A Fond Farewell from Janice

I’m writing this post to inform you, my community of devoted readers, that 15 years after co-founding Meal Makeover Moms I am moving on. This decision was difficult, but as someone once said, “every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow,” and I have made the decision to embark on a new journey.

Cooking is my first love (besides my family, friends, and dog!), and I particularly love welcoming people into my kitchen to cook with me. I will continue creating and sharing recipes, but through a different avenue. My next adventure is with JaniceCooks.com.

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Not a Baaaaaad Way to Entertain in My New Kitchen … with a Lamb Dinner for Boston Foodies

Most of us would probably entertain more often if someone else did the food shopping for us and then stopped by to prepare, serve, and clean up the mess! It takes hours to plan and implement a spectacular dinner party … hours most of us don’t have in our busy lives. As much as I love to cook and entertain, which I do fairly often, it was great to recently host a dinner party for local foodies on behalf of the Tri-Lamb Group AND have it catered by Miss Fork, a boutique catering company in Stoneham, MA.

Chef Julie at Lean on Lamb Dinner via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Chef Julie served up samples of my Barbecue Lamb Sliders which one guest declared as, “mad good.”  I’m a big fan of lamb not only because of the flavor and the fact that it’s nutrient rich, but it’s also surprisingly lean (especially the leg, loin, and rack) with an average 3-ounce serving containing only 175 calories.

Lean on Lamb Dinner via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Every item on the menu was inspiring, but the Armenian Lamb Kufta and the Mediterranean Lamb Loin Chops with Quinoa Salad were show stoppers!

Liz Enjoying her Lamb Loin Chop

Liz certainly enjoyed the Mediterranean Lamb Loin Chops with Quinoa Salad!

Boston Area Bloggers at Lean on Lamb Dinner  via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Boston-area food bloggers were invited to the dinner including Shannon from Tri to Cook, Christine from America’s Test Kitchen, Kathy from Kathy Can Cook, Pam from Cave Cibum, and Rachel from Fork it Over Boston.

Carolyn O'Neil and Allison via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Fellow RD and author Carolyn O’Neil (on the left) was in town from Atlanta to receive the Nutrition Science Media Award for 2013 from the American Society for Nutrition, so I was thrilled that she was able to join us. Here she is along with Allison Beadle from the PR firm Salt & Co.

Cookbook Author Maria Speck with Janice via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Maria Speck, author of one of my favorite cookbooks, Ancient Grains for Modern Meals, took a break from writing her second book to enjoy a few nibbles and a glass of sparkling wine.

Grilled Lamb and Vegetable Kabobs

If these lamb kabobs have you yearning for more, be sure to try my Sweet & Sour Lamb Meatballs. Stay tuned for my Barbecue Lamb Slider recipe on the blog in the coming days…

Sweet & Sour Lamb Meatballs via MealMakeoverMoms.com/kitchen

Disclosure: Janice was compensated for recipe development and media work by the Tri-Lamb Group

Kitchen Makeover Update: I Host an Open House for the Contractors and Builders Who Worked on the Project

My kitchen makeover took six months to complete, but do you know how many people it took to make it happen?  The answer: A lot! It took a village to make my dream kitchen a reality … from the architect, excavators, framers, roofers, and siders to the countertop/appliance/cabinet suppliers, plumbers, electricians, tilers, painters, and general contractors. To thank everyone for their hard work and commitment, I invited them to an open house in my new kitchen last weekend.

Kitchen Makeover Workers via MealMakeoverMoms.com

A few of the key people who helped with the kitchen makeover are Randy from Sears/Kenmore, Paul from Paul John & Son Roofing, Dave the tile guy, Billy the plumber, Tom the general contractor, Alberto and Jorge from Paul’s Professional Painting, and Tom #2 (Tom’s sidekick), the guy with the colander on his head!

Party Food via MealMakeoverMoms.com

Luckily we have a 9.5-foot Silestone island that comfortably held all the food for the party. My friend Mary’s mozzarella, tomato, basil skewers and our Roasted Carrot Hummus were crowd favorites.

Tashia shredding the pork

I made two slow cookers full of our Pulled Pork Primavera Sandwiches, and they were devoured. You may recognize Tashia, one of our past Boston University interns, who came early to help me organize the pantry and then helped shred the pork.

Carole Cabinetry Designer and Owner via MealMakeoverMoms.com

Kathy and Maura from Carole Kitchen and Bath Design inspect the eco-friendly Executive Cabinetry cabinets!

Kenmore double oven demo via MealMakeoverMoms.com

Randy, the awesome Sears sales associate who helped me pick out my Kenmore appliances, was impressed with the double oven.

In addition to the builders, I invited my many neighbors who endured months of trucks on the street, our messy yard, and construction noise.  There were 52 people who showed up, and it never felt crowded in the space!

