Category: fab faves
Monday, December 21
Last year I had all kinds of giveaways set up for the holidays, but this year I took it easy. But I think we need a little bit of giveaway fun around here, don’t you?
On Friday I mentioned an Etsy shop that I recently discovered that I am loving. Chelsea Harp Designs sells hand-drawn prints, featuring quotes and sayings perfect for many places in the home and the holidays!
Chelsea graciously sent me my favorite Christmas print of hers, Oh Come Let Us Adore Him. It looks beautiful on our Christmas mantel, and I’m even thinking of framing it to hang all year.
Giveaway time! For this giveaway we will have three winners! Each winner will receive the “Cook Eat Be Happy” print, which I absolutely LOVE. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter the giveaway!*
*Comments must be made by Midnight PT on Monday, December 28, 2015.
Wednesday, December 2
I’m just gonna say it. I make the perfect turkey. After years of researching various methods and trying many of those methods, I finally have the definitive answer for how to cook the perfect turkey.
Photo credit: Anne Wallin
My mom and I have had so many Thanksgiving conversations over the years that go something like this. “Our white meat this year was delicious. I have no idea why!” Or,”Our white meat this year was just so-so. I have no idea why.”
Those conversations are a thing of the past. From now on this is what I’ll be saying to my mom the day after Thanksgiving. “Our white meat and our dark meat and everything about our turkey was perfect this year and I know exactly why.”
And I’m going to share the magic formula with all of you, of course. There are several steps to the process, each of which on their own would make for a good turkey. But combine them all together and you end up with a great turkey. Here’s the formula:
SPATCHCOCK + DRY BRINE + SLATHERED IN MAYONNAISE + ROAST AT HIGH HEAT = PERFECT TURKEY
I will never use another method. This is it. I’m done. Turkey perfected. And I’m going to explain the process in great detail so that, A) I know how to do it again, and B) you can do it, too.
BUY A FRESH, UNFROZEN TURKEY.
Buy a fresh, unfrozen turkey so that you can spatchcock it easily. Buy the turkey 3 days before you’re going to cook it. So, if you’re cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving, buy the turkey Sunday night or Monday morning and prep that baby Monday morning. (You can dry brine for just 1 or 2 days, but 3 is optimal, and this post is all about making the perfect turkey. So, go with 3 days.)
HOW TO SPATCHCOCK A TURKEY:
What is spatchcocking, you say? When you spatchcock a turkey, you cut out the backbone and then roast the turkey flat. It looks crazy, but the bird cooks faster and more evenly. The dark meat portions are more exposed to heat, so they finish cooking not long after the breast meat finishes cooking. “But I want to stuff my bird!” you may be thinking. Never fear, you can still “stuff” the turkey. I mean, it’s totally different, but you can do it and I’ll explain that in the roasting section below. But first, how to spatchcock.
- Remove the neck and giblets from inside the turkey if they came with the bird. Place them in a large pot.
- Place your raw, fresh turkey on a large cutting board, breast down. With large kitchen shears or scissors, cut out the back bone. This requires some serious hand strength. I was spatchcocking two turkeys, so I had to take a little break, my hand was starting to hurt. But, if I can do it, anyone can. (This post on Serious Eats has good pictures that show how to cut out the backbone. If you Google “how to spatchcock a turkey” there are tons of videos out there, too.)
- Once the backbone is removed, hack it in two and throw it in the pot with the neck and giblets. Fill the pot with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes. Voila! AWESOME turkey stock for your gravy! You’re welcome. Note: You can add other aromatics to the broth while it cooks, such as onions, carrots, parsnips, celery, and herbs. Not necessary but certainly delicious!
- Back to the turkey. Now, flip the turkey over and place it on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Press the turkey firmly on the breastbone to flatten it out. Use your muscles!
Now it’s time to move on to the dry brine. Oh, how I love the dry brine.
HOW TO DRY BRINE A TURKEY:
Now that your turkey is all flattened out and ready to go, it’s time to dry brine. This is exactly what it sounds like. You are brining the turkey and there is no water involved. It’s way easier than a water-based brine (trust me) and the results are fantastic.
- You need 1 tablespoon KOSHER salt for every 5 pounds of turkey. You can add 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs (like sage and/or thyme) per each tablespoon of salt, but it’s not necessary.
