Family, Holidays, Parenting, Reviews & Giveaways

Holiday Entertaining Made Easy. Pickle Barrel Catering Review

If you’re anything like me, you love entertaining.  Ever since we bought our house almost seven years ago we’ve found many excuse to have people over.  House warming party, birthday parties, holidays, engagement parties, BBQs on warm summer days, mommy-group play dates, meet the baby, hosting guests from out-of-town, girls night in, clothes swap, super bowl parties and every other excuse I could find.  We’ve probably hosted 50 + events at our place and we’re not stopping anytime soon.

However, if you’re also like me, you’re not into cooking.  I know so many people who love to cook and bake as a way to relax.  But for me, I cook to stay alive and to feed my family something other than cereal, cream-cheese bagels, and Kraft-Dinner.  In fact, I only started cooking about four years ago.  So while I’ve hosted several parties, I did what any decent business would do, I outsourced the part that I wasn’t good – FOOD.DSC_0559

With the holiday season upon us, toddler in tow, my very pregnant self and lack of experience (or desire) for cooking large meals, I once again decided to outsource what I feel is the most important part of entertaining.  I got a chance to try out the amazing holiday feast offered by Pickle Barrel Catering while I had my family over for a pre-holiday, holiday dinner.  This simple, yet delicious and traditional meal is perfect for holiday entertaining. It comes with easy reheating instructions and there’s plenty to offer for  vegetarians.

Here’s what you can expect to receive (

A whole turkey roasted, pre-carved and decorated or ready to be carved and enjoyed; accompanied by stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. This ready made meal for your holiday celebration also includes butternut squash soup, mixed greens salad and your choice of herb roasted mini potatoes, maple mashed sweet potatoes, or garlic mashed potatoes, choice of green beans with caramelized onions and almonds or roasted root vegetables, and a crumble top apple pie and an assorted fresh fruit platter for dessert!DSC_0566

For $25.99 per person, this meal is definitely affordable, especially considering how much food you get.  If you were to eat out, you would never receive so much “bang for your buck”.  Even after feeding six people, we had enough left-overs for a week and if there’s one thing I love more than a turkey dinner its having left-overs the next day.

Rose Reisman, who helped create the menus for Pickle Barrel has some great tips for easy entertaining on her blog:  I also had a chance to speak to her and here’s a few of my favourite tips:

  1. Inquire of potential allergies and have an option of chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes
  2. Ask for help from your guests or hire help if you think you’ll need it.
  3. Set the table ahead of your guests’ arrival
  4. To involve the kids with the meal, make something special for them (i.e. cheese pizza’s instead of pizza with various toppings) and let them play pretend that they’re servers or cooks.
  5. Hire a babysitter to keep the kids occupied (arts, reading, playing) in a separate room while you’re entertaining your friends
  6. Let the kids in on the fun.  They may stay up later than usual, but they’ll probably behave themselves knowing that they’re included in the celebration.


The holiday feast is available to order now through December 31st.  The Pickle Barrel even delivers on Christmas Day!  You can place your order online here: or by phone at 416.493.4333

So any of you moms or parents out there who want a traditional holiday meal but don’t have all day to prepare it, this is a GREAT alternative.

children, Family, Parenting, Reviews & Giveaways

Delicious and sustainable Mexican food for the whole family. Chipotle review & Giveaway

About five years ago when I was in New York city for work, a colleague of mine suggested that we go to an amazing Mexican restaurant near our office.  Not knowing the area we were in too well, I took him up on his offer.

I have never heard of Chipotle ( before, but I was excited to try it out the moment I set foot in the door.  All of the ingredients looked fresh and the aromas were amazing.  I loved that I could order a burrito in a bowl. I have to say, it was one of my favourite restaurants to eat at in New York.  Yes, I just said that, but it’s true.  It was love at first taste.  I was sooooo excited when they finally opened their doors in Toronto and I could take my family there.  To this day it’s one of our favourite restaurants when we want a special “treat”.

Here’s some awesome facts about Chipotle (as if you needed additional persuasion to go and eat there):

  • It’s committed to serving natural and (unprocessed) organic meat
  • Food is freshly prepared in front of the customers in an open kitchen
  • They serve dairy products that are rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) free.

There are four Chipotle restaurants in Toronto so make it a Chipotle night or lunch with your family.  And to help you achieve that, Babylish Advice and Mayahood Blog are giving away FOUR Burrito bucks.  Each Burrito Buck is equivalent to one free meal good for a Burrito, Burrito bowl, Salad or order of Tacos.

To enter this contest, you need to do one of the followings.  The more you do, the more entries you will receive in the draw.  Kindly leave me a message at the end of this post to let me know which of the following activities you have completed.

