{Review} Morningstar Farms Meatless Burgers

I love a good burger. A big, juicy, meaty, medium-rare burger, with lettuce, onions, pickles, ketchup, and mayo. I am not a veggie burger kind of gal. I love many vegetarian dishes, but I didn’t really see myself picking up a package of frozen veggie/soy burgers from the market. So, when I was afforded the opportunity to do so for free thanks to my participation in a BzzAgent Campaign for Morningstar Farms products, I gave it a go.

We do try to eat one meatless meal a week, and while I prefer a whole foods meatless meal, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. And if the choice is between a semi-healthy veggie burger from the freezer, or a completely unhealthy fast-food option, I think the decision is a no-brainer.

bzz agent morningstar farm blog review

The other day I decided to try out these Morningstar Farms burgers. I chose Spicy Black Bean Burgers and a package of “Grillers” — which are supposed to taste like real hamburgers. I did not tell my kids they would be having veggie burgers for dinner.


As you can see, frozen out of the box they don’t look too exciting. They are definitely smaller than a burger I would make with fresh beef or turkey, but we were having soup, salad, and fries on the side so I didn’t think portion size would be an issue (and it wasn’t).

I served the kids first and asked them to let me know what they thought. (I served them the “Grillers” with their usual toppings — trying to see if I could fool them.) The response was overwhelmingly positive. My 10-year old thought they tasted a little different than usual, but not in a bad way. My 7-year-old also really liked the burger and finished it without having to be prodded, even after he learned it was a veggie burger. I’d say that’s a positive review!


For myself, I made up a black bean burger with pepper jack, lettuce, jalapenos, salsa, and mayo. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I really enjoyed it. Drew had one of each (bunless), and liked both of them, but felt that the “Grillers” were a better substitute for someone craving a burger.

Of course, there is always a caveat. In this case, the long ingredient list is kind of a put-off to me:


I am not really sure if a processed “veggie” burger is healthier for me than a burger made with high-quality beef. It is also unclear if Morningstar Farms uses GMO soybeans, if that is a concern to you.

Would I purchase these products again? Even with my hesitations I would probably buy them again. I’m not sure I would make them a regular item on my menu. Honestly, I prefer a less processed vegetarian option (and truthfully, one that does not use soy as a primary ingredient). But as I said at the beginning of this review, in a pinch and between a Morningstar Farms veggie burger or a fast food burger, I think the veggie burger wins on both convince and overall healthfulness. And it is surprisingly tasty.

As  member of BzzAgent, I received coupons for Morningstar Farms products, including a coupon to try a product free of charge. I did not receive any further compensation. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Snow, Sleet, and Freezing Rain Day

I’m kind of drawing a blank as to what to write about today. It was a busy weekend (Cub Scouts, work, open house for the preschool Laura will attend in the fall, CYO basketball…) and I’ve got a cold, so suffice it to say I’m feeling beat.

It’s a big mess of yuck out there today. Schools let out early, anticipating a potentially dangerous bus ride home, and I’m seeing that quite a few local businesses are shutting down early today, too. Better to be safe than sorry! I think the freezing rain has just started back up, and of course my poor husband just went out to clear the driveway.

Anyway, I thought I’d link up with Sandra today!

The Weather:::  Snow, sleet, freezing rain, rain, cold… a big mess, that’s for sure.

Right now I am:::Feeling a little guilty that I’m cozy warm by the fire and Drew’s freezing outside.

Thinking::: Is it dinner yet? I’m starving. What’s that saying… feed a cold, starve a fever? Yep, I’m definitely buying the “feed a cold” part. Eating does make me feel better!

On my reading pile::: I just picked up a book called Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay. It’s a thriller about the disappearance of a child at an amusement park. I’m hoping to start it tonight. I love working at the library for so many reasons, but seeing all these interesting-sounding books come in and out has to top the list!

On my tv::: We’ve been enjoying “The Glades” on Netflix. I remember seeing an episode or two at my parents and it’s a really good show.

On the menu for this week::: In no particular order (because I’m not sure myself yet, LOL)…

Veggie burgers, fries & salad
Chicken enchilada soup & taquitos
Out to eat at Chili’s (hopefully – I got a Kids Eat Free coupon)
Chicken cordon blue

On my to do list:::
– laundry
– paperwork
– wash the floors

What I am sewing, crocheting, knitting or creating::: I’m working on my blanket and on some smaller Valentine’s Day projects that I’ll share later this week.

