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  1. Wednesday, August 31

    Back to School Giveaway: The Cutest Lunch Bags Ever (3 Winners!)

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    In the spirit of “Back to School,” I have a super cute giveaway for you today…and it’s something that you can keep for yourself! Kids get enough new stuff this time of year, I think the adults should get a little something too!

    Cosmoda has the cutest lunch bags ever. They are insulated and perfect for carrying food, but they look like stylish bags and purses rather than lunch boxes. Cosmoda sent a few of their KOKO lunch bags for me to check out and my girls have already commandeered two of them. Little stinkers.

    On to the giveaway! Cosmoda is providing a giveaway prize for THREE lucky winners! Each randomly-selected winner will receive a KOKO lunch bag and a KOKO softspout water bottle.  Same drill as always…just post a comment to be entered to win! Comments must be added to this post by Midnight PT on Sunday, September 4. The winners will be announced on Monday, September 5. (Prize must be shipped within the U.S.)

    Good luck!

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  2. Tuesday, August 30

    Easy Asian-Style Green Beans

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    Last time I tried to make a nice, homemade dinner that involved some effort, I threw my sciatica into a tizzy. I could barely walk to the dinner table to eat! So, until baby boy arrives in a few short weeks, I’m trying to take it easy in the kitchen. Which is nice in one way, but at the same time I am really craving some good home cookin’ right now. I’ll have to put my mom to work when she comes to visit next month!

    What this “taking it easy” business means is that, even though I have menus planned each week, there are plenty of nights where I’m plum worn out and things don’t go as planned. Last night was no exception. But we were all starving, so I grabbed the Costco orange chicken out of the freezer along with the Trader Joe’s dumplings and got “cooking.” Since rice, chicken and dumplings don’t have any vegetables, I grabbed a bag of green beans that we received from our CSA last week and decided to sauté those up.

    Nate is a big fan of green beans, so I’m always hoping I cook them well since I know they are one of his favorites. Last night he kept saying how good they were, so I decided they were blog post-worthy! And they were really easy. Which, for me, was the best part!

    Easy Asian-Style Green Beans
     
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Author:
    Recipe type: Side Dish, Vegetables
    Ingredients
    • - A bunch of fresh green beans
    • - Olive oil
    • - Salt and Pepper
    • - Soy Sauce
    • - White Sugar
    Instructions
    1. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet that has a lid. Add the green beans and sauté over medium heat until they brown on the sides a bit. Reduce heat to medium-low and put the lid on the pan. Let cook a few minutes until they are as tender as you want them to be, stirring occasionally.
    2. Remove the lid, splash evenly with soy sauce, sprinkle with salt and pepper and about 1-3 teaspoons of sugar (just to cover the beans evenly). Stir and serve!

     

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  3. Sunday, August 28

    Week 240 Menu

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    When I think of McIntosh apples, I think of cool weather, sweaters, beautiful foliage…you know, autumn. So when we got McIntosh apples in our CSA bag last week in the middle of summery August, the first thing I did was text my New Englander mother-in-law saying, “Isn’t it just wrong that we have McIntosh apples right now?” And she wholeheartedly agreed! Not that I’m complaining, but California is kind of a weird place!

    Menu time…and I imagine my menu is going to get simpler and simpler the closer we get to the baby’s due date! Just three weeks!

    MONDAY:
    – Fetuccine alfredo
    – Caprese salad and baguette on the side

    TUESDAY:
    Asian Spinach Salad
    – I know, I know…this is the third week I have this on my menu. It keeps falling through the cracks, but I really do what want to eat it, so it’s making one more appearance on the menu before I give up!

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Orange chicken (from Costco freezer section) and rice
    – Potstickers (from Trader Joe’s freezer section)

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Hot dogs and/or hamburgers on the grill
    – Fresh fruit

    SATURDAY:
    – Eat out

    SUNDAY:
    – Yup, you guessed it, breakfast for dinner. French toast this time!

    Since I’m going to get less inspiring over the next few weeks, we really need all of you to post your menus and inspire one another! Let’s see what you got!

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  4. Thursday, August 25

    Tapioca Pudding from Scratch

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    I love tapioca pudding. So when I saw this bag of tapioca pearls at the Phipps Country Store and Farm when we went berry picking last month, I had to buy it. It was the last bag, it just felt like it was meant to be.

    So, this morning, around 9 am I told Nate I was going to quickly throw a batch together. I had a 9:30 conference call and figured that should be no problem. He laughed and said, “That will not be done.”

    Obviously I have never made tapioca from scratch. And obviously Nate is smarter than me.

