Category: fab faves
Friday, November 21
This post is sponsored by Q Squared NYC.
I was recently chatting with my dear friend Amy about the holidays and she mentioned the dishes her mom used when she was growing up. Amy talked about how those dishes are firmly entrenched in her memory and that the dishes themselves are as much a part of the experience of the holidays as anything else. As she got thinking about it, she found she felt the same way about the dishes her grandmother used, too.
I loved this conversation because it really got me thinking. Often when I look back on holiday meals with the family, the food is what I focus on. In fact, when I pass traditions on to my kids it’s almost always focused on the food and sharing family recipes. But I haven’t thought much about the significance of the dishes we used. After chatting with Amy I realized my experience was the same as hers, that the dishes actually played a large role.
When I was very young, most of our holidays were spent with the extended family, so a lot of the memories of dishes I have are from my grandmothers. My Grandma Wallin was the type of woman who would bring china to the beach for a picnic, so you can imagine what her table would look like for the holidays. Crystal glasses (perfect for serving 7-Up!), crystal bowls and china dishes abounded. As a young girl, I loved it. Her dishes made those family dinners feel extra special and fancy.
My Grandma Blomquist had 7 children, so when that family got together it was always a large group. I’ll never forget the tall stacks of plates on the buffet table or the basket she used for her giant rolls. What stands out most, however, is the silverware. She had several sets of silverware, complete with intricate patterns. I remember helping get the silverware out of the drawer in her china cabinet (and how that drawer was always a bear to open!). We would wipe the silverware down with a towel and, when dinner was done, carefully put it all back in the drawer.
Eventually we moved far from our extended family, at which point the dishes my mom used for the holidays take over my memories. My mom had a set of Christmas china that made an appearance very year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We loved those dishes and using them at Thanksgiving quite literally marked the start of the holiday season in our home. Once the holidays were over, we would scour the post-Christmas sales to find more pieces to add to the collection. Those dishes are firmly planted in my holiday memories and, to this day, whenever I see that set of dishes at a store, I am transported back in time.
As I mentioned before, while I’ve always had these memories, I’ve never stopped to think about how strong they are. And, on a related note, I haven’t really thought much about the dishes I use for the holidays and whether or not my kids have the same kinds of memories. Our family is young, relatively speaking, so I’m still in the phase of collecting those dishes that will play a special role at our holiday dinner table year after year. After doing all this thinking about these particular memories, it makes me that much more excited about adding new dishes to our holiday collection and setting the table with my kids each year.
I want my children to have similar memories to what I have, memories like polishing silver and pulling china down from the high cupboard. Of course I have fond memories of the food, but as I ponder those holiday meals from the past, I find that the act of preparing the table for those meals is where the strongest memories lie. Making the table special and beautiful with the women that meant the most to me in my life ended up being the times where we talked and bonded most and I will be forever grateful for those memories.
I hate ending posts with open-ended questions because it feels super cheesy, but I’m breaking my own rule today because I really want to hear from you! Please tell us about your own memories!
Pictured above: I’ve added some really lovely pieces to our holiday dish collections from Q Squared NYC. For Easter we use white dishes combined with serving dishes from the Heritage collection. For Thanksgiving we’ve added serving dishes from both the Ruffle and the Diamond collections, both of which are pictured above. Also pictured is the Maple Apple Bijou candle, which is the perfect scent for Thanksgiving and looks beautiful on the table, too!
Tuesday, October 21
I have a monster of a post for you today (mwah-ha-ha!!!), complete with ideas for completely cute yet simple Halloween party table decor as well as a 13 (mwah-ha-ha!!!) ridiculously adorable Halloween recipes.
When it comes to entertaining, I keep it simple. I like to have a whole bunch of white serving dishes in storage that I can pair with a few accent pieces and a colored tablecloth for the occasion. Then I just throw a few decorations on the table – simple but elegant. A vase of flowers, a Christmas wreath with candles, a few pumpkins for a Halloween party…you know, SIMPLE. There’s enough going on to get ready for parties I just can’t go over the top with my decor. But I find by playing in a simple way with color and using lots of white dishes, the table always looks impressive.
My ruffle dishes from Q Squared NYC are just such pieces that come in handy for all kinds of occasions. The ruffle design is elegant and a little bit different than your standard white dishes. BUT…if you pair it with a black tablecloth and a few of Q Squared’s slate platters, those wavy white dishes suddenly take on a spooky air! Seriously, I can’t tell you how much I loved using these dishes to decorate a Halloween table! Throw a few pumpkins on the table and make Halloween-themed food and you’re all set!
