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Category: fab faves

  1. Thursday, April 17

    Spring Break Part 2: Anaheim!

    Time to share how we finished up our Spring Break last week! Once we were done having fun in Los Angeles, we hopped in the car and headed south 1 hour for a visit to Anaheim.

    I think in most people’s minds when you hear the word “Anaheim” you automatically think “Disneyland.” Disneyland is most certainly in Anaheim, but there is actually tons to do there in addition to visiting the Magical Kingdom. In the last few years the downtown area of Anaheim has been completely rebuilt, featuring local shops and restaurants. The Anaheim area has so much to offer (museums, sports, amusement parks, Medieval Times), you could easily spend a week staying in Anaheim and keeping incredibly busy! The other great thing is that there are so many hotels in town to choose from and many of them have shuttles that can take you to all the places you want to go. It’s basically a town built for vacation with the family and we have always had a blast when we visit. This time around we only had two days, so we visited Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. We also had the chance to stay in two hotels.

    What We Did!

    visit to knott's berry farm by @janemaynard

    Knott’s Berry Farm: Here’s the thing about Knott’s Berry Farm – it is totally fun, less expensive than Disneyland, and NEVER as crowded. As much as we absolutely love Disneyland, it is almost always filled to the brim with people, which can be a little overwhelming. Even on a busy day at Knott’s there is room to breathe and the lines don’t take hours to get through. Plus, our family loves Peanuts, and Camp Snoopy is perfect for the little ones. We also had lunch at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, where it all began. When you eat there, just eat a dozen biscuits and a few pieces of fried chicken and you should be all set. DELISH.

    visit to knott's berry farm by @janemaynard

    On our visit this time around we did a few things we had never done before, including the horse-drawn carriage ride and a ride on the narrow gauge steam engine. The carriage ride was actually really fun and the kids and I got to sit on top in front by the drivers. The steam engine was incredibly cool – it was the last working narrow-gauge engine in the U.S. when the Knott family purchased it for their park, and the cars you ride on are 130 years old. Owen is seriously obsessed with trains, so we chatted with the engineers for a bit and it was fascinating.

    visit to knott's berry farm by @janemaynardThis is the little train ride in Camp Snoopy, not the big steam engine. But the kids all look so happy here, I had to share. And, yes, this was the vacation of train rides. SO MANY TRAINS.

    Cate and I also did the Ghostrider roller coaster for the first time and, um, HOLY HEADACHE. Yes, that pile of wood you see below is a roller coaster. But Cate thought it was awesome, even “wilder than a buckin’ bronco!”

    the ghostrider at knott's berry farm by @janemaynard

    visit to knott's berry farm by @janemaynardWhen you’re 2 and you’re tired you just sit where you are.

    Disneyland: There is just something about Disneyland. Sure, it costs about a billion dollars to go. Sure, it’s almost always crowded. But it is also always magical. Everything there is just so well done and beautiful. We spent most of our day on this visit in California Adventure. Cate got to ride on Radiator Springs Racers THREE times (thanks to fast passes and the parent swap passes when you have a stroller). I think she also rode on California Screamin’ 4 times. Crazy girl!

    california screamin' at california adventure at disneyland by @janemaynard

    Cars Land will forever be my favorite part of visiting the Disney parks. It is just so BEAUTIFUL, both day and night. And the rides are all awesome.

    cars land at california adventure at disneyland by @janemaynard

    Oh, one more thing to mention! We have never ridden the entire train ride at Disneyland until this visit. The kids LOVED it. We had no idea there were dioramas at the end of the ride as you arrive back at Main Street. We actually circled the park twice before the kids would let us get off! Then we watched the parade from the train station above Main Street and it was perfect!

    visit to disneyland and california adventure by @janemaynard

    Where We Stayed!

    Ayres Hotel in Anaheim: Our first hotel was the Ayres Hotel in Anaheim. The hotel is located across the street from the Honda Center where the Ducks play, and just a block away from where the Angels play. It’s just a few minutes’ drive to Disneyland and all the other attractions, and the ART shuttle runs by the hotel if you don’t want to drive to those places. The rooms were very nice and sort of “fancy” – when Anna stepped off the elevator and looked down the hallway for the first time she exclaimed, “This hotel is BEAUTIFUL!” We stayed in a King VIP room, which had a king-sized bed and a pull-out couch, as well as plenty of room for the kids and all of our luggage. The pool was small but perfect for kids and they had a great time swimming. Plus, we got to see Owen’s true colors at the hot tub.

    owen wooing the ladies at the ayres hotel in anaheim by @janemaynardDon’t hate the playa, hate the game.

