Stocking the Freezer Pre-Baby

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Even before I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to stock the freezer to give us some help during the first weeks of having a baby. I had visions of all these new, exciting recipes covering all different kinds of meals. What I ended up doing didn’t match that at all.

What changed things? Well, I essentially got a test run. I mentioned back in November that I had stocked up in preparation for NaNoWriMo. I, more or less, did what I thought I’d do for a baby - lots of freezer-to-crockpot meals, casseroles, and the like. We found out in early November that I was pregnant and while my NaNoWriMo writing fell by the wayside, those meals I’d made ahead ended up being a huge help in getting us through the first trimester. The thing was, we weren’t super thrilled with a lot of the meals, we ended up getting sick of leftovers, and I wasn’t a huge fan of figuring out a new recipe while not feeling my best.

So, for this go-round, I tackled things differently. Instead of making meals just for the freezer, I cooked up regular meals and portioned out a section for freezing. I stuck with things we’d made – and liked – before or things that came highly recommended from friends. And, I only froze portions for one or two meals so we wouldn’t be drowning in leftovers.

Here is what we had in the freezer when Jacob was born:

Things I made up:

Hawaiian Hula Pulled Pork – enough of the pork for 4 good sized sandwiches
Creamy Taco Mac – 2-3 servings
Garlic Beef Enchiladas – two servings
Baked Chicken Chimichangas – four servings (prepped, wrapped in foil and individually frozen)
Pork Potstickers – about 1 1/2 dozen (frozen on a baking sheet for about 2 hours, then transferred to a large freezer bag)
Baked ziti with sausage and peppers – four servings (no real recipe – just made with leftovers we had on hand)
Taco stuffed shells – 2-3 servings
Brownies – half a batch

Things we bought to have on hand for easy meals:

Frozen, microwavable rice
Chicken that I pre-cut into bite-sized pieces for stir-fry (and some bottled stir-fry sauces in the pantry)
Stir-fry veggies
Pizza dough and shredded mozzarella (and pizza sauce in the pantry)
Our favorite ravioli
Pierogies and Kielbasa
Assorted sides: Fries, Garlic bread and veggies
Girl Scout Cookies (a necessity!)

Altogether, we had about two weeks of dinners in the freezer when he was born. We ended up not touching our stash until Mark went back to work because generous friends and family brought us food or we were able to tag-team cook dinner those first two weeks. Since he’s been back to work, I’ve been mixing in a freezer dinner or two to the weekly menu for nights I know will be busy. Even though we’ve mostly found our groove with this whole baby thing, being able to just pull something out and heat it up has been really, really great some nights and I think having a few meals ready to go in the freezer is something I want to continue going forward.

This worked out so much better than my first attempt that it’s definitely how I’ll work on freezer-stocking going forward!

Introducing Chef Jacob

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We have a new chef in our kitchen – Jacob William was born July 25th!

We’re so loving our new little guy. So far, Jake is an amazingly good baby. He’s making the transition to a family of three relatively easy on us, but we’re still working on getting our new routines down so new posts here may be sporadic.

We are eating, though! Mark has been on paternity leave with us for the last two weeks so we’ve been able to tag-team cook dinner every night. Soon, I’ll be sharing how we stocked our freezer and fed ourselves in the early weeks – and I’m sure there will be a new focus on easy weeknight meals and crockpot dinners going forward. You know, life with a baby and all.

I’d also love to hear your tips for getting dinner on the table with a newborn. What worked for you?

Hope you’ll all be around for our next chapter of cooking adventures!

PS – Thanks to Kristen for the adorable picture of our little chef! It’s fitting, don’t you think?

Funfetti Cupcakes for Two

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Pickle dip. Ice cream bread. I bet you know what’s coming next, right? I won’t be cooking for two much longer – we’re expecting our first child this summer! We’re over-the-moon excited.

We found out last week that the baby is a boy, so it seemed appropriate to whip up something special to celebrate. I had blue and white sprinkles on hand already so funfetti was the obvious choice. There was lots of kicking going on after eating mine, so I’m sure baby boy liked them too.