Tom Moylan and Tom Roy, builders extraordinaire!

My kitchen makeover would not have happened without these two guys: Tom Moylan and Tom Roy. They were fixtures at my house for six months. Some days I miss seeing them, but most of the time I’m glad they have moved on so I can cook and entertain in my new kitchen!

My Parents Pass the Holiday Entertaining Baton: Easter Celebration in My New Kitchen

My parents have hosted every major holiday since I was born … and well before that too. They’re the ultimate entertainers, and they throw a party like no one else I know. Mom sets her game plan weeks in advance, and she and Dad set their beautiful dining room table days before their doorbell rings … and rings … and rings.

momdadedited

Mom and Dad on Easter 2012. Unfortunately, my dad didn’t make it to Easter dinner this year due to a medical issue. Luckily, we live close by so we were able to send over a nice plate of food — (lamb and asparagus are two of his favorite foods) — and we called him a few times throughout the day to cheer him up.

All this holiday entertaining doesn’t happen without a lot of effort on my parents’ part, so I decided it was high time I stepped up to welcome my family here for Easter. After all, I have the space now in my new kitchen, and I have a brand, spanking new Kenmore double oven, which makes cooking for a crowd so much easier than life before my Kitchen Makeover.

Bissex family Easter

We fit twelve people easily around my new Pompanoosuc Mills extension table, and Don and I could have fit two more on the ends if we needed to.

Janice Cooking

I made a lovely raisin sauce to go with our ham that I adapted from a Farmland Foods recipe I found online. I cut back a bit on the butter and sugar and used cornstarch instead of flour, and it was very tasty. (Yes, I did use a bit of rum.)

Jeff slicing the leg of lamb

One of the highlights this year: My brother Jeff brought a whole leg of lamb that he cooked in his new smoker. The flavor was amazing.

Buffet Easter Dinner at Chez Bissex

 Scalloped Potatoes, Maple Glazed Carrots, Grilled Asparagus, Smoked Leg of Lamb, and Honey Baked Ham were on the menu at Chez Bissex this Easter.

EasterFriends

In addition to family, holidays are about friends, and I was delighted that Nancy (right) stopped by for Easter dessert and Shirley (left) invited me over to her house the day before Easter to try her family’s awesome pizzagaina (a traditional Italian dish made with eggs, meat, and cheese).

It wouldn’t be Easter dinner without the “Lamby Cake” that our family friend Lucy makes every year.  Gotta love our holiday traditions!

BissexGirls

I couldn’t resist sharing this photo of my two girls. Leah was so happy when her big sister, Carolyn, came home to celebrate the holiday.

Kitchen Makeover Update: My First Big Celebration in the New Kitchen

Many of you know that Don and I have been working on a major kitchen renovation for the past six months. My mom, whose spectacular cooking and entertaining skills have inspired me to do what I do, turned 80 as our project was winding down. My siblings and I had talked about a surprise birthday party for Mom, but the challenge was that she hates surprise parties! So, we decided to compromise — we didn’t invite a gaggle of friends — by hosting a low-key surprise dinner party in my new kitchen with just us “kids” and Dad.  Don served as bartender, photographer, and host, but otherwise it was just the seven of us.

Diane, Denise, Mom, Dad, me, Lori, and Jeff celebrate Mom’s birthday in style. Diane and Lori live on the west coast, so it’s always a special occasion when we are all together.

My beautiful Pompanoosuc Mills table had not yet arrived, so we brought our coffee table into the kitchen dining area and ate there! Smoked salmon and spanakopita held everyone over until dinner was ready.

We chose a menu that we could eat on our laps and that didn’t require cutting. Asparagus risotto happens to be my Dad’s specialty, so he and I cooked it together. Don grilled  chicken breast halves and sliced them thin so they were easy to manage. It was a thrill to cook on our big Silestone island, look out, and still be part of the party.

Check out Dad seasoning the risotto with kosher salt and my sister Diane sneaking more butter into my gorgeous Le Creuset French Oven.  Don’t think I didn’t see you Diane!

Don snapped a shot as I roasted asparagus in my new Kenmore double oven. Stay tuned for an upcoming Cooking with the Moms podcast with more details on the kitchen renovation and the materials Don and I chose for the project.

Here is a sneak preview of my new kitchen. Come visit and cook with us!

My Visit to Napa Valley and a Recipe for High-Pro Guaco (AKA Gluten-Free Quinoa Guacamole)

I spent a few glorious days in Napa Valley recently for the Food & Culinary Professionals‘ culinary workshop at the Culinary Institute of America. Wow, that’s a lot of culinary in one sentence, and I certainly experienced a lot of culinary magic during my time there. In an upcoming Cooking with the Moms podcast, I’ll be talking about my trip, but in the meantime, I thought I’d share a few tidbits and a fabulous recipe that I sampled.