    The Ayres also had a fabulous full breakfast, with the busiest yet friendliest chef I’ve ever met! The kids were in heaven at the breakfast and I think it might have been their favorite part of the trip. (Kids are so funny!) The staff was incredibly helpful and friendly at every turn.

    The Anabella Hotel: For our last two nights we stayed at the Anabella, sister hotel to the Carousel (where we originally thought we would be staying). The Anabella is across the street from Disneyland and was just a short 10-minute walk to the park gate. The walk was also really lovely and un-crowded, running along the backside of California Adventure (rather than Harbor Blvd). We’ve gone to Disneyland both ways – staying in a hotel across the street and having to drive or shuttle ourselves in. If you’re going to Disneyland and can swing a hotel within walking distance of the park, DO IT. Parking at Disney is such a pain. Being able to just walk to the park is HEAVEN. They’re building even more hotels across the street from Disneyland, so there will be even more options in coming years.

    the anabella hotel in anaheim by @janemaynard

    The Anabella Hotel was a beautiful property, with a great pool and restaurant. The rooms were nice, although we could hear our {noisy} neighbors pretty well and the bathroom wasn’t super easy to use, with practically no counter space or storage areas. (Note: the noisy neighbors only overlapped one morning – I’m sure the hotel would have happily switched our room if we needed to, but it wasn’t necessary.) Our room had its own patio area, which was really lovely, too. Like the Ayres, the staff were very nice and friendly everywhere we went on the property.

    So, there you have it! A Spring Break packed with FUN. (And Nate and I even survived!)

    Knott’s Berry Farm provided us with tickets and lunch. Disney and the Anaheim Visitor and Convention Bureau provided us with media passes for Disneyland and California Adventure. We received discounted rates for our hotel stays at the Ayres and The Anabella. All opinions are my own! Anaheim is fun, fun, fun!


  2. Tuesday, April 15

    I’m in love with Los Angeles and I don’t care who knows it!

    We decided to be fun people for Spring Break. It’s a lot of work being fun people, by the way, especially when one of the fun people comes down with croup the first night of Spring Break (we’re looking at you, Owen). But in the end it all worked out and the week was a blast! First we headed to Los Angeles for a few days and then skipped on down to Anaheim for some theme park fun. I’m going to share two posts about the trip and today we’re starting with LA!

    hollywood sign from griffith observatory by @janemaynard

    Here’s the deal with Los Angeles. The only times we’ve ever gone up there have been for quick day trips for a specific reason – going to an event and then heading home – or driving through to go somewhere else. So, whenever we go, we’re on a schedule and all we think is, “How does anyone live with all this traffic?” and “Why would anyone want to live in a city essentially just made of traffic?” and “Holy Freeways, there’s a lot of traffic.” I was soooo biased. I have uttered the words “I hate LA” more times than I care to admit. I totally did not know what I was talking about.

    LA is AWESOME. There, I said it. I am in love with Los Angeles. It’s quirky and huge and fun and there is so much to do. Seriously, we had a blast and can’t wait to go back! Granted, we {amazingly} didn’t sit in any traffic the whole trip, but LA is truly a city filled with all kinds of wonderful gems, especially edible gems. Here’s a quick rundown of where we stayed, the fun stuff we did, and the food we ate, in case you find yourself visiting the City of Angels! (Thanks to those who gave tips, they were super helpful and we definitely need to venture back to do it all!)

    hotel angeleno by @janemaynard

    Where We Stayed: Hotel Angeleno
    We stayed in a suite at Hotel Angeleno, located on the 405 smack dab in between Bel Air and Santa Monica, sitting in the shadow of the Getty. Our room looked to the southwest, so we had a peek of the freeway and the skyline and a full view of the ocean and the Getty. It was beautiful. The hotel has shuttles to nearby sites, a pool, and free wine at 5:30 every afternoon. There is also a restaurant on the top floor with amazing views. The building is round, which was fun and made for an interesting-shaped room, and the rooms were very nice. The location of the hotel was super convenient, with easy access to so many of the great things that LA has to offer. Oh, and free parking! Woohoo!

    hotel angeleno morning view of the getty by @janemaynardThe Getty is at the top of the hill. This is what we woke up to, with the golden sun shining on everything.

    hotel angeleno view from the room by @janemaynardThe only thing we lost off the balcony was Owen’s binky. Fortunately we were over the pool area and the binky was recoverable. Also, it didn’t kill anyone below. Win-win.