I think Halloween food is the most fun food in all the land. Whenever October rolls around, I am always so impressed with the creative food I see in magazines and on blogs! Here are a few favorites I’ve found this year, including a couple I used for my own Halloween party decor!
My friend Kristen from Dine & Dish shared Frankenguac just this week. Is this not the cutest guacamole ever? Be sure to click through to Kristen’s post for details! (I put my Frankenguac on a slate platter and it was beyond adorable and a great centerpiece for the table.)
My friend Sommer from A Spicy Perspective posted these adorable Halloween skewers, which my kids happily gobbled up! I couldn’t find dark grapes, so I used blackberries instead. I think blackberries (i.e. black pickled brains!!!) might even be spookier. Check out Sommer’s post for more details! (The skewers looked perfect on the ruffle long platter.)
Here are a few more Halloween recipes I am dying to try! (Mwah-ha-ha!!!)
Butterbeer Popcorn from An Edible Mosaic (because I simply cannot resist anything Harry Potter!)
Well, that list should keep you busy until Halloween rolls around next week. Happy Hallowen!
This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. Seriously, those dishes I used are PERFECT for Halloween. Get shopping!
Tuesday, October 14
I made an impulse buy at the grocery store this week: a Hutzler Onion Saver.
Here’s the thing. I never know how to store leftover, raw, unchopped onions, which I often have because I tend to only use half an onion at a time. I don’t like to use plastic baggies because of my goal to use less one-time use plastic. But the onion is usually kind of bulky, so I have to use a larger storage container than I really need that takes up space in the fridge. Basically, this is a very difficult problem to have and my life is hard. (Insert sarcastic emoji that doesn’t exist but should.)
Hence, my impulse buy of the onion saver. And, I LOVE it. Granted, I’ve only used it for 2 days and have no idea if it will last forever or whatever, but, so far, so good. It stores my onion well, doesn’t take up tons of space in the fridge, and traps in the onion odor so the fridge doesn’t get stinky.
Happy onion storing!
Friday, October 10
One quick food link to share from Babble – making pumpkin rocks with my kids for all the neighbors. We had a blast!
It’s show and tell, your turn!
Friday, October 3
October is Fair Trade Month and I’m so excited to help support the cause! Plus, I have a completely delicious dark chocolate pumpkin seed granola bar recipe for you. Basically there’s a whole lot of goodness going on in this here post. Before we get to the fair trade chocolate granola bars (mmmmmm….), let’s talk about fair trade for a moment and meet some of the farmers!
There are a lot of labels on our foods these days. Gluten Free. Organic. Cage Free. Natural. GMO-free. The list goes on and on and ON. With so many labels, it’s easy to stop seeing them when you’re shopping. But one label that I always notice is the ‘Fair Trade Certified’ label. And, when I do see that label, I try to stop and think about the people behind the label, the farmers benefiting from that product.
Two of those people are Miguel Romero Martínez, 22, from Tlapa, Guerrero, and Lucía Simón Mariano, 18, from Veracruz. Miguel and Lucía have an adorable two-month old daughter named Dulce Yamilet. Miguel’s family has been living permanently in the Chula Vista II residential area within Divemex’s La Veinte Agricultural Complex in Culiacán since 2006, while Lucía first came to Sinaloa with her parents in 2010. Divemex is a produce cooperative in Mexico that grows bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. Both Lucía and Miguel are now employees, have an apartment of their own and currently Miguel is the recipient of a Fair Trade-sponsored employee scholarship as he studies open adult junior high school.
The Martinez-Hernandez family, whose first language is Nahuatl and originally come from Tlapa, Guerrero, is one of the most successful cases of migrant families from Southern Mexico, with numerous family members employed by Divemex and recipients of Fair Trade-sponsored scholarships. Currently, two family members receive open adult education scholarships while two others receive stipends given to children of employees. All must keep a monthly B+ average in order to maintain the scholarship status.
From Left to Right: Miguel Romero Martinez (22, employee, open adult Junior High School scholarship recipient), his wife Lucía Simón Mariano (18, employee) with two-month old daughter Dulce Yamilet, Floriberto Romero Martinez (16, Junior High School scholarship recipient as child of employee), David Romero Martinez (20, employee), Andres Romero Martinez (24, employee, open adult Junior High School scholarship recipient, and only indigenous member of the Ten-person Fair Trade council at Divemex), Ana Martínez Peralta (family matriarch and employee), Heidi Hernandez Martinez (8, elementary school scholarship recipient as child of employee) and Felipe Hernandez Guerrero (employee, father of Heidi, and step-father to the four young men).
