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  1. Friday, August 28

    Friday Show and Tell

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    Hello, my friends! It’s Friday! I’ve basically been stockpiling links to share with you all week, so get ready!

    the problem we all live with

    First I wanted to share a This American Life story with you that I thought was very powerful and thought provoking. Be sure to listen to The Problem We All Live With. There are two parts to the story. Click here for Part One. Click here for Part Two. The reporting is about integration in public schools and, well, it’s just really well done. Plus, it made me cry a couple times. So, if you’re easily moved to tears, listen with a box of Kleenex.

    Snapshots from Malawi - Village Savings and Loan GroupA group of powerful women we met in Malawi who are members of a Village Savings and Loan

    Remember how I went to Malawi with ONE and Heifer International? You must since I talk about it pretty much every other breath. This week I read two articles that were fascinating and tied right in with my trip, so I wanted to share them with you.

    • From Fast Company: In Africa, Chinese Developers are Building a Mini China. One of the most surprising and striking takeaways from my trip to Malawi was the Chinese presence in that country. I haven’t written about it yet because, honestly, it’s a huge topic and I don’t know where to begin. I am currently reading a book about the phenomenon, and trying to figure out the best way to write about the issue. Until then, this Fast Company article gives you a little taste for what’s happening in Africa with the Chinese. I think the lens through which the issue is viewed in this Fast Company article is a little more rose-colored than what we learned while in Malawi, but the article does give a good introduction to the types of things happening on the African continent. I do plan to write about it myself at some point, if I can ever wrap my brain around it all, that is.
    • From Melinda Gates for Marie Claire: Melinda Gates Reports from Malawi, Where Feminism is Making Surprising Strides. This article is awesome and uplifting and does reflect our experience in Malawi well. The women in Malawi are so impressive. I have yet to write about the Village Savings and Loan groups we learned about (post to come, promise!), but it was a beautiful example of women making great strides in Malawi. Interestingly, when Ellen McGirt from our group asked Mr. Mtika, one of the Heifer farmers we visited, what the hardest Heifer intervention was to implement, he immediately responded with “family and gender roles.” We admired his humility in that response, especially since you could see that he and his wife have a wonderful partnership. ANYWAY, this was a great article. Plus, Melinda Gates is awesome. The end.

    Would you like me to share some food with you? Because I can do that, too. Here we go!

    With that, I do believe I’ve given you enough reading, listening and cooking material to last you not only through the weekend but probably through the whole week!

    Please let us know what you’ve been up to in the comments! Share links that you found interesting/funny/informative/whatever, share your own blog posts, or just share something fun that happened to you this week. It’s all fair game for Show and Tell!

     

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  2. Thursday, August 27

    Easy Peasy 3-Bean Salad for One! Plus a Very Veggie Giveaway!

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    When it comes to my kids’ lunches, I try to do a decent job of feeding them a balanced meal. There’s not much sugar, always a protein of some kind, and definitely fresh fruit. The one area where I am lacking, however, is vegetables. Once in a while I throw in sliced cucumbers or carrot sticks, but more often than not I miss vegetables entirely.

    quick and easy 3-bean salad recipe for one from @janemaynardLibby’s® recently contacted me about developing a quick and easy single serving recipe using Libby’s Vegetable Cups. To help with developing the recipe, Libby’s mailed our family a box of the Vegetable Cups to try out and experiment with. My daughter Anna, who loves trying food and cooking with me, was genuinely excited about the cups.

    Libby's Vegetable Cups

    Anna: “Mom, what are these?”

    Me: “Those are the veggie cups I am going to use for a recipe.”

    Anna: “Ooooo! Can I have some green beans? Please?!”