- Evenly rub the salt all over the turkey. You do not need to go under the skin, right on top works just fine. And you do not need to put salt in the cavity of the turkey (which, at this point, is the underside). Once you’ve used up all the salt, lightly cover the turkey with plastic wrap, place in the fridge and walk away. You can leave the turkey uncovered while it dry brines, but since there is other stuff in my fridge, I like to have a little protection so nothing touches the turkey directly.
- That’s it! You have successfully brined your turkey!
HOW TO ROAST THE SPATCHCOCKED, DRY BRINED TURKEY…DON’T FORGET THE MAYO!
Now it’s time to roast the turkey. You ready? Let’s go!
- Preheat the oven to 450º F.
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil (optional but makes for easier clean up).
- IF YOU WANT TO “STUFF” THE TURKEY: Place a layer of stuffing on the baking sheet, concentrating the stuffing at the center where it will be directly under the turkey. Place an oven-safe cooling rack on top of the stuffing, then lay the turkey on the rack.
- Slather about 1 to 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise all over the turkey. You can add pepper and herbs to the mayonnaise if you like (I added about a teaspoon of dry sage and thyme, along with some black pepper, to the mayo).
- Roast for about 45-60 minutes, take the turkey out of the oven, have one person lift the turkey straight up while the other person scoops the stuffing off of the pan. Replace with vegetables as described in the next step (the “non-stuffing” step). Mix the “stuffed” stuffing with the rest of your stuffing and bake as usual for your stuffing recipe.
- IF YOU DON’T WANT TO “STUFF” THE TURKEY: Place roughly chopped celery, onion, carrots and parsnips on the foil of the baking sheet. Place an oven-safe cooling rack over the veggies then place the turkey on the rack. (If you “stuffed,” you’ll simply put the turkey back down.)
- Slather about 1 to 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise all over the turkey. You can add pepper and herbs to the mayonnaise if you like (I added about a teaspoon of dry sage and thyme, along with some black pepper, to the mayo).
- FOR BOTH “STUFFED” and “UNSTUFFED”: Roast the turkey with an oven-safe thermometer placed deep in the breast. When the breast reaches 150º F, move the thermometer to the deepest part of the thigh and cook the turkey until the thigh temperature reaches 165º F, which will take about another 20 minutes. Total cooking time will be around 2 hours for a 15 pound turkey.
- Take turkey out of the oven and let it rest for about 30 minutes before carving.
- The veggies in the pan are great for snacking while you make the rest of dinner, and be sure to add the pan drippings to your turkey broth for making gravy!
CARVING THE TURKEY:
When it was time to carve the turkey, I did something I’ve never done before: I cut the entire breast off at once, then cut slices on a bias (see photos on Serious Eats). I carved all the meat off the wings, things and drumsticks. The turkey serving platter with all the carved meat was gorgeous. Sadly I didn’t get a photo, but my sister Instagrammed the carving process, which is the photo at the top of this post, so you can at least get an idea of how awesome the turkey platter was!
When my sister Anne and I started carving the turkey and taking bites, we could not believe how good the meat was. The breast meat was moist and flavorful all the way to the center. It was heavenly. It was miraculous. Oh, and the skin was awesome. This was the best turkey I’ve ever cooked (actually, turkeyS…I made 2!), and it might even be the best turkey I’ve ever eaten. Period.
PHEW. That’s it! I know it seems complicated and involved, but I promise it is not hard. You just have to follow the formula. And the formula is magical.
Please note: In the photos the turkey is not on sitting on a rack and there are no veggies below it. This is because I moved the turkey to a new tray to rest. I really did cook it on a tray over veggies!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 10:19 pm 2 Comments
Categories: fab faves, featured recipes, Kitchen Tips, main dishes, thanksgiving prep, way gourmet Tags: dry brine, roast turkey, spatchcocked turkey, thanksgiving turkey, turkey |
Friday, November 6
Happy Friday, everyone! Before we get to the usual Show and Tell portion of our program, I have to tell you about my friend’s new book!
Amy Mascott (my friend!) and Allison McDonald are just published their new book Raising a Rock-Star Reader and it’s wonderful! I received an advanced copy and it is filled with all kinds of wonderful tips, recommendations and resources for getting your children to be great readers. Years I ago I had the chance to hear a lecture from a UC Berkeley professor who specialized in early education. She talked at length about why it is so beneficial to read to children from a very early age – the very act of hearing varied language and many words helps children’s brains develop in tremendous ways. It was fascinating and something I’ve thought about a lot as we’ve raised our children.
