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  1. Thursday, February 28

    Whirley Pop!

    Remember the Favorite Things gift exchange I attended last December? (If you don’t, it’s worth checking out!) One of the ‘favorite things’ shared at the party was the Whirley Pop. I was not the recipient of that particular gift. I filed it away in my brain as something to get one day. My 5-year-old Anna loves popcorn more than Orville Redenbacher, so I figured it would be fun to have around.

    Serendipitously, my awesome sister-in-law Jess gave it to us for Christmas! Score! We’ve used the Whirley Pop a few times now…and…

    …the verdict? We love the Whirley Pop! It’s a fast, easy way to make popcorn from scratch. It takes about as long as microwave popcorn but is completely free of scary chemicals. You cook the popcorn over the stove while constantly turning a crank, which keeps the kernels from burning. It works beautifully and the popcorn is delicious, fluffy and crisp!

    Parents, just so you know, kids get sick of turning the crank after about, oh, 10 seconds. You’ll end up doing most of the heavy lifting, but I’m pretty sure you can handle it.

    My friend Linda in the Bay Area is a fellow Whirley Pop lover and recommended Crown Jewel Popcorn as a great source for buying kernels. They have all kinds of gourmet popcorn to choose from, with pretty names like Blue Sapphire and Fiery Garnet.

    And, just so ya know, the Real-Theater popcorn kit that comes with your Whirley Pop…it’s not good. So, don’t waste your money buying any of those. Stick with straight-up kernels and then add your own butter!

    You can get the Whirley Pop pretty much everywhere: Whirley Pop’s website, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Williams-Sonoma, Amazon. Take your pick!

    And, for the record, even though this post sounds all pitchy, I have no connection to Whirley Pop whatsoever. We just love it and I wanted to tell you about it!

    When we make popcorn with the Whirley Pop, we do a full batch with 1/2 cup of kernels and 1 tablespoon of canola oil, topping with 4 tablespoons of melted butter when done, along with a sprinkle of coarse salt. Buttery and delicious!

    In case you were wondering, Anna is in popcorn heaven.

    Happy Popping!

    UPDATE 3/16/16: Just wanted to give you an update that we have not made microwave popcorn since getting the Whirley Pop and use it frequently. Love it still, and it’s holding up nicely over the years. The lids on top aren’t quite as tight, but it’s not a problem.


  2. Tuesday, February 26

    Lasagna-Baked Ziti

    Growing up in New Jersey, I was surrounded by Italians. Literally surrounded. Three Catholic churches in our small town, 4 or 5 Italian restaurants in a 1/4-mile distance (keep in mind, there is just one traffic light downtown!) and last names like Pagnani and Martorana galore! Living around so many Italians meant lots of Italian food at community and school parties, specifically baked ziti. Baked ziti is to New Jersey as funeral potatoes are to Utah.

    easy and delicious lasagna-baked ziti from @janemaynard

    Needless to say, I ate some really delicious baked ziti growing up. Which makes it all the more disappointing that almost every time I’ve tried to make it, it just isn’t up to snuff. Well, I tried a recipe from my Real Simple | Best Recipes cookbook and I’ve finally found my winning ziti recipe! Woohoo! Move over, Italian mamas from New Jersey.

    In case you are wondering, the recipe is also really easy to make. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Lasagna-Baked Ziti
     
    From Real Simple | Best Recipes with my notes
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 12 ounces ziti, cooked to package directions (for some reason my grocery store did not have ziti, so I used penne)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • ⅓ onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped or pushed through garlic press
    • ½ pound lean ground beef or italian sausage
    • salt and pepper
    • 1 26-ounce jar marinara sauce (I had a bunch of No-Cook Pizza Sauce left over and that made up the bulk of my sauce, with some leftover jarred sauce to make up the difference. The sauce was delicious!)
    • 1 bunch or 1 small bag spinach, thick stems removed (about 4 cups)
    • ½ cup ricotta cheese
    • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I did more than 1 cup…probably about 1½ or so)
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Drain cooked pasta and add it back to the pot.
    3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Cook onion until soft and clear (4-5 minutes), then add garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Add the beef, ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, breaking up the meat, until the meat is cooked through.
    4. Pour meat mixture into large pot of drained pasta. Add sauce, spinach, ricotta and ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese. Transfer to a 9×13 casserole dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese. Bake until ziti is hot all the way through and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes.