I’m planning to continue blogging, although posts may be a little less frequent as we make the transition to a family of three. I’m also planning to share how we’ll stock the freezer pre-baby, keep ourselves fed post-baby and (eventually) how we’ll make our own baby food. I’m excited to continue sharing our cooking journey and hope you’ll be along for the ride!

Funfetti Cupcakes for Two
(from Chocolate and Carrots)
Makes 2 cupcakes

1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. milk
1 egg white
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. sugar
4 Tbsp. unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sprinkles

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

Beat the canola oil, egg, milk, vanilla extract and sugar together. Add in the flour and baking powder. Fold in the sprinkles, being careful not to over mix. Pour into two prepared muffin liners in a muffin pan.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool and then ice as desired.

16 More Meatless Dinner Ideas for Lent

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Last year, I kicked off Lent by sharing a roundup of meatless meal ideas. Part of Lenten obligation for us is abstaining from meat on Fridays, and over the past few years I’ve made it a project to shake us from our usual menus of cheese pizza and pasta with tomato sauce. I’ll be sharing new, meatless dishes on Fridays during Lent again this year – but I’m kicking off again with a roundup of our favorite meatless meals of the year to give you some inspiration.

Whether you’re observing Lenten Fridays or just looking for some new meatless dishes to work into your rotation, these are all great options. And you can check out the roundup I shared last year of 16 Meatless Dinner Ideas for Lent here.

Pizza Cobbler

Apple and Cheddar Panini

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Citrus Curry Dressing

Easy Roasted Eggplant

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”

Zucchini, Chile and Red Onion Fritatta

Roasted Vegetable and Hummus Tart

One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

Berry Kiwi Salad with Sweet Balsamic Dressing

Layered Vegetarian Tostadas

Crispy Eggplant Sandwiches with Roasted Garlic Ricotta Spread

Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Burritos

Potato Enchiladas

Barbecue Quinoa Salad

Bubble-Up Pizza

Korean Vegetable Pancakes with Spicy Soy Dipping Sauce

My Favorite Recipes of 2013

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This is always one of the hardest posts of the year! I only blog the recipes we make that are hits, so trying to narrow them down at the end of the year is a bit of a chore. Here are, in no particular order, ten recipes I really loved this year.

1 – Roast Beef and Parmesan Pita

These are so easy and since I first made them they’ve been heavy in the lunch rotation. If you’re looking to switch up your lunch in the new year, give this a shot!

2 – Spicy Sausage Pasta

This one-pot dish totally won me over. I adore that the pasta cooks in the sauce, not separately. This is going on our weekly menu again soon!

3 – Cake Batter Popsicles

These were my favorite of the summer. I’m really not sure how you could not like a cake batter pudding popsicle – it’s like the definition of summer!

 4 – Classic Hummus

Hummus wasn’t something I thought I could make successfully at home, so I was thrilled that this came out beautifully. This is now my favorite hummus.

5 – Teriyaki Chicken Burgers with Sesame Grilled Pineapple

Another favorite from the summer – these juicy burgers got made several times because they were such a hit. (Come on warm weather! I want to start grilling again!)

6 – Chicken Diablo

This was a dish that came to me via a recipe swap and we adored it. I end up drooling every time I look at the picture.

7 – Easter Bread

Easter Bread is a tradition in Mark’s family – and one I happily adopted when we got married. It’s one of the few times a year that I make yeast bread, but it’s always worth the effort.

8 – Kielbasa, Potato and Cabbage Skillet

This is a favorite dinner of ours – I can’t believe I blogged it for the first time this year. It’s simple, but so, so yummy.

9 – Buckeye Brownies

I made these dressed-up box mix brownies earlier this year and they’ve been frequently requested since. For minimal effort, these pack a huge flavor punch.

10 – No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

I made these as a grab-and-go snack and they totally hit the spot. They’re packed with “good stuff” like chia seeds and pumpkin seeds, but all you really taste is peanut butter and chocolate!

What were your favorite dishes of the year? What are you looking forward to making in 2014?