Anna and Cate are both rock-star readers (I am grateful every day for this) and will probably be as excited to read Amy and Allison’s book as I am. Owen is still a wee thing and the tips in this book are fabulous. I can’t wait to start implementing the ideas with all three of our kids!
Of course you know I love giveaways! So, let’s give away a copy of Amy and Allison’s book! To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment telling us your most favorite children’s book. That’s it! Comments must be posted by Midnight PT 11/13/15 and prize must be shipped within the U.S.
Congratulations to Amy and Allison for a job very well done on their wonderful book! Here’s to happy readers!
And, since it’s Friday, a few links to share!
- On Cool Mom Eats: Scrumptious side dishes made with frozen vegetables to make life easy.
- On Babble: Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes that are amaaaaaazing.
Okay, so, be sure to leave a comment to enter the giveaway above! And, as always, feel free to share whatever you want for Show and Tell!
Posted by Jane Maynard at 11:42 am 12 Comments
Categories: fab faves, Giveaways, netflix, show and tell, the goods Tags: babble, cool mom eats, giveaway, les revenants, netflix, raising a rock-star reader, show and tell, the returned |
Friday, October 16
It’s FRIDAY! WOOHOO!
I have just one food link for you today. If you’re looking for a good cocktail for fall, well, I’ve got you covered. Be sure to check out this recipe for an Autumn Stone Wall on Babble! The origin of this cocktail dates back to Colonial times, so, you know, you should totally drink it in the name of history.
Okay, so Nate and I went a little crazy this week. We went to three concerts, all on school nights. And I am feeling it today. Actually, I was feeling it yesterday when we still had one more concert to go, which I think makes me officially an old lady. But it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. All three concerts rocked (pun intended) so I have to tell you about them!
- alt-j: I wasn’t so sure how the band alt-j would sound live since their music has a very electronic feel, but they were amazing! Really, so impressive. Their music is layered and complicated and different in a very good way. Such a great show, I highly recommend catching them live if you are a fan of the band.
- Florence and the Machine: We knew Florence’s voice would blow pretty much everything out of the water and we were right. Her voice is unreal. And she is BANANAS, running and jumping and spinning like a crazy person the entire concert. She must work out a LOT because WOW. Also, she is unbelievably endearing and sweet. At one point she got choked up and confessed that she hadn’t wanted to do the show that night as her beloved uncle had passed away less than 24 hours prior, but that she was glad she had done the show anyway. I don’t know how she pulled herself together after that. Anyway, she rocks. Go see her show if you ever get the chance.
- Hozier: This guy. I mean, we all know he has a great voice (and it’s even better live), but he is also a phenomenal guitarist who can JAM. And his songs are all great. Oh, and he is SO nice, with just a really positive vibe. He not only introduced the band members but the entire crew, including the bus drivers. At the close of the show he linked arms with his bandmates for a big bow, which was adorable, and he kept plugging the other musicians in the nicest most un-annoying way, including the opening band Little Green Cars (who were really good, btw). Basically, we love him. I also highly recommend going to one of his shows if you ever can.
If you visit my Instagram feed, you can watch little video snippets from each show. They’re pretty sweet.
That’s it for me today. As usual, please share your own stuff in the comments! That’s what Show and Tell is for!
Thursday, October 8
Last week I went to New Orleans with my mom, sister-in-law Cora and sister Anne with one goal: to eat tons of food. We not only achieved our goal, we did so with flying colors. Actually, too many flying colors. By the third night I felt strange. Physically strange. I think it was a food hangover. Listen, I’ve been known to put down a lot of food in my day, but New Orleans just about did me in. And it was totally worth it. Man, the food is awesome. And beyond food, the city is beautiful, the people are friendly and the music is the BEST. New Orleans has captured my heart. (As well as my stomach!)
Cabildo Alley. Photo credit: Cora Wallin
As we prepared for the trip, Anne made us all do research and put it in a Google doc so that when we were on the ground we’d be ready to go! Of course we didn’t get to half of what was in the doc, but we did a TON in our 3 1/2 days in NOLA and I honestly can’t believe how much food we ate.
