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  1. Tuesday, July 30

    SoNo Chocolate Ganache Cake…It Just Might Kill You

    I have an incredibly high tolerance for rich chocolate. I may have eaten two lava cakes in one sitting before, but who’s keeping track?

    SoNo Chocolate Ganache Cake, the best chocolate cake in the world on @janemaynard

    When we first moved back to San Diego, my friend Nikki brought us a homemade chocolate ganache cake and it was PERFECTION. I immediately called and begged for the recipe, ’cause that’s what I do.

    SoNo Chocolate Ganache Cake, the best chocolate cake in the world on @janemaynard

    I finally got around to making the cake myself a few weeks ago, for Nate’s birthday. I love this recipe. It worked really well and the ganache was really easy to work with (as long as you follow Nikki’s detailed directions below).

    But here’s the thing with this cake – it seriously might kill you. Remember me? The one who can eat any amount of rich chocolate she wants? Even this cake stops me in my tracks. It is SO RICH. But it is SO GOOD. The cake itself has great texture and the ganache is smooth and wonderful.

    SoNo Chocolate Ganache Cake, the best chocolate cake in the world on @janemaynard

    Quick update as of April 2016: I’ve made this cake a few times and each time I read the recipe I think, “It’s not that hard!” And then each time I make it I go, “Oh yeah, this is a labor of love.” But it is absolutely 100% worth it. It’s not that any one step is all that difficult, and Nikki and I have spelled out each step in great detail to set you up for success. But it does take a little time and patience to get it right. But I know you can do it, and you’ll be happy you did.

    SoNo Chocolate Ganache Cake...It Just Might Kill You
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped (for ganache)
    • 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped (for ganache)
    • 4 cups heavy cream (for ganache)
    • ¼ cup good-quality honey (for ganache)
    • ½ teaspoon coarse salt (for ganache)
    • 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise, or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (for ganache)
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1⅓ cups good-quality unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
    • 2⅔ cups granulated sugar
    • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
    • 2½ teaspoons baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon coarse salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • 11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
    • 1⅓ cups buttermilk
    • 1⅓ cups brewed American coffee (If you don't drink coffee, get a Tall 12-ounce black coffee at Starbucks)
    Instructions
    1. To make the ganache: Place all the chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl (1 pound semisweet, 1 pound bittersweet); set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, honey, and salt. Scrape the tiny black seeds from the vanilla bean pod, if using, into the cream, and add the pod. Bring the cream to a boil, pour over the chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Strain through a fine strainer into a bowl. Discard the vanilla bean. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using instead of the vanilla bean. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until the ganache stiffens, at least 6 hours or overnight. Alternatively, place in the refrigerator and chill, stirring every 20 to 30 minutes, until the ganache stiffens. (IMPORTANT NOTE FROM JANE AND NIKKI: Nikki said that the ganache never gets hard enough if you just leave it at room temperature. She recommended making the ganache the day before and refrigerating overnight. This is what I did and it worked perfectly. I refrigerated overnight and then took the ganache out a couple hours before I was going to assemble the cake. It was the PERFECT consistency for spreading at that point and super easy to work with.)
    2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9 by 2-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper and dust with a little bit of cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. (JANE NOTE: I buttered the pan, placed the parchment round and then buttered again. Then I dusted with flour instead of cocoa because it's easier to work with.) (JANE AND NIKKI NOTE: Nikki uses three 8-inch pans and does a 3-layer cake and this works really well. I didn't have 3 8-inch pans, so I did 2 9-inch pans and split them as directed for a 4-layer cake. BE WARNED: The batter will overflow when the cake bakes, it's just a bit too much batter for 2 9-inch pans, so make sure you cook it on a baking sheet as directed in the recipe.)
    3. To make the cake: In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift in the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low speed to combine.
    4. Add the eggs, vanilla, melted butter, buttermilk, and coffee. Mix on low speed until fully combined. (JANE AND NIKKI NOTE: I mixed the eggs, vanilla, melted butter, buttermilk and coffee together BEFORE adding to the flour mixture. Also, Nikki said that if you mix just until combined, the cake sometimes falls when baking. She has found the cake doesn't fall when she mixes the batter a bit longer than is called for. I followed her advice and the cake rose beautifully when baking. So, mix until fully combined and then a little bit longer than that.)
    5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake on a baking sheet until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then carefully remove the cakes onto the rack and let cool completely.
    6. Jane note: Freeze your cakes at this point. This will make the cutting and frosting much easier.
    7. Using a long serrated knife, slice the top ⅛ to ¼ inch off each cake to level it, if necessary. Discard the top pieces. (JANE NOTE: If you use cake strips, you won't need to do this!)
    8. Splice each cake horizontally into two layers for a total of four layers. (Jane note: If you use 3 8-inch pans, you will skip the splicing step.) Place the bottom layer on a 9-inch cake round, a turntable, or a platter, and using an offset spatula, spread thickly with about 1½ cups of the ganache. Repeat with the second and third layers, spreading another 1½ cups ganache over each layer. (Jane: Use a bit more for each level if only doing three layers.)
    9. Add the final cake layer and spread it with a very thin layer of ganache (this is your crumb layer). Place the cake in the refrigerator until the crumb layer is set, about 30 minutes.
    10. Original recipe: Remove the cake from the refrigerator and place it on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, heat the reserved ganache just until liquid. Pour the ganache over the top of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Using a large offset spatula, help spread the ganache from the center to the edges so the cake is completely covered. Smooth the top and sides. Refrigerate to set, about 30 minutes.
    11. What I did: Instead of melting the ganache and pouring it over the cake, I spread the ganache with an offset spatula on the tops and sides. As I mentioned earlier, the ganache was a fabulous consistency and really easy to work with. It was no problem spreading it on the cake and making it look beautiful!
    12. Serve at room temperature.
    13. Technique tip: When cutting a cake into horizontal layers, be sure to use a twelve-inch serrated bread knife. To achieve even layers, keep the knife perpendicular to your body, cutting back and forth while rotating the cake plate.
    Notes
    Click here for an excerpt from the cookbook that tells you a bit about the history of the cake