    Fun Stuff We Did

    • Griffith Observatory and the Travel Town Museum at Griffith Park. If you have kids interested in trains, Travel Town is a must! Owen was in heaven. On Sundays they also have live steamers that you can ride on. We got there too late to ride the steamers, but we did get to see them scoot by, and there is still a train ride in the regular Travel Town museum area even if you miss the steamers. We ended up simply driving by the Griffith Observatory – the kids were pooped and since it was the weekend there were mobs of people, but the view is AMAZING and we plan to go back with the kids on a less-busy day for a show at the planetarium (if you have people under 5, you have to make sure to get there for the first show of the day).

    travel town museum at griffith park by @janemaynard

    travel town museum at griffith park by @janemaynard

    • La Brea Tar Pits. The tar pits were fascinating and the kids had a great time at this small and accessible museum. Plus, seriously, the tar pits are just plain cool. Note that you can walk around the park and see the actual tar pits without paying admission to the museum, but you’ll learn more if you go to the museum and it is very interesting. We bought an annual family pass, which also gives us access to the LA Natural History Museum, which we will definitely be visiting.
    • The American Girl Store. Our girls got American Girl dolls for Christmas, so we surprised them with a visit to the store. We thought about eating at the cafe but it was very pricey, so we decided to let the girls each choose one thing in the store and get their dolls’ hair done instead. We just didn’t tell them about the cafe and they were in heaven. We probably spent an hour in the store!

    the la american girl store by @janemaynard

    • The Getty Museum. We just spent a couple hours at the museum but it was beautiful. We went to the Getty near the end of our trip, so the kids were feeling a bit restless. But I am really glad we took them and I’m sure we’ll return! The exhibits are wonderful and the views cannot be beat. The museum is free, parking is $15 and you can park twice in one day. We also want to visit the Getty Villa in Malibu, which is supposed to be beautiful as well. The Villa is also free but you need to get tickets ahead of time.

    view from the getty museum by @janemaynard

    • Westwood Village. On our last day we stopped in Westwood Village for lunch and ice cream (see below). Westwood Village is an adorable neighborhood with movie theaters, food and more right next to UCLA. It was lovely sitting at a table on the sidewalk enjoying our food.

    westwood village by @janemaynard

    The Food We Ate
    We ate sooooooo well while we were in LA. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

    • Plan Check Kitchen + Bar: My sister told us we had to eat at Plan Check, a burger joint similar to Unami Burger but better, according to Anne. Every last bite was scrumptious. I don’t think you can go wrong ordering anything off the menu. My sister says pig candy is a must, which we didn’t know until after, but thankfully Nate got a taste of it on his burger.

    plan check kitchen + bar by @janemaynard

    • The Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax: When we left the Bay Area, part of me mourned the loss of the Ferry Building in my life. I LOVE THAT PLACE. The Farmer’s Market in LA is different from the Ferry Building but every bit as wonderful. It’s my new Ferry Building. So much food, so much ambience, so much history. The tater tots from Fritzi’s…I didn’t know tater tots could be good, and not only were they good, they were stellar. Moishe’s gyros pita was flavored perfectly. Bob’s Donuts were to die for. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I honestly could have spent all day just at the Farmer’s Market. Love love love love love. My dad told me after we visisted that when he was growing up, my grandmother also loved going to this Farmer’s Market. That makes me love it even more.

    the farmer's market at 3rd and fairfax in LA by @janemaynard

    • Milo + Olive: We ordered pizza from Milo + Olive in Santa Monica as recommended by friend Gaby. Nate’s assessment: If the French made pizza, this would be it. The crust was seriously like eating a perfect baguette. And then they had this thing called the garlic knot, which we thought would be garlic bread but was in fact a piece of bread filled with cloves of garlic and baked to sweet, delicious perfection. Cate couldn’t get enough of the garlic knot! Awesome food.

    milo + olive pizza  by @janemaynard

    • Diddy Riese: When we checked in at Hotel Angeleno, the receptionist told us we should take the kids to a place nearby called Diddy Riese. The whole trip we kept planning to go but never making it. The last day, as we drove out of town, we finally went. We grabbed lunch at the Flame Broiler down the street and then walked over to Diddy Riese for dessert. I did not know that ice cream sandwiches could be so good. They make homemade cookies and then put together your ice cream sandwich based on the flavors you choose. The cookies were divine. I could have eaten 4 sandwiches and been happy.

    diddy riese in los angeles by @janemaynard

    There you have it, Los Angeles in 2 1/2 days with 3 kids! This was just scratching the surface and I can’t wait to get back!