Don’t you love seeing their pictures and hearing just a small part of this family’s story? It’s kind of amazing. Plus, in learning about this family I discovered that fair trade doesn’t just apply to non-perishable goods but to produce, as well. Very cool!
Fair Trade USA sent me a box of goodies (which I will also be giving away in just a minute) and challenged me to use some of the ingredients in a recipe. As I was gearing up to make our weekly supply of granola bars, I decided to change the bars up a bit. So, here’s the deal. We love our chocolate chip granola bars so much I can’t bring myself to change the flavor. But, this week, I decided adding more chocolate would not be a bad choice.
I added fair trade cocoa powder from Lake Champlain Chocolates as well as barkTHINS dark chocolate pumpkin seed bark with sea salt to the granola bars instead of boring chocolate chips. The result was SPECTACULAR. As I was making the granola bars, I realized that I had fair trade brown sugar, fair trade coconut oil and fair trade vanilla to use in the recipe as well. These granola bars are pretty soundly fair trade!
Before we get to the recipe, let’s do a giveaway! One of you lucky commenters will get the same package of fair trade goodies I received, including products from Equator, Guittard, barkTHINS, Lake Champlain Chocolates, LÄRABAR, Traditional Medicinals, Dang Foods, Numi Tea, Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, Eco Lips, Alter Eco, Badger Balm, Third Street, Celestial Seasonings, SunSpire, Nourish Organic and the book Where Am I Eating?.
Here’s how to enter the giveaway!
- Leave a comment on this post by Midnight PT on 10/31/14.
- Bonus entry: Click here to repin this granola bar recipe on Pinterest! You need to specifically repin this pin and please leave a separate comment below indicating you’ve done so.
- Bonus entry: Follow Fair Trade USA on Facebook (leave a separate comment indicating you are following!)
- Bonus entry: Follow This Week for Dinner on Facebook (leave a separate comment indicating you are following!)
Time for granola bars! Happy Fair Trade Month!
Tuesday, September 30
I am SOOOOO excited about today’s post for two reasons. Reason #1: how gorgeous is my birthday cake? (In case you’re wondering, the cake is from Extraordinary Desserts and is called The Viking. Nate buys this cake for me as a gift every year and it is the reason I live for my birthday.)
Reason #2 I am excited about today’s post: I have a spectacular new kitchen tip for you.
When Nate picked my cake up last week at Extraordinary Desserts, they told him to use a hot knife to cut the cake, a tip we already know and love (simply hold the knife under hot water for 45 seconds, dry it off and then cut – smooth as silk!). But they also taught him how to perfectly cut the first slice of cake, and it’s so simple! Here’s what they had to say on the subject:
“Use two knives to cut the first piece.”
Why we were never given that tip before I’ll never know, but I’ll tell you what. BEST. TIP. EVER. Nate mentioned their comment as we were about to cut the cake and were both like, “Two knives? Huh?” And then we tried it and WOW. It’s just so easy to slide that first slice right out of the cake when you have two hot knives simultaneously pulling it out. Amazing.
Just one more reason to love Extraordinary Desserts, as if I needed another! I will never be scared to cut into a cake again!
Side note: You can make this cake, the recipe is included in the book Extraordinary Cakes by Karen Krasne, the pastry chef behind Extraordinary Desserts. The cake involves six recipes…you’ve been warned!
Thursday, August 28
Earlier this summer I received an email from Tillamook, inviting me to visit the Tillamook cheese factory in Oregon as well as see one of their dairy farms. After a little “please pretty please can I ditch our family for three days” begging with Nate, I promptly emailed Tillamook and said YES to the invitation. We love Tillamook around our house. From the time I was a wee thing my mom taught me that Tillamook cheese was the best. Not only do I think their products are great, but I always love getting a peek into food production, so I couldn’t wait for this trip. (I want to add a little something here, copying and pasting one of the comments from one of my mom’s best friends, Jona, who is the source of our family’s loyalty! “Your mom was indoctrinated by me when she was 17, Jane. So glad you loved Tillamook and beyond. I hope you saw my grandfather’s picture in the Cheese Factory. He was one of the earliest cheesemakers back in the early 1900’s. I am so proud of that heritage.”)