  2. Sunday, July 28

    Week 340 Menu

    Hello, everyone! I can’t believe I haven’t posted once since last Sunday! But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been on four planes since then (including hours of delays) and threw a party for 350 bloggers in Chicago. Phew!

    cloudy hills web

    Right now we are in New Jersey visiting my family. We woke up this morning to rain. We don’t get much of that in California, so I’m happily soaking it all in!

    MONDAY:
    – Maple Balsamic Chicken
    – Mashed potatoes
    – Summer squash

    TUESDAY:
    – American Museum of Natural History

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Taco night

    THURSDAY:
    – Visit Morristown National Historic Park (Jockey Hollow and Ford Mansion)

    FRIDAY:
    – Dinner on the grill! (probably hamburgers and hot dogs)

    SATURDAY/SUNDAY:
    – Driving to New England!

    We are still in vacation mode, but we will cook a few meals this week. You know the drill – please share your weekly menu! We want to see what you’re eating!


  3. Sunday, July 21

    Week 339 Menu + Giveaway Winner

    We miss Chuck’s Donuts. When we first moved to our new house, we tried a donut shop nearby that looked promising. Sadly, it was not good at all. There’s another donut shop even closer to our house simply called “DONUTS.” We gave them a try this weekend and they were delicious! Maybe not quite Chuck’s, but close. It will certainly do! Because, you know, living near a good donut shop is of the utmost importance.

    new donut shop web

    I fly to the east coast with the kids tomorrow! I then turn right around and fly to Chicago on Tuesday to go throw our party SocialLuxe Lounge. It’s going to be quite a week, so please send lots of happy travel vibes my way!

    As a result of all this traveling, I have no menu this week. But just because I won’t be in the kitchen doesn’t mean you won’t be! Please post your menu for the week, especially since I am providing zero inspiration!

    Also, I need to announce the winner of the Libby’s giveaway! The randomly-selected winner is…drumroll…

    Stephanie P, who said “That galette looks gorgeous, as do the trays, thanks for the giveaway!”

    Congrats, Stephanie! And thank you, Libby’s!

