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  1. Sunday, May 11

    Week 381 Menu

    Happy Mother’s Day! My mom is in town and Nate, my dad and the kids served us a fabulous breakfast in bed. I’m taking it easy today and am going to get this menu planned as quickly as possible. I hope you’re all having a beautiful day celebrating the great women in your life!

    weekly dinner plans from @janemaynard with free printable menu and shopping list

    MONDAY:
    – I’m traveling to Chicago to interview some senior folks at McDonald’s. If you have questions, feel free to leave them here! Can’t promise I will get to them all, but would love to find out what you’re interested in.
    – Family at home will fend for themselves with Grandma and Grandpa!

    TUESDAY:
    Rachel sandwiches
    – Fruit and salad

    WEDNESDAY:
    Homemade Pizza (we ended up making tortilla soup on Mother’s Day instead)

    THURSDAY:
    Chili

    FRIDAY:
    – Take out

    SATURDAY:
    – Grill night (hot dogs, hamburgers, etc)

    SUNDAY:
    – Swedish pancakes and fruit (I keep not making Swedish pancakes and Cate is getting mad at me, so we have to make it happen this week!)

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

    You know the drill – please share your dinner plans for the week, too!


  2. Friday, May 9

    Friday Show and Tell

    Happy Friday!

    First, if you haven’t already, go read this excerpt from Rob Lowe’s new book. It’s a tear jerker and beautifully written. And, amazingly, I love Rob Lowe even more than I did before.

    sangria recipe roundupPhoto source: Diethood

    Just a few fun posts from Cosmo to share with you today!

    Okay, you know the drill. Show and tell means share your stuff! Anything is game!


  3. Wednesday, May 7

    Great Guacamole Tip

    I’m kind of in an avocado groove. I mean, I still have 15 avocados sitting on my counter from last Saturday, so how can I not be?!

    easy and delicious guacamole from @janemaynard

    Remember how my cousin Jamie visited a few weeks ago? When she was here she not only made a list of kitchen equipment she had to buy, but she also walked away with pizza baking tips (separate post to come!) and a tip for making guacamole that got her about as excited as the the scizza did!

    We decided to have burritos and tacos one night. Jamie and I went to the store together and she mentioned she needed to grab some tomatoes and onions for the guacamole. I kept saying, “Using salsa is a nice shortcut,” and then she would say, “I love putting fresh tomatoes in guacamole,” and I would mention salsa and she’d mention tomatoes. Basically we were both nicely telling each other we do it differently, thank you very much. 😉

    But then we got home and started to actually make the guacamole. I pulled out some chunky salsa and Jamie gave it a try. And she almost immediately saw the light!

    quick tip for making great guacamole from @janemaynard

    So, here’s the deal. You can chop tomatoes and onions for guacamole, but if you have chunky salsa (or even un-chunky salsa, in a pinch), you totally do not need to! The chunky salsa adds in the tomatoes and onions (and a few bell peppers, too!) without any of the chopping. Plus, the salsa adds a bit of extra flavor that is perfect for guacamole. Later that night Jamie brought it up again, telling me how awesome the using salsa in guacamole trick was!

    Please note: Don’t get too heavy-handed with the salsa! You want to add a few yummy chunks in there, as well as some flavor, but if you put too much in, it can make the guacamole “mooshier,” if you know what I mean. For a fresher, chunkier guacamole, go lighter on the salsa, but of course, play with it and find your favorite mix of ingredients!

    I wrote a post all about guacamole several years ago, including a “cheater’s” recipe for guacamole. Click here for the recipe and even more guac tips!


  4. Tuesday, May 6

    Pitting and Cutting Avocados the Awesome Way and More Avocado Fun

    I just learned a tip for pitting and cutting avocados that will change your life. Seriously. It’s amazing and yet so simple, I really can’t believe I never figured it out before now!

    pitting and cutting avocados from @janemaynard

    Last Saturday I had the chance to learn all about avocados and see the entire growing and packing process. The California Avocado Commission invited me for a day of touring a nursery, a grove and a packing facility as well as a delicious, avocado-packed lunch. It was such a fun day and I met all kinds of interesting people, from other bloggers to food service and restaurant professionals to registered dietitians for grocery stores. During the lunch, Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD from Fiber is the Future did a recipe demo for the group and shared this marvelous tip for cutting avocados.

    visiting an avocado tree nursery with the california avocado commission by @janemaynard

    Here’s how I’ve always cut and pitted avocados: I would cut the avocado in half, whack the pit with a sharp knife, twist and pull the pit out, then scoop the fruit out with a spoon. I think, quite honestly, the most dangerous part of this process was getting the pit off the the knife once it was out of the avocado. Scary stuff. Despite the high level of danger, I was pretty good at it and thought it was the best way…until now!