     


  3. Sunday, February 24

    Week 318 Menu

    We are on our way home today. I just wanted to thank you all for your kind comments and emails regarding my grandfather. It was very sweet and much appreciated. We had a wonderful week together as a family, despite the sad circumstances of our gathering. I feel very grateful for the time we had together.

    Le Creuset has a new color called Quince, which you can get at Williams-Sonoma. I am participating in a photo contest with other food bloggers to help show off this pretty new yellow. The blogger who gets the most “Likes” on her photo gets to give away a bunch of Quince goodies. Because of this week’s unexpected travel, I forgot to beg you for votes and I’m pretty sure I’m in last place. If you want to make my photo feel more popular, visit this Pinterest page and “Like” it. Thank you!

    Back to the regular routine for us this week.

    MONDAY:
    Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
    – Chips and guac

    TUESDAY:
    Chili

    WEDNESDAY:
    Cream of Mushroom Soup
    – Crusty bread

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Take out

    SATURDAY:
    – Hamburgers
    – Fresh fruit

    SUNDAY:
    Orange Chicken
    – Rice and veggie

    And with that I turn it over to you! Please share your menu for the week, no matter how simple or fancy!


  4. Thursday, February 21

    Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos {Sweet Potato Day with ONE}

    Before we get into the heart of today’s post, I need to whet your appetite. You do not want to miss today’s recipe. It comes from my sister-in-law Cora and is amazing. Appetite whetted? Good.

    Way back in the day, I was an International Relations major at Boston University, with a focus on developing countries. When I met the folks at ONE about a year ago, I was super excited to get involved and help support their work, especially since one of their main focuses is world hunger. My food blogging and international relations lives were coming together in a very cool way. The folks at ONE have been amazing to work with, too. Win, win, win!

    Today is Sweet Potato Day, a special day coordinated with ONE where a big group of loving, talented bloggers are all writing about sweet potatoes to raise awareness on the issue of hunger. Why the sweet potato, you ask? We are trying to make the sweet potato famous! It is nutritional and hearty and is saving lives in Africa, making it a worthy mascot for the cause! (Click here to read the Sweet Potato Day kick-off post I wrote for the ONE website.)

    As part of the big day, I am sharing a keeper of a recipe with you below. It is so so so so good. These Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos come from my culinarily-talented sister-in-law, Cora. The first night she made them, she called me simply to tell me how delicious her dinner was. I knew I would have to make it myself pronto! Each element of this “recipe” is great on its own: the black beans are deliciously sweet, the sweet potatoes are simple and flavorful with a hint of spice, and the slaw is fresh and has bite. When you put them all together, you get something really special.

    To support Sweet Potato Day, I hope that you will visit ONE’s website and see how you can get involved. There are two main issues I would love for you to check out. First, the budget. You can learn more on the budget issue and send a letter to your Congressperson on this page. Second, food. ONE has oodles of great info on food and hunger on this page, where you can also sign a petition to encourage world leaders to make hunger and food a top priority. We really can make a difference. I am blessed with abundance and want to do my part to help share the love. I hope you’ll join me!

    Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • Roasted Sweet Potatoes (see recipe below)
    • Aunt Kathy's Black Beans (see recipe below)
    • Jalapeño Slaw (see recipe below)
    • Shredded cheese
    • Sour Cream
    • Flour tortillas
    Instructions
    1. Stuff all the good food above into your flour tortillas, eat, and enjoy!

    Roasted Sweet Potatoes
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
    • Olive oil
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Chili powder
    • Oregano
    • Cumin
    Instructions
    1. Spread cubed sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over sweet potatoes evenly, to coat. Sprinkle sweet potatoes with salt, pepper, chili powder, oregano and cumin. Mix and move sweet potatoes around on the sheet to coat with spices. Roast in a 350 degree F oven while you prepare the beans. Cook until soft then remove from oven, 10-20 minutes.

    Aunt Kathy's Black Beans
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 2 (16oz) cans black beans, mostly drained
    • ½ cup water
    • ⅔ cup olive oil
    • ⅛ cup vinegar
    • ⅓ cup sugar
    • 1 tsp pepper
    • 1 bay leaves
    • 2 T fresh, minced garlic
    • 2 tsp salt
    • ½ tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • ⅓ onion, chopped
    Instructions
    1. Sauté onions. Combine all ingredients, including sautéed onions, in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes.

