Panera Introduces Family Feast


After several weeks of meals cooked only in our home – a break from cooking is certainly welcomed! Panera Bread recently introduced their Family Feast value meals with popular menu favorites for the entire fam. The Family Feast meals range from $29 to $33 and are available in the following bundles: 


Smaller Feast meals are also available (from $23 to $27):   

  • SOUP FEAST ~ $23
  • SALAD & SOUP FEAST ~ $23

Order online or via the Panera Bread app for curbside pickup, contactless delivery, or drive-through (where available). Also check out Panera Grocery to purchase high-demand pantry items like milk, bread, and fresh produce alongside Panera orders.


The Perfect Roasted Broccoli


Now and then something happens that makes me stop and reevaluate my kids’ diets. This time around, it was the faces they made at the broccoli on their plates at dinner time on our recent Disney cruise. Let’s just say that they weren’t friendly faces. The kids used to devour my roasted broccoli – but at ages six and nine, they still prove to be picky with some vegetables.  And I suppose that I’ve made my trusted go-to recipes on constant repeat – resulting in a loss of interest.  After making a roasted broccoli with loads of garlic, cheese, and lemon for years – I had to simplify it a bit to get the kids back interested in my broccoli. After a few dinner experiments, I think that I may have stumbled on the perfect roasted broccoli in the process.


The kids didn’t care for the added tomatoes that I threw in at the last minute, but I happen to love the tasty combo and the pops of color.  For now, we’ll just stick to the broccoli!  Get the super simple, kid-pleasing perfect roasted broccoli recipe below:



We hope you enjoy it!  And, please chime in with your favorite veggie recipes below!


Eliminating Our Recipe Rut


Family mealtime is so important to all of us.  Simply being present and together around the table, when we can, brings so much joy.  And while we try to fit in the kid’s favorites (like Taco Tuesday) a few times per month, it’s been a while since we’ve deviated from those family-pleasing recipes that we know the kids will gobble right up. We’ve had a bit of a recipe rut, and I’ve been desperately needing a continued relationship with a meal delivery service. No, not take out!  I’m talking about perfectly-portioned farm-fresh ingredients shipped directly to my home with beautiful recipe cards instructing me exactly how to cook. It’s not the first time that I’ve honed my chef skills with Blue Apron.  And recently, I was reminded of why I’m such a huge fan of the entire process.


Our weekly Blue Apron box came with three meals for two people.  In addition to the two-person plan, there’s a family plan option, but we’ve found that we’re often able to stretch the two-person kits to include two adults and two kids.  My husband and I gave the first meal a go together while the kids were busy at a friend’s Halloween party last Sunday. Cooking side-by-side is always so much fun and an incredible relationship booster.  We laugh (a lot!) and reminisce about similar times spent together before the babies came along. It’ such a treat to enjoy a proper meal (that we made together) and much more special than dining out. This Roasted Acorn Squash with Coucous Salad and Dressed Pea Shoots was as delicious as it looks.


I’ve mentioned before that the kids are always more inclined to expand their palates when invested in the cooking process.  Although they weren’t interested in trying the romaine and apple salad – they loved the pizza.  Never did I imagine that my children would devour a pizza topped with cabbage and a bit of capers – but they showed such an interest while helping with the prep work. Their Smoked Mozzarella and Cabbage Pizza masterpiece was such a big hit that I found them picking the fallen bits of cooked cabbage off of their plates to devour.  I would have never been able to come up with a recipe like this on my own.


Even though we’re not red-meat eaters, Blue Apron accommodates our preferences so well. We always enjoy their wide variety of cuisines.  Our final meal of Cod Sandwiches and Caper Aioli and Endive Salad was incredibly tasty.  I’m determined to recreate this one on my own.


There are so many elements of Blue Apron that I love.  Their meal delivery service gets me out of my comfort zone while teaching me new ways to use different ingredients. I don’t have to worry about food waste since the ingredients sent are perfectly portioned – and the recipe cards always have a way of boosting my cooking confidence. And as always, I’ll carry the tips and tricks gleaned from Blue Apron into our future meals.