    Um, yes, she actually said that. And she actually liked the green beans! She liked the carrots, too, and she looooooved the corn. Anna is 100% supportive of me packing the Vegetable Cups in her lunches.

    quick and easy 3-bean salad recipe for one from @janemaynard

    For the recipe I developed I decided to go with a super quick and easy 3-bean salad for one! This makes for a “fancy” after-school snack or even a quick side dish with dinner when life gets busy. And this recipe utilizes one of my favorite magical ingredients: Italian Dressing. Italian dressing has a way of making pretty much any recipe easier, including salads of all kinds.

    quick and easy 3-bean salad recipe for one from @janemaynardIn addition to today’s recipe, we also have a giveaway! Not only will the winner receive an assortment of Libby’s Vegetable Cups, but they will also be gifted with this ridiculously cute Amanda’s Kids’ Lunch Playset from Food52.com. I wish I could enter the giveaway, all three of my kids would love this playset! (Maybe I’ll just have to go buy it!)

    amanda's kids' lunch playsetTo enter the giveaway, please do the following (comments must be posted by Midnight PT 9/3/15):

    quick and easy 3-bean salad recipe for one from @janemaynard

    And now for the recipe! It seriously took me less than 5 minutes to toss this salad together. It doesn’t get easier than that. Enjoy!

    3-Bean Salad for One
     
    Prep time
    Total time
     
    Author:
    Serves: 1
    Ingredients
    • 1 Libby's Vegetable Cups Green Beans
    • 1 tablespoon garbanzo beans
    • 1 tablespoon kidney beans
    • 1 teaspoon chopped red onion
    • 2 teaspoons Italian dressing
    Instructions
    1. Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Voila! You're done!
    Notes
    Cost: Appx. $0.60/serving

    This post was sponsored by Libby’s – payment was received for services rendered.

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  3. Sunday, August 23

    Week 448 Menu

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    It’s our LAST week of summer and we’re going to enjoy it as much as we can! Which means easy things for the menu this week!

    week 448 weekly menu from @janemaynard including FREE printable meal plan and shopping list!

    MONDAY:
    Chicken Caesar Wraps
    – Fresh Fruit

    TUESDAY:
    – Loaded Nachos

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
    – Salad

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Eat out

    SATURDAY:
    – Hot dogs on the grill
    – Watermelon and corn on the cob

    SUNDAY:
    – Naan Pizzas

    Click here for the free printable of this week’s menu plus the shopping list!

    You know the drill – it’s time to share your meal plan for the week in the comments! Remember, all menus welcome – no matter how fancy or plain, what day they start, what kind of food, etc…we want it all! Have a great week!

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  4. Friday, August 21

    Friday Show and Tell

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    Hi, friends! It’s FRIDAY!

    overnight waffles + apple-cranberry compote from @janemaynard

    I just have one quick share with you this week! For Babble I wrote about overnight waffles and how divine they are. Plus, I created a recipe for Cranberry Apple Compote that is, well, delectable. Be sure to click over to check the recipes out!

    That’s it! You know the drill, I want you to share your own stuff, too! Ready, set, go!

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  5. Thursday, August 20

    Microwave Homemade Mac & Cheese

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    Years ago I did a Call for Recipes for homemade mac & cheese. Many tasty recipes were submitted and I’ve used several with great success. There was one in particular, though, that caught my eye. It involved the microwave and seemed almost too easy. I finally tried the technique out last week and loved it so much it deserves its own post!

    microwave homemade mac & cheese from @janemaynard

    Cailean was the lovely person who shared the recipe with me. I checked with her and she has no clue where she got the recipe from, although there are many permutations of it online. She knows she didn’t make it up herself, but she did notice that her version doesn’t have butter, which is different than most other similar recipes. So, we’re just going to give Cailean credit. Sound good? Great!

    microwave homemade mac & cheese from @janemaynardmicrowave homemade mac & cheese from @janemaynard

    You’ll still need the stovetop to cook the noodles, but the sauce gets cooked in the microwave. I kid you not, in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the noodles you will be done making the homemade mac & cheese. It’s super awesome and takes up as much of your time as boxed mac & cheese. Which begs the question, why would you ever go back to boxed mac & cheese after this?!