Most Popular Recipes of 2013

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I can’t believe it’s time for this already! I’ve, admittedly, been in denial of how fast the year is going. But, here we are, ready to look back on the year. Today, I’m sharing the recipes from 2013 that you made the most popular!

1 – Buffalo Cauliflower Wings

It’s really no surprise these are topping the list – they were super popular on Pinterest.  I’d had these on my to-make list for a while before finally getting to them, and was really surprised how awesome they came out. If you’re looking for something to snack on during New Year’s bowl games, these would be great!

2 – Green Beans with Bacon and Brown Sugar

I didn’t realize how popular these were! They were my lazy adaption of green bean bundles, and are the perfect accompaniment to a nice meal. I’ve made them for quite a few holidays since blogging them.

3 – Bourbon Chicken

  This is such a easy, delicious dinner that I’m not surprised it made the list. This has been in our dinner rotation for years and I can’t believe it took me until this year to share it!

4 – Ranch Pretzels

This is probably the dish that I’ve blogged that I make most often, so I’m thrilled to see them on the list. They’re easy and always a hit!

 5 – Spinach Prosciutto & Mozzarella Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

I made this when I was on a Sunday dinners kick. It was a winner in our house for being easy (my favorite) and being stuffed meat (my husband’s meal of choice).

6- Taco Seasoning

Make it Yourself Monday was a series I started in 2013. I didn’t quite get as many posts as I wanted up, but they were all pretty popular. This was the top of the list. I’ll be sharing more of my pantry favorites in 2014.

 7 – Buffalo Chicken Tater Tot Casserole

I was pretty late to the buffalo game, but I guess you all aren’t over buffalo since two dishes made the list! This was an easy, throw-together dinner that packed a lot of flavor.

8 – Loaded Baked Potato Salad

I made this for a summer BBQ and it was a huge hit. I’m sure it’ll make repeat appearances in the warm-weather months.


9 – Italian Rainbow Cookie Cake

Gosh, I love this cake. I’m pretty thrilled you guys do too. Also, the fact that the first dessert has landed at number nine on the list is pretty representative of how things went on the blog this year – lots of dinners, fewer sweets. I’ll remedy that in the new year!

10 – Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

And another cake to round out the top ten. This was another I was thrilled with. I’d tried a few cookie cake recipes in the past but they never quite turned out how I wanted – this was perfect.

Be sure to come back tomorrow – I’ll be sharing my top ten favorites for the year!

Munching through vacation: Baltimore, DC and Philadelphia

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 We were fortunate to get outta Dodge recently, for some much needed R&R – hence the lack of posts lately! I’ve been really struggling with balance lately and this was a good way to reset. Sometimes you just need to get away, you know?

While on the road, we had a bunch of great meals and did some other fun, food-related stops so I thought it would be fun to share some of the highlights.

One of our best meals of the trip was the first one. Our hotel in Baltimore was right on the border of the city’s Little Italy. My plan was to wing it and find something when we showed up, but Mark did some research and picked out this place for a late lunch. Amicci’s was cute, causal and (obviously) Italian.

 We both ordered pastas off the lunch menu: penne with vodka sauce for me; rigatoni with a sausage tomato sauce for Mark. They had a big list of pasta and a big list of sauces and you could mix and match anything you wanted, which was neat. We also had house salad and bread. The bread was to-die-for. I’m always a bread fan, but this stuff seriously made me so, so happy. It was fresh and soft and just amazing. It was also really affordable – we spent just about $30 on lunch. I’d highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area!

Mark also found out that we were also going to be there for The Gathering – which is basically a food truck meet-up with live bands that changes location. We lucked out – it was walking distance from our hotel when we were in town! We grabbed late night bites from Gypsy Queen Cafe (Korean beef tacos) and Flavor Cupcakery (the chocolate peanut butter cupcake was to die for). It was a mostly-locals event, which was a lot of fun.

