Thursday, July 24
Friends, I need to do a follow-up post about scoops because I didn’t realize a little something about my scoops until now. My sister-in-law Cora said that I needed to do a follow-up!
Three years ago I wrote a post about how you absolutely need a scoop (or two) in your kitchen. I still firmly stand by that advice. HOWEVER…I learned this summer that there is a second bit of advice that I should have also included that I didn’t know was important. Not only do you need a scoop (or two), you need a Pampered Chef scoop.
Here’s the deal. When I went to New Jersey this summer I made cookies at my mom’s house. When I went to make the cookie dough balls, I got out the scoop that I had given her last year, a scoop that I had purchased at Michael’s and was not cheap, by the way. As I pulled it out of the drawer, my sister-in-law said, “Ugh, I’ve gone through three scoops since you wrote that post about scoops. They always break on me!” I was stunned to hear this.
And then I started scooping dough and the scoop kept getting jammed and the little swivel thingy kept getting pulled into the wrong place. It was basically the biggest pain ever. Cora was aboslutely right. The scoop could not handle a batch of cookie dough. It kinda blew my mind.
I have NEVER had any issues whatsoever with my Pampered Chef scoops. They are in the exact same condition as the day I got them, they never get jammed, they have never broken and I can make a billion cookie dough balls with no issues. Cora and I realized that my advice to “Get a scoop” really should have been “Get a Pampered Chef scoop.” I had no idea that it made such a difference!
Pampered Chef sells three sizes of scoops:
- Large Scoop (~3 tablespoons): perfect for making pancakes and filling muffin tins.
- Medium Scoop (~2 tablespoons): perfect for standard-sized cookies
- Small Scoop (~1 tablespoon): also good for cookies, just smaller ones
If you’re only going to get one scoop, go with the medium, especially if you’re getting it specifically for making cookies. It’s a great size.
This post is in no way sponsored by Pampered Chef. I just needed to tell you how much better their scoops are! And also apologize if you, like Cora, have been feeling frustrated the the scoop you may have gotten based on my advice.
Also, as usual, I love your feedback! If you have another brand of scoop that is equally as awesome as my Pampered Chef scoops, please share it with us!
Tuesday, July 22
My parents recently moved to northern New Jersey, very close to the New York border. It is absolutely beautiful where they live, complete with rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. This is the third summer that we’ve visited them at their new home but the first summer that we made two really great discoveries – Dairy Swirl in Vernon, New Jersey and the little town of Warwick, New York.
First, let’s talk ice cream. Dairy Swirl is literally five minutes from my parents’ home but, for some reason, we never went until this year. And that is a crime because it is awesome. They serve homemade ice cream in all kinds of wonderful flavors that are creative but make total sense. You know, nothing crazy, just all completely wonderful combinations of ingredients. And just outside the shop there are these giant rocks embedded in the side of the hill that are perfect for sliding. The kids could have stayed there all day. If you’re ever in northern New Jersey near Vernon, be sure to stop in!
After you hit the Dairy Swirl, keep driving north about 30 minutes to the town of Warwick, NY. Again, I don’t know why we never ventured to Warwick before but I’m so glad that we did! The town is adorable, with lots of little shops and restaurants, a cute town green where they play live music on the weekends, farmstands and more. I can only imagine how beautiful it is in the fall when the leaves are aflame!
My dad and I spent a few hours in Warwick with all three kids, so we kept the visit simple: lunch, dessert and a visit to the local bookstore. After lunch at Eddie’s Roadhouse (the filet sliders were awesome, the ribeye steak was just okay according to my dad), we hopped over to Corbett’s Cookie Bar Kitchen, where we had a really fun chat with the owners. They’ve been open about a year and only serve cookie bars. I love talking to small business owners who are so passionate about what they do – I really admire them because I am too chicken to do anything like that! The carmelita was our favorite flavor – it was like taking a big bite out of the best cookie dough. And the Mexican brownie was my other favorite. One bar is enough for 2-3 people, by the way, so pace yourself!