    Now, get posting your menus! 🙂


  4. Friday, July 19

    Blueberry Breakfast Salad and Why Alison Sweeney and I Should Be Besties

    A month or so ago, a company reached out to see if I could attend a fun event in Los Angeles, where I would have the chance to meet and interview Alison Sweeney. Because of the move I couldn’t go to the event. And then, the very day of that event, I received an email from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council to see if I would like to interview (you guessed it) Alison Sweeney! For real, the gods want us to be besties. Hopefully Alison gets the memo, too!

    blueberry breakfast salad | thisweekfordinner.com

    Our family loves blueberries, especially Miss Cate, so I was more than happy to work with the Blueberry Council and ask Alison a few questions! July is National Blueberry Month. (I think we should all eat lots of muffins to celebrate.) The council and Alison Sweeney are spreading the word about how dynamic blueberries are and how they can add energy and flavor to our daily routine. To find out more about these Little Blue Dynamos, click here to visit their website!

    blueberry breakfast salad | thisweekfordinner.com

    As I was poking around the blueberry website myself, I came across a recipe for a Blueberry Breakfast Salad. I was intrigued by the idea of getting greens into our breakfast routine and clicked through. The recipe for the salad dressing caught my eye and I knew I had to give it a try. People, this dressing is SO GOOD. The salad was good, too – I loved the sweet crunch of granola mixed in. However, the dressing is the real find here. It is surprisingly savory, with just a hint of sweetness from the blueberries. Nate and I had several salads this week! (See recipe below!)

    Back to my new best friend Alison. Here is our interview!

    Jane: What is your favorite savory dish that uses blueberries?

    Alison: Hands down – Blueberry Turkey Burgers! My kids love the tangy blueberry surprise, such a burst of flavor in the burger. Plus, you feel very “Master Chef” preparing them – blueberries are the secret ingredient!

    Jane: How do you fit in exercise as a busy, working mom? (I know that question seems so cliché, but I really am so curious what your techniques are!)

    Alison: You must make it a priority to take care of yourself. Put your workouts on the calendar to ensure you make time to work out. Sometimes I’ll have time for a quick run, other times I’ll be able to take a spin or yoga class. If I can’t work out, I make sure I adjust my nutrition accordingly.

    Jane: Kids will be kids…how do make sure they eat their healthy foods? (Again, sort of cliché, but would love your insight!)

    Alison: Getting my kids involved in the kitchen is really important to me because eating habits form at a young age. One of our favorite hot-summer-day activities is making smoothies. Not only are they nutritious, they’re also easy and fun. Here’s a quick and easy blueberry smoothie recipe we love.

    Here are a few more tips from Alison about kid-friendly recipes (something I am always thinking about!):

    Now, for real, go eat some muffins and put this recipe in your recipe box!

    blueberry breakfast salad | thisweekfordinner.com

     

    Blueberry Breakfast Salad
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Side Dish, Salad
    Ingredients
    • Mixed, torn salad greens: 2 pounds
    • Blueberry Vinaigrette: Recipe follows
    • Fresh blueberries: 4 cups
    • Fresh orange sections or canned mandarin oranges, drained: 4 cups
    • Granola : 2 cups
    Instructions
    1. Toss salad greens with 1½ cups of the Blueberry Vinaigrette. Divide the dressed greens among eight large plates. Arrange ½ cup orange sections and ½ cup blueberries on top of each salad. Sprinkle each salad with ¼ cup granola. Drizzle remaining dressing on top and serve immediately.

    Blueberry Vinaigrette
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Salad Dressing
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup olive oil
    • 1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
    • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    Instructions
    1. Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and process until mixture is smooth. Chill at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. Makes 2 cups.

    Please visit the Blueberry Council on FacebookTwitterYouTube and Pinterest for more inspiration and feel free to share how you plan to #BeDynamic this month!
    Thank you to the Blueberry Council for sponsoring this post. I was compensated for my work but, as always, all opinions are my own.


  5. Friday Show and Tell

    Right before we moved from the Bay Area, I was laid off from one job and then quit another job for the move. Suddenly I had a lot more time on my hands. But, because I’m crazy, I quickly found ways to fill that time. I started writing for Babble and then started two other blogs, Kitchen Tunage (my music blog) and The Spoiler Alert (my TV blog, where I also have other great contributors writing). It’s like I like being a crazy person.

    The other day Nate was like, “You should totally be sharing the Kitchen Tunage music on your food blog.” And I was like, “Isn’t that why I started the music blog?” And he was like, “Yeah, but it’s your kitchen playlist, it all goes together!” And I was like, “Hmmmmmm….maybe….”

    And then I realized, I also kinda wanna share my Babble stuff with you, too. Plus, I’m always up for talking about TV.

    So, I am instituting Friday Show and Tell!

    Here’s how Show & Tell will work. I’ll share my “stuff” from the week. But I want you to show and tell, too! Share posts from your own blogs, share something you found online that week, share an interesting news story. Whatever you want!