Homemaking Tips::: Isopropyl alcohol. Make sure you have it in the house (the higher percentage the better), especially if you have a toddler/preschooler. It will remove all kinds of stains including permanent marker from walls and from microfiber. Ask me how I know 😉

Looking around the house::: Things are definitely not as clean as before the kids got home from school, but… c’est la vie, right? Remnant of the makings of glove puppets on the table and floor, yarn scraps (that’s my fault) on the carpet, at least the dishes are done!

From the camera::: We’ve been having the most gorgeous sunrises lately. I’ve always been more of a sunrise kind of gal, and even though it’s so cold out, I think they are the prettiest at this time of year.


January Thaw, Please???

Brr… If you live in the Northeast, you know that we are experiencing some truly bitter cold this week. I am trying not to be negative about it, thinking about how much I hate the hot humid summer days  when every bit of clothing and hair sticks to you and it’s just all around gross. But still. It’s damn cold.

Last night I went to bed wearing heavy fleece pants, a long-sleeve tee, my heavy wool Aran sweater from Ireland, and piled on blankets, a duvet, and our quilt. And I was still cold. When is that January thaw happening?

Sigh… anyway. The cold doesn’t stop me from enjoying one of my all-time favorite treats: ice cream. Today I bought strawberry and decided that I absolutely must have hot fudge sauce to go with it, so I whipped some up with cream, dark chocolate, vanilla, butter, and marshmallows (they make a nice, smooth texture).

Oh yes…. that’s what I’m talking about!

Otherwise, things have been rather mundane, which is fine. I’ve been enjoying crochet by the fire, watching some true-crime shows on Netflix, and cooking up some yummy meals.

Hope things have been great with you, too! I’m off to start getting the kids ready for bed and the snuggle under about 27 blankets and watch “The Dark Knight Rises” with my hubby. Oh, and yes of course — I will totally be devouring that strawberry sundae 😉

{Recipe} Mom’s American Chop Suey

american chop suey

I have to imagine that most of us have a few dishes in our culinary memories that we ate (at least seemingly) over and over again when we were kids. Perhaps even to the point where we got sick of them and couldn’t imagine eating them again… until you find yourself in your late 30s, with three kids of your own, and are craving comfort food.

Enter: Chop Suey. Now, if you grew up outside of New England you might know it as goulash or beefaroni. But I’ve always known it as chop suey. We ate this all the time in the 80s, and I can certainly understand why: it’s relatively frugal, it makes a ton, and it’s easy to like. It certainly passed the test in my house when, after two helpings, my oldest requested to take it to school for lunch the next day. Chop suey is also a great make-ahead meal. It reheats extremely well!

Mom’s American Chop Suey

american chop suey

olive oil or butter
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 lb. ground beef
salt & pepper
3 c. (give or take) of spaghetti sauce (for my mom’s authentic recipe, feel free to use Ragu – it’s the only sauce my brother and I would eat as kids)
1 box of elbow macaroni (I used whole wheat, but it’s your choice)

In a deep skillet, heat olive oil or butter, add onions and peppers, season, and saute for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, start a pot of water boiling and cook the macaroni to the package directions. Drain. Add ground beef to the onions and peppers and cook through. Add spaghetti sauce to the beef mixture and mix well. Add the macaroni and stir everything up until evenly coated.

At this point, you can either serve it or place into a casserole dish and let cool and refrigerate for later.

When I was little I would painstakingly pick out every onion and pepper piece and then I’d pile on shredded cheddar cheese. These days I happily eat the onions and peppers, but I find that the cheddar is still a great addition.

I’m linking up with Sandra at Diary of a SAHM
because it’s Cooking Thursday!

{Recipe} Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

creamy chicken noodle soup

It’s been cold lately. Really cold. And we’ve all been enjoying lots of hearty soups. This season, Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup has emerged as my family’s all-time favorite soup. (At least for now.) Luckily, it is simple to make and we almost always have the ingredients in the fridge or freezer. It’s perfect for a simple Sunday dinner, but quick enough to whip up for lunch.

Because it is a rather heavy soup, I suggest pairing with a crisp salad. That’s what we like to do.

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

creamy chicken noodle soup

5 Tbsp. butter
1/3 c. diced celery
1/2 c. diced carrot
1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 c. frozen peas
6 c. chicken broth
2-3 chicken bouillon cubes (optional)
2 c. egg noodles
2 c. diced cooked chicken
6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 1/4 c. half-and-half
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Saute carrots, onions, and celery until they are soft (about 5 min.) Add the chicken broth, bouillon (if using), chicken, and egg noodles. Bring to a boil then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 min., stirring occasionally. Add the frozen peas to the soup.