    A portion of our hotel costs were covered by Hotel Angeleno. All opinions are my own and we still spent plenty of money on our little jaunt to LA! ;)


  3. Thursday, April 3

    Jamie’s “Divine List” of Jane’s Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets

    Two weeks ago my cousin Jamie was in town with her family. While they were here we cooked a few meals and, the entire time, Jamie was keeping a running list of must-have kitchen gadgets in my kitchen that she didn’t realize were must-have kitchen gadgets until she used them. She calls it the “divine list.” I know for a fact she’s already bought a few of the items and I don’t doubt she’ll have them all before the month is out!

    This is not an exhaustive list of all the things I love and couldn’t live without in my kitchen, but all the items that Jamie added to her divine list are some of my favorites that we use all the time, so I figured it would be fun and helpful to share her list! You know, in case you feel like shopping today, which I’m sure you do because when doesn’t one feel like shopping?

    dreamfarm scizza pizza scissors | thisweekfordinner.com

    The Scizza
    I wrote about the scizza last December and proclaimed my love then. Jamie simply caught a glimpse of the scizza and was excited about it. Once she actually used it, she was officially in love. You can get it from Dreamfarm. Jamie was also impressed with Dreamfarm’s garlic press, the garject, but the scizza is what really stole her heart.

    margherita pizza on wood pizza peel from @janemaynard

    Wood Pizza Peel
    While Jamie was here, what started as me throwing some pizzas together turned into a mini class for Jamie. I didn’t realize I have so many little tricks when making homemade pizza. Jamie is trying to convince me to do a video showing how to make pizza. Maybe one day if I actually get some makeup on I’ll think about it. Until then, one of the secrets to cooking great pizza is having a wood pizza peel to transfer the pizza to the stone in your oven. (That sentence alone opens up a Pandora’s box of pizza baking tips, but I’m resisting the urge to go into more detail. I promise to share more another day!) Anyway, I love my wood pizza peel. One of the reasons it’s so great is because it has a rough, unfinished surface. The cornmeal spreads so evenly over this surface and it’s a cinch getting your pizza into the oven. It also has a nice-shaped tapered edge (see photo). I’m not sharing any links for where to buy a wood peel because I can’t really tell what the surfaces are like from looking at photos online, so get out and do a little shopping to find your own perfect peel.

    tortilla warmer from @janemaynard

    Tortilla Warmer
    I love my tortilla warmer. Jamie loves my tortilla warmer. It’s the best. Read more about it here.

    manual glass juicer from @janemaynard

    Manual Glass Juicer
    This is a timeless kitchen gadget. I love my manual glass juicer, perfect for when I need to juice something for a recipe quickly. The little ring of knobs in the center catches all the seeds and the juicer itself catches all the juice, which you can easily pour. I received my particular juicer as a wedding gift. There are tons of these out there, just make sure you get one with the little knobs.

    le creuset butter crock from @janemaynard

    Le Creuset Butter Crock
    I will not rest until all the world owns a butter crock. Butter Bell makes a nice version, but I love Le Creuset’s even more. Read more about it here.

    That’s it! Jamie’s divine list! Happy shopping!


  4. Thursday, January 9

    Get Fit Giveaway from Albion {Pin It to Win It!}

    This giveaway is now closed. Thank you!

    It’s the new year and I would hazard a guess that some of you have made some health-related resolutions – eat better, exercise more, you know, all that fun stuff! I don’t know about you, but new workout clothes always seem to be a good motivator for me to actually work out. I know, so shallow. But if it works, it works! If you have made some health goals, then today’s giveaway will help get you even more excited about them!

    albion fit giveaway | summit leggings | @janemaynard

    Albion Fit is stepping up again this year to offer a fabulous giveaway. They want to help all of us get in the mood to get fit! Albion is a fabulous activewear company that was started by some really good friends of ours, Liz and Dave (this is them!). Liz and Dave are incredibly talented and have built this business from the ground up. Whenever I go to their website, I am amazed at what they have done. We also had the chance to visit their store this fall and it was equally as beautiful.