If you follow my very enthusiastic advice and visit New Orleans (you better!!!), here are all the delicious/wonderful/interesting/fun places you should visit!
Ruby Slipper Cafe (Days 1 & 4…we started and ended our time in New Orleans here!)
My friend Kalli visited NOLA just one week ahead of us and recommended the Ruby Slipper Cafe, stating that the biscuits were the BEST THING EVER and that she wished she had just ordered biscuits and bacon as her meal. I do agree that those items were delectable, but I am SO glad we ordered other items, too. Honestly, Ruby Slipper really stands out for all four of us as a favorite from the weekend. Here are some of our Ruby Slipper top picks! (Click here for full menu and descriptions.)
- Chicken St. Charles: I could eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s UNREAL. The fried chicken is divine, the egg was poached to perfection, and the tasso sauce finished it all off beautifully. (Side note: Tasso ham is a southern Louisiana specialty.)
- Eggs Blackstone: This was my first meal in New Orleans and, let’s just say, it set a very high bar.
- One word: BISCUITS. Best biscuits we had all weekend.
- Bananas Foster Pain Perdu: This French toast was one of my mom’s favorite foods from the whole weekend. Delish!
- We didn’t imbibe at Ruby Slipper, BUT their alcoholic breakfast drink menu was extensive and delicious sounding. It’s always 5:00 somewhere, right?
Wednesday, September 30
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…I have met some truly amazing people thanks to blogging. Amazing. People. One of those people is food blogger and cookbook author Kathy Strahs. We met many moons ago at a conference and our friendship grew from there. For a short time we even lived in the same neighborhood, which was the BEST THING EVER. Sadly she’s not down the street any more, but I make up for that by pestering her with text messages.
One of the things I love about Kathy so much is her brain. She is a smart cookie, that Kathy. She also happens to be good at making cookies. She’s the whole cookie package (that’s like the highest compliment I can give someone). Anyway, yeah, Kathy’s brain. It does smart and cool and high quality stuff.
So, why am I rambling on and on about Kathy? Because I have some of that awesome Kathy stuff to share with you!
Here’s the deal. You will love this book. You need to buy it. Visit Kathy’s Kickstarter page to see the different pledge levels and secure your first-edition copy today! The pledge rewards are great, including a “How to Make Mac ‘n Cheese” graphic t-shirt designed by Kathy’s adorable daughter Hayley. There is a book trailer on the Kickstarter page as well as more details about the project. Please check it out and spread the word!
To celebrate today’s launch, I am participating in a blog potluck with Kathy and other food friends! I had the chance to make one of her 8×8 recipes – Honey-Glazed Chicken with Root Vegetables. Prep time was less than 25 minutes and dinner was delicious. I even doubled the recipe and used TWO 8×8 pans, because I knew we’d love it so much. I was right, we did!
A potluck wouldn’t be a potluck with just ONE dish! Be sure to check out all the other recipes from The 8×8 Cookbook that are being featured today to celebrate Kathy’s Kickstarter launch!
- Baked Blueberry Oatmeal (Breezy Brunch) ~ Julie from Peanut Butter and Julie
- Blueberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Cream Biscuits (Sweet Treats) ~ Gerry from Foodness Gracious
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars (Sweet Treats) ~ Jenny from Picky Palate
- Chocolate Craving Cake (Sweet Treats) ~ Amanda from I Am Baker
- Greek-Style Sausage and Peppers (Weeknights Won) ~ Liren from Kitchen Confidante
- Hot Ham and Cheese Sliders (Weeknights Won) ~ Amy from Very Culinary
- Layered Spinach, Artichoke and Crab Dip (On the Side) ~ Kathy from Panini Happy (and author of The 8×8 Cookbook)
- Pastitsio (The Sunday Dinner Table) ~ Rachel from Rachel Cooks
Without further ado, Honey-Glazed Chicken with Root Vegetables!