For something completely touristy, we checked out McCormick World of Flavors in the Inner Harbor. It’s their only retail location and in addition to selling tons of spices, they had some interactive games and displays. One of the games was guess-the-spice – the machine puffed the scent of a spice at you and you had to identify it. We were 5 for 5 (and feeling pretty proud of ourselves!) and won a 25% off coupon for it. We used it to stock up on some spices that I have more trouble getting around here and some new blends and products that haven’t made it to our local stores yet.

We jumped over to D.C. next – and did a lot of walking. We walked an average of 12 miles a day, which in hindsight seems kind of crazy! One of our hikes was over to We, the Pizza, one of Spike Mendelsohn’s restaurants. We had loved Spike on Top Chef, so we were really excited to see the place in person!

 The pizza was awesome. Mark got two slices – Cajun Chicken & Andouille Sausage (with caramelized onions, mozzarella and Cajun seasoning) and Buffalo Chicken. I got Colletti’s Notorious BBQ (pulled pork, bbq sauce, cheddar and crispy onions). So, so good!

 The next day, while walking through the city again, we got approached by a White House volunteer who was handing out tickets to the White House Fall Garden Tour. We hadn’t heard of the garden tours before (they’re held two weekends a year, one in the spring and one in the fall) so we were sort of blown away that we’d be able to walk through the White House’s backyard without making crazy arrangements far in advance. It was so cool to see things like the Rose Garden up close and we were essentially close enough to touch the building (we didn’t, because… scary security guys). But, we were so close!

One of the best parts of the tour, for me, was that we got to see the kitchen garden that Michelle Obama championed. It was gorgeous and still looked plentiful at the end of October. It totally puts my backyard garden to shame! I can only cream about having a garden like this!

Another fantastic meal we had was at Jose Andres’s Oyamel. It was all Mexican tapas and recommended by one of Mark’s coworkers and my friend Amy from What’s Brewing in the Kitchen so we knew we had to try it out. We ordered a whole bunch of tacos, fries with mole sauce and queso fresco and refried beans with melted cheese. There was also chips and salsa, margaritas and tres leches. Everything was really, really good. I was particularly in love with the fries.

Our third and final stop of the trip was in Philadelphia, where I started getting lazy and not taking as many pictures. We did the standard Independence Hall tour and then headed over to Jim’s on South Street for cheesesteaks. This was a favorite of mine in college but I hadn’t been back in years. It was a nice trip down memory lane! If you go, I recommend a steak with wiz and peppers.

We also stopped off at Reading Terminal Market, which we were embarrassingly unprepared for. I knew it was a food place, but I didn’t know any specifics so when Mark suggested checking it out I was game. We walked in and I was instantly overwhelmed. It’s just rows and rows of farm stands, little restaurant counters, specialty food stores and the like. We spent a lot of time wandering before sitting down for a Nutella-strawberry-banana crepe at Profi’s Creperie. We picked up some goodies on our way out – fresh baked cookies, baklava from a Greek restaurant, fresh strawberry lemonade and a few pounds of sausage. I would have grabbed more, but the Amish stands were closing up for the day so I missed out on pie and pickles – probably for the best, though, since we we still a mile from the car!

It was a great little trip with a lot of fun adventures and good food. I’ll be getting back to a normal posting schedule shortly – expect new recipes later this week!

Virtual Treat Up to Benefit Feeding America

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In 2011, 50.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households – 1 in 6 Americans.  20% or more of the child population in 37 states and D.C. lived in food insecure households in 2011.

Are you blown away by those numbers? Because I am.

September is Hunger Action Month and the opportunity for us who are food secure to be a part of the solution. There are lots of ways to get involved: volunteer at your local food bank, make a donation to a hunger charity, take the SNAP Challenge or help raise awareness of hunger issues.

I wanted to do something to raise awareness – along with making a donation to this great cause – which is why I’m announcing the First Annual Virtual Treat Up to benefit Feeding America.

What is the Treat Up? It’s a chance for everyone to make a great treat, share it and spread the word about Hunger Action Month.

I’m asking you to: 1) Make a treat, 2) Share it on your blog, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with a mention of Feeding America and Hunger Action Month (use #virtualtreatup on hashtag-able sites so others can see what you are making!) and 3) Email me at or tweet me @mrskatemarie the link to what you’ve shared by September 30th.