    Have you heard Lorde? She’s only SIXTEEN. Unreal. She’s huge in New Zealand. She should be huge here. Let’s make it happen.

    Also, I hope you’re feeling Safe and Sound, because we are definitely feeling it around the Maynard house. Good stuff.

    Marie is loving Orange is the New Black. I might have to jump on the bandwagon! I am loving Dr. Vogel. A LOT. But I I am not loving that Jasmine M went home. Such a bummer! (Also, old news, but if you’re into Mad Men or Game of Thrones, I had to write about those season finales, here and here.)

    I made some beautiful bread in honor of The Hunger Games, I shared some ways to improve your cooking experience while camping, and compiled my MOST FAVORITE chocolate chip cookie recipes all in one place.

    Your turn! Show and tell!


  6. Wednesday, July 17

    Garlic Knots

    Hi, my name is Jane and I am addicted to bread. Of all kinds. Especially buttery bread with garlic.

    garlic knots | thisweekfordinner.com

    Sunday night I made a simple dinner of pasta with sausage and crudite. I decided I needed to make a little something special to add to our boring simple fare. So, here’s the deal, if a restaurant has garlic knots on the menu, I am ALL IN. Surprisingly, I have never tried to make them at home. I know. SHOCKING. Until now, that is. Sunday was the day!

    I used a breadstick recipe from the Food Network as my starting point and the garlic knots came out AWESOME. Against all odds. No, seriously. There were a lot of odds. First, I decided to half the recipe, but didn’t halve the amount of water, so ended up having to add in ingredients after it had already been kneading for a little while and I wasn’t entirely sure how much flour was already in there. Then I let the garlic knots rise for WAY TOO LONG. Just more poor planning on my part. Lastly, I pulled a ridiculously rookie baking mistake…I put both pans in the oven at the same time. The top rack of garlic knots were browning on top but doughy on the bottom, and the bottom rack of garlic knots were totally white on top. I snagged the pan on the top rack, threw it in my toaster oven and hoped for the best. Amazingly, BOTH trays of garlic knots cooked perfectly.

    It’s like the garlic knot gods were intervening for me. Thank you, garlic knot gods. I owe ya one.

    garlic knots | thisweekfordinner.com

    Garlic Knots
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 1 package active dry yeast + ¼ cup warm water
    • 4¼ cups flour
    • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 tablespoon fine salt
    • 1¼ cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
    • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
    • ½ teaspoon sea salt
    • 1-2 garlic cloves, pushed through a garlic press
    • pinch of dried oregano
    Instructions
    1. Place ¼ cup warm water in the bowl of a mixer. Sprinkle in the yeast and let sit for about five minutes, until foamy. Add the flour, 2 tablespoons softened butter, sugar, fine salt and warm water. Mix with paddle attachment until a slightly sticky dough forms, 5 minutes.
    2. Food Network instructions: Knead by hand on a floured surface until very smooth and soft, 3 minutes. Jane instruction: Put your dough hook on the mixer and knead for 3-5 minutes, adding a bit of flour to the bowl. (I like to let the mixer do the work for me!)
    3. Dump dough out onto floured surface and form a round ball. Cut ball into four pieces. Make each piece a nice round ball and then cut each of those into four pieces, leaving you with 16 uniformly-sized balls of dough. Roll each piece out like a snake, about 9-12 inches long. Tie into a knot and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat, about 2 inches apart. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise until almost doubled, 45 minutes.
    4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix melted butter, salt, garlic and oregano together. Brush over the top of the rolls, making sure you get a lot of the good stuff right in the middle of the knot. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. When you take them out of the oven, brush with 1 more tablespoon of melted butter just for extra butteriness.
    5. Makes 16 garlic knots.
    6. We reheated the leftovers the next day in our toaster oven at 325 degrees for about 8 minutes, wrapped in foil. I uncovered the knots with about 3 minutes left and they were perfect!


  7. Monday, July 15

    Apricot Peach Galette + A Giveaway!

    Looking for a super simple yet super scrumptious summer dessert? Look no further! I’ve got the perfect thing for you!

    apricot peach galette | thisweekfordinner.com

    I’ve worked with Libby’s a few times and they are always wonderful to work with! Most recently they challenged me to come up with a sweet brunch recipe using canned peaches and apricots. A galette immediately came to mind!

    apricot peach galette | thisweekfordinner.com

    I love making galettes because they are beautiful in a very rustic way, and they always taste great, especially with a bit of ice cream on top! The big bonus for me, however, is that they are super easy to make. You know how I love easy!

    apricot peach galette | thisweekfordinner.com

    apricot peach galette | thisweekfordinner.com

    I made this apricot peach galette for our little family and they gobbled it up! Cate and Nate even had seconds. Nate said he wished it was all apricots (he loves apricots) but Cate protested loudly that the peaches were her favorite part (she loves peaches). I’m sure you can play around with the fruit to your own taste, but I kind of like having both in there to keep things interesting!

