Here, something is definitely better than nothing. Keep in mind that many mutual fund companies allow you to contribute a minimum monthly amount (typically $50 or $100) as long as it is a direct wire from your bank account. Take advantage of one of the key drivers of success – time and the power of compounding. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” The longer your money has to grow the less hard it has to work in the future.
Do what you feel comfortable with today but know that you are making a choice about tomorrow. Plans and goals are dynamic and change as your business changes, so review your “retirement fixed expense” at least annually.
imgres.jpegSusan L. Hirshman is a former managing director at JP Morgan. She holds an M.B.A. from Baruch College and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Financial Planner, a Chartered Life Underwriter, and a Chartered Financial Analyst. She currently lives in Manhattan.
If you have a money question for Susan, email us at
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer’s Network.

Manhattan Clam Chowder Recipe

Take Back the Kitchen recipe guru Alma Schneider shares her latest dish that’ll satisfy the entire family!
P1050038.JPGSummer is almost over but you can feel like you are at the shore all year round with this easy and flavorful chowder that can be a meal in itself with some bread and a nice side salad. I’ll be looking forward to this when the Fall winds blow….
Manhattan Clam Chowder
1 1/2 large sweet onions sliced into thin discs and then cut in half
Canola or vegetable oil
2 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes
1 can Campbell’s tomato soup
1 can water
4-5 Large, peeled and cubed potatoes (cut into 3/4 ” cubes
5 eight oz. bottles of clam juice
1 TBS butter
5-6 cans chopped clams (tuna can size)
bay leaf (optional)
In a large pasta type pot, heat up the oil and saute onions until translucent but not browned.
In a med. sized bowl, crush tomatoes from the can with your hands until mushy. Discard any hard pieces of tomato.
Pour into pot.
Next, pour in tomato soup and then fill the can with water and pour that into pot as well
Bring mixture to a simmer.
Add a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
Throw in the peeled potatoes and the clam juice. Stir and simmer for about 1/2 hour or until the potatoes are tender but not mushy.
When the potatoes are tender, add the butter and the bay leaf if using.
Add the chopped clams, simmer another ten minutes, add salt and pepper and enjoy!
For more of Alma’s fabulous recipes, visit her at Take Back the Kitchen.

Alma’s Chipotle Corn Salad

corn salad.jpg‘Tis the season to eat corn but I, for one, like to cut mine off the cob because of some unpleasant memories involving corn and having braces at age thirteen. Few frozen foods excite me as much as my own corn, cut off the cob, frozen in an airtight ziploc and later defrosted to make this delectable salad with a kick once all the awesome summer corn is gone. Take the time to shuck and cut some of those kernels off those cobs for later-you’ll be glad you did.
Chipotle Corn Salad:
3 cups corn,steamed for 5 minutes, cooled and cut off the cob (about 5 corn cobs)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
4 tomatoes , med. sized, seeded and chopped
1 tsp salt
few grinds pepper
Olive oil to taste, start with one TBS to taste
1/4 tsp ground chipotle pepper
juice of 1/2 lime
For more great recipes from Alma Schneider, visit her at Take Back the Kitchen
Mix all above ingredients together in a big bowl. Delicious as a side dish!

Podcasts are Us…Courtesy of Cinch

We had a lot of fun this weekend with our family and if you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in my car, now is your chance. Listen in to my conversation with my hilarious husband…

And now if you’re laughing uncontrollably, just wait…we’ve got another LOL interview with Eric Stoller – motivational speaker, frustrated realtor and my big brother.

More cinches to come….