After stuffing ourselves silly, we took the kids to Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe. This bookstore is tiny and like a maze of book shelves, which I love. The kids’ section is tucked in a back corner and the kids and I spent a lot of time back there. Basically, we loved it.
Quick side note: another 10 minutes north there is an even smaller town called Sugar Loaf that also has some really cute shops, where you can buy things like handmade candles and soaps.
So, this fall when you east coasters are wondering where you should take a drive to enjoy the leaves, head over to the Warwick Valley. You can’t go wrong! (For that matter it was perfectly fun in the summer, too!)
Sunday, July 20
Hello! We are home from vacation and I am getting back into the cooking groove! After such a long break I am actually really looking forward to it.
Before we get to this week’s dinner plans, I need to tell you about the dinner that Nate and I had last night. Today is our 15th wedding anniversary (TIME FLIES! Happy anniversary, Nate!). Last night Veladora at the Rancho Valencia hotel in Rancho Santa Fe hosted us for dinner to celebrate. There are no words for how wonderful our evening was, but I’m going to give it a try! (Seriously, in the time it took for us to drive off the hotel property we must have said, “That dinner was awesome!” twenty times.) First of all, the food. Ahhh, the food. Nate ordered prime rib cap and I was treated to scallops. Both dishes were unreal. The rib cap was a beautiful cut of meat cooked to perfection, and my scallops were paired with three different corn sides that complemented the scallops beautifully. All of the food we had was wonderful, right down to the 18-year old balsamic vinegar for dipping the focaccia. Chef Matt came out to meet us at the end of our meal and it was so interesting talking with him about the food, how the menu is developed and modified with the seasons, as well as his own career path. Beyond the food, the serving staff was stellar and the restaurant itself was beautiful. The best part was that, despite the high caliber of the restaurant, we felt comfortable and relaxed, thanks to both the setting and the staff. Oh, and they gave us a little gift on the way out the door that was, of course, a tasty treat. It was truly the perfect way to celebrate our latest life milestone. Thank you, Veladora, for a night we will not soon forget.
Despite the fact that I pretty much don’t want to eat any other food ever after Veladora, real life dictates that I still have to feed my family. So, back to the weekly menu!
- Caprese salad with crusty bread
- Stewed green beans
- Taco night
- Grammy’s Orange Chicken
- Rice and veggie
- Takeout night
- Chicken on the grill
- Corn on the cob and watermelon
- Spinach and strawberry salad
Big THANKS to all of you who continued posting menus the last few weeks while I took a break. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!
As usual, please share your menu for the week! Plain or fancy, we want to see it all!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 1:39 pm 20 Comments
Categories: fab faves, way gourmet, weekly menus Tags: dinner plans, free printable, meal plan, menu plan, PRINTABLE MEAL PLAN, rancho valencia, restaurants, shopping list, veladora, weekly menu, weekly menu planning |
Thursday, July 3
As you know from my non-existent weekly menus, we are on a multi-week trip visiting our family in the Northeast! We started our trip in New Hampshire and I wanted to share a little of the fun we had in that beautiful place.
To start, well, you know, when in Rome…
Pat, my mother-in-law, got a good deal on a ONE GALLON JUG of maple syrup so she had to buy it. I just wish I could take some on the plane with me! Owen was hilarious when we took pictures of him with the bottle (don’t worry, he had a diaper on!), but when we actually let him stick a straw in the bottle to drink, he refused. Shocking, I tell you.
For dinner one night we visited Kimball Farm in Jaffrey, NH and thoroughly gorged ourselves. For you New Englanders out there you’ve probably been to Kimball’s already and know just how yummy it is. We ordered quite the assortment of food, including to-die-for fish and chips, lobster roll, clam chowder, and onion nuggets. And, of course, NO salad.
We ended the night with Kimball’s homemade ice cream. See that there cone? That is the smallest size you can order. For a little perspective, that is a giant waffle cone being held by Nate. Ice cream insanity!