    Libby's Giveaway | Williams-Sonoma Cherry Serving Tray Set | thisweekfordinner.com

    Before we get to the recipe, Libby’s has a lovely giveaway for you today! One lucky, randomly-selected reader will receive an assortment of Libby’s canned goods along with this gorgeous cherry serving tray set from Williams-Sonoma. (I’m completely jealous and wish I could enter this giveaway myself!) Here’s now to enter:

    • Post any comment you like! Simple as that! (Maybe join in the debate with Nate and Cate…peaches or apricots or both?)
    • Bonus Entry: Visit Libby’s Recipe App on Facebook and tell us your favorite recipe or the one you want to try most!
    • Be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry.
    • All comments must be posted by Midnight, PT on Saturday, July 20.

    Thank you to Libby’s for sponsoring today’s post and for providing this giveaway! You can visit Libby’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or on their website.

    apricot peach galette | thisweekfordinner.com

    Without further ado, I give you Apricot Peach Galette!

    Apricot Peach Galette + A Giveaway!
     
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Ingredients
    • 1 store-bought, refrigerated 9-inch pie crust OR ½ recipe for Pate Brisee from Martha Stewart (the pate brisee is delicious and easy to make, but a store-bought crust is even easier and still super yummy!)
    • 1 can Libby’s sliced peaches or 3 fresh peaches, sliced
    • 1 can Libby’s apricot halves or ~8 fresh apricots, halved and pitted
    • Juice from ½ lemon (about 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice)
    • 3 pinches of salt
    • 1 – 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (aka sugar in the raw)
    • 1 egg, whisked with a bit of water
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Place pie crust or rolled out pate brisee (when you halve the Martha Stewart recipe, you should roll it out to about 12 inches or so) on a rimmed cooking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Drain peaches and apricots. Slice apricot halves into thirds. Place drained peaches and apricots on center of crust in an even pile, leaving about a 2-3 inch border of crust around the fruit (if you use the store-bought crust, your border will be a bit smaller than the pate brisee). Drizzle fruit with lemon juice, sprinkle with pinches of salt, then fold edges of crust up around the sides. You can be as tidy or as sloppy as you like with the edges – it comes out pretty either way!
    3. Once the border is folded up around the sides, brush the “crust” lightly but thoroughly with the egg wash. Sprinkle the crust liberally with turbinado sugar, and feel free to toss a few crystals of sugar on the fruit, too.
    4. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the crust has browned nicely. Remove from the oven, let cool a few minutes, then serve. If you let it cool a little longer, you can usually transfer the galette easily to a serving platter using a few flat spatulas and some care.

    apricot peach galette last shot | thisweekfordinner.com


  8. Sunday, July 14

    Week 338 Menu

    Another week, another menu! Time is flying by far too quickly!

    socialluxe

    The annual blogger party SocialLuxe Lounge that I co-host each summer is in less than two weeks, which means I’m pretty much a crazy person right now. I have so much to do this week it’s giving me heart palpitations (literally). Just one day at a time, right? I’m not entirely sure when I’m going to make dinner, but I’m getting a plan down anyway. Last week was busy and the plan helped tremendously. I actually followed last week’s menu to a T!

    MONDAY:
    – Mac and Cheese (the freezer kind from Trader Joe’s)
    – Salad and/or fresh fruit

    TUESDAY:
    – Chicken tenders
    – Sautéed zucchini

    WEDNESDAY:
    Beef Stew

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRiDAY:
    Pizza Port (We are so excited to have a Pizza Port just minutes from our new house!)

    SATURDAY:
    – Hamburgers
    – Corn on the cob and fruit

    SUNDAY:
    – Definitely breakfast for dinner…I will be packing and getting ready for our big month-long trip to the east coast!

    You know the drill, friends! Please post your menu for the week! As always, I really appreciate everyone posting every week. You guys are amazing!