Mix the flour and poultry seasoning together in a small bowl. Set aside. Melt 4 Tbsp. of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour mixture to the melted butter, a little at a time, stirring constantly until the roux is smooth. Slowly add the half-and-half, again just a little at a time, constantly stirring until there are no lumps and the mixture is slightly thickened. Stir the sauce into the soup. Add pepper to taste.

Sleepy Saturday

There’s nothing like a solid three hours of sleep to get you refreshed and ready for the day, right? Sigh, of course I’m being sarcastic. Laura had a later bedtime than usual last night, which naturally resulted in a very poor night’s sleep. I’ve always laughed at people who suggest letting kids stay up later in order to get them to sleep in later. Sure, at Jake’s age this works. But not for the wee little ones. At any rate, after two hours of going in an out of her room, consoling, pleading to go back to sleep, I gave in at about 3:45 a.m. and took her downstairs.

I’d hoped that some TV might relax her back to sleep but nope… it wasn’t until I was vacuuming (yay for white noise!) after lunchtime that she started snoozing on the couch. So yes. I’m tired.

I got lots done this week, though, and it flew by. One of the projects on my list was sketching out my stash-buster blanket idea. Quite a while ago, I was inspired by this gorgeous quilt from Pippa Patchwork that I originally saw on Pinterest:


As I am hardly a quilter, I thought this would be a great solution to my growing stash of odds and ends from various crochet projects. I thought of doing a granny square blanket or a stripey blanket, but this design really “wow’ed” me. Simple enough to work on while watching TV, but I think it has a nice, modern feel.

I whipped out the graph paper to figure out how many squares I’ll need.

stash-buster blanket 2013

And I played around with various colors, picking out 10 that I loved best for the largest squares.

stash-buster blanket 2013

stash-buster blanket 2013

This project is hugely different for me because I don’t think I’ve ever combined so many different colors all at once. I suppose all those years of following Lucy from Attic24 are finally having an effect on me!

So I am slowly (oh, so very slowly) plugging away at my first single-crochet purple square. I need to keep up the momentum 🙂

Well, I think it’s time to get up and bake a dish of brownies for dessert tonight and make my house smell even better than it already does. I’ve got two crock pots going: one simmering a pot of chicken stock, and the other cooking up a delicious pot roast for dinner tonight. Drew and Jake have been at the Eskimo Run for Cub Scouts all day and I know when they get home they’ll be cold and hungry.

Enjoy the rest of your Saturday!

{Book Review} The American Lighthouse Cookbook: The Best Recipes and Stories from America’s Shorelines

lighthouse cookbook review

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved lighthouses. Growing up in Massachusetts, and spending plenty of time on the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire, I guess that’s no surprise. So when I was asked to review a cookbook that focused on recipes from some of the country’s beautiful landmark lighthouses, I eagerly accepted the opportunity.

The American Lighthouse Cookbook: The Best Recipes and Stories from America’s Shorelines, by Becky Sue Epstein and Ed Jackson is just as much a history book as a cookbook. Divided into eight regions (the Northeast Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast Atlantic, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Gulf Coast, Hawaii and California, Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and the Great Lakes), this book gives you a taste of various regional cuisines along with facts and stories about each lighthouse. As you might imagine, the recipes focus on seafood dishes, but there is actually a wonderful variety of recipes.

lighthouse cookbook review

I decided to test out a recipe for Cranberry Nut Bread from the Bass River Lighthouse in West Dennis, Mass. (that’s on Cape Cod for those who aren’t familiar with the area). Cranberries are synonymous with Massachusetts, so I knew this was going to be good. And I was right. The recipe formed a perfectly shaped, slightly dense quick bread that was just amazing warm from the oven.

lighthouse cookbook review

I was given permission to share this recipe with my readers, and I know you’re going to love it. If nothing else, be sure to bookmark it and give it a try next fall when everyone is craving the sweet-tart taste of cranberries.

lighthouse cookbook review

Cranberry Nut Bread
from The American Lighthouse Cookbook: The Best Recipes and Stories from America’s Shorelines

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 c. AP flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. milk
1 c. walnuts, toasted
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a standard-sized loaf pan. In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar. Mix in the butter. In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Alternately add the flour mixture to the milk and egg mixture. Fold in the walnuts and cranberries. Power the batter into the greased loaf pan and bake for 50-60 min. Bread is done when a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Another thing I like about the book is that it’s not just a grouping of random recipes. Each lighthouse has recipes that together form a complete meal. If you want to find a unique menu for dinner with friends, chances are there’s something in The American Lighthouse Cookbook that will sound delicious and take all the thinking out of planning your meal. It’s a really unique way of setting up a cookbook, and I see myself referring to this one quite a bit when the weather warms up and I’m feeling more like fish and vegetable recipes.