    microwave homemade mac & cheese from @janemaynard

    Microwave Homemade Mac & Cheese
     
    Prep time
    Total time
     
    Recipe originally from reader Cailean, but I've added a few things and written it in my own words
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 16-ounce package of pasta, small shells or elbow macaroni
    • 2 cups milk
    • 6 tablespoons flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • Two pinches nutmeg (optional)
    • 2 cups shredded cheese (Cheddar is great on its own, but doing half gruyere-half cheddar is nice. For more mild flavor, half monterey jack-half cheddar nice, too.)
    • ½ cup Panko bread crumbs (optional)
    • 1 tablespoon melted butter (optional)
    Instructions
    1. Put the water for the pasta on to boil.
    2. Shred cheese. In a good-sized microwave-safe bowl, whisk together well the milk, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg (if using). Stir in the cheese.
    3. When water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook according to package directions.
    4. While pasta is cooking, cook the milk-cheese mixture in the microwave on full power 1-2 minutes at a time, whisking after each time. Keep cooking until cheese is fully melted and you have a nice, smooth sauce (probably about 5 minutes total).
    5. Drain pasta, return to pot then add sauce and mix well.
    6. If you want to top the mac & cheese with breadcrumbs, boil the pasta in a wide, oven-safe pot (like my Le Creuset 5½ quart). After the mac & cheese is all mixed together in the pot, sprinkle evenly with panko bread crumbs (about ½ cup or so) then drizzle with butter. Place pan in oven under high broiler and cook until breadcrumbs start to brown, a few minutes. If you don't have an oven safe pot, feel free to transfer the mac & cheese to a 9" x 13" casserole dish before adding the bread crumbs and broiling in the oven.

     

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  6. Tuesday, August 18

    Minivans RULE + How New Car Smell is Like Cilantro

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    Most years when we go out east for our annual summer adventure, Toyota generously lends us a car to try out on the trip. This year we drove a Sienna and, as a result, I have decided we need to have a discussion. A minivan discussion.

    why we love the toyota sienna and minivans in general!

    First, a confession. I drive a minivan. (AND my girls play soccer. Go ahead, call me Soccer Mom. I can handle it.) Nate drives a Toyota Prius and I drive a Honda Odyssey, so we pretty much fit into all kinds of middle-aged Californian stereotypes. 😉 Anyway, back to minivans. We bought the van about 6 months after Owen (our third child) was born. We went to the lot to check out the Pilot with ZERO intention of buying a minivan. Guess what we ended up driving off the lot? That’s right. We gave in. We decided that it was ridiculous to pay more money for a car (in this case, an SUV or crossover with the optional third bench) that didn’t really work for our family of 5. So, we bit the bullet.

    I am SO glad we did. I have zero qualms about driving a minivan. It’s the best for about a million reasons. You can push a button and open all your doors! The doors slide! There is TONS of storage space even when you have 8 people sitting in your car! And people TOTALLY think you drive the coolest looking car! (Okay, maybe that last one isn’t exactly accurate…)

    why we love the toyota sienna and minivans in general!

    Years ago when I started my relationship with Toyota they lent us Sienna. It was before we had our own minivan and, quite honestly, I didn’t love it. The user interface just wasn’t that great, as great as all the extra space was.  Fast forward 6 years or so to this summer, driving the latest Toyota Sienna. I love it just as much as my Odyssey. In fact, I don’t even know which one I like more! Plus, the Sienna comes with an All-Wheel Drive option, which is ideal if you live in a place with weather. So my previous advice of, “The Odyssey is totally better” is now “Just choose the one you like better for whatever small reason you can find because they are equally awesome.”

    Here are a few things in particular we loved about the Sienna.

    1. Two sunroofs! We marveled at the gloriousness of the second sunroof!

    why we love the toyota sienna and minivans in general!

    2. The “infotainment” interface is great, and I like the display better than the Odyssey. Plus, the positioning of the screen is perfect so there is never any glare, making it visible at all times.

    why we love the toyota sienna and minivans in general!

    3. The memory positions for the drivers’ seat are super handy.

    4. This particular Sienna came with sensors that alert you to people in your blindspot as well as beep when you’re backing up, etc. We could have gotten this on our Odyssey if we wanted but opted not to spend the extra money. That said, I LOVED the feature very much when I was using it and it made me wish I had it at home.