  9. Friday, July 12

    House Stuff: Meet My Camo Counters and My Non-Camo Carpets

    We bought our house from an elderly woman who lived here for years and years. We are really lucky because she loved her home and spared no expense when making updates. There are a few things we could do if we really cared, but, honestly, the house is completely move-in ready and comfortable the way it is.

    The first thing we did, though, was take out the acoustic (a.k.a. popcorn) ceilings. Our new house is actually 45 years old, so, you know, it’s got some 45-year-old features. We had the ceilings done before we moved in since it’s pretty messy. For the most part it was an easy process and not too expensive, although we have to keep calling the ceiling guy back to fix bubbling spots he missed. I pray I never have to do any real construction because, holy smokes, there is always something with those guys! We hardly did any work and still…I can’t even imagine doing a big project!

    Anyway, back to the woman who owned our house. She remodeled the kitchen about 10 years ago and, while I may have picked different colors, she did a really nice job and everything is very neutral and high quality. The kitchen is great and I have been reeeeeeallllly happy using it! We have some appliance updating to do (more on that in future blog posts!), but other than that, I am loving the kitchen.

    I do need to take a moment, however, to introduce you to my granite countertops.

    camouflage granite countertops | thisweekfordinner.com

    My new counters have a very special talent: camouflage. I’m not exaggerating when I say you absolutely cannot see ANYTHING on the counter surface. No matter what color the debris or crumbs, light or dark, it all just blends in. Even when you look closely. It’s almost magical.

    The jury is still out on whether or not camo counters are a good thing. On the plus-side, they always look clean no matter what is going on. Big bonus! On the minus-side, they always look clean no matter what is going on. I mean, I could live in absolute squalor and never know it. (Well, unless I touched them!) Does anyone else have camo counters? Should I be grateful for them or curse their existence? I can’t decide!

    Regardless of the camouflage abilities, I am just so happy the counters are not tile. Tile counters NEVER look clean and the last 6 months with tile was just one constant battle with crumbs. I will never voluntarily get tile counters. EVER.

    My mother-in-law is getting Wilsonart HD counters installed at her home very soon. I’ll definitely report back on how those turn out and how we all like them! They are definitely more affordable than something like granite, and they have a lot of great features.

    white carpet | thisweekfordinner.com

    Now I need to introduce you to my carpets. While my counters may camouflage everything on their surface, our carpets most decidedly do not have this ability. The previous owner obviously spent a lot of money on the carpet because it’s really high quality. But it is also white. SO EXCITED. White carpets are going to be AWESOME with three kids! Especially in the area where the kitchen table goes. WOOHOO! {Insert sarcastic emoticon.}

    Eventually we want to put some hardwood floors in the living room, dining area and hallway. If anyone has advice or products they liked for putting in hard floors, please share!

    Last year for SocialLuxe Lounge, Bissell was one of our platinum sponsors, sharing the Spot Bot deep cleaner with the bloggers at the party. I received a Spot Bot for free, which I was super excited about. But then we didn’t really live in places where I could use it. Until now! Hello, white carpets! Meet the Spot Bot!

    For real, I love this thing. It’s super easy to use and it does a great job getting the spots and stains out of the carpet. Once I got started, I became a stain-fighting fanatic. I had to stop myself from doing the whole house so I could get other tasks done!

    I need to go get cooking in my new kitchen! We are doing a small housewarming-and-happy-birthday-Nate party tonight – our first party in the new house! Wish me luck!


  10. Wednesday, July 10

    Dole Taste of Spain Salad Summit

    One of my favorite places on earth is the coast between Big Sur and Monterey. When we lived in the Bay Area, the Monterey/Carmel area was our go-to weekend getaway spot and we have many fond family memories from those trips. Both towns are quaint and fun, but the coastline is what we really love. It is, quite simply, breathtaking. About a month or so ago I was invited by the team at Dole Salads to visit beautiful Carmel and attend the Taste of Spain Salad Summit with a great group of bloggers. Of course I had to go!

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    The trip was really wonderful. I had the chance to connect and re-connect with some really lovely bloggers (see list here!), the Dole Salads team was wonderful to work with, and it was very interesting getting a peak into how Dole produces their food (more on that in a moment). Dole put us up at the Carmel Valley Ranch hotel (which was AMAZING) and fed us an abundance of Spanish-inspired food. It was heavenly!