Honey-Glazed Chicken with Root VegetablesPrep timeCook timeTotal timeBy Kathy Strahs, from The 8x8 Cookbook: Square Meals for Weeknight Family Dinners and More--In One Perfect 8x8 Inch Dish (Burnt Cheese Press, 2015), reprinted with permission. As excerpted from the book: "The shiny glazed chicken drumsticks get all the attention in this dish, but the roasted root vegetables relaxing beneath them really deserve some notice. Carrots, turnips, and potatoes are flavorful in their own right, and here, with honey-balsamic glaze traveling down from the chicken, they become truly next level! They go into the oven partially cooked to make sure they’re done right in synch with the chicken."Author: Kathy StrahsServes: 4Ingredients
- 1 cup roughly chopped carrots (about 2 medium)
- 1 cup roughly chopped turnips (1 to 2 small)
- 1 cup roughly chopped skin-on red potatoes (about ½ pound)
- ½ small red onion, cut into wedges
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- ¾ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1½ pounds chicken drumsticks
- Heat oven to 400º F.
- Place the carrots, turnips and potatoes in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 4 minutes (alternatively, you can blanch the vegetables in a large pot of boiling water for 3 minutes). Drain any excess water and transfer the vegetables to an 8x8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish or metal baking pan. Add the onion wedges to the dish or pan.
- In a small bowl, stir together the honey and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the thyme, salt and pepper. Measure out ¾ teaspoon of the seasoning mixture and sprinkle it all over the vegetables. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables and toss to combine.
- Season the chicken with the remaining seasoning mixture–be sure to slide some of the seasonings under the skin as well as on the outside. Arrange the chicken on top of the vegetables. Roast for 20 minutes. Brush the chicken with half of the honey-balsamic mixture and bake for another 15 minutes. Brush the chicken with the remaining honey-balsamic mixture and continue baking until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF and the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes more (tent the chicken with foil if the glaze starts to burn).
Thank you to Le Creuset for providing the beautiful 8×8 dish!
Tuesday, September 29
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I like to make fun birthday cakes for my kids. Before you start feeling guilty for not making fun birthday cakes for your kids, don’t, because I promise there are plenty of other things you do as a parent that I’m failing at. If, however, you are like me and making fun birthday cakes is your thing, I do like to share my cakes with you so you can steal my ideas!
Owen had a pirate themed birthday party this year and he decided he wanted an anchor cake. Nate and I tried to talk him into a pirate flag cake. That would have been SO EASY…just a 9×13 cake with black frosting, topped with a fondant skull and crossbones rolled out and cut into the right shape…if only. But alas, he wouldn’t go for it. Anchors away!
At first I thought an anchor cake would be easy peasy. Shaping the cake was in fact simple, However, frosting the cake was WICKED HARD. So many nooks and crannies around the edge! My frosting skills were no match and this was my worst-frosted cake ever, but it still looked cute enough and 4-year-olds surprisingly don’t notice these things.
Here’s how to make an anchor cake!
- Bake a 9″ x 13″ cake.
- Draw your anchor shape onto the cake oriented vertically by scoring the top of the cake with a sharp knife, then cut the cake into the shape. Make it a nice tall anchor. It’s okay to have the top circle cut off and the side “arrow” thingies cut off because you can…
- …use the large cake scraps to shape pieces to round off the top of the anchor and add to the arrow-shaped sides.
- For the chain, I mixed black food coloring into white fondant to make grey. I rolled out skinny snake shapes and linked them together. The final touch was to lightly brush the chain with metallic edible silver dust from Wilton. That was Anna’s idea and it made the chain look AWESOME. I rolled out a thin white disc for the hole in the top of the anchor where the chain is attached.
Click here for my comprehensive “Amateur’s Guide to Making Super Cute Cakes,” which includes a recipe for chocolate cake and buttercream frosting as well as LOTS of tips for shaping and decorating cakes. And, because I’ve never shared it before, below is the recipe for vanilla cake we use, which was what Owen requested. This recipe comes from my favorite cake book, Cakes for Kids by Matthew Mead. The book is out of print but there are copies on Amazon.
The best part of Owen’s cake had absolutely nothing to do with the cake. The wind blew out his candles while we were singing. Nate quickly relit them all, then the wind blew 3 of the 4 candles out again. Nate went to relight them AGAIN. Instead Owen just rolled with the punches and blew out the one candle. It was super cute, although I suspect that he knew 1 candle was easier to blow out than 4. Crafty guy.