One highlight of the workshop was a visit to the new studio kitchen of Cheryl Forberg, RD (dietitian for The Biggest Loser TV show) where I sampled this High-Pro Guaco from her latest book, Cooking with Quinoa for Dummies.

I had seen Cheryl’s kitchen a couple of years ago when construction began, and it was amazing to see the finished product. Having just completed a six-month renovation of my own kitchen, it was great fun to compare notes! Just when I thought I had a big kitchen suitable for videos and cooking demos, Cheryl’s kitchen knocks it out of the park; it seats an impressive 50 people. What an amazing place to cook.

High-Pro Guaco

Makes 3 Cups

You can serve this as an appetizer with tortilla chips or as a side dish or lunch. I sampled this gluten free, quinoa-filled guacamole at Cheryl’s house, and I was delighted when she packed up a container for me to take on the airplane ride back to Boston.

  • 1 cup cooked black quinoa
  • 3 ripe Haas avocados
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup drained, diced canned fire-roasted tomatoes or diced fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Chipotle Puree*
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked salt

1. If you don’t have cooked quinoa on hand, cook the quinoa according to package directions and set it aside to cool.

2. Halve, seed, and peel the avocados; then dice them into 1/2-inch cubes. Place the diced avocado and the lime juice in a medium-sized mixing bowl and toss gently to coat. Set aside.

3. In a small mixing bowl, combing the fire-roasted (or fresh) tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, Chipotle Puree, and salt. Mix well.

4. Add the tomato mixture and the cooked quinoa to the avocado cubes. Toss gently and serve immediately with corn chips.

*To make the Chipotle Puree, puree one 7-ounce can chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce with 1/4 cup water in a blender or food processor until smooth. Store leftover puree in the refrigerator for up to a month and use a teaspoon or two to spice up your recipes.

Nutrition Information per Serving (2 tablespoons): 46 calories, 3g fat (1g saturated), 55mg sodium, 4g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 1g protein

Print Recipe

Here I am taking a picture of Cheryl’s flock of chickens, known as the “girls.” I’m a little jealous of Cheryl’s relaxed life in the beautiful countryside of Napa Valley. On my final night of the trip, I stayed with Cheryl and savored a fresh, hard-cooked egg for breakfast, courtesy of one of these lovely ladies.

Here is what you might eat if you spent the night at the home of the dietitian for The Biggest Loser TV show: quinoa breakfast cereal with nuts, a locally-grown kiwi, a fresh hard-cooked egg, and a steaming cup of cappuccino. I can’t wait for my next trip!

Kitchen Makeover Update: A Kitchen Island That Looks More Like a “Continent” and Hot Running Water

Those of you who follow our blog, listen to our Cooking with the Moms podcast, or know me personally are no doubt aware that I’ve been knee deep in a major kitchen renovation since last August. It’s been an exciting journey, but like most home improvement projects, a big-time challenge. Indeed, washing dishes in the bathtub got old after a week, never mind after five months. Don and I are now so close to kitchen completion, we can practically smell the cookies baking in our new Kenmore double oven!

You have to start somewhere. This is what our kitchen looked like last summer when the construction crew dug out our kitchen foundation. Last week was a thrill, when the countertops, sinks, and faucets were finally installed.

Check out our new island, countertop courtesy of Cosentino. The Silestone surface is made from natural quartz, a hard surface that is scratch resistant and non porous, so it’s naturally stain resistant and doesn’t need to be sealed. In other words, it’s maintenance free. We chose a color called, Lyra, and a leathered finish.

When my architect friend, David, saw the kitchen island he said, “That’s not an island … it’s a continent!”

Cosentino also makes an award-winning line called ECO, made with 75% recycled materials — things like glass bottles, mirrors, ash, and ceramics. We used ECO for our main countertops in a color called, Iron Ore. Don’t I look happy?

Here is a short video of the guys from Gerrity Stone installing the ECO counters. By the way, it took seven strong men to carry the thousand-pound slab of Silestone from the truck to the kitchen for our island.

Will from Gerrity Stone was responsible for the installation of my countertops.

The folks at Kohler were kind enough to provide the faucets and sinks for the kitchen renovation (this made my plumber happy since he told me Kohler was the best quality). These materials have been in our crowded basement for weeks, and it was so cool to finally see them installed. It will now be a huge pleasure to wash dishes 🙂

Has anyone undergone a big renovation in their house? Any stories to share? If you want to see more photos of the kitchen renovation visit The Meal Makeover Moms’ Flickr page.

Kitchen Makeover Update: New Cabinets, New Double Oven, New Flooring, and One Appendectomy!

I’m not going to lie. Going into our fifth month without a kitchen and with only the living room for food prep, eating, doing homework, watching TV, playing piano, and reading has been a big-time challenge. Toss in an emergency appendectomy for 13- year-old Leah and well … let’s just say we are all ready to get our lives back to normal!