Two weeks ago I flew to Portland, OR, where I arrived at what appeared to be the set for Portlandia. Oh, wait, it was just Portland. Portland IS Portlandia, in case you were wondering. I loved Portland and had a wonderful afternoon exploring and eating my way around town. A delicious lunch at Tasty n Alder, dessert at Voodoo Doughnut, and a large portion of my very short time spent at Powell’s Books, which is now on the list of my most favorite places on the planet, made for a pretty perfect day.
Let’s get down to the business at hand, shall we? Cheese! I have so much to share about Tillamook it’s almost overwhelming, so I’m going to let my pictures from the trip guide me through this post.
We headed west from Portland to Tillamook, OR. The drive was unbelievably picturesque and you can’t miss the factory once you reach town. There I am in front of the GIANT Tillamook sign with Stephanie from 52 Kitchen Adventures…she is wonderful, btw.
We of course were given a tour of the factory. Anyone can visit the factory for tours and to shop in the store, so if you’re ever in the area be sure to stop in! We also had a chance to go behind the scenes and see where the cheese is aged and stored. The facilities are quite impressive.
Have you ever noticed a boat on the Tillamook logo? Well, there it is! The ship Morning Star was used in the early days to deliver cheese up and down the coast. Obviously it’s a little landlocked now but it is just as beautiful as ever.
Part of our tour was lead by Dale Baumgartner, Tillamook Head Cheesemaker (a.k.a. the Head Cheese…that joke is irresistible). Dale has been working for Tillamook for for over 40 years and he knows his cheese. It was fascinating learning how the cheese is made today, but maybe even more interesting hearing about his early years at Tillamook. I always love talking with people who truly love their work and are such experts at what they do. It’s inspiring to me and something, quite honestly, I can’t imagine.
Want some fun cheesemaking facts? Here you go! (I stole these from the signs on the tour.)
- Each of the eight stainless steel cheese vats holds approximately 53,500 pounds of fresh milk. On average each vat makes three batches of cheese per day.
- It takes 10 pounds (1.16 gallons) of milk to make 1 pound of Tillamook cheese.
- More then 1.7 million pounds of milk arrive at the plant each day. Approximately 167,000 pounds of cheese are made each day.
In addition to learning all about how the cheese is made, we also spent part of our day with Jill Allen, Manager of Product Quality. Jill leads the sensory team, which spends all day every day tasting every single batch of everything that is made at the plant, from butter to yogurt to cheese to ice cream to sour cream. Jill was equally as fascinating to listen to, plus she let us taste all kinds of delicious things. And, in case you are wondering, her team expectorates everything they taste so that their tastebuds are as ready to go on the first bite as they are on the last. Bottom line, after everything we learned about sensory, I would absolutely not want to be on that team! I’m glad other people are up for the job!
During our session with Jill, we taste tested Tillamook products alongside leading competitors. You can even tell from this crappy indoor photo how different Tillamook’s cheddar is compared to other brands – the difference was night and day! Many factors play into this, from the quality of the milk to the water content or the cheese to the smaller blocks of cheese that are made. Great care is taken at every step in the process, making for a higher quality final product.
I think one of my favorite things we tasted that day were the cheddar cheese curds. The curds is what the cheese looks like before it’s compressed naturally into blocks. Sadly you can only buy the curds at the Tillamook factory store, which was, by the way, awesome.
That evening we drove west, where we had a view of the amazing Oregon coast.
We stayed at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda, where my hotel room looked out on this:
I didn’t want to leave. But they made me, which wasn’t too hard since they gave me cute yellow boots and told me I could go look at cute baby cows. Sold!
Before we flew home, we spent the morning at one of the Tillamook dairy farms, owned by Ryan and Wendy. Tillamook is a cooperative, so the farmers all have a stake in the business. There are less than 150 farms in the co-op and they are all within a fairly short distance of the plant. And, from what we witnessed, the cows on those farms are living good lives as Tillamook employees.
Here’s the deal. We did not hear one “MOO” the entire time we were on the tour. Wendy said that cows only “moo” when they are discontent or warning other cows about something, so if they’re quiet, it pretty much means they’re happy and content.
Wendy and Ryan were gracious hosts and taught us all kinds of interesting things about being dairy farmers. I think what struck us most is how much work it is and how tied they are to the farm. It’s really hard for them to ever get away and I think they said it’s been 2 years since their last vacation. Heavens. And Ryan is up before 3:00 AM every day. I can’t even imagine.