    Now, I may love Liz and Dave to pieces, but I can honestly say that I am not biased about their clothes. Not only do they make super cute activewear and swimwear, but the quality is stellar and the fit is always flattering. For example, when I received these Summit leggings in the mail last week, I was certain I would look terrible in them. I mean, they looked like they would be SO TIGHT and I was worried about the waistband. I should have trusted Liz because I put them on and they looked great, even around my mom belly. Yes, they’re tight, but the high quality fabric tightens everything up so you feel “held in,” if you will. When Nate saw the pants he said they even made my legs look a little muscle-y, which, seriously, is a miracle because I haven’t worked out since, well, let’s not talk about it. ;) If you’re wondering, the swimsuits are amazing, with great cuts and thick fabrics. Oh, and I love the signature hoodie soooo much. Okay, I’m gonna stop gushing now.

    albion fit giveaway | summit leggings | @janemaynard

    Giveaway time! Today we’re going to do a fun “Pin It to Win It” contest! Here’s how it will work. Visit Albion Fit and pick out your most favorite item or outfit and then pin it to Pinterest! Be sure to leave a comment on this post with a link to your pin to complete your entry! Once you’ve pinned your favorite outfit (I don’t know how you’re going to choose!), you can get a bonus entry by following Albion on Instagram. Be sure to leave a second comment for the bonus entry! Entries must be posted in the comments by Midnight PT on Monday, 1/13/14.

    One lucky, randomly-selected pinner winner (sorry, couldn’t resist) will receive a $150 gift card to Albion Fit. That dream outfit on your Pinterest board can become reality!

    I’ll kick the pinning off with my current favorite from Albion. I saw this East Coast Hoodie at the store and I really do need to order it pronto. LOVE IT. (Click on the photo to see my pin!)

    albion fit east coast hoodie | @janemaynard

    And if you simply can’t wait to see if you will win the giveaway and want to get shopping now, you can get 15% off any albionfit.com purchase now through 1/14/14 – just use the code twfd15 at checkout!

    Good luck and happy pinning!

    The randomly-selected winner for this giveaway was Dana Squires, who said “I love their swimwear. And living in FL I can never have too many swimsuits. My fav is the gown swimsuit in navy. But the other colors are pretty too. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/155514993356687863/” Congrats, Dana! I have a feeling you’ll get a lot of use out of your gift card!


  5. Tuesday, December 24

    My Favorite Rolled Cookie Recipes…and Happy Christmas!

    Merry Christmas Eve! I’m going to take the week off, with just a quick Show and Tell post on Friday. But I wanted to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    favorite cut-out cookie recipes from @janemaynard

    I also wanted to share my two favorite rolled cookie recipes, you know the kind of cookies that require cookie cutters! The girls and I will be spending the day decorating cut-out cookies, which just may make it the perfect day.

    I have two favorite recipes that I use and love – one for sugar cookies and one for chocolate cookies. They are both on All Recipes and I don’t have any changes or notes on either of these recipes. They are both perfect!

    Click here for my favorite sugar cookie recipe. (Side note: My mom’s sugar cookie is also mighty fine and uses sour cream. You can find that recipe by clicking here! Her recipe has a bit of a lighter texture than the All Recipes cookies. I don’t feel like I’m describing that correctly, but it’s the best I can do!)

    Click here for my favorite chocolate cut-out cookie recipe. These cookies are so, so, so good.

    Happy baking and celebrating!


  6. Friday, December 20

    Friday Show and Tell!

    Show and tell time! I skipped it last week because I didn’t have much to share, but this week I have tons!

    restless collective the geography of youthPhoto credit: Restless Collective

    Random awesome stuff:

    A few of my “Babbles”:

    Phew! I think today’s Show and Tell could keep you busy for a few hours!

    As usual, would love to see anything you would like to share!


  7. Thursday, December 12

    Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies {and a KitchenAid Stand Mixer Giveaway!}

    This giveaway is now closed, but keep reading because the cookie recipe is FABULOUS. Also, the winner is announced at the end!

    holiday gifts & giveaways on thisweekfordinner.com

    Today marks the end of Gifts & Giveaways. I know, I’m sad, too. But we are ending this little shindig with a bang. But before we get to that…

    When I was growing up, my family was a bit obsessed with mint M&Ms. I remember my mom would spot them at the store at the beginning of the holiday season and would snag them as fast as she could. (Fun fact: I grew up on a hill overlooking the town where M&Ms are made and it smelled like chocolate in the early mornings. Also, mint M&Ms are not made in that factory but in a different place because the mint flavor basically takes over anything it touches – I hope you all appreciate those high-maintenance M&Ms!)

    chocolate mint M&M cookies from @janemaynard

    Now that I’m a grown up, whenever I see mint M&Ms at the store my instinct is to start hoarding. My common sense, however, reins my instinct in and keeps me from spending all my money on those little minty treats. Thank goodness for practical, boring common sense. But I do still buy a few bags every year and enjoy them immensely!