    5. I love Toyota’s keyless entry and startup system. Here’s how it works: if you have the key on your person, when you are close to the car you just touch the door handles and the car unlocks. It’s so super duper awesome and works beautifully. You can also lock the car by touching a spot on the handle when you get out. I pretty much just left the key safely in my purse the entire trip, it was great!

    6. There is just so much storage space. I’ve already mentioned this, but it is worth mentioning again. And it’s very easy to put the back seats up and down if you want even more storage. We have driven the Toyota Highlander for a few summers and, as much as I loved that car, with 3 kids and all our luggage it was PACKED. We never even came close to filling the Sienna on this trip, even with other people’s luggage thrown in with ours.

    why we love the toyota sienna and minivans in general!

    7. Lots of space for “tickle trains.”

    why we love the toyota sienna and minivans in general!

    8. The Sienna really is the Swagger Wagon. It even played awesome old school rap for me.

    why we love the toyota sienna and minivans in general!

    The model we were driving did not have an eighth seat, which we could have used a couple times with all the family we were visiting. But other than that, I have no complaints. The Sienna was fabulous!

    why we love the toyota sienna and minivans in general!

    Oh, are you wondering why new car smell is like cilantro? My sister-in-law Cora, my mother-in-law Pat and I all thought the car smelled really strong. It kind of got into our nasal cavity, like we were breathing it. But NO ONE ELSE knew what we were talking about. We decided it must be similar to the cilantro gene, you know the one where some people think cilantro tastes like soap? Apparently new car smell has a similar effect on a small percentage of the population. 😉 Like how I brought it all back to food, there? I can ALWAYS bring the conversation back to food.

    Okay, time for some CONTROVERSY. Do you drive a minivan? Are you adamantly opposed to them? Do you secretly wish you had one but don’t have the guts to drive a Swagger Wagon? Even my sister-in-law who has no children said that the minivan she drives for work is the BEST. See? EVERYONE loves minivans! That’s my supposition, anyway. I think the people who say they don’t are just lying 😉 So, speak up! Tell us what you think!

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  7. Sunday, August 16

    Week 447 Menu

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    This week is a special week at our house when when it comes to meal planning. My 10-year-old daughter Cate is going to be making dinner for us every night! I’m writing a piece for Babble about having Cate take charge of the dinner plans and this is the big week! Cate and I have been brainstorming her menu for the last month or so, thinking of delicious food that she can also make on her own (or at least mostly on her own). We just finished finalizing the menu. She’s feeling excited about it and says she’s sure she’ll be able to cook it all! I’m impressed (and surprised) with her confidence! Can’t wait to report on how it goes!

    week 447 weekly menu from @janemaynard including FREE printable dinner meal plan and shopping list!

    MONDAY:
    – Chicken tenders (from Trader Joe’s freezer section)
    – Strawberry Spinach Salad

    TUESDAY:
    – Spaghetti
    – Garlic bread (from store) and steamed cauliflower and broccoli

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Out to dinner with a friend!

    THURSDAY:
    Naan pizzas

    FRIDAY:
    Caprese Salad

    SATURDAY:
    – Leftovers

    SUNDAY:
    – Grilled cheese and Tuscan tomato soup

    Click here for the free printable of this week’s menu plus the shopping list!

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  8. Friday, August 14

    Friday Show and Tell!

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    Happy Friday, everyone!

    summer ricotta parfaits from @janemaynard (the ricotta cream is heavenly!)

    I just have one thing to share today and it is an extremely delicious thing. I created a summer fruit parfait recipe for Babble that uses a ricotta cream for the layers opposite the fruit. THIS CREAM. You seriously don’t need the fruit…just a spoon. And, next time, I’m going to layer it with raspberries and chocolate shavings. I have been waiting for this post to go live so I can share it with you and the day has finally arrived! Click here for the recipe!

    Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to share your own stuff in the comments!

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  9. Tuesday, August 11

    Perfect Chocolate Frosting + One Pan Chocolate Cake

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    Today is all about chocolate.