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    As I often mention, I am constantly thinking about how food production and food consumption impact Mother Earth. My new year’s resolution each year is always focused on that theme. When I say I’m constantly thinking about environmental issues, I’m not exaggerating. It’s maybe kind of an obsession.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    Over the years we’ve modified and cut back on our meat consumption in order to make a positive environmental impact. As a result, I’m always on board with getting people to eat more fruits and vegetables, no matter where the produce comes from. Produce always requires less water and energy for production than meat does, so by eating more of those foods we are automatically using less valuable resources.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    But I am still also concerned about industrialized farming and the increased use of monoculture over the past few decades. The concern with monoculture is that by growing one particular crop over a large area, the plants are more susceptible to disease, which in turns necessitates the use of pesticides (bad for our bodies and the environment) or GMO plants (which are engineered to be resistent to bugs – the jury is still out on the impact of GMOs on our health and the environment).

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    Needless to say, I was very happy that Dole invited me on the trip and I couldn’t wait to see their farms and talk with them about how Dole produces food.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | farmer

    We started our day driving to the beautiful Salinas Valley, where more than 80% of our country’s salad greens are grown. First we met one of the Dole growers (a.k.a. farmers). He was kind, humble and obviously loved his job. This particular farmer was growing iceberg lettuce. We learned that the crops are constantly rotated and that any food left behind during harvest is tilled back into the soil. We also learned the Dole does not use GMO plants but that they do use some pesticides. When we talked with the farmer about this, he mentioned how he lives on the farm and is raising his children there, so obviously he uses as little as he possibly can. He also said that if there was more business/demand for organic, he would gladly switch to that type of farming. It was really great meeting and talking with him and seeing the passion he has for his job.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | harvest

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | harvest

     

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | harvest

     

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | harvest

    Once the lettuce is grown, Dole hires harvesters to pick the produce. The farmer actually has no part in the harvest of the food. His job is to grow the food and keep the soil healthy. We watched a crew of harvesters picking lettuce and sending it up the conveyer belt, to be delivered to the packaging plant nearby. There were tanks of chlorinated water nearby, which is sprayed on the lettuce was soon as it is harvested. (More on the chlorinated water in a moment!)

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | packaging

    Once the lettuce reaches the packaging plant, it is washed several times (in chlorinated and non-chlorinated water), cut, and packaged in super duper high-tech packaging that is designed to keep the lettuce fresh.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com | hairnets

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    My big takeaways were as follows:

    • Safety is of the utmost importance to Dole. All along the process the food is kept safe with different rules and procedures, including hairnets for everyone at the farm!
    • Freshness is right up there with safety. From the way the food is handled to the packaging, every effort is made to deliver tasty, good-looking food to the consumer.
    • We asked specifically about the use of chlorinated water and were told that it is food-grade and used to keep the food safe. As a person who tries to eat produce as locally as possible and mostly organic, I must admit that the use of chlorinated water gave me pause. The thing is, there are a LOT of people to feed and we are demanding large amounts of the same types of foods, which necessitates these safety measures. I don’t think the chlorinated water used on this particular iceberg lettuce is necessarily hurting any of us on its own (and testing shows that it is safe), but I can’t help but wonder what the cumulative effect of all of the food we eat that is produced in this way has on our bodies and health, not to mention the environment. And I don’t know what the solution is. GMOs have not yet been proven to be harmful, but there are still big questions about their true impact. We know pesticides are no good, but if we aren’t using GMOs, we need the pesticides to produce large quantities of food. It really is a catch 22 and we just keep circling around and around. We need to feed people, that’s the bottom line. Right now, this is how it is done for the most part.
    • Dole tries to grow food as locally as possible. Obviously pineapples can’t be grown everywhere, but when they can,  Dole does grow food as close to the place where it will be bought as possible. Yes, it’s not true local farming, but it is a start and I appreciate a large corporation making that effort.
    • Dole also produces organic products. Let’s demand more of it so we can start to shift how our food is produced! We hold the keys to change!

    The trip provided a great deal of food for thought (pun intended!) for me. I’m really glad I had the chance to talk with Dole and see first-hand what they are all about. The company has a really positive vibe and I walked away from the weekend feeling good, even with the bigger questions about our food system bumping about my brain.

    dole taste of spain salad summit | thisweekfordinner.com

    Thank you to Dole for inviting me to attend the Taste of Spain Salad Summit. I am so happy they included me on the trip! Now, everyone go eat some salad!

    For Dole recipes and to enter the Taste of Spain giveaway (you could win a $40,000 trip to Spain!), please visit www.dolesalads.com.