    Katie shared the following technique. I used it last night when making guacamole and I can’t even tell you how awesome it is. The avocado pieces come out beautifully and no dangerous knife throwing is involved. Also, the pits are a cinch to remove. Are you ready? Here we go! I even made a VIDEO for you. Yes, video. I’ve been resisting forever, but decided to finally bite the bullet. Here goes nothin’!

    Here’s a quick recap, with photos and the steps written out:

    pitting and cutting avocados by @janemaynard

    • Cut the avocado into QUARTERS. Slice the knife through to the pit lengthwise, then rotate 90º and slice through again, so that the avocado is cut into four pieces but still remains attached to the pit.
    • Hold the avocado in your hand and twist. The pieces should start falling away from the pit quite easily. The last piece will hang onto the pit for dear life, but just twist the pit a little with your hands and it should pop off pretty easily.
    • Peel away the skin – no spoon or scooping required!

    Voilà! Perfectly pitted avocados, ready for you to slice and cut to your heart’s content!

    I thought I would also share some photos from the big avocado day because it was really cool.

    Our first stop was at the Persea Tree Nursery in Fallbrook, CA, where we saw the growing process from pit to tree! First, the pits are planted in a greenhouse where they sprout and grow and grow and GROW.

    growing avocado trees at persea tree nursery in california by @janemaynard

    Then those sprouts are cut down and the type of avocado you want is grafted on, up to four grafts per sprout. This is the point in the process where the variety of tree is determined. We had the chance to watch two women actually graft the trees, which was fascinating.

    grafting avocado trees at persea tree nursery in california by @janemaynard

    As the root systems grow and mature, the grafted “trees” are then cut off from the original sprout and planted, giving you a little avocado tree! It’s amazing how fast the trees grow (the tree in the second photo below is only a few months old). The trees will start to fruit in a year and you’ll have your first harvest in two years.

    brand new avocado trees at persea tree nursery by @janemaynard

    At this point the growers buy and plant the trees in their groves. The visit to Sierra Pacific Farms target=”blank” was equally as interesting and the groves were beautiful. A few things we learned: avocados must be harvested by hand, the trees are pruned to about 12-14 feet tall but will grow forever if you let them, a good grove has a thick ground cover of leaves, avocados do not ripen on the tree and can be stored there for quite some time until the farmers are ready to harvest, and the irrigation at a farm like this one is incredibly high tech and sophisticated. We also ate lunch in a beautiful spot among the groves, with food created by the chef from Sorrel Restaurant/Bistro in Temecula.

    sierra pacific farms avocado grove by @janemaynard

    As avocados are harvested they are placed in these bins which then travel to to a facility to be packed and shipped.

    avocado grove by @janemaynard

    We visited West Pak Avocado in Murrieta, CA. A few key takeaways: the process is very efficient, fast and high tech, the people who work at West Pak are equally as efficient and fast, and I can’t believe how many avocados they can pack in one day! The woman pictured below was adorable. She was all smiles until she got back to work, and then it was all business. The way she tossed the avocados from one hand to the other for packing in the box was lightning fast.

    west pak avocado packing by @janemaynard

    It was a great day and I learned soooooo much. I am also now bound and determined to grow an avocado tree in our own yard!


  5. Sunday, May 4

    Week 380 Menu

    Hello! It’s time to get down to business and plan this week’s dinners! It was HOT here last week, so I ended up not cooking as much as I planned and we had leftover tacos I think three times! And we roasted hot dogs on the beach last night. It was pretty much perfect. This week is supposed to be cooler, so back to the kitchen I go!

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

    MONDAY:
    – Pesto Tortellini Soup with crusty bread

    TUESDAY:
    – Grammy’s Orange Chicken
    – Rice and veggie

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Swedish pancakes and fruit

    THURSDAY:
    – Leftovers

    FRIDAY:
    – Take out night

    SATURDAY:
    – Hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill
    – Stuff that goes good with BBQ food (we’ll see what’s at the store and go from there!)

    SUNDAY:
    – Mother’s Day! My mom will be here – yay! I think we’ll do homemade pizza night with some fancy pizzas. Definitely honey goat cheese and caramelized onions. I have another flavor I want to experiment with, too (more on that later!).
    – Salad

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


  6. Friday, May 2

    Friday Show and Tell

    Happy Friday!