In the midst of all the kitchen chaos, one night last week, Leah complained of severe stomach pains, so we took her to the ER. After many hours and many tests, they determined that she had an appendicitis. Early the next morning, Leah went into surgery. I spent the night “sleeping” on a cot — predictably uncomfortable — and Leah pulled through with flying colors. Today, she was able to go back to school. Phew!

Imagine my delight, after spending the night in Leah’s hospital room, when a ‘caregiver’s breakfast’ was delivered. Poor Leah was still on clear liquids! Thank you Winchester Hospital 🙂

Now for some exciting news (not that the appendectomy wasn’t exciting). Kenmore came forward recently and generously offered to provide appliances for the kitchen makeover. Kenmore recognizes the importance of helping busy families eat a healthier diet — something we’re obsessed with here at The Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen — and they’re eager to support this project. We plan to use the kitchen to shoot cooking videos and to take food photos (and maybe even do some cooking classes), so I look forward to supporting Kenmore and all the folks who helped make the almost-new kitchen a reality.

This double oven looks like it’s ready to bake some delicious Meal Makeover Mom cookies. Can’t wait!

The other good news is that the floors went in last week. Don and I knew we wanted bamboo because of it’s sustainability, so we chose Teragren bamboo flooring. As a company, they are also environmentally conscious. We chose a dark floor called Teragren High Tea to offset the white cabinets. Looks like I may need to use a Swiffer mop every day to keep it clean!

As difficult a process as this has been, it has been made exponentially easier due to the support of family, friends, and neighbors who have had us over for dinner, baked us cookies, and kept us sane (you know who you are!).

My friend and neighbor Moe came over last week with three of her four boys to deliver a dinner of pasta with red sauce, salad, and garlic bread.

You know you live in the best neighborhood in the world when you call your neighbors and ask them to get a pot of water boiling so you can come over and cook up some pasta. That’s exactly what I did with Joe and Pat. Not only did they oblige my request, they followed up with a delivery of homemade bread, which Leah devoured!

To give you an idea of what my house has been like these past months, I took a short video when my ovens were being delivered:

While our builder Tom from Moylan Building and Remodeling hangs a cabinet with help from his cohort (“Tom2”) and the electricians, Steve from Gerrity Stone measures for the new Silestone and ECO countertops.

Some last random photos of our progress: our amazing general contractor Tom Moylan with the ductwork for the downdraft vent, an array of tools required to build the kitchen, and our island before the cooktops are installed.

Wish me luck, and I’ll post again when the next phase is completed!

Kitchen Makeover Update: How I Managed to Cook a Sweet Potato Casserole for Thanksgiving Dinner Without a Working Kitchen

Our family’s Thanksgiving tradition has always been to gather at my parents’ house with my brother, sister, extended family, and friends.  Mom still does almost all of the cooking, but I always prepare a sweet potato casserole for the feast. This year I had to be a bit creative since I am still up to my elbows in an extreme kitchen renovation. Luckily my friends and neighbors came through for me, and all was good.

The day before Thanksgiving I stopped by my friend Mary’s house where we pooled our sweet potatoes — between us we had nearly 20 pounds — and baked two casseroles. On Thanksgiving morning since Mary was roasting her turkey, my wonderful next-door neighbors, Channing and Brooke, opened up their kitchen and their oven so I could warm up the casserole before heading to mom and dad’s house. Channing Johnson is a professional photographer, and when we left his house, he snapped this stunning photo of our family … minus Carolyn, of course, who is studying in Copenhagen for the semester.

 Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go …

Mom and Dad have hosted Thanksgiving (and Christmas and Easter) for over 50 years. They could sure use a six-burner stove and double ovens on holidays, but somehow they manage to put out a fabulous meal every time. Since I will have a big new kitchen soon, I’m planning to host Thanksgiving next year. I can’t wait! My 93-year-old Uncle Paul made a luscious pumpkin pie and had the honor of being first in the buffet line.

Here are some of the friends and family who gathered on Thanksgiving. Cousin Haley stood in for Carolyn and made sure little sis, Leah, wasn’t too sad, and I applauded Dad for his expert turkey-cutting skills. At the end of the day, we stopped by to wish Mary and her family a happy Thanksgiving.

Now back to the kitchen project: This week, the kitchen cabinets will be delivered. Last week the radiant heat floor was installed, so we will be toasty warm this winter.

Check out this cool panoramic photo Don took of the radiant heating elements.

Another cool thing that happened last week was the pocket door installation for our new pantry. What do you think of it?

Stay tuned for more photos in the coming weeks as the cabinets, Silestone counters, shelving units, Kohler sinks and faucets, and Teragren bamboo flooring are installed. It’s getting exciting!

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