    KitchenAid Candy Apple Red Artisan Stand Mixer with Glass Bowl Giveaway from @janemaynard

    I’m going to switch topics completely for a minute but I promise it will all come together. Meet Candy. She’s my new Candy Apple Red KitchenAid® Artisan® Design Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Glass Bowl. Her name is kind of a mouthful that’s why we call her Candy for short. I love her because she’s GORGEOUS. Yes, I am that shallow. I mean, that GLASS BOWL. And that SHINY RED PAINT JOB. I could stare at her all day.

    I have a white professional series KitchenAid mixer that Nate gave to me years ago. Old trusty is still around but has been relegated to the shelf in the garage in favor of the younger, hotter model. I told you I was shallow. But I do love how Candy works, too. She’s much quieter and, oh, that glass bowl.

    KitchenAid Candy Apple Red Artisan Stand Mixer with Glass Bowl Giveaway from @janemaynard

    Back to M&Ms (are you experiencing blog whiplash yet?). I really wanted to make chocolate cookies this week with mint M&Ms. Most chocolate cookies fall a little flat and I wanted something that could stand up to the M&Ms, both in shape and flavor. Then my friend Irvin shared his recipe for Chocolate Crackle Cookies last week and I knew it was the cookie recipe I had been looking for all my life. Well, all my week, at least.

    chocolate mint m&m cookies from @janemaynard

    I was right. These chocolate mint M&M cookies are PERFECT. Truly. They have wonderful texture, with a nice crispy outside and a rich, chocolatey interior. The mint from the M&Ms is not overpowering and gives you a fresh pop of flavor. These cookies are perfect for giving as gifts during the holidays, that is if you can stop yourself from eating them all yourself! (Recipe is at the bottom of this post.)

    chocolate mint m&m cookies from @janemaynard

    Wouldn’t you like to make those cookies in a candy apple red artisan stand mixer with a glass bowl? I mean, the way the chocolate mixes with the butter, it just looks so pretty through that glass!

    GIVEAWAY TIME!

    One of you unbelievably lucky people is going to win a Candy Apple Red KitchenAid® Artisan® Design Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Glass Bowl (retail value $399.99), just like mine! WOOHOO!

    Here is how to enter the giveaway (comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Wednesday, 12/18/13. Prize must be shipped to a U.S. address):

    Good luck and happy mixing!

    The randomly-selected winner was comment #168 Itzia – one of her bonus entries got her the prize, but her original comment was, “I love anything with mint. Yum!” Well, Itzia will love these cookies AND her beautiful new mixer! Congrats!

    chocolate mint m&m cookies from @janemaynard

    Chocolate Mint M&M Cookies
    I slightly adapted this recipe from Irvin Lin at Eat the Love. Irvin’s original Chocolate Crackle Cookie Recipe is wonderful, with a great technique for making the powdered sugar coating especially white and pretty. The ingredients for the cookie base are exactly like Irvin’s recipe, but I change up the technique a bit for my M&M purposes. 
    - 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
    - 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
    - 1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
    - 2 teaspoons baking powder
    - 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    - 2 large eggs
    - 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    - 1/2 cup cocoa powder
    - 1/4 cup milk
    - 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    - 1 9.9-ounce package mint M&Ms
    - Granulate sugar for coating cookies (about 1/2 cup)

    If you are using a block of bittersweet chocolate, roughly chop it. I used Guittard’s bittersweet chocolate chips (63% cacao). Place chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 seconds, until chocolate is melted. Set aside.

    Cream butter, sugar, baking powder and salt in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Beat until ingredients are of a paste consistency. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each egg. Beat in the vanilla. Add melted chocolate and beat until just mixed but thoroughly combined.

    Sift cocoa powder over dough then beat until mixed. Add milk and beat until mixed. Add the flour and beat until just mixed but fully incorporated.