Another day we returned to Hillsborough Center to show Nate how beautifully magical this little village is. And to give Cate a chance to properly leap over puddles.
On a side note, we are loving the Highlander Hybrid that Toyota lent to us for the trip. It’s sooooo nice having a big car that gets almost 30 miles to the gallon, especially since we’ve already driven almost 1,000 miles! Plus, it’s just a really nice car. Nate’s great aunt couldn’t get over it, in fact. And it drives so quietly and smoothly. Basically, we’re taking it on the plane home with us.
Wednesday, June 4
Until a few years ago I had zero serving trays or platters to my name. For some reason, I didn’t get any as wedding gifts and then never thought to buy any. I finally acquired a few white ceramic serving platters. They’re nice and all but, honestly, I hardly ever use them. They just aren’t very versatile and are too heavey for easy, everyday use. And, even with those few platters, I still didn’t own any actual trays.
The trays pictured above are from Q Squared NYC’s Montecito line. These are the trays we probably use the most. Nate was especially happy on Mother’s Day when they had a tray to bring me breakfast in bed!
A few months ago when I started working with Q Squared NYC, they sent me several serving trays and platters. Suddenly I was flush with melamine serving trays in different sizes and shapes, and every last one of them was completely adorable.
These fun kids serving trays have come in especially handy for snack time during playdates! My kids think they’re super cute and I don’t have to worry about anyone breaking anything!
When I first discovered Q Squared, I was mostly excited about their dishes and flatware. Little did I know my most favorite items would be the serving trays! The longer I have them, the more I realize how much I was missing out all these years. They come in handy all the time, both for everyday use and when entertaining. I really love that they are made of melamine. The trays and platters are so much lighter than something made from ceramic, so I actually pull them out all the time. They’re easy to carry and perfect for taking outside. Basically, I can’t live without them now!
This serving platter is from the beautiful Heritage line.
If you don’t have any melamine serving trays or platters, I highly recommend getting one (or two or three!).
More from the Montecito line, this time the serving platters.
Three cheers for serving trays! Hip, hip, hooray! (Yeah, I’m a little crazy, but I really am in love!)
This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.
Friday, May 23
Happy Friday! I have a few fun things to share today!
First, how did I not know about Derek before this week? SO GOOD. Derek is a comedy-drama from Ricky Gervais that is on Netflix and I watched the whole season in one day. (I was sick in bed and Derek was the only upside to that incredibly boring day!) I’m gonna say it even though it’s cheesy – this show will make you laugh and it will make you cry. And cry some more. I seriously love this show.
Second, I discovered a cool website started by a friend of a friend called With Love, From Brooklyn. The friend of a friend is chef Dara and her site features gift sets made of artisan treats from Brooklyn. The site is filled with all kinds of deliciousness and super cool stuff, including some really fun ideas for Father’s Day. So fun!
Here are my posts on Cosmo this week!
- 15 Creamy Cinnamon Rolls You Need Immediately
- 20 Absolutely Amazing Avocado Recipes
- 20 Wonderful Waffle Recipes You Need to Try
- 14 Completely Perfect Key Lime Desserts
I’m done! Now it’s your turn to share!
Thursday, May 15
My dad is in town visiting right now, so I thought it would be fun to watch a movie with him and the kids and make a treat to go along with it. As I was trying to think of a fun movie-themed treat, I couldn’t help but think about Arrested Development and the banana stand. But since Arrested Development isn’t exactly geared towards the elementary-school set, I had to get a little creative. Here was my crazy thought process.
First, my dad grew up in the Costa Mesa-Newport Beach area. Balboa Island is famous for its chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, something Nate and I have gotten with the kids on vacation before. Not only do I have memories of eating frozen bananas with my kids, but my dad has his own memories of eating them when he was growing up, too. (Pssst, my dad has a secret: he never really liked the bananas. We, on the other hand, do!)