Vanilla CakePrep timeCook timeTotal timeThis is a great basic vanilla cake recipe from Matthew Mead's "Cakes for Kids" book. I've re-written the directions in my own words.Author: Jane MaynardIngredients
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for pans
- 2½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup butter at room temperature
- 1¾ cups sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temp
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1¼ cups milk
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange or lemon zest (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- This recipe works for 24 cupcakes, 2 8-inch or 9-inch cakes, or 1 9x13 cake. If using cupcake liners, place liners in muffin tin and set aside. If using cake pan(s), lightly grease the bottom of the cake pan, line it with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper and the sides of the pan. Lightly flour the pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the 2½ cups flour, baking powder and salt.
- Using a stand mixer, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl.
- Leaving the mixer on medium speed, add ¼ cup sugar. Beat for 3 minutes. Keep adding sugar ¼ cup at a time, mixing for 3 minutes between each addition until you've added all the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat on medium speed for 2 more minutes.
- Add eggs 1 at a time, beating at medium speed for 30 seconds between each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- With the mixer on low speed, add ⅓ of the flour mixture, then half of the milk, then ⅓ of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, then the rest of the flour mixture, mixing until just combined for each addition. If using zest, add it now.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl then give the batter one more mix at high speed for 20 seconds.
- Spread the batter in the pan, filling cake pans or cupcakes ⅔ full with batter.
- For 8- or 9-inch cakes, bake for 30-35 minutes. For 9x13 cake, bake for 35-40 minutes. For cupcakes bake for 10-12 minutes. Toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean when done.
- Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a knife, cut around the edges of the cake, then invert the pan over the wire rack, lift pan to remove cake and peel off parchment paper. Let cake cool completely on the rack. For cupcakes, let cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing.
Posted by Jane Maynard at 11:16 am 4 Comments
Categories: birthday cakes, fab faves, featured recipes, kids, Kitchen Tips, Recipes, sweet things Tags: anchor birthday cake, birthday cake, birthday cake decorating, cake, cake decorating, vanilla cake, yellow cake |
Friday, September 4
Hey friends! I don’t have any food links to share this week, so let’s just watch some TV, shall we?
Okay, Netflix is killing it. I have three shows I need to share.
First, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is on Netflix! Well, 20 episodes are, anyway. Just like with Reading Rainbow, we are pumped in our house. Both of those shows are the best and I’m so glad my kids can watch them!
Second, the kids and I watched On the Way to School this week. It’s a wonderful documentary to watch with your children and all three of my kids were interested and engaged the whole time. It follows four children from four parts of the world as they make their way to school in the morning. For me there were definitely moments of “What difference did it make having a camera there?”, but the film was still well done and impactful. Big thanks to our friends Nikki and Brian for letting us know about it! Also, if you are prone to crying, keep a box of Kleenex handy.
My third recommendation for the week is not for the kiddos. In fact, keep the kids far, far away! Nate and I started watching the Netflix original Narcos this week and we are hooked. Narcos follows the story of the infamous Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar and the DEA agents who worked to take him down. Basically the whole time I am watching this show, I can’t stop thinking, “How is this real?!?!?!” This show is very well done and engaging, as well as disturbing and shocking. So, if you’re into drug cartels and stuff, this one’s for you! 😉
Thursday, September 3
Today is more of a PSA than anything. Sometime over the last year I discovered that our Albertson’s grocery store sold tortilla chips in the deli section. The chips had a sticker that said “Made here” and they looked pretty good, so I grabbed a bag.
Like a million times better than any other tortilla chips you can buy. They’re just so fresh and the texture is just so good and it sort of tastes like if you made the chips yourself, which of course you will never ever do but now you don’t have to.
So, anyway, the Albertson’s where I got the chips closed down, so for the last 6 months I’ve been driving to another Albertson’s farther away JUST to buy chips. I usually buy like 3 bags at a time and I’m pretty sure the employees there call me the Crazy Chip Lady behind my back.
Then the other day my friend Debbie was like, “Um, they have those at VONS, too.” VONS is way closer to my house than Albertson’s, so I was like, “WHAT?!?!?!” and promptly went out and bought a bag. The VONS “homemade” tortilla chips are exactly like the Albertson’s chips and basically now I can die happy.
SOOOOOO…what is the point of this post? If your grocery store sells tortilla chips that are made on site, usually found in the produce or deli section of the store, you should be buying them and eating them and not buying any other tortilla chips ever. I have no idea how many stores do this in how many states, so I don’t know how helpful this advice is for you. But you need to at least investigate. The chips will change your life.