1. Like Mayahood on Facebook

2. Like Babylish Advice on Facebook

3. Follow Mayahood blog on WordPress.  Click on the “follow” button and enter your e-mail address to receive my latest blog posts directly to your mailbox as soon as I publish them.

4. Sign up for Babylish Advice’s newsletter found on

5. Share this giveaway on your Facebook page.  Copy and Paste the following sentences on your personal timeline: Great giveaway from Chipotle Mexican Restaurant.  Enter here for your chance to win 4 free meals for your family to enjoy:

6. Let me know (by leaving me a message at the bottom of this post) what you would get from Chipotle if you won this giveaway.

7. Follow Mayahood Blog on Twitter (@fitzpatrickmaya).

Contest deadline is Thursday, December 6th.  Open to all residents in the GTA.  Good-luck!

children, Family, Life, Parenting

Finding a nutritious balance for your kids

If there’s one thing my husband and I don’t agree on (ya right… 1 thing), it is with regards to feeding our two-year old son.

Our disagreement stems from years of being raised on different spectrums of food ideologies.  Growing up, my school lunches consisted of mostly either Nutella on bread or sour cream and olives / pickles on bread (I loved eating this!).  For breakfast we could have our cereal of choice, full of sugar or not, and dinner always consisted of soup, chicken and a side dish.  I never questioned this eating style and to be honest, I loved it.  No one in my family was overweight and we never had any issues with diabetes, high blood pressure, etc…

On the other hand, my husband was never allowed any sugary cereals growing up.  And they mostly had pasta for dinners.  John loves chocolate and candy and had only limited access to this food group growing up.  As an adult, he loves anything sweet and will usually make me “hide” any candy / chocolate we have in the house so he doesn’t finish it all in one sitting; and I’m talking about Halloween candy bag sizes here!  Similarly, everyone in his family is healthy.

Mommy… is ice cream and M&M part of the food guide?

We both believe that the food we ate growing up was healthy, so we had to compromise when it came to finding the right balance for our son Kyle.  While I focused on just getting anything into Kyle’s mouth (and tummy), my husband was obsessing about WHAT was going in there.  While it wasn’t always “ideal”, we managed to have a healthy two-year old.  Of course, our debate continues on a daily basis.

I was recently invited to join a six other fellow bloggers to discuss family nutrition with Lydia Knorr, mom of three, Registered Dietitian and Yoplait spokesperson.  My husband and I jumped at the opportunity and attended this event last week.  If anything, we were both hoping to learn something from a professional to prove the other wrong (yes, we’re both a little competitive).  Here’s some of the key take-aways that I learned that day:

  • We all need fuel in order to get energy. Food (of any type) = fuel. This includes sugar.
  • While some food may contain some sugar, it probably also contains a lot of other good nutrients that are needed for the body.  So go ahead and give it to your kids (i.e. not gummy bears that are pure sugar, but bear paws, honey nut Cheerios etc… are okay).
  • If you have a grazer, try to stay away from snacks (which are fillers for Toddlers)  and give your kids a “meal” instead every 2.5 to 3 hours.  If you do give a snack, try to give a healthy option that consists of either fruit and / or vegetables.
  •  If your kids eat plenty of fruit, but not as many veggies, try to hide it in your meals.  Steam or cook the veggies, puree them and stick them in whatever you’re having for dinner.  No one is the wiser!
  • In general, try serving two different vegetables with dinner and stay away from grain (which your kids probably ate enough of during breakfast and lunch).
  • When you read food labels, the three main things to look for are: sodium (low or not existing), saturated fat (the lower the better) and Fibre (the higher the better, most adults need about 21g + a day).
  • Offer water to quench your little one’s thirst.  Provide fruit or vegetables instead of juice.
  • Don’t stress when it comes to food!  If you’re relaxed about it, your kids will be too and eating will be enjoyable for them, instead of a “task”.

For other great quick tips and recipes for kid meals check out Canada’s Food Guide for Children here:

If you’re looking for some healthy food ideas for your toddler, here’s some of Kyle’s favourites:

For breakfast: steel-cut oats with cinnamon and raisins, or plain Cheerios.

For snacks: any fruit (apple, bananas, raisins), cheese and edamame.

For lunch: peanut butter on bread (I know this may not be an option for those with allergies).

Dinner: chicken or salmon with a side of vegetable; usually green peas, avocado, tomatoes, cucumber or red pepper.  Kyle also loves corn and tofu, so we put that in any soup I make.

To sum up, I was right and John was wrong!!  Just kidding… I think we were both right and our compromise is probably the right balance that’s needed to keep our son healthy and happy.