Second, Nate and I were diehard Arrested Development fans when it was first airing. Like, before it was on Netflix and got all trendy and cool. (Don’t get me wrong, I love that it’s on Netflix and I can watch it whenever I get a hankering for a loose seal or two. Plus, Netflix gave us a new season, for which we will be forever grateful!)
Third, we are having a heatwave right now and I thought a frozen treat would be mighty delicious.
Fourth, I love the book Jumanji (I even have a first edition as a decoration in our living room) and was super excited when I found out the Jumanji movie was on Netflix (thanks to my sister for letting me know – she was obsessed with that movie when we were kids!). There are lots of monkeys in Jumanji. Monkeys love bananas. I hear they even go for frozen bananas occasionally.
Where does all this lead to? Homemade chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, of course! I decided frozen bananas would be a great treat to get us excited for watching Jumanji. And, after the kids went to bed, maybe a few episodes of Arrested Development, too.
This chocolate-dipped frozen banana recipe is super simple, and it is amazing how incredibly cute and professional-looking the bananas come out! Seriously, when I took them out of the freezer, Nate thought I had bought them at a store!
In addition to being fast and easy, Anna my 6-year-old was a huge help while making the bananas and we had a lot of fun cooking together.
So, basically, everything went as planned. Anna, Owen and I had a blast making frozen bananas together. We all had fun eating them with Grandpa (who liked the frozen bananas, by the way). And we watched Jumanji! Okay, well, some of us watched Jumanji. Anna totally chickened out and retreated to the bedroom, where she and Nate watched science shows together. But 3rd-grader Cate stuck it out with Grandpa and me. I told her we “had to finish the game no matter what!” when she was freaking out and wanting to run from the room. She told me we weren’t really playing the game. I told her the movie wasn’t really real. Luckily, we made it to the end and declared “Jumanji” in victory! (Okay, so that was Robin Williams, but who’s keeping track?)
Also, we have determined that there really is always money in the banana stand. The frozen bananas were so cute and so delicious Nate and the kids decided we should start a business. And that we would most certainly make a big fat profit on frozen bananas (there was math involved). And that the banana stand should be called “Jane’s Bananas” (10 points to Nate for the clever name). The whole time they were talking I just kept thinking “This is awesome blog post material.” They didn’t even know that I was going to be writing a post about the bananas we were eating. This post practically wrote itself, people.
Posted by Jane Maynard at 9:57 am 8 Comments
Categories: fab faves, featured recipes, netflix, Recipes, sweet things Tags: arrested development, chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, frozen bananas, jumanji, netflix, netflix stream team |
Tuesday, May 13
As I type I am sitting in a hotel room in Chicago. One of the hotel employees was saying she doesn’t even care that the weather here the last few days was completely hot, humid and uncomfortable because it was finally NOT WINTER. It was really cute. It also made me grateful (once again) we ended up settling in San Diego!
Regardless of where you live, however, the warm weather is finally here (okay, maybe too warm, but don’t forget that snow!). Warm weather means we can all finally enjoy some time outside. Nate and I (with the help of my sister Anne) recently gave our patio a makeover and it has made all the difference. Just wanted to share it with you and maybe give you some simple ideas for your own patio and backyard sprucing!
We purchased our home from the original owner. She lived her for over 40 years and took great care of the house, including putting in a beautiful yard and backyard patio. The patio area has a pergola, a gas line running out to the patio area, a fountain and beautiful plants all around. Every time I even look at the patio I feel beyond grateful.
When we moved in, all we had was an outdoor table and some chairs. It’s taken us almost a year, but we have finally given our patio a makeover and I cannot tell you what a difference it has made in our enjoyment of the area. We are definitely spending more time outside, especially for meals. And, we finally have a grill, which means we’ll be cooking outside more, too! By adding a few functional as well as decorative features to the patio, it really has become an extension of our indoor living space. AND I LOVE IT. Here’s what we did!
