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Category: musings

  1. Sunday, February 17

    Week 317 Menu

    On Wednesday this past week my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. He was 91-years old and was a happy man to the end. We are sad but he didn’t suffer and lived a long life. You know, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this death thing. It’s just so strange. And unexpected deaths, well, I don’t like missing the chance to say goodbye. I just hope Grandpa Wallin has been hearing my thoughts all week, as I ponder his life and think about what I would have said to him one last time if I’d had the chance.

    I am grateful to my grandfather and my grandmother (who died in 1995) for having the courage to move to the United States all those years ago, setting into motion the events that lead to me sitting here today.

    We are staying with family all this week, so no menu for me. My meal plan is to enjoy lots of meals with people I love!

    Please still post your menus for the week so you can inspire one another! And, your homework this week (well, besides planning a menu!)…pick up the phone and call a loved one you haven’t talked to in a while.

    Have a great week, everyone!


  2. Thursday, January 31

    Happy 6th Birthday, TWFD! And a KitchenAid Giveaway to Celebrate!

    Today is the 6th birthday for This Week for Dinner! Happy Birthday, Blog!

    It’s funny, looking back so much has happened in that time: two babies, a few moves, career twists and turns, lots and lots of food. It almost feels like it’s been a good decade or so! I have loved writing this blog and I look forward to many more years of doing so! I also want to thank all of you for your support. A blog is a unique thing because the readers actually take part and truly shape the blog’