They explained that it costs more to make high-quality milk but that Tillamook incentivizes the farmers to make high-quality milk, so it’s worth it. It is amazing how much goes into the process of milking cows twice a day. This particular farm has around 400 cattle and it costs $7/day/cow just for feed. Ryan is a 4th-generation dairy farmer, so he knows what he’s doing. He and Wendy were both incredibly relaxed and happy.
Needless to say I had a fabulous time, surrounded by wonderful people, delicious food and cute cows! I learned a lot and am so appreciative that I was able to be a part of the trip. Also, we had the chance to taste a new Tillabar flavor that is coming out next year and it is AMAZING. I’m not allowed to tell you what it is, but I’ll be sure to let you know when it hits stores!
Thank you, Tillamook!
Tuesday, August 12
About six months ago I needed to order some parchment paper sheets from King Arthur and then proceeded to get totally sucked in and bought way more stuff than I was planning on (like the tulip baking cups). I had been wanting a bread box, mostly for when I make homemade bread. I had done some research but hadn’t found anything that I thought would work well.
Then I noticed this expandable bread keeper on the King Arthur site. It caught my eye for two reasons. First, it’s expandable. Second, it had an air vent. The biggest complaint I found with other bread boxes was that bread would go moldy. The vent seemed like the answer.
So, I bought the expandable bread keeper, got it in the mail, and then stuck it in a cupboard and forgot about it. Like, my-friend-Debbie-texted-me-one-day-and-asked-if-I-had-a-bread-box-and-I-told-her-no forgot about it. When we got home from vacation this summer, I stumbled on the bread box, broke it out and started using it. AND I LOVE IT.
The vent works great and has two settings, depending on how humid your climate is or if your bread is warm. I love that it can expand to different sized loaves, and it’s really tall so you can fit a lot in there. And there is also a little mini bread board inside, making it really easy to slice off the bread you need and then put it away.
This bread keeper is great for homemade bread but I do also use it for breads we buy at the store that come in paper bags (like fresh French and Italian breads). I’m using less plastic bags AND the bread keeps better. We even stored leftover muffins in there and it worked great – since the bread keeper is so tall, I just stacked two layers of muffins inside.
I had a loaf of crusty bread go moldy the other day, but it had been in there for a whole week, so, you know, obviously it went moldy. And it actually stayed UN-moldy much longer than when it’s in a plastic bag.
So, there you have it. I love my expandable bread keeper and I’ll never forget its existence ever again! If you’re in the market for a bread box, I know it’s not as cute as some of the metal retro ones out there, but I think the function on this far exceeds the need for a glamorous bread box. Just sayin’.
Anyone have any bread box advice? Do you have on you love? Tell us about it!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 9:48 am 5 Comments
Categories: fab faves, Kitchen Tips, the goods Tags: bread box, bread keeper, expandable bread keeper, king arthur flour, kitchen equipment, kitchen gadgets, kitchen tips |
Friday, August 8
Before I get to food links, I have two things to share with you that I’m loving.
First off, I started wearing Birks. As in Birkenstocks, specifically the Gizeh sandals. I received them as a gift last fall at a Ladies’ Home Journal event but didn’t start wearing them, despite my sister-in-law Hannah who works in fashion in NYC telling me that people were totally wearing them again. Then I bought a standing desk and my feet started hurting from standing so much and then I pulled out the fancy new Birks and THEN I FELL IN LOVE. Just thought I should let you know. My feet never hurt when I wear these. Plus, they’re actually kinda cute.
Second, a new company started by a mom contacted me about trying out their product, the Kupp’. My kids are absolutely loving it! I love that they are made out of glass, given my goal to phase out plastic as much as possible from our lives, but the silicone sleeve makes them very kid-friendly. And my kids love having their very own cup to be responsible for. They basically haven’t used anything else for two weeks!
Here’s my post on Babble this week. My kids and I were supposed to try a Disney recipe out and report on how it went. The popsicles are made from non-fat, plain yogurt, bananas and blueberries with just a bit of honey. I honestly didn’t think my kids would like the popsicles that much, but I was so wrong. They loved them! This is a great recipe for kids:
And food fun on Cosmo:
- 15 Perfect Peach Recipes You Need to Try This Summer
- 15 Incredible Three-Ingredient Desserts
- 12 Unexpected Ways to Use Peanut Butter
- 10 Amazing Ice Cream Sandwiches You Must Try This Summer
As always, please share anything you like!
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!)