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  1. Sunday, December 28

    Week 101 Menu

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    I’m back!  What a perfectly lovely week it’s been.  Now it’s back to the grindstone…but no biggie. I’ll be able to eat homemade frozen yogurt and ice cream while I grind away, thanks to my new Cuisinart ice cream maker. I’m so excited, people, I can’t even stand it!

    Before I forget…I made these White Chocolate Strawberry cookies (pictured) for Cate’s birthday party last week and they were a hit. You can find the recipe here.

    Time for a REAL menu with some healthy{er} food!  Gotta love the holidays…

    MONDAY:
    - Oriental Chicken Salad

    TUESDAY:
    - Chicken paninis (toppings TBD)

    WEDNESDAY:
    - Happy New Year!
    - Oh my, another holiday on which to indulge. I’m gonna get together a bunch of snacky food – artichoke dip, chicken tenders, some sort of salad, etc…I’ll share the real plan later this week.

    THURSDAY:
    - Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    - I’m going to try a recipe from my Sunset magazine, which I just started reading and LOVE, by the way…still need to choose the recipe!

    SATURDAY:
    - Eat out

    SUNDAY:
    - Kitchen Sink Quesadillas
    - Guacamole & chips

    Can’t wait to see what you are cooking up this week!  Share your menus!

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  2. Wednesday, December 24

    And to all a good night…

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    Cookies for Santa. Check. Kids in bed. Check. ‘A Christmas Story’ playing in the background. Check. More beautiful memories created. Check.

    Have a wonderful Christmas and see you in a few days!

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  3. Tuesday, December 23

    Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix

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    Need to warm up now that we’re in the dead of winter?

    Then hop to it and make this great vanilla hot chocolate mix!  Our friends the Neilsons brought this mix over the other night (we have been so spoiled this year by homemade yumminess from so many friends!).  Nate and I have had hot chocolate the last two nights. I’m considering NOT sharing with Cate.  Yeah, I’m a great mom, eh?

    Here’s the recipe, if you want to make it for friends…or yourself!

    Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix
    From Epicurious
    - 4 cups granulated sugar
    - 1/2 vanilla bean, split crosswise (see tips, below)
    - 1 1/2 pounds high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    - 8 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
    - 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process (see tips, below)

    Place sugar in large bowl. Split half vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape seeds into sugar, and add pod. Work seeds in with your fingers. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature.

    In food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and milk chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. (Process in two batches if necessary.)

    Remove pod from sugar. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar and whisk to blend.

    Store mix airtight at room temperature for up to six months.

    To serve:
    For each serving, heat 8 ounces milk in small saucepan over medium heat until scalded (or microwave 2 1/2 minutes at full power). Whisk in 1/4 to 1/3 cup mix. Serve with unsweetened softly whipped cream or marshmallows.

    Tips:
    •Save the other half of the vanilla bean for another use, such as a second batch of vanilla sugar, which keeps indefinitely and can be used in baking, coffee, or simply to sprinkle on fruit or waffles.
    •Dutch process cocoa has been treated with an alkaline solution, which gives it a darker color and less bitter flavor and makes it dissolve more easily. Droste is a good brand.

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  4. Sunday, December 21

    Week 100 Menu!

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    Wow!  100 menus!!!  Time sure does fly when you’re having fun!

    We have received so many amazing holiday treats this year from friends.  And we’re LOVING IT.  (PS – you can find recipes for the molasses cookies & chocolate peanut butter squares in this picture on the Cookie Exchange post…look for Melissa & Alison’s comments.)

    Now for my 100th menu.  How fun that Christmas falls during this week!

    MONDAY:
    - Chili
    - Corn Cake Toppers

    TUESDAY:
    - Leftovers

    WEDNESDAY:
    - Chinese Take-Out (a Maynard family Christmas Eve tradition I’ve happily embraced!)

    THURSDAY:
    - Merry Christmas!
    - Swedish meatballs (my first attempt! I’ll write more on those later), Boiled new potatoes, Vegetable of some sort

    FRIDAY:
    - Leftovers

    SATURDAY:
    - Eat out

    SUNDAY:
    - Pot roast
    - Mashed potatoes
    - Vegetable or salad

    Can’t wait to see your menus! And feel free to share family holiday traditions (even if you don’t have a menu)…food traditions & otherwise!

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  5. Saturday, December 20

    ProFlowers Holiday Giveaway Winners!

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    Time to announce the ProFlowers giveaway winners…yeah, I know, I should have done this hours ago and I’m sure you’re all sitting at your computers waiting…but I was very tired today.  Hosting a party with 16 three- & four-year-olds will do that to you!

    Without further ado, the two randomly-selected TWFD readers, who will each receive a $100 ProFlowers gift card, are….