    Jalapeño Slaw
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • ¼ cup lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons sugar
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
    • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • ½ cup chopped cilantro
    • 1 16-ounce package cabbage and carrot coleslaw
    • 1 jalapeño, sliced thin and chopped (add more if you want it hotter)
    Instructions
    1. Mix all the ingredients except the coleslaw together in a large bowl. Add coleslaw and toss to coat.

    Be sure to visit the other blogs taking part in Sweet Potato Day! I have listed them all below. There is a lot of love and deliciousness in these posts. You will be well fed.

    Sweet Potato & Black Bean Burritos from This Week for Dinner
    Truffle Sweet Potato Frites from Savory Sweet Life
    Sweet Potato & Chicken Sausage Stew from Chefdruck
    Honey Sweet Potato Biscuits from Food for My Family
    Sweet Potato Burgers from Cutie Booty Cakes
    What’s Gaby Cooking and Sweet Potato Day
    The MIssion List and Sweet Potato Day
    World Moms Blog and Sweet Potato Day
    Go Graham Go and Sweet Potato Day
    Cranberry Sweet Potato Crumb Cake from Barbara Bakes
    Bourbon and Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes from Boston Mamas
    Documama and Sweet Potato Day
    Sweet Potato Bread Pudding from Eat the Love
    Lamb Shanks with Sweet Potatoes and Sausage from Kitchen Gadget Girl
    Sweet Potato Love To Help End World Hunger from Love That Max
    Celebrating Sweet Potato Day with Mom Trends
    Sweet Potato Chili from Righteous Bacon
    Cooking Sweet Potatoes for Picky Eaters from Rookie Moms
    Sweet Potatoes and Global Health from Third Eye Mom
    Indian Spiced Sweet Potato Kielbasa ONE Skillet Bake from Tickled Red
    Sweet, Dude, Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash from Helen Jane
    Oh My Sweet Potato Apple Bake from Bowl Licker
    Sweet Potato and Peanut Gratin from Non-Reactive Pan
    Sweet Potato Fries from When You Wake Up a Mother  (also found on Million Moms Challenge)


  5. Sunday, February 17

    Week 317 Menu

    On Wednesday this past week my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. He was 91-years old and was a happy man to the end. We are sad but he didn’t suffer and lived a long life. You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this death thing. It’s just so strange. And unexpected deaths, well, I don’t like missing the chance to say goodbye. I just hope Grandpa Wallin has been hearing my thoughts all week, as I ponder his life and think about what I would have said to him one last time if I’d had the chance.

    I am grateful to my grandfather and my grandmother (who died in 1995) for having the courage to move to the United States all those years ago, setting into motion the events that lead to me sitting here today.

    We are staying with family all this week, so no menu for me. My meal plan is to enjoy lots of meals with people I love!

    Please still post your menus for the week so you can inspire one another! And, your homework this week (well, besides planning a menu!)…pick up the phone and call a loved one you haven’t talked to in a while.

    Have a great week, everyone!


  6. Thursday, February 14

    My New Favorite Cake Pan AND Brownie Recipe

    Happy Valentine’s Day! You know I couldn’t let this day go buy without a little chocolate, right?

    Before we get to the chocolate, though, I have a question. Why has no one ever told me how great cake pans with super square edges are? My sister Anne’s 8×8-inch baking pan has those super right-angled edges. Cate’s giraffe birthday cake this year was cut from an 8-inch square cake. I borrowed Anne’s cake pan knowing the squared-off edges would work better for cutting the pieces for the cake. Well, the pan worked fabulously for the cake…and then, last week, I used it for brownies and loved it! I had to return the pan, but you can bet your bottom dollar I will be buying one of my own, in the 8″x8″ and 9″x13″ sizes!

    On to the chocolate. I tried Ruth Reichl’s “A Better Brownie” recipe last week. Awesome recipe, people. Nate, who does not have a sweet tooth, said to me that night, “Jane, these brownies are dangerous.” If you’ve got Nate jonesing for a dessert item, you know it’s good. They are super chocolatey and moist but still light in weight and texture. Such a great combination of qualities that you rarely find in a brownie. (PS…Ruth has lots of “How To Make a Better XXX” recipes on the Gilt Taste website. Definitely a good read!)