    Just two things today. First, Emma Stone’s lip sync battle with Jimmy Fallon. (Side note: I can totally do that Blues Traveler song NO PROBLEM. In fact, it came on the radio a few weeks ago and Nate couldn’t believe I could rattle off all those words. All this means is that Emma and I are totally soul sisters.)

    And just one link for Cosmo this week, but it’s a great one!

    Show and tell time. Share whatever you want!


  7. Thursday, May 1

    Chocolate Chunk Shortbread and Fair Trade Brunch

    Today I’m excited to partner with Fair Trade USA to celebrate Mother’s Day through their Moms Make a World of Difference efforts. Today’s post is full of goodies, including a delicious recipe for the Fair Trade Brunch, a really awesome giveaway, and the story of a mother in Rwanda who’s life has been improved thanks to fair trade practices. I studied international relations and women’s studies in college and these issues have long been dear to my heart, so I’m more than delighted to help spread the word!

    chocolate chunk shortbread | celebrating moms who make a world of difference through fair trade | by @janemaynard

    Fair trade benefits all of the farmers it touches, but I can see how it is especially helpful for women. So many women in developing countries are tasked with both supporting their families monetarily and being the primary caregiver for the children. The burden can be great, but I have heard stories time and again about real women in these countries who, through fair and good employment, are able to not only provide for their families financially but also spend more time with their children.

    fair trade usa | quote from rwandan worker and mother mukantelina soline | from @janemaynard

    As I started looking through the Moms Make a World of Difference website, this quote from Mukantelina Soline, a mom and coffee farmer in Rwanada, really stood out to me: “Growing coffee is hard work, but it is work that I love because it helps me improve the lives of my children.” Let me preface my next comment with this – I always feel incredibly blessed and grateful for my work and my situation. But that doesn’t mean that the stress of working and being the primary caregiver in our home doesn’t sometimes get to me. Even though my life and my work is different than Mukantelina’s, reading her words made me feel a kinship with her. It also made me realize that, when the stress starts to get me down, I just need to be grateful.

    fair trade usa | rwandan worker and mother mukantelina soline | from @janemaynard

    As I read more of Mukantelina’s story, I learned that she has three children – one in school, one who can’t go to school due to chronic illness, and a third who joins her as she works each day. By joining the Dukunde Kawa Coffee Cooperative in 2003, Mukantelina has received extra support with the processing and sale of her coffee as well as additional income. Now she spends more time with her family, and she has been able to get electricity for their home and a cow to provide milk for the family. This is why fair trade products are so amazing – when you buy these products, you know that it is making a real difference in real lives.

    chocolate chunk shortbread | celebrating moms who make a world of difference through fair trade | by @janemaynard

    To prepare for the Fair Trade Brunch, Fair Trade USA sent me a box of goodies from 12 of their partner companies. SO MUCH GOODNESS. I was challenged to come up with a recipe for their online Mother’s Day brunch that uses 2 of the ingredients. I knew I had to use the Guittard chocolate because I’m completely obsessed with their chocolate (theirs are the only chocolate chips I buy and I can’t tell you how happy I am that I can finally get them at almost all grocery stores!). There was also a bag of brown muscovado sugar by India Tree that intrigued me. I thought about recipes that really feature brown sugar and shortbread immediately came to mind. And then I got cooking!

    fair trade guittard baking chocolate and india tree muscovado sugar from @janemaynardfair trade chocolate chunk shortbread from @janemaynard

    These simple shortbread cookies are, quite simply, delicious. The buttery, brown sugar flavor pairs nicely with the little punches of chocolate. These cookies would be a great addition to a brunch – a little something sweet that’s not too sweet. They are also good for just eating any old time. Like right now while I’m typing this post. (I literally just walked into the kitchen to get one!)

    fair trade goodies giveaway from @janemaynardThe winner of the giveaway was Kim, who said, “Your cookies look fabulous!” Thanks, Kim! And I hope you enjoy all your goodies (I’m sure you will)!

    Before we get to the recipe, let’s do a giveaway! One of you lucky, randomly-selected people will win the same goodie box that I received. Here is what you’ll get!

    Here is how to enter the giveaway! (All comments must be posted by midnight PT on Sunday, May 11 and prize must be shipped to a U.S. address.)

    Now, let’s make some yummy shortbread!

    making fair trade chocolate chunk shortbread from @janemaynard (>> Find out more…)