Click the image in my sidebar or visit Blue Apron here to get $30 off your first order.  And please share your helpful meal tips in the comments below!

This post is sponsored by Blue Apron.


Italian Family Dinners In a Pinch

 Bertolli-frozen-dinnersCompensation provided by Bertolli Frozen Meals. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Bertolli Frozen Meals.

In many ways, food is the connective tissue that ties us to our families and cultures.  I’m half Italian and although I never had the chance to meet my father’s mother – the many strong, smart and loving women in my husband’s family have taught me so much about the intrinsic connection between food, family, and love. In the Marino family, meals are a huge deal (huge!), and mouth-watering passed-down recipes are concocted in settings that bring everyone together.

Bertolli recently spoke with Italians and American and uncovered interesting ways in which eating habits differs.  Did you know that Italians cite lunch as the largest meal of the day, while Americans prominently state dinner as the most substantial?  Additionally, eighty-four percent of Italians eat at the table with family, and 70 percent of Italians eat family-style – compared to 31 percent of Americans who eat family style.

These results are from an online survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of Bertolli of over 2,000 nationally representative individuals in the United States and Italy. The U.S. survey with 1,074 completes was conducted between July 28-29, 2016. The Italy survey of 1,013 individuals was conducted from July 29 – August 4, 2016. The margin of error in each country is +/-3.1%.

I’m sure that most busy parents can relate to particular circumstances of needing to figure out family dinners quickly with little time for preparation.  We recently discovered Bertolli’s reformulated line of Italian frozen skillet meals – crafted from authentic recipes and ingredients – just like those made in an Italian kitchen.  “Mom, this is so yummy!” my kids declared when I whipped up Bertolli’s Chicken Florentine & Farfalle, minutes after arriving home from a busy day of meetings.  The whole family was happy (the super Italian husband included), and I appreciate how straightforward and easy it was to present a quick and delicious dinner for my loved ones to “Mangia” together.


Each restaurant-quality Bertolli frozen meal is flash frozen to preserve the dish’s complex flavors and textures – bringing an authentic Italian experience to our dinner table.  Their Chicken Marsala & Roasted Redskin Potatoes was also a bit hit – and the transparent side of the reformulated meals with new packaging allows my kiddos to look inside the bag to help decide what’s for dinner.


As a busy mom, I’m relieved to have fast and family-pleasing options in my arsenal. And simply setting a lovely and inviting table while eating as a family brings the important element of togetherness that our own Italian families have taught us.

Explore more ways to Mangia here.


Cranberry Classroom: A Visit To Ocean Spray®’s Cranberry Bog


This post is sponsored by Ocean Spray®. Opinions, as always, are my own.

My mother had this wonderful, old-fashioned metal food grinder which she’d clamp onto the kitchen table to make cranberry relish on Thanksgiving day.  As a kid, I always enjoyed watching the mashed up cranberries with a touch of orange ooze out the grinder’s bottom-end.   To this day, I can mentally taste her cranberry “sauce” with just a mere glimpse of a bag of Ocean Spray® Cranberries. And I’ll always appreciate how food has the ability to transport us back to specific times in our lives – carrying ties to the people and places we love.  My kids are quite fond of their abuela’s cranberry sauce – and of the cranberry in general (hello Ocean Spray® Craisins® Dried Cranberries!).  They eagerly joined in my excitement of celebrating the official start of the autumnal season with a visit to Ocean Spray®‘s iconic fresh cranberry bog right here in New York City’s bustling Rockefeller Center®.  As part of Ocean Spray®‘s Bogs Across America Tour, we joined in learning all about the cranberry and met multi-generational Ocean Spray® farmers in celebration of America’s favorite fruit and the bicentennial of the first cultivated cranberry harvest.  This is that 12th year that Ocean Spray® has brought their 1,500 sq. ft. cranberry bog back into Rockefeller Center® – and up until this time, we had only seen it on the news!