    Stir in M&Ms by hand with a strong spoon. Place a piece of waxed or parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Form cookie dough balls (with your hands or a scoop – I used my medium-sized scoop, which is about 2 tablespoons). Place cookie dough balls on the prepared cookie sheet and freeze for 1 hour. At this point you can either bake the cookies or store the dough until later (for storing, place the cookie dough balls in a large ziploc bag and store in the fridge or freezer).

    Preheat oven to 350˚F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Roll cookie dough balls in granulated sugar, coating well. Place on cookie sheet and bake for about 13 minutes, until cookies are just set and are starting to “crackle.” Cool on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes then finish cooling on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.

    Makes about 40 cookies.

    Big thank you to KitchenAid for hosting this giveaway! I received a mixer from KitchenAid but all opinions are 100% my own.


  8. Monday, December 9

    Why I Am Head-Over-Heels In Love with My Carpet Cleaning Machines {Giveaway!}

    This giveaway is now closed, but keep reading to learn about some really great carpet cleaning tools and to find out the winner!

    holiday gifts & giveaways on thisweekfordinner.com

    Happy Monday! Time for more Gifts & Giveaways!

    Let’s talk carpet Remember my non-camo carpets? This is the them if you would like a refresher:

    white carpet | thisweekfordinner.com

    This lovely almost white carpet is in our ENTIRE HOUSE. The bathrooms are tile as well as the kitchen part of the kitchen (you know, where you cook), but the rest of the house is blanketed in snow, including the dining area where our everyday kitchen table resides.

    If I had no kids and lived alone, I think I might actually love this carpet. But, alas, this is not the case. I was pretty terrified of this carpet when we bought the house and told Nate that the very first thing we had to do before moving in was put hardwood floors in the dining area. But, then, uh, yeah. We spent all of our money on the house, so here we are. White carpet in the dining room! Woo-hoo!

    BISSELL DeepClean Premiere Carpet Cleaner Review & Giveaway | thisweekfordinner.com

    When we moved into our house, I had a BISSELL SpotBot that I received at one of my SocialLuxe Lounge parties. When I first received the SpotBot, we lived in a house with tile, so I never used it. But I can’t tell you how glad I am that I hung onto it anyway. When we moved into this house, I was really happy I had that little machine, but little did I know just how handy it would become. I use it all the time. For example, one of my kids splattered chocolate all over the floor under the kitchen table. I grabbed the SpotBot and it was NO BIG DEAL. I’m telling you, it’s a dream.

    But as much as I love my SpotBot for quick clean-ups, we have large areas of carpet that need to be cleaned fairly regularly, especially the hallway and dining room. I got in touch with BISSELL to see if they had a machine they would recommend and they kindly sent me the DeepClean Premier upright carpet cleaner.

    I don’t think I can express how delighted I was when my new carpet cleaner arrived. And it has worked GREAT. I personally love owning  my own carpet cleaner rather than needing to call and schedule cleaning with a professional carpet cleaning service. Like I mentioned, some areas of the carpet need cleaning very regularly, but other parts of the carpet do not. I love that I can do the hallway and dining room several times a year as needed. The flexibility is great and I don’t have to constantly pay for carpet cleanings.

    And that is why I am head-over-heels in love with my carpet cleaning machines.

    If you’re looking for a big ticket gift item for a clean freak, someone with white carpet and kids, someone with pets and carpet, or someone who just really likes clean carpet, I can recommend both the DeepClean Premier and the SpotBot, depending on your needs. I love them both!

    Giveaway time! One of you lucky people will win a BISSELL DeepClean Premier upright carpet cleaner (retail value $199.99)!

    BISSELL DeepClean Premiere Upright Carpet Cleaner Review & Giveaway | thisweekfordinner.com

    Here is how to enter the giveaway (comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Sunday, 12/15/13. Prize must be shipped to a U.S. address):

    • Simply leave a comment, any comment, on this post! That’s it!
    • Bonus entry: Like This Week for Dinner on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
    • Bonus entry: Follow me on Pinterest and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
    • Bonus entry: Follow me on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
    • Bonus entry: Like BISSELL on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did!
    • Bonus entry: Follow BISSEL on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you did!

    In addition to my giveaway, starting today BISSELL is doing 12 Days of Messes on their Facebook page, where they are highlighting 12 “classic” holiday messes, solutions for cleaning those messes, and, of course, more giveaways! Just visit their Facebook page to find out more.

    Good luck! Happy Cleaning!

    The winner of this giveaway was comment #254 Vic Herreria, who said, “My dog Diego would love this!” More power to Vic if he can get Diego to learn how to use the machine! ;) Congrats, Vic!