For every submission I receive, I’ll donate $1 to Feeding America – which they turn into 8 meals for needy people! The more treats you submit, the more meals that will get donated. I’ll also pick a random participant and donate $25 to the local hunger charity of their choice.

I’ll do a round up at the beginning of October so we can all marvel at each other’s treats and the collective difference we made together. Happy Treating!

Cookbooks Coming Soon

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For the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend Book Expo America – a publishing-industry conference. I go as a reader: meeting authors, grabbing copies of books I want to read and generally fan-girling over all of the books. Each year, I also pick up some cookbook previews. Unlike novels, they don’t seem to hand out advanced copies of cookbooks at BEA – instead, they offer shortened versions that give you a taste of what the whole book will be like.

I wanted to share some thoughts on some of the previews I picked up. These eight books are ones that caught my eye at BEA – and ones I’m still interested in checking out after looking through the previews.

Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong
Expected publication: December 17, 2013

If you’re a fan of the blog, I think you’ll love the book. It looks like it stays very true to the voice and style of the blog, which is sometimes hard to do in book-form.

Quick & Easy Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield
Expected publication: September 24th, 2013

The recipes and photos in here look delicious and totally accessible. It also includes little graphics on each recipe page that shows on a clock how much hands on time and how much total time they take – which makes it easy to pick something when you’re time-crunched.

Gluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch & Beyond by Linda J. Amendt
Expected publication: October 15, 2013

Breakfast seems the hardest for gluten-free recipes for me because I love all the baked goods. This looks like it’ll give some great alternative options.

Sweet Debbie’s Organic Treats: Allergy-Free & Vegan Recipes from the Famous Los Angeles Bakery by Debbie Adler
Expected publication: October 29, 2013

If you or someone you bake for has food allergies, this would be a great book to check out. The recipes are free of gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, sugar and nuts – and they all look amazing. The salted caramel apple muffins are going on my short-list to make this fall!

Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey: Recipes from My Three Favorite Food Groups (and then some) by John Currence
Expected publication: October 1, 2013

I picked this one up because I loved the name. It’s full of down-home style recipes – think: NOLA-style BBQ shrimp with creole gream cheese grits and pork fat beignets with bourbon caramel. There’s also a whole chapter on pickling and canning.

Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes to Feed the People You Love by Einat Admony
Expected publication: September 3, 2013

I honestly didn’t think I’d be particularly interested in this one, but once I started looking through I changed my mind. The recipes are unusual, but not inaccessible. And they all look easier than I was expecting.

Sweet by Valerie Gordon
Expected publication: October 8, 2013

This is a book of fancy desserts. They all make me want to lick the page, but I think they’re fancier than I’d make at home. I did like that it includes a section encouraging you to mix-and-match recipes.

The Kinfolk Table: Recipes for Small Gatherings by Nathan Williams
Expected publication: October 15, 2013

The preview for this reads like a fashion magazine – the photography is gorgeous. It’s based on the Kinfolk magazine and includes recipes and profiles of different food people. I wasn’t particularly struck by any of the recipes in the preview, but I’m interested in checking out the full book.

Are there any cookbooks coming out soon that you’re looking forward to?

Our Global Kitchen at The American Museum of Natural History

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Our Global Kitchen is a special exhibit currently on display at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC. I adore the museum, but I’ve never sprung for the cost of the special exhibits – I just couldn’t pass this one up, though! My Mom and I stopped in when we had some free time in NYC, and I’m so, so glad we did!

The exhibit is a pretty substantial look at our food: what the world eats, our food system, how we cook and how we use food to celebrate. There is an additional fee for this exhibit on top of the ticket price ($12.50/person for us) and gives you a slotted time to enter. The exhibit is a walk through, though, and the timing is more to make sure that it’s not too crowded at any given time. If you show up a little early and ask nicely, they’ll most likely let you in.