The introduction of the book states that it “couples food with the romance of the seacoast, adding a dash of history and wrapping it in the very current ‘eat local’ movement.” I am definitely looking forward to taking that to heart because it features a delicious breakfast from the Saugerties Lightouse — less than half an hour away from here. Ah yes… Saugerties Lightouse pancakes, New York cherries with granola and yogurt, oven-roasted bacon, scrambled eggs, and fried potatoes with cheddar cheese and scallions. Sounds like a perfect Sunday brunch if you ask me!

I received a free copy of The American Lighthouse Cookbook: The Best Recipes and Stories from America’s Shorelines. The opinions expressed in this blog post are mine and mine alone. I received no further compensation for writing a review of the book.

The Humble Onion

It’s pretty amazing to me that something so lowly as an onion, can go from something like this:

onion soup

To a fancy schmancy French soup like this:

onion soup

It just takes a little time and a little love. I guess that onion soup could be an allegory for a variety of things that just take patience — relationships, goals, our own personal struggles. I don’t know, maybe I had a little too much red wine after I gave the soup a good “glug” but there was something about it that struck me today.

Anyway… it’s Monday! No menu plan this week because I just don’t haven’t written one out. Tsk, tsk, I know.

Today was a rather warm-ish and sunny day, a welcome change from the past several days that all looked pretty much like this:

foggy morning

Gray. Foggy. Damp. I loved it for the first couple of days, but it started to get a little dreary, even for me. Of course, we do have a little more snow forcasted for mid-week. Seems as though we are actually having a winter this year, unlike last year. Even though I complain (my right, as a cranky Yankee), I secretly love it.

Tomorrow I have a wonderful book review and a recipe I’ll be sharing, so be sure to look for that. Also, if I have the time to get things organized, I’m planning on starting my big crochet project of the year. Super excited to share that, too!


The Saturdays when I work at the library are such a weird mix of lazy and busy. And yet somehow I rarely feel stressed about it. One of these days I’ll take you on a little “day in the life of a library clerk” — but not today.

It was kind of weird today. I had so many more reference questions than usual (I’m not complaining — that’s one of my favorite parts of the job: helping patrons find information). I looked up quite a few things, from GED resources, to dual diagnosis programs, to the name of a specific Vietnam war memoir. Today there was a stretch where we had so may patrons coming in, and lulls when there was only someone using a computer. My whole day has been like that, even at home. Busy getting ready for work, a bit of craziness as soon as I get home, a bit of relaxation, and then it was off to drop off Jake at a friend’s house and run a few errands. And now things are pretty calm again as I wait to start getting Noah and Laura ready for bed. Drew’s going to pick up Jake later, so I’m planning on a little TV and crochet to wind down the night.

Speaking of crochet… I finally finished Noah’s checkerboard pillow this week! Ta da 🙂

checkerboard pillow

Basically, I just SC’ed strips, making my little white and black squares, then I sewed them up together, crocheted a border around them, and then finished up the pillow with a dark blue back to match the rest of the kiddo’s bedding.

checkerboard pillow

He was so happy with it — it got me a very big hug! I have to say, I’m glad to have all these little projects done. I have been ready to move onto other things, but feeling guilty for not finishing up my works-in-progress. I have a few fun ideas on the horizon and I can’t wait to get started on them!

Last-minute Getaway

I will never get tired of taking my kids somewhere and not telling them where we are going. And that’s exactly what we did yesterday. Our school had a teachers’ conference day today, so on a whim we decided to head up to Lake George. Yes, we were just there in November, but really we just wanted something to do. And it was a great time!

We swam. We relaxed. We went out to dinner. We stayed up late. (Well, “late” for the kids, which meant about 8:30 p.m.) We slept in. (Well, “in” for us, which meant about 7:00 a.m.).  We shopped. We had a great lunch. We came home.

Sure, it would have been awesome to have the time and money to jet off to Florida and hire a st petersburg limousine service to take us around. But the Adirondacks are where I like to be. I like the mountain air over the sandy beaches. And even in the dead of winter, there is something so rejuvenating about it. No, we might have not have gone for, or done a whole lot, but having fun together and not having to worry about life, even if just for an overnight, is all the “vacation” I needed 🙂