Why I Love My Cast Iron Skillet

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For Christmas I received a 10″ Pre-seasoned Lodge Cast Iron Skillet.  At first glance, cast iron skillets might seem intimidating and they are heavy as heck!  I have to use two arms to lift the thing!  However, it really is worth the investment if you decide to purchase one. Here are 5 reasons why I love my cast iron skillet:

  1. Easy clean up:  You shouldn’t use soap on the iron skillet because it can strip away the seasoning. Just rinse with warm water and use a washcloth and salt to scrub if necessary and dry thoroughly to prevent rusting. Very important to apply a thin layer of oil after each cleaning.
  2. Multifunctional: take it camping. Transfer to the oven. Roast, fry, bake, braising, simmer, anything!
  3. Lasts forever: True that I’ve had it about 2 weeks now, but based on reviews and the tough material, I’m sure it will take me through a few decades and then some.
  4. Retains heat: Love this! I can prepare a dish and it will stay warm longer.
  5. Wide range of recipes:  Doing a quick search on Pinterest will pull up endless recipes to use with your cast iron skillet; cookies, pizza, baked eggs, etc!

Be sure to check back next Monday about how to care for your cast iron skillet.

Tell us, do you own a cast iron skillet?  How often do you use it?

Dine with Diana: Too Good To Be Healthy Veggie Quinoa

If you’re like me, you’re scrambling around this week trying to get the kids back to a respectable bedtime routine, trying to remember where you left off at work, unpacking from holiday trips, and just generally trying to keep your head screwed on.

Meanwhile, my kids will not stop asking for snacks and chocolate. Literally. They average about once an hour. In the morning they want a snack, not breakfast. And around 9am they start saying, “Can we please have chocolate now. We haven’t had any yet today!”

Now that they no longer get their way, they go into full tantrum mode in hopes of recreating the near free-reign eating they experienced during the break when grandparents, uncles and even laid back parents were caving in at every turn.

So now our challenge is to get us all back to eating normally again with a focus on nutritious and delicious meals. Oh yah, and you know me. Fast and easy are key.

Since we’ve all been eating hearty dishes with a lot of flavor and comfort to them over the holidays, I wanted to come up with something that would give our family the same comfort feelings without being full of fat and calories.

Hubs and I came up with this amazing Veggie Quinoa dish that can be used as a side, a full meal (don’t be afraid to add meat) or as Hubs did, as a bed for our roasted leg of lamb a few nights ago. Decadent for a post holiday meal, I know, but it really wasn’t heavy at all.

The flavors, nuttiness, textures and healthy-factor on this dish all add up to perfection for getting back on track at the dinner table this week.

Let me know how you serve it!

Xo,

Diana

Too Good To Be Healthy Veggie Quinoa

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Ingredients

  • 1 bag vegetable quinoa mix- I like Roland brand Garden
  • Yellow grape tomatoes cut in half
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Golden raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Top with raw Brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
    (amount of added ingredients is all to taste)

 Directions:

  1. Prepare the quinoa mix according to package instructions
  2. Toss in the yellow tomatoes, pine nuts, raisins, cranberries and mix
  3. Sprinkle top of each serving with the crispy raw Brussels sprouts

You can follow Totsy’s Chief Mom, Diana Heather on Twitter: @totsymom

The Totsy Family & Their New Year’s Resolutions

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Here at Totsy, we are so excited for the new year. 2013 brings a new year filled with hope and the unknown and that makes it so exciting.  We’ve rounded up a few of the Totsy family members and their new year’s resolution and goals for the upcoming year.  Here’s what they had to say:

To use less social media and technology in general, and have more face time with friends and family. – James A., Director of SEO/SEM

My New Year’s Res is to learn to be real handy with a sewing machine so that I can make my own alterations on my wardrobe …and make my own curtains. Woohoo! Tania G., Graphic Designer

Actually going to the gym again instead of just paying for the membership. – Rob K., Senior Director of Product

Cut way down on the caffeine and hopefully start running again. – Sophia S., Social Marketing Manager

My new year’s resolution is to reduce the clutter in all aspects of my life. I’m very easily distracted, so I would like to surround myself only with the things I love the most or bring me the most joy. I also want to focus on nurturing my relationships more and not spread myself too thin. – Hannah S., Buyer

To smile more, dance often, eat well, work hard, channel my creative fire, create a happy home for my two darling daughters and handsome hubby, and through it all… To learn to chill.Autumn P., Social Marketing Manager

Cook at home more and get back to playing soccer. – Yuri H., Director of Social Marketing

The Totsy family wishes you a happy and healthy 2013!  If you have resolutions you’d like to share with us, comment below!

Totsy’s Top 5 Holiday Pins

Happy holidays! Nothing new, but you all know that we here at Totsy LOVE Pinterest!  We are practically addicted ;-).  We have rounded up out top 5 pins for the holidays!  These are just some of our favorites, but you can enjoy the holiday season with more pins from our Tis the Season board!

5) Heart- (and belly-warming) hot chocolateLove this idea! Put whipped cream on a cookie sheet, freeze, then use heart cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes.  Add to a steamy cup of hot chocolate!