    One of the directions was, “Bring to a boil over low heat.” Little did I know…that was a 90 minute step! Not kidding. In fact, it never even reached boiling, but I could tell that the pudding was {finally} done at around 90 minutes and decided to call it quits.

    And, no, I didn’t miss the conference call! I found a laptop and actively participated in the 1+ hour meeting over Skype, while constantly stirring the pudding. That’s what I call multi-tasking!

    Another thing I learned…the directions for this particular tapioca involved mixing the cooked pudding in with a simple meringue. I was curious how that would come out. It came out perfectly.

    So, was it worth the time? The pudding is really, really good. I think if I you have some reading to do, or a podcast to listen to, or a conference call to participate in while the pudding cooks then, sure, it’s worth the time. But the pre-made stuff at Trader Joe’s is also really good. So, yeah. I’m torn.

    I will say this – the pudding was especially delicious about 10 minutes after it was done, when it was still warm but not hot anymore. You can’t get that from the refrigerated section at Trader Joe’s.

    Regardless of whether or not it was worth it, those little tapioca pearls are beautiful!

    And, no, I don’t have a recipe for you because the directions were very specific to the package I bought (for example, “Use 1/4 package of tapioca”). But I’m sure if you want to give tapioca from scratch a go, whoever you buy the pearls from should have directions!

    And, before we leave today…tell us if you love or hate tapioca. I feel like it’s one of those divisive foods, sort of like Miracle Whip. I’m curious where you all stand!

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  5. Tuesday, August 23

    Beyond Lovely Cocoa

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    I’ve been using Scharffen Berger cocoa for about two years now. Once I started using it, I just couldn’t go back to buying cocoa at the regular grocery store. (Same with chocolate chips. Let’s just say the chocolate chips I buy never go on sale. And it’s worth every extra penny!)

    I ran out of cocoa recently and headed over to Draeger’s to pick up another can of Scharffen Berger (which I still love, by the way). While I was there I spotted this Cocoa Rouge Cocoa Powder by E. Guittard. I decided to live on the edge, go a little crazy, buy something different.

    My friend Ana was over the first time I opened the Cocoa Rouge to make some mini molten chocolate cakes. Once the lid was off, we were both taken aback. The powder is so rich in color, with red undertones. This cocoa is downright gorgeous. The loveliest cocoa I’ve yet laid eyes on.

    And the lava cakes? They turned out awesome as usual, but with an even richer chocolate flavor than I’ve had before. Mmmm mmmm mmmmmmmmm…

    Great. Another expensive chocolate product to send us to the poorhouse. I just can’t help myself. If I were Mother Hubbard, my cupboard would be bare…except for some dang good chocolate, of course.

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  6. Citrus Lane Giveaway Winner!

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    The time has come to announce the winner for the Citrus Lane giveaway…and that lucky duck is…

    CheekyChic (a loyal commenter on the blog…see, it pays off!), who said: “What a cool concept for a business. Can’t wait to check out more Citrus Lane.”

    Big thanks to Citrus Lane for a wonderful giveaway!

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  7. Sunday, August 21

    Week 239 Menu

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    Summer is officially over for the Maynard family. I can’t believe our little Cate starts 1st grade tomorrow!

    To celebrate the end of summer, we spent yesterday in Santa Cruz, complete with some wetsuit shopping (Nate walked away happy!) and a few hours at the beach (the girls walked away happy!). It was a perfectly fun day spent with some great friends…despite the cloudy, sometimes drizzly, constantly chilly, super windy, completely un-summery weather. Gotta love the Northern California beach scene! ;)

    MONDAY:
    Homemade cheese pizza…Cate’s favorite, in honor of her big day!
    – Corn on the cob

    TUESDAY:
    Asian Spinach Salad (didn’t get to that meal last week)

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Boring old spaghetti…it’s a busy evening…it’s a fast dinner and I know the girls will eat it
    – Veggies from CSA

    THURSDAY:
    – I think I’ll do an Italian tomato bread salad, we’re getting our first tomatoes from the CSA this week!
    – Fresh fruit

    FRIDAY:
    – Leftovers

    SATURDAY:
    – Eat out

    SUNDAY:
    – Breakfast for dinner…probably Whole Wheat Pancakes
    – Smoothies

    BRING IT ON. Share your menus! We want to know what your eating, no matter what it is!!

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  8. Friday, August 19

    Italian Chicken Panini Pizza

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    Today is the third and last of my Newman’s Own “Own It” posts with Martha’s Circle. This time around I was challenged to use a salad dressing to make a recipe my own.

    As I thought about what I might put together, I remembered back to when we were very first married. One of the meals we would make were grilled chicken sandwiches. I would marinate the chicken breasts in Italian dressing and then broil the chicken in the oven. Nothing fancy but it was definitely a go-to meal for me then that we liked a lot.