    I’m putting the recipe here because in the past when I’ve simply linked to recipes, I’ve run the risk of the links disappearing for various reasons and forever losing recipes I love. Not that Ruth Reichl is going anywhere anytime soon…but who knows what those pesky links will do! I didn’t change anything about the recipe and I have absolutely nothing to add. Except that the recipe works beautifully as written.

    Ruth Reichl's "A Better Brownie"
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • ⅔ cup (5 ounces) unsalted high-fat butter (like European or European-style butters)
    • 5 ounces unsweetened excellent chocolate
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 teaspoons best-quality vanilla extract
    • 4 farm fresh organic eggs (Jane note: my eggs were not farm fresh, everything was fine!)
    • ½ teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 cup all-purpose white flour, sifted (Jane note: I just now realized I forgot to sift the flour - whoops!)
    Instructions
    1. Butter a 9x9 square pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the bottom again and lightly dust the pan with cocoa powder.
    2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
    3. Melt the chocolate and the butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
    4. Beat the eggs and salt in a stand mixer. Add the sugar and beat on high for about 10 minutes, until the mixture has turned quite white. Add the chocolate mixture to the eggs, beating on low until just mixed.
    5. Gently stir in the flour until it just disappears.
    6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, place in the middle of the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 350 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes; the brownies will be quite fudgy and a toothpick should come out not quite clean. Cool on a rack.
    7. Invert the pan, remove the parchment paper and invert again onto a cutting surface. Cut into squares.


  7. Tuesday, February 12

    Love Your Heart with Sodium Girl: Roasted Garlic and Fingerling Potatoes

    I’ve met some amazing people through this whole blogging thing. Jess Goldman Foung is one of those people. She is the embodiment of sunshine and I am so grateful to know her.

    Jess has a food blog called Sodium Girl, not because she eats sodium but because she doesn’t! Due to health reasons years ago, Jess had to cut salt from her diet and reduce her sodium intake significantly. Instead of moping she embraced the challenge and is now a low-sodium genius. Jess just published her first cookbook, Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook. It is beautiful, full of great food, well-designed and organized, easy to ready, informational and fun. It is a fabulous resource if you want to learn how to reduce or cut out sodium.

    To celebrate the book launch, Jess has organized a Love Your Heart Recipe Rally, where a group of food bloggers re-create a favorite recipe without using salt. Be sure to click through to Jess’s rally post to read more facts about sodium and see the other featured recipes!

    Jess is also hosting a giveaway. You could win a Vitamix. You know how I love super, duper, powerful, knock-your-socks-off blenders. You need one, so you should totally enter the giveaway! (See the Rafflecopter entry form at the bottom of this post to enter.)

    So, on to my recipe makeover. Let me begin with this: I love salt. A lot. (I blame my low blood pressure rather than weak will power. ;)) But I also love Jess a lot, so when she invited me to be a part of the rally, I had to accept. But, I must admit, the idea of taking a deliciously-salty dish and figuring out how to make it salt-free was intimidating.

    I thought long and hard and decided I need to try to make a potato dish with no salt. One of the reasons I make such good potatoes of all kinds is due to my liberal use of salt. I honestly did not believe I could eliminate this crucial ingredient and still make a good potato dish. This was my chance to try!

    Here was my thought process:

    • I decided to do roasted potatoes because I normally I just use salt and pepper. No salt would certainly be a challenge!
    • I chose to use fingerling potatoes. Since they are smaller, I thought the ratio of potato to flavorings on the skin would be well-balanced. We’re looking to maximize flavor, here!
    • Roasted garlic is magical. Tons of flavor but {surprisingly} not over-powering. I decided if roasted garlic smeared on bread is good all by itself, then it would probably be good smeared on potatoes, too.
    • Balsamic vinegar packs a big flavor punch and goes great with garlic.
    • Olive oil is heart healthy, flavorful and complements garlic and balsamic vinegar well.

    The potatoes ended up being delicious! Great texture and flavor. Cate and Owen kept going back for seconds, which means success in my book. I must admit that I sprinkled a smidge of salt on a few of mine, because I  just couldn’t help myself. Of course it tasted mighty fine with the salt, but honestly, the salt wasn’t necessary.

    Here is the recipe!