    Stimey, who said, “You can never have too much credit for a great florist!”  (so true, stimey!)

    - and -

    Adrianne, who said, “jane. i think it’s my turn to win.” (guess you were right, adrianne!)

    Congratulations, ladies!  What a lovely holiday surprise for you both!  For the rest of you…you’ll get more chances, promise!  Big thanks to ProFlowers!

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  6. Friday, December 19

    Kitchen Tip: Cake Strips

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    Lindsay, my amazing friend who cooks amazing food, shared today’s Kitchen Tip with me months ago.  I finally used it for the first time last night with great success!  I’m so excited to share!

    Lindsay cut these towel strips for me (from here on out called “cake strips”) and gave them to me as a little gift.  Here’s how to use them: wet with water, wrap around cake pans and attach with safety pin.

    Why would you want to dress your cake pans in a pretty pink towel?  Well the cakes stay moist around the edges AND, as you can see from my picture, they stay flat!  No big dome in the center of the cake.  I am SO HAPPY to have learned this little trick.

    You can buy cake strips (just Google ‘cake strips’)…but why spend money when you can just cut up an old towel and use a safety pin?

    On a related note….I have pictures of the finished product on my camera.  More on that later…

    PS – Neither Lindsay or I have ever had a cake strip catch on fire.  They ARE dry by the end, but have never had issues.  I guess what I’m saying is it seems pretty safe…but if your cake strips light up, well, consider this my statement of “This Week for Dinner is not liable for cake strip fires.” Honestly, you should be FINE. How’s that for a disclaimer? My attorney would be so proud.

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  7. Don’t Forget! ProFlowers Giveaway!

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    Last chance to enter the ProFlowers free, random giveaway.  To enter, click here to add a comment on the original giveaway post. You have until Midnight (PT) TONIGHT!  Good Luck!

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  8. Kitchen Tip: Softening Butter for Cookies

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    Don’t you hate it when you want to make cookies RIGHT NOW, but your butter is too cold and you have to let it sit at room temperature until it’s JUST RIGHT, at which point you don’t want cookies anymore?

    Lucky for you, you read my blog.  I have perfected the art of softening butter.  Keep in mind, this is an ART, not a science.  You will have to tweak the time based on your own microwave, but the following should be a good guide.

    For two sticks of butter in my 1100-watt microwave: 9 seconds at Power Level 2.  Flip butter over 180 degrees.  8 seconds at Power Level 2.

    After I followed that little “recipe” tonight, my butter was the PERFECT consistency for making cookies.  Awesome.

    PS: You can do this with frozen butter, too.  Just heat it longer, but it should still be at Power Level 2.

    PS #2: Power Level 2 should be consistent for everyone, no matter what microwave you have.

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  9. Wednesday, December 17

    Birthday Cakes….ARGH!

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    I grew up with a mom who made amazing birthday cakes. Snoopy, rainbows, lions, cars…you name it, she’s caked it. I remember my birthday cakes. I loved my birthday cakes. I want my kids to remember and love theirs.

    There’s one slight problem. I stink at it. I had trouble just frosting this tiny little cake for Anna this week! Seriously.  And the reason the bundt cake in the background looks cute is because it’s out of focus.  It did NOT live up to the image in my brain.  It DID taste good, though…anyway…

    Cake masters!  I know you’re out there!  Divulge your secrets! Please share your best cake decorating tips, recipes, anything. I need help!!!

    (Oh, and Cate wants a “strawberry” cake for her party later this week…any ideas on that front are welcome, too!)

    If you want a taste of the ideal that’s in my head…here’s the cake my mom made for Cate last year. Too cute! Yeah, my car cake would NOT have looked like that.

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  10. Monday, December 15

    ProFlowers Happy Holiday Giveaway!

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    This giveaway is now closed.  Thank you!

    You know I love ProFlowers…and the love affair continues.  Look at this GORGEOUS wreath I just received from ProFlowers.  I seriously love it.  I saw another eucalyptus wreath at the store today and thought, “Bah! Mine is better!”  If you send this wreath to someone, they will love you forever.

    It’s the holidays, which means another ProFlowers giveaway on This Week for Dinner!  Yea!  Two randomly-selected TWFD readers will each receive a $100 gift card to use at ProFlowers.com.  Yes, it’s the holidays and you can use your winnings for gifts…but I won’t tell if you order yourself a nice bouquet and some hand-dipped berries (my personal fave). You deserve it!

    You know the drill…leave a comment, any comment, by Midnight PT, Friday, December 19.  Only one entry per person, please.  Winners will be announced on Saturday, December 20.

    Big thanks to ProFlowersAnd for 15% off your entire order, click here, or on any ‘ProFlowers’ reference in this post…just in time for the holidays!

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