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4) Candy cane tablescape. Perfect for the holiday season – simple and festive!

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3) Christmas tree cupcake.  How adorable is this??

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2) Winter cocktails. Our favorite? The hot toddy. Warms you from the inside out!  Find the recipe on our blog along with a few of our other favorite winter cocktails.

Glass of hot toddy with cinnamon and anise. Shallow dof.

1) Cutie holiday photo op. We couldn’t help but smile at this little snowman! Have you ever had a creative and festive photo op with your child?

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That’s all from us folks!  Don’t forget to follow and pin with us on Pinterest.

Share with us your favorite holiday pins by pasting in the comments below.

Happy holidays to your family from us here at Totsy!

Speedy, No-Cook Holiday Appetizers!

Crunched for time? Have a family that never seems to be full? Look no further! Here are some speedy, no cook appetizers/snacks that will keep everyone satisfied during the holiday rush.

Cheese & Fruit Plate

Cheese & Fruit plates are mainstays for a reason, they cater to your biggest of meat eaters and your pickiest of vegetarians – everyone can enjoy! Our favorite trick for assembling? Choose one or two of your favorite cheeses and then ask your local cheese monger which cheeses he/she recommends to accompany and balance out the cheeses you already picked. As for the fruit, we recommend a mixture of dried and fresh in a variety of different colors! Some of our faves: grapes, dried apricot, asian pear and strawberries!

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Smoked Salmon Sandwich with Rye Bread, Scallion Cream Cheese and Cucumber

This is one of those appetizers that look so sophisticated, but really is a cinch to make! First, you’ll want to cut the cucumber in thin slices – put those aside. Next, take two pieces of rye bread and spread the scallion cream cheese on both. Tear the salmon into little pieces and put on top of one of the slices of rye bread, followed by a few slices of cucumber. Place the other slice of bread on top to create a sandwich. Lastly, cut the crusts and then cut into 4 squares and enjoy!

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Prosciutto Wrapped in Melon 

The perfect combination of sweet and savory, this prosciutto wrapped melon appetizer will definitely be a BIG hit. All you need are three things, how easy is that!? To save yourself time, we recommend buying pre-cut melon. Cut each piece of prosciutto in half and wrap it around the melon and secure with a toothpick – voila!

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Chicken Salad Towers

Our West Coast Mom whips these up bad boys for lunch a lot, and trust us, she’s a great cook! Check out her recipe for her delicious, quick Chicken Salad Towers here.

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5 Ways to Wrap a Gift with Brown Paper Bags

At Totsy, we love to do our part to help the environment. That means recycling everyday, using a water filter to reduce plastic bottle waste, cutting down on printing and planting a tree for every first purchase.  So this year, we decided to forego wrapping paper and reuse paper shopping bags instead to do a small part to help our planet.  Here are some fun ideas we came across on the web when wrapping for the holiday season.  You can use brown paper shopping bags from grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Simply cut them flat, remove the handles and make sure the printed side is facing towards the gift when wrapping.

1.  Glitter Ribbon. Simple and pretty, we love how glitter works beautifully with the brown paper bag. Learn to tie this pretty bow.

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2.  Snowflake overlay. Cutting paper snowflakes is a craft we used to do as kids.  We’re sure your kids will enjoy doing them as well!  Use colored computer paper and supervise as they get creative. Then overlay them to the wrapped gift and tie with simple white string.

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3.  Typographic gift wrap. This is very clean looking and makes the recipient’s name stand out. Read the full post on how to create this simple and crafty gift wrap.

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4. Winter  green.  Sometimes a simple arrangement can go a long way. We love the acorns and touch of sprigs. Find instructions on arrangement here.

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5. DIY printed wrapping paper. Finally, if you’re looking for something with more oomph, try this easy DIY project for patterned wrapping paper. The kids would love this! Get creative!

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Tell us, will you be getting creative this year when wrapping your gifts? Share in the comments below!

5 Unexpected Dangers for Baby

We make sure to have locks on our stoves and plugs for the outlets, but sometimes the most dangerous things for your baby aren’t the most obvious. Here are a few things to look our for that are dangerous to baby.

  1. Baby powder/talc:  They may be great for diapers but they are terrible for lungs. When inhaled, it can irritate the lungs or worse, if there are toxic chemicals or asbestos present.
  2. Canned formula:  Be careful, formula cans may be lined with BPA. If nursing is not an option, try dry powdered formula. Always be on the lookout for BPA-free cans.
  3. Antibacterial Cleaners:  We know you want to keep the nursery germ-free but those antibacterial cleaners can pose unnecessary health risks.  Soap and warm water is usually sufficient when cleaning most surfaces.
  4. Teething Toys:  They may be of great help to your little one when they’re teething but many are made with PVC plastic. Choose teethers made of organic cotton or silicone.
  5. Crib Mattress:  Make sure the mattress is made of natural materials or get a mattress cover to help babies with allergies.

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Tell us, what are some unexpected dangers you’ve discovered?