    Roasted Garlic and Fingerling Potatoes
     
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Author:
    Cuisine: Side Dish
    Ingredients
    • About 20-30 fingerling potatoes
    • ½ cup olive oil
    • 10-15 garlic cloves, skins removed
    • 8 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (read the label to check for sodium content!)
    • Parsley (dried or fresh chopped)
    • Pepper
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
    2. Place 4-5 of the garlic cloves in olive oil in a small, oven-proof dish. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cloves are soft. Remove from oven and raise oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Smash up garlic cloves in the oil and let cool. Whisk in balsamic vinegar until oil and vinegar are well mixed.
    3. Toss potatoes along with the rest of the garlic cloves in the oil and vinegar mixture. Spread evenly on a foil-lined pan and cook in the 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until you can pierce the potatoes with a knife.
    4. Remove potatoes and whole garlic cloves from the pan and discard the foil (the vinegar/oil/garlic mixture will get all dark and sticky and gooey and sorta burned in places on the pan – that’s okay, but you don’t need it anymore at this point). Toss the cooked potatoes and whole garlic cloves with a bit more balsamic vinegar, parsley and pepper to taste.

     

    If you would like to enter the Vitamix giveaway (and you should!), use the entry form below! (Giveaway begins at 9:00 am PT Tuesday, 2/12 and runs through 12:00 am PT Monday, 2/18. Giveaway rules can be found at the bottom of Jess’s Recipe Rally post.)

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Many congratulations to Jess on her beautiful book! So happy for you, Jess, and excited for you to share your healthy message with the world!


  8. Sunday, February 10

    Week 316 Menu

    One fun thing about moving back to a place is having access once again to food that you once bid adieu. Yesterday we were treated with two of our San Diego favorites. First, our friend Nikki brought us her 2012 box of Christmas goodies, which she had stored in the freezer. Nikki makes the best holiday treats of anyone anywhere, no doubt, so I was very happy when she knocked on my door with a cute red and white box in hand! Second, we had dinner at Phil’s BBQ. Oh, Phil, how we’ve missed you!

    A couple repeats from last week, not because I was a slacker (amazingly!) but because of unexpected dinners with friends. That’s the best reason!

    MONDAY:
    – Steak and roasted fingerling potatoes
    – Green beans

    TUESDAY:
    – Chicken Tortilla Salad
    – Chips and Guac

    WEDNESDAY:
    Easiest Ever Chicken Pot Pie

    THURSDAY:
    – Homemade hamburgers
    – Fruit

    FRIDAY:
    – Leftovers

    SATURDAY:
    – Takeout

    SUNDAY:
    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas

    Your turn! Show us what you got! Share those weekly menus! (Don’t forget…it’s never too late in the week to share, and we do not care if your menu is fancy or not!)


  9. Thursday, February 7

    Homemade Grocery Store Garlic Bread

    Today, a simple side.

    As a kid, I loved it when my mom would get the grocery store garlic bread. You know, the kind in the foil bag in the baskets by the cashiers. Okay, I’ll admit it, I still kind of love the stuff. But I find that I like my homemade version better. Less greasy, less overwhelmingly flavored, but still full of that buttery, garlicky goodness.

    And it’s oh-so-easy to make. You’ll maybe add 5 minutes of prep time to your dinner routine. No biggie at all.

    Homemade Grocery Store Garlic Bread
     
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Author:
    Cuisine: Side Dish
    Ingredients
    • 1 loaf Italian bread (16 oz), sliced horizontally
    • 1 stick butter (told you it was still super buttery!)
    • 1 garlic clove, finely minced or pushed through a garlic press
    • 3 pinches of dried parsley
    • 1 pinch dried basil
    • 1 pinch dried oregano
    • 1 pinch coarse salt
    • 1 Tablespoon fresh grated parmesan cheese (if you don’t have the cheese on hand, leave it out!)
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Soften butter (leave on the counter for an hour or two or microwave for 10 seconds at power level 2). Mix in all the other ingredients. Spread butter mixture over cut surface of garlic bread. Reassemble loaf of bread and wrap with foil. Bake 15-20 minutes, until inside of bread is hot. Slice and serve!

     


  10. KitchenAid 13-Cup Food Processor Winner

    Wow, the KitchenAid processor giveaway was POP-U-LAR.

    We need a serious drumroll to gear up for the big announcement…everyone get tapping…

    Comment #539 was the winner! Meghan Finley, who said, “I totally want to make pizza now. And thanks for the awesome giveaway” and Meghan’s extra entry came through for her. Congratulations, Meghan! I know you’ll love your new kitchen friend!

    Thank you everyone for the kind comments and blogiversary wishes! And big thanks to KitchenAid!