    At that same time in my life, a friend of mine had me over for dinner one night and made pizza. She didn’t use sauce, just olive oil and it was delicious. (This is the same friend who gave me the Uncle Tony’s Pizza Crust recipe…that night was the first time I ate that crust! And, yes, she really did have an Uncle Tony and he really was Italian.) I digress, back to the pizza…it was the first time I had a tomato sauceless pizza and it opened up a whole new pizza world to me.

    Thinking fondly on those early days of marriage and learning to cook, I decided to combine these two memories into one recipe. I made pizza that uses Italian dressing as the “sauce,” instead of just straight up olive oil. And then I used all the ingredients that I normally would have put on the chicken sandwich. And with that, the Italian Chicken Panini Pizza was born!

    The pizza was yummy. It had a nice light flavor and hit the spot. I used the Newman’s Own Lighten Up Italian dressing and it worked great! I named the pizza Italian Chicken Panini Pizza because Panini sounds more Italian than Sandwich. ;)

    Italian Chicken Panini Pizza
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pizza
    Cuisine: Italian
    Ingredients
    • Uncle Tony’s Pizza Crust or other pizza crust that you like
    • Newman’s Own Light Italian Dressing
    • 1-2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced, seasoned with salt & pepper prior to grilling (you could even marinate the chicken in the Italian dressing before grilling as well)
    • 1-2 tomatoes, sliced
    • Couple handfuls of fresh spinach
    • Mozzarella cheese
    Instructions
    1. Prepare your crust. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of Italian dressing on the crust instead of tomato sauce. Top with spinach, chicken and tomatoes then the cheese.
    2. Bake in the oven on a pizza stone with your oven at the highest temperature it will go (mine goes to 500 degrees), about 8-10 minutes…until crust browns and cheese is bubbly.
    3. When I used the above pizza crust recipe, I made 4 medium sized pizzas – two of them plain cheese, two of them Italian Chicken Panini…for two Italian Chicken Panini pizzas I used 1 large tomato and 1 chicken breast.

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  9. Wednesday, August 17

    Fab Baby Gift Idea…and an Equally Fab Giveaway!

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    I’ve been slacking in the giveaway department, but I’ve got a few lined up for you that I’m super excited about. And today is no exception!

    To kick off the giveaway run, I’m going with a super duper uber cute baby gift idea. I love it. It’s adorable. It’s unique.

    Citrus Lane is a new company based in the Bay Area that, as my friend Heather put it, is like a wine-of-the-month club for babies. Obviously, there is no wine involved…but there are a whole lot of great baby products. Basically you sign up for a subscription and then boxes of goodies appropriate to your baby’s age arrive each month.

    Citrus Lane was kind enough to provide me with their Deluxe Baby Shower box.

    It came in this simple and cute box.

    And was filled with all sorts of goodies, including a really cool swaddling blanket that I can’t wait to try on the little guy and a $50 gift certificate to Minted.com, which I can’t wait to use for birth announcements. Yes, I’m going to make sure baby #3 has a birth announcement! ;) Citrus Lane also gave me a 3-month subscription, which begins when my baby is born. I can’t wait to see what goodies will come each month!

    Giveaway time! One of you lucky people will also receive a 3-month subscription to Citrus Lane…to keep for yourself or to give away to a mommy-to-be in your life. Citrus Lane is definitely great for a gift, but I certainly can’t blame you if you keep the prize for yourself! ;)

    To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post! And, if you’d like a second entry, “Like” Citrus Lane on Facebook and then leave a second comment telling us you did so. Easy peasy! Comments must be made by Midnight PT on Monday, August 22. Winner will be announced on August 23. Prize must be shipped within the U.S.

    Good luck and happy baby gift shopping!

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  10. Tuesday, August 16

    First CSA Mystery Solved…They’re Cucumbers!

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    So, last week when I opened up my CSA bag, I found these little guys.

    And when I say little, I mean little. Maybe 4 inches long or so.

    Instead of doing my own research, I just went straight to Facebook and Twitter. Because you people are smart. I posted the above photo and of course immediately had bazillions of responses from people.

    And the consensus was…lemon cucumbers. And while I’m obviously no expert, I think you’re all right (or at least close to right!).

    Cate loves cucumbers. They’re her favorite veggie, hands down. So it was lots of fun cutting into these with her.

    I must admit, they didn’t taste that different from the regular cucumbers. The texture was a bit more tender and juicy, but bottom line, they taste like cucumbers. But they were delicious and it sure was fun to try something new! Another 10 points for joining a CSA

    While we’re here…if you have any good cucumber recipes to share, please do!

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