Complete with report cards, the kids enlisted in Ocean Spray®‘s “Cranberry Classroom” and learned all about the cranberry from the inside out – including its amazing story of taste, health, and heritage in a fun, immersive and fruitful way.  The kids and I were fascinated to learn about how cranberries grow on low-lying vines and develop four hollow air chambers making them float when removed from the vine. And I loved chatting with families of farmers growing Ocean Spray® cranberries right here in neighboring New Jersey.  Equally as cool, was The Most Beautiful Harvest experience, in which the kids had their first go at Google Cardboard – transporting them through a beautiful Massachusetts-based cranberry bog.  This incredible, virtual-reality experience celebrates the beauty of the cranberry harvest – while showcasing the fruit’s journey from bog to bottle.  No worries if you missed this event – just visit to check out fully immersive, 360-degree views of a bog. It’s the next best thing to being there!


Little minds were hard at work as they made mini bogs-in-a-cup with molding clay, gravel, Peat Moss, sand, and cranberry vines.  This fun lesson taught young participants all about how cranberries are grown and also gave them the chance to contextualize what they would soon experience inside Ocean Spray’s® real-life cranberry bog!


With some serious excitement, we donned waders to get inside the beautifully vibrant bog amidst 2,000 pounds of fresh floating cranberries!


The boy was super interested in applying lessons learned. Here he is digging for clay, sand and gravel!


While the girl couldn’t resist an opportunity to dump fresh cranberries on her little brother’s head.


A photo posted by Monica (@marinobambinos) on

All this hard work stirred up pint-sized appetites!


And reminded me that Ocean Spray® Craisins® Dried Cranberries never fail to please!  These Ladybugs On a Log make a great after-school snack.


Thanks so much to Ocean Spray® for having us join in this unforgettable experience.


Wishing you all the goodness of this new fall season – and do share your favorite cranberry recipes below!  Thank you to Ocean Spray® for sponsoring this blog post. All opinions are my own.


A Look Inside The NYC Dumpling Festival 2016


Over the weekend, we were among the dumpling enthusiasts who brought our appetites to NYC’s Lower East Side to celebrate all things dumpling at the 13th Annual Chef One Dumpling Festival in Sarah D. Roosevelt Park.

With a fitting theme of “There’s a Chef in Everyone,” the festivities included NYC Borough based food stations serving up truly tasty varieties of dumplings such as Kung Pao Chicken, Pork & Kimchi, Kale & Vegetable, Buffalo Chicken, Edamame and even a new seasonal Pumpkin flavor.


In addition to the grub – attendees snapped photos with the one-and-only Dumpling Mama mascot, commemorated the fun in a cool gif-making photo booth, joined in dumpling-making classes, and watched along with wide-eyed wonder at the many talented performances.


From traditional Lion dancing to a group of tap dancers and more, the festival brought a great mix of entertainment.  While I’ll contest that the musical performance by string based trio Yut and the Hot Four – was the act to see, my eight-year-old was most impressed with the fire dancers’ flame-waving choreography.


Of course, we can’t forget the competitive eaters who joined in the Dumpling Eating Contest. Although I couldn’t fully stomach watching this portion – this contest always draws an attentive (and massive!) crowd, with winner’s taking home hefty-checks for their face-stuffing accomplishments.  Would you believe the female division’s winner scarfed down 115 dumplings in two minutes time?!


The prize sharing continued, and the excitement was palpable as raffles were drawn for prizes including a pair of Delta Air Lines tickets and a Year’s Supply of Chef One Dumplings.

Although the lines were long due to the festival’s gaining popularity,  the social media team was on it – offering free samples and more to those who took to Twitter to grumble.


My favorite part was getting to see the festival’s continued dedication to feeding food-insecure New Yorkers. With all proceeds benefiting The Food Bank for New York City – joining in the festival is always pure dumpling-indulgent goodness to feel good about. Best of all, they welcome volunteers! Stay connected to Chef One to find out about partnering with The Food Bank NYC at next year’s festival.


And for all our friends who missed out on #dumplingfest2016, Chef One hasn’t forgotten about you! Check out the below video to master dumpling making in your kitchen and stay tuned for details on next year’s Dumpling Festival.  You bet we’ll be there!

This is a sponsored post. Opinions, as always, are my own.