- Grill: We finally bought a grill (thanks for all of your great grill shopping advice a few months back)! We found a Weber natural gas grill at Lowe’s that we love. It’s espresso in color, which matches our home really nicely, and hooks into the natural gas line. It’s a mid-priced grill, so we feel like we were able to get something really nice that will last a long time but doesn’t cost a fortune. Our old grill was really old and junky – just having a thermometer on the lid gets me downright giddy! (Lowe’s also sells a propane version of this grill.)
- Fire pit: We bought an allen + roth wood fire pit for the backyard. We are planning to use it for the first time this week and the kids are ecstatic! The one we chose is lightweight but really pretty, so we’re keeping it stored in the patio area, but it is easy to move out from under the pergola into the yard for when we actually do a fire. And it was only $139! You don’t need one of those fancy built-in fire pits to enjoy the benefits! And we chose wood so we can roast food over the fire.
- Comfortable Seating: I think my favorite addition to the porch was adding comfortable seating. It was nice having a table and chairs, but they weren’t great if you just wanted to go outside and read a book or chat with a friend. We added a cushioned bench as well as an allen + roth cushioned outdoor rocking chair. I loooooove the rocking chair, just so you know.
- Pillows and more pillows! Not only do the pillows add some comfort, but they just look super cute and make the space look a lot more finished. If you do nothing else, spruce up your patio with some pillows! The girls fell in love with this allen + roth outdoor pillow with a bird on it. They insisted on getting that pillow, so I used it to set the color scheme for the rest of the pillows, which matched the cushions we already had.
- Lighting: I had already strung some clear bulb string lights on the pergola, but we added a few glass lanterns that hang from the posts and found these really pretty wood and glass lanterns by allen + roth (one is 11″ and the other is 8.5″ - please note that the lanterns online are natural wood color – we purchased ours at the store and the wood is much darker). I have pretty LED candles to go in all the lanterns. The large pillar LED candle I found at Lowe’s even has a timer setting, so if you forget to turn it off, no biggie!
- Plants: We started a succulent garden for two reasons. One, succulents are hard to kill. Two, they’re gorgeous. We bought a whole slew of succulent plants at Lowe’s and set them up in front of our fountain, in a spot where we had torn out some strange and messy plants. We also put a few succulent planters on tables throughout the patio.
Spring is here, go have some fun with your patio!
Lowe’s provided me with a gift card to purchase items for our patio makeover. All opinions are our own.
Tuesday, May 6
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!
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.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
As avocados are harvested they are placed in these bins which then travel to to a facility to be packed and shipped.
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.
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!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 1:02 pm 16 Comments
Categories: fab faves, Kitchen Tips, the goods Tags: california avocado commission, california avocados, cutting avocados, kitchen tips, pitting avocados |
Tuesday, April 29
Last summer on Cape Cod we ordered pizza from a restaurant in Falmouth called Stone L’Oven. Every last pizza we tried was delicious, but there were two flavors in particular that really stole my heart. I’ve been meaning to recreate them since July and finally got around to making one of them. (The second favorite flavor will have to remain a mystery until I can get a post together!)
Pizza is sort of becoming my thing. The last few times we’ve had guests over it’s what I’ve made. It’s great all hanging out while the pizzas come out of the oven, one-by-one. The cooking and the eating get all mixed up together and it’s a lot of fun. And, not to brag, I’ve gotten really good at making pizza. I am planning to write a comprehensive post with all the tips and tricks I have, but for now you’ll just have to settle for a totally amazing pizza flavor – fig and prosciutto.
THIS PIZZA. So good. It almost beats the honey goat cheese and caramelized onion pizza. (I’m coming to realize no pizza will ever actually beat that one, but coming close is an accomplishment!)
This pizza is the perfect combination of salty and sweet and is drizzled with a delectable balsamic glaze. It’s so tasty you won’t know what to do with yourself.
Also, my new trays from Q Squared NYC were perfect for pizza night. I just fall in love all over again every time I use Q Squared’s dishes! We’ve entertained a few times since my dishes arrived – they always come in handy (especially eating outside) and look gorgeous to boot. Love, love, love.