Food Trucks are the Best Thing for Parents Since Chicken Nuggets

If you are a foodie, a wannabe foodie or just like to eat a lot, you may have noticed the rise in popularity of food trucks. No longer the “roach coaches” serving “street meat,” today’s food trucks are awesome and serve everything from grilled cheese to BBQ to cupcakes and more.

Last Sunday, I took the family to the WZLX Monster Food Truck Festival at Shopper’s World in Framingham. It was an unusually warm 80+degree day in New England and it was a great excuse to 1) be outside, 2) shop and 3) eat. I think that is a trifecta right there! The event boasted about 10 different food trucks, serving everything from lobster rolls to BBQ, ice cream and cupcakes. The event started at 11am but we arrived early. My husband and I split up and each hit a different truck right as they opened. After our first course, we got some more! We were smart and lucky…by noon, some lines were over an hour-long! Here’s what we got:

  • Grilled Cheese Nation: Boston Common (Grafton Vermont cheddar iggy’s organic pain de mie bread) and Brie Me Up Brie (Blythdale farm brie with sliced local asian pear iggy’s organic pain de mie bread). My husband was boring and ordered the Boston Common. Safe. I ordered the Brie Me Up and it was a good combo. However…in the end, it was grilled cheese. At least we didn’t wait in line for it. I can make these and better at home.

  • Spoon: I had some bites of a friends food from here. She had the BBQ bowl and it included Pulled Pork or Smoked Chicken, Burnt Ends Baked Beans, Vinegar Slaw and Bacon Scallion Hush Puppie. Delish. And my friend is a Southern Girl and she gave it thumbs up!
  • Woodman’s of Essex: This isn’t a true food truck, rather they were promoting their catering business…but who cares…I love Woodman’s. I had a clam strip cone for $5 and it was so yummy! They also had a great system going and managed the lines well.
  • Frozen Hoagies: Cookies + ice cream = YES PLEASE! We ordered my daughter chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream…but the options were endless!
  • Snappy Dogs: My husband waited in this line because my two-year-old said she wanted a hot dog. She’s never had a hot dog in her life…but he waited for her…and of course she didn’t even want to take a bite. But he got himself a chicken sausage and topped it with wasabi may and said it was delicious.

If you didn’t get in line right at 11am, you likely waited 45 minutes to an hour for some of the most popular items. Crazy huh? They could have used a larger footprint to help position lines better, some drink carts (you had to wait in food lines for drinks), and more trucks to help spread out lines. 

Our time at the food truck festival had me thinking, food trucks are the best thing for parents since chicken nuggets.

Why? Because you get to “go out to eat” in a spot that is really kid friendly!!! Ha, okay, I may be exaggerating a bit…but you see my point. And it was obvious with the amount of strollers that I saw. But you don’t have to wait for another food truck festival to get your eat on…create your own food truck tour.

My sister-in-law Lindsay lives in Seattle and when she visits, we always try to do something fun. When she visited in the spring, we did a food truck tour. Here is how to do it:

  • Google some of Boston’s finest food trucks to find out their locations. Check their Twitter and Facebook pages because they often change locations on a daily basis.
  • Some of Boston’s finest trucks include those mentioned above, along with Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, Clover, Bon Me, Momogoose, Lefty’s Silver Cart and Fillbelly’s.
  • Mark out all the locations on a map and then create your own tour.
  • It’s best when a little walking is involved so you can walk off what you just ate, in order to make room to eat more :)
  • Sometimes driving is involved (or taking the T)
  • Check menus out online too so you can plan the best route based not just on location but on the order you want to eat food in…maybe save cupcakes for last.

Back in April, our food truck tour started in City Hall Plaza and then took us out to the Greenway. It’s a great way to see Boston, eat out with the kiddies and have a fun activity!  

Portsmouth, NH: A Fun, Family Day Trip

My husband and older daughter

My husband’s family lives in Seattle. We are lucky that they visit often, and much more often now that we have children. We know they want to visit our daughters more than us, but it’s okay, that’s how it should be. Whenever they visit, we always like to take a day trip to a little New England town. Some of our favorites include Rockport and Newburyport, MA and Newport, RI. My mother and father-in-law visited last week to meet their new one-month-old granddaughter. While I was feeling well-enough for a fun day, I didn’t want to drive too far or do too much….I’m still adjusting to life with a 2-year-old and one-month-old, am still a little sore from my c-section, and let’s face it…a little sleep deprived.

So after receiving some great suggestions from my Facebook and Twitter friends (which included Lenox, Deerfield, Provincetown, the Vineyard, Chatham and Mystic, CT), we opted for Portsmouth, NH. We chose Portsmouth because it was relatively close by and was a great choice for a quick day trip.