Can you tell I might be a little bit teensy weensy addicted to and obsessed with these chips? In my defense, everyone I introduce the chips to feels just as passionately, so I’m not totally crazy. I swear.
Tuesday, August 18
Most years when we go out east for our annual summer adventure, Toyota generously lends us a car to try out on the trip. This year we drove a Sienna and, as a result, I have decided we need to have a discussion. A minivan discussion.
First, a confession. I drive a minivan. (AND my girls play soccer. Go ahead, call me Soccer Mom. I can handle it.) Nate drives a Toyota Prius and I drive a Honda Odyssey, so we pretty much fit into all kinds of middle-aged Californian stereotypes. 😉 Anyway, back to minivans. We bought the van about 6 months after Owen (our third child) was born. We went to the lot to check out the Pilot with ZERO intention of buying a minivan. Guess what we ended up driving off the lot? That’s right. We gave in. We decided that it was ridiculous to pay more money for a car (in this case, an SUV or crossover with the optional third bench) that didn’t really work for our family of 5. So, we bit the bullet.
I am SO glad we did. I have zero qualms about driving a minivan. It’s the best for about a million reasons. You can push a button and open all your doors! The doors slide! There is TONS of storage space even when you have 8 people sitting in your car! And people TOTALLY think you drive the coolest looking car! (Okay, maybe that last one isn’t exactly accurate…)
Years ago when I started my relationship with Toyota they lent us Sienna. It was before we had our own minivan and, quite honestly, I didn’t love it. The user interface just wasn’t that great, as great as all the extra space was. Fast forward 6 years or so to this summer, driving the latest Toyota Sienna. I love it just as much as my Odyssey. In fact, I don’t even know which one I like more! Plus, the Sienna comes with an All-Wheel Drive option, which is ideal if you live in a place with weather. So my previous advice of, “The Odyssey is totally better” is now “Just choose the one you like better for whatever small reason you can find because they are equally awesome.”
Here are a few things in particular we loved about the Sienna.
1. Two sunroofs! We marveled at the gloriousness of the second sunroof!
2. The “infotainment” interface is great, and I like the display better than the Odyssey. Plus, the positioning of the screen is perfect so there is never any glare, making it visible at all times.
3. The memory positions for the drivers’ seat are super handy.
4. This particular Sienna came with sensors that alert you to people in your blindspot as well as beep when you’re backing up, etc. We could have gotten this on our Odyssey if we wanted but opted not to spend the extra money. That said, I LOVED the feature very much when I was using it and it made me wish I had it at home.
5. I love Toyota’s keyless entry and startup system. Here’s how it works: if you have the key on your person, when you are close to the car you just touch the door handles and the car unlocks. It’s so super duper awesome and works beautifully. You can also lock the car by touching a spot on the handle when you get out. I pretty much just left the key safely in my purse the entire trip, it was great!
6. There is just so much storage space. I’ve already mentioned this, but it is worth mentioning again. And it’s very easy to put the back seats up and down if you want even more storage. We have driven the Toyota Highlander for a few summers and, as much as I loved that car, with 3 kids and all our luggage it was PACKED. We never even came close to filling the Sienna on this trip, even with other people’s luggage thrown in with ours.
7. Lots of space for “tickle trains.”
8. The Sienna really is the Swagger Wagon. It even played awesome old school rap for me.
The model we were driving did not have an eighth seat, which we could have used a couple times with all the family we were visiting. But other than that, I have no complaints. The Sienna was fabulous!
Oh, are you wondering why new car smell is like cilantro? My sister-in-law Cora, my mother-in-law Pat and I all thought the car smelled really strong. It kind of got into our nasal cavity, like we were breathing it. But NO ONE ELSE knew what we were talking about. We decided it must be similar to the cilantro gene, you know the one where some people think cilantro tastes like soap? Apparently new car smell has a similar effect on a small percentage of the population. 😉 Like how I brought it all back to food, there? I can ALWAYS bring the conversation back to food.
Okay, time for some CONTROVERSY. Do you drive a minivan? Are you adamantly opposed to them? Do you secretly wish you had one but don’t have the guts to drive a Swagger Wagon? Even my sister-in-law who has no children said that the minivan she drives for work is the BEST. See? EVERYONE loves minivans! That’s my supposition, anyway. I think the people who say they don’t are just lying 😉 So, speak up! Tell us what you think!