    PERFECT chocolate frosting with one pan chocolate cake from @janemaynard

    When we were on Cape Cod a few weeks ago, my mother-in-law Pat made a chocolate cake, complete with homemade frosting that was TO DIE FOR. When it comes to cake, I generally like the cake more than the frosting. Not in this case. In this case the frosting, well, takes the cake. (Sorry! Couldn’t resist that one.)

    PERFECT chocolate frosting with one pan chocolate cake from @janemaynard

    And, if you’re looking for something to put that perfect chocolate frosting on, let me introduce you to the one pan chocolate cake. This recipe comes from a 2009 issue of Everyday Food and was originally called “dump cake,” since you just dump everything in the pan and then bake. The cake turned out beautifully.

    one pan chocolate cake from @janemaynard

    There’s only one drawback to the cake recipe: since you mix the ingredients directly in the pan, you can’t butter and flour the pan ahead of time. This means you’ll be serving the cake directly from the pan. Plus, you kind of have to scrape the servings out with a spatula to keep them in one piece, and the first slice of cake will be a bit tricky to get out of the pan. Because of this, the one pan cake may not be the best choice for serving guests or for special occasions. Or maybe it is. You decide. All I know is that this cake recipe is easy and delicious, and maybe that’s all that matters in the end.

    PERFECT chocolate frosting with one pan chocolate cake from @janemaynard

    Perfect Chocolate Frosting
     
    Prep time
    Total time
     
    Recipe from my mother-in-law Pat, adapted from the back of the Hershey's cocoa powder container
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • ½ cup butter
    • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2½ - 2¾ cups powdered sugar
    • ⅓ cup milk
    Instructions
    1. Melt the butter in a large bowl in the microwave, in 20 second increments until butter is just melted.
    2. Whisk in cocoa powder and vanilla extract.
    3. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar to the bowl. Using a hand mixer, start on low and beat in the powdered sugar, increasing the speed to medium and mixing well. Add half of the milk, following the same blending technique. Add 1 more cup of the powdered sugar, mixing as described, then the rest of the milk, mixing once again starting on low and increasing to medium speed.
    4. Add ½ cup of powdered sugar (this brings you to 2½ cups) and blend well, starting on low then moving up to medium speed. If you want the frosting to be a little thicker, add up to ¼ cup more of powdered sugar.
    5. Makes enough frosting for a 9" x 13" cake.

    One Pan Chocolate Cake
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Originally from a 2009 issue of Everyday Food, written in my own words
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
    • 6 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
    • 1 cup cold water
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 350º F.
    2. In an 8-inch square casserole dish or baking pan (I like to use a pyrex casserole so I can see if the batter is full mixed), whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
    3. Make a well in the middle, then add the vegetable oil, vanilla, vinegar and water in the center. Whisk those ingredients together, then start to incorporate the dry ingredients, whisking until well combined.
    4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a fork or toothpick comes out clean.
    5. Let cool completely before frosting. If you use the chocolate frosting recipe above, you will have some frosting left over.

     

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  10. Sunday, August 9

    Week 446 Menu

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    Hey there, everyone! I am home and unpacked and back to normal and FINALLY planning my weekly menu again! Thank you to everyone who diligently posted menus the last few weeks while I was taking a little break. You guys are the best and the reason this whole menu sharing thing is so cool!

    week 446 weekly menu from @janemaynard including FREE printable meal plan and shopping list!

    MONDAY:
    – Homemade Mac & Cheese (one of these recipes)
    – Fresh summer veggies

    TUESDAY:
    – Chicken tacos
    – Chips and salsa

    WEDNESDAY:
    Chicken Salad Sandwiches
    – Fresh fruit and chips

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Eat out night

    SATURDAY:
    Chicken Caesar Wraps

    SUNDAY:
    – Breakfast for Dinner (specifics TBD!)

    Click here for the free printable of this week’s menu plus the shopping list!

    You know the drill! Please share your weekly menu in the comments! Thank you and have a great week!

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