We did a little research before we left and hit the road about 8:30am. We arrived just after 9:30, hitting no traffic at all. Most of the streets offer 2 hour metered parking, but we opted for a parking garage that charged $.75/hour, which is a steal compared to Boston rates.

The Friendly Toast, Portsmouth, NH - Great for breakfast

We started the day with breakfast at The Friendly Toast. It was awesome! It was a large, eclectic space and the food did not disappoint. We arrived a little after 9:30am and only had to wait 15 minutes for a party of 6 (well, sort of. 4 adults, a toddler and a newborn). They sat us at a large booth with lots of room. There was so much to look at on the walls, my little one was constantly entertained, as were the adults. And the classic rock music was awesome. I learned that the song Lola is sung by the Kinks. Our waiter was fantastic as well. The space inside was a little tight, so we opted to leave our stroller in the car and carry our baby in the bucket carseat…they had a booster for our older daughter. Since the garage we parked in was right around the corner, this was easy!

We ordered the following:

  • Coconut cake (me) – one large pancake filled with coconut, chocolate chips and cashews, topped with a coconut sauce. Awesome. Very sweet though so if you don’t love sweet, it may not be for you. I would get again, but would ask for sauce on the side. And yes, just one…one was huge..about the size of a small pizza. I took a bit before I snapped this picture. I may try to recreate this at home so keep a look out for the recipe.

Coconut Cake

  • Hansel & Gretel waffle (my husband) – gingerbread waffle with pomegranate molasses. This was our least favorite dish of all. The pomegranate was VERY overpowering.

  • Mexican Mashed Meal (father-in-law) – spicy mashed potatoes sopped with chorizo and friend eggs. My FIL gave it good reviews but beware, it did have a kick to it. He couldn’t get over the fact he was eating mashed potatoes for breakfast 😉
  • Breakfast Burrito (mother-in-law) – she ate half, my husband ate half and both enjoyed it. The potatoes on the side were delish.
  • Kids Chocolate Chip Pancake (my 2 year-old daughter) – shaped like Mickey Mouse…enough said :)  And yes, one ear is missing in this pic…I couldn’t snap the picture fast enough.

The service was great and we’d definitely go back again. And…I just found out there is a Friendly Toast closer by in Cambridge! Awesome. 

After breakfast, we set off to stroll the town. We found numerous shops – some vintage/consignment shops, shoes stores, and toy stores. There were many coffee shops and restaurants…too many to sample from in one day.

For lunch, we ate at the River House. Service was quite slow, but the food was fine…nothing spectacular, but good. Pretty basic seafood and basic fare. I got the seafood chowder/lobster roll combo which was available in two sizes, small ship or tall ship…I of course got the tall ship. My husband got a broiled haddock sandwich. The chowder was very good and full of seafood, I highly recommend it. There was a changing table in the bathroom which was very helpful as well.

Now on to the important stuff…shopping! I bought my first ever antique purchase at Carter Antiques on Market Street. It is an antique school desk and chair. I think I got a pretty good deal on it, but then again, I have no clue when it comes to antiques so who knows :)  I paid $60. I didn’t buy it for the value…I bought it because I like it. And actually, if it has no value, that’s fine b/c then I may paint it one day! We’ll see. My in-laws know a lot about antiques and they thought it was a good purchase. I also wanted to buy an old prescription shelf unit thingamajig, but at $800, it wasn’t in my budget :)

And speaking of antiques…I also bought a “vintage” leather Coach bag at Second Time Around. I’ve never bought anything from a second-hand store before but I spotted this cute little bag and snatched it up. It’s a deep green color but appears grey at times. I’m also not really a Coach fan but this is so simple, you can’t go wrong. And, Coach sells new version of this for $298, so considering I paid $30 for it….I feel like it’s a good deal!

My in-laws, my daughters and I taking a break

We also made some other purchases, including, shirts, flip-flops and onesies….and of course ice cream, as you see from the photo. My daughter couldn’t stop eating her “vanilla with sprinkles” long enough to smile for the picture.

It was a gorgeous day to visit Portsmouth and we look forward to going back again soon!

Day trip in New England: Rockport

Rockport, MA

Being 35 weeks pregnant, we knew we’d be staying pretty local this 4th of July weekend. Staying local doesn’t have to mean staying home. Especially when you live in the Northeast and you have so many amazing options close by. Yesterday, we decided to journey up to Rockport, MA. It’s one of our favorite day trips and thinking back, we realized we went up there last year over the 4th weekend as well.

Early morning view from the beach

We arrived early at 8:30 am and got a meter spot right at the beach. I think we were at Front Beach…but don’t quote me on it. It’s right on Beach Street…very close to the shopping area and restaurants. It’s relatively small but has public restroom facilities that are very clean with changing tables in both the mens and women’s rooms. We set up our area and were set for a while. I’m pretty impressed that we only had one large canvas beach bag and a beach chair to carry…granted we had a bit more in the car!