     BISSELL provided me with product to review for this post. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.


  9. Friday, December 6

    Oh là là, Le Creuset! {Giveaway}

    This giveaway is now closed, but keep reading to find out about this beautiful pan, my favorite item from Le Creuset and the winner!

    holiday gifts & giveaways on thisweekfordinner.com

    Bonjour! I have more French stuff for you!

    I’ve written about Le Creuset several times so you already know I love them, and, really, who doesn’t? Every Le Creuset piece I have is wonderful and perfect and works like a charm. If you’re looking for gift ideas for people who love to cook, anything from Le Creuset will be a winner, but I will offer one specific idea: the butter crock. That crock rocks. I give it away as a gift all the time.

    le creuset heritage fry pan with wooden handle | thisweekfordinner.com

    How about we move on to the giveaway portion of today’s program? You thought I’d never ask…

    Today we are giving away the Le Creuset Heritage Cast Iron Fry Pan with Wood Handle, which is a beautiful new product that you can buy at a special price over at Williams-Sonoma, you know, in case you don’t win it here! I love this pan and the wooden handle just makes me happy. The cooking surface also works beautifully.

    le creuset heritage fry pan with wooden handle | thisweekfordinner.com

    Here is how to enter the giveaway! (Comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Thursday, 12/12/13. Prize must be shipped to a U.S. address.)

    Bonne chance!

    The randomly-selected winner was comment #61 from Jen M (her bonus entry for liking TWFD on Facebook). Jen’s original comment said, “That pan looks awesome!  I don’t have any personal experience with Le Creuset, but I want to!” Now you will have some personal experience, Jen. Enjoy!

    I was given a Le Creuset Heritage Cast Iron Fry Pan to review for this giveaway. All opinions are 100% my own.


  10. Wild and Crazy Kitchen Gadgets!

    This giveaway is now closed, but keep reading to learn more about Dreamfarm’s great products and to find out the winner!

    holiday gifts & giveaways on thisweekfordinner.com

    Happy Friday! To celebrate the weekend I have TWO awesome Gifts & Giveaways posts for you today. Let’s start with a couple of wild and crazy…kitchen gadgets!

    dreamfarm clever kitchen gadgets | thisweekfordinner.com

    I was recently introduced to the company Dreamfarm. Dreamfarm is all about solving problems and creating products that do just that! They have lots of fun items and I have been trying out a few of their kitchen products for the last month or so.

    I’ve been using the Chopula (it’s great!),  the Clongs (work great, sits off your bench), the Garjet (you seriously have to go watch the video, this garlic press is cool!), the Supoon (love it, it’s great! also sits off your bench), and the Scizza. Let’s talk about the Scizza for a moment, shall we?

    dreamfarm scizza pizza scissors | thisweekfordinner.com

    dreamfarm scizza pizza scissors | thisweekfordinner.com

    Years ago I wrote a post about how scissors are the best pizza cutter because, well, they are! So as soon as I saw the Scizza I knew I had to give it a try. Scissors made just for cutting pizza? It’s like a dream come true! You should definitely click through to watch the Scizza video and see how cool it is! It is hands down my favorite thing from Dreamfarm.

    If you’re looking for a cool holiday gift for any cooks in your life (or even for yourself!), Dreamfarm is a great option. Very fun and original products that are definitely gift-worthy.

    Time for the giveaway! One of you lucky people will win a set of Dreamfarm products, including the chopula, clongs, garjet, supoon and the beloved scizza (total retail value of $111.75).

    dreamfarm kitchen gadgets giveaway | thisweekfordinner.com

    Here is how to enter the giveaway! (Comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Thursday 12/12/13. Prize must be shipped to a U.S. address.)

    • Simply leave a comment, any comment, on this post! That’s it! Although, if you want to tell us which Dreamfarm product is most appealing to you, we’d love to hear about it!
    • Bonus entry: Like This Week for Dinner on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
    • Bonus entry: Follow me on Pinterest and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
    • Bonus entry: Follow me on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
    • Bonus entry: Like Dreamfarm on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did!
    • Bonus entry: Follow Dreamfarm on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you did!

    Good luck!

    I am happy to announce that comment #47 Jen M was the winner! She said, “What cool and inventive products they have!” and she is right! Congrats, Jen!

    I was given a sampling of Dreamfarm products to review for this giveaway. All opinions are 100% my own.


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