The first areas you walk through deals with the “grow” and “trade” aspects of the exhibit. Big disks show slide shows of growing and transporting different food products and give you a feel of things to come.

There’s also a few wall of statistics that greet you. The context of the exhibit builds on these, but even just looking at them alone makes an impact.

Especially when you have ones like this so close to each other on the wall.

A short film about growing and transporting food opens the exhibit up. The first few rows of seating were these adorable fruit chairs.

They were actually quite comfy, too! Mom sat in a green apple, I took the watermelon.

After the film, you really dove into the rest of the exhibit. The section about growing was fascinating. It showed a mix of the history of agriculture, current method and what’s in store for the future. My Mom was enamoured by the hanging edible garden they had – it was specially designed for apartment living in NYC (and they were selling them in the gift shop).

There were displays on crop diversity – or lack there of. One of the things I learned was that most of the world’s bananas are one variety – and that variety is currently being threatened (by a fungus or bacteria, I forget which). Apparently, we’re in danger of losing those bananas completely and scientists are trying to work out a solution.

There were some models of  different farming systems – this one is showing a possible future solution to farming.

This display was a visual representation of the food the average US family throws away each year. I know I’m guilty of not using things up, but seeing this box so full kind of blew me away.  And made me want to do better in my own home.

Next we moved into the “cook” and “taste” sections. These were, for obvious reasons, my favorite. They were also the most interactive. One really fun feature were these scent boxes – you pressed the button, leaned in and got a whiff of whatever ingredient was featured. This one was chocolate! It was a lot of fun to play with them all, although, I sort of wish they had covered the names so you could guess what you were smelling.

There was a giant display of cookbooks from around the world, both old and new. It was interesting to see how similar they were.

The US was represented by a vintage copy of The Joy of Cooking - so neat!

Probably the highlight of the whole exhibit was that they have a real, working kitchen smack in the middle of it. They have a different guest chef every few weeks. Chef Juan Pablo Chavez was there when we went, and he had cooked up a delicious tomatillo mole sauce (once my garden starts spewing tomatillos, I’ll be making and sharing!). There was also fresh jimica to sample. So good!

The theme of the kitchen changes regularly, so it’s definitely an exhibit you could come back to several times and always find something exciting and different.

Outside of the kitchen, they had an interactive cooking table. It was a giant touch-screen board which walked you through making a few recipes – from start to clean up (it even included setting the table).

We “made” grilled salmon with peach salad. (The recipe is here, if you’re interested!) I thought it was a great way to show people who might be intimidated by cooking that it’s totally doable. The kids that were going through the exhibit when we were absolutely loved it – and cried when their Mom made them move on and see something else!

The exhibit then moved on to displays about what people eat, past and present. I thought one of the most striking displays were the pictures of families around the world with their week’s groceries laid out in front of them. Each caption included how much the family spends and the overweight average for their country.

It was amazing to see the differences.

They had areas set up where you could sit at a historical figure’s dining table to “eat” with them. I picked Jane Austen because she had ice cream, of course.

No electricity, but ice cream.

They also had displays of what real people would have eaten, including Michal Phelps’ famously large training breakfast.

I remember reading the articles about this during the Olympics, but actually seeing it laid out is a whole other thing. It seems especially large after looking at the figures about hunger throughout the exhibit.

At the end of the food section, there was some speculation on things to come.

The one that really caught my eye was the breathable chocolate. If someone is actually working on this, I’d just like to throw it out there that I’d happily offer up my services as a beta tester.

The exhibit wrapped up with another film – complete with more fruit chairs – about how we use food to celebrate. It really drove home the point how universal and ingrained in most cultures celebrating with food really is. They also showed some visitor-submitted celebrating food, like gingerbread cookies and this Christmas octopus.

The submissions are curated from Instagram via the hashtag #CelebrateFood. When I cook up something good, I’ll be adding it to Instagram. How fun would it be to say that something you cooked was on display at the American Museum of Natural History?!

Our Global Kitchen will be at the American Museum of Natural History until August 11, 2013. If you’re in the city before than and have an opportunity to check it out, I highly recommend it!