Playing in the sand

My husband and daughter

We stayed at the beach for 2 1/2 hours. Westarted noticing our daughter was getting cranky which means she is hungry and tired, so we packed it up around 11, hit the restrooms, dropped our beach stuff off at the car, changed, pulled out the stroller and walked down toward all the food and shopping. Within 5 minutes, our little one was passed out! Perfect timing. My husband and I were able to grab some lunch and sit and relax on the water for a little while. I had an amazing lobster roll from Roy Moore’s, and my husband grabbed a hot dog from Top Dog, two of our favorite spots. I also grabbed an elephant ear from The Fudgery…it’s irresistable. Then we hit up some stores and walked around. After a quick nap, our daughter was up and ready for her lunch, followed by some ice cream. We were packed up and ready to hit the road by about 1:30.

It was an awesome day and an awesome day-trip for the 4th of July weekend. Here are some tips for making a day trip to Rockport fun with the family!

  • Pack everything you need the night before. Makes the morning much easier.
  • Leave early to beat the traffic – We were up at 6am (our 2-year-old daughter is our alarm clock). We were out the door at 7:15 and arrived by 8:30. We made it up there with no traffic, in great time, and we found awesome metered street parking when we arrived. We kept feeding the same meter all day…If you try it and get ticketed, sorry…but worked for us!
  • Some meters are 2 hours, others are 4 hours…so there are great options. Bring change…they take quarters, dimes and nickels.
  • Have a realistic plan. We know our daughter is great til 11am or so…then she needs lunch and nap. So we planned the day accordingly.
  • Again, being realistic, if you have a 2-year-old, don’t think you will be able to lounge in the sun for 6 hours…not happening.
  • If your car is nearby, bring only what  you need onto the beach. It makes it a lot easier. Then swap stuff out if you head to shop or eat.
  • Pick clothes for you and your little one that are 1) easy on/off, 2) lightweight and dry easy if get wet, and 3) light-colored for summer.
  • Do your research ahead of time so you’re not driving/walking in circles trying to find the right spots. Luckily, we’ve been to Rockport about a dozen times so we know our way…but do a little research in advance.
  • There are some great dining options, but there are also some really tasty quick eating options. If you get food to go from your favorite spot, walk down the end of Bearskin Neck…there is a little cul-de-sac with some benches and rocks you can sit on. It’s the most beautiful and relaxing spot to enjoy  your lunch.

I hope you find time to visit this great little New England gem. We enjoy ourselves every trip up there and can’t wait to go again soon!

Cooking with My Toddler

I should have expected my daughter would show interest in cooking. Since the day she was born (and even when she was in my belly), I’ve had the Food Network or Cooking Channel on our TV 24/7. I figured it was safe programming to have on, and she has always loved the bright colors and sounds. Even my least favorite show, 30 Minute Meals with Rachel Ray, captivates my daughter. I think it’s the bright colors.

Now that she is two, I am constantly looking for fun activities we can do together.

Coloring…I could literally color all day, though she doesn’t quite get what “staying in the lines” means yet. And she thinks its okay to color grass every color but green.

Singing…well, this was fun until she started saying, “Mommy, stop singing!” or “Mommy, you can’t sing!” Game over.

Dancing…this is still fun but I’m afraid next time I’m at the club, my moves are going to be seriously compromised. But considering I’m 7+ months pregnant, I may not be in the club for a long time…if ever.

So that brings us to our new hobby we enjoy together…cooking. My daughter loves to cook. I am so proud.

We’ve started out with easy things like pancakes, and basically just allowed her to put the mix into the bowl and help mix a little bit. She loves it, and gets such joy out of helping, and then tasting the finished product. She still doesn’t quite get why the “cooking” part takes so long though. Today we made oatmeal cookies together and she really thought it was funny that we put her “breakfast oatmeal” and raisins into the cookies. She giggled a lot.

She seems to really enjoy being part of the mixing process, then getting to taste the fruits of her labor.

Try cooking with your little ones…here are some tips:

  • Pre-measure all ingredients and put them in little bowls that your child can add
  • Make sure if you have to chop and cut ingredients to do so prior to your child helping and the knives are put away and out of reach
  • Items you may think are super dangerous may be unsafe for kids. Graters, microplanes, scissors, etc
  • Make sure they understand where and where NOT to put little fingers. That was our lesson today when using the KitchenAid Mixer and she was great with it.
  • When you are putting things in/out of the hot oven, put your child in his/her high chair so he/she is not close to the hot oven
  • Don’t stress if it gets a little messy…it happens and is easy to clean up! But involve your little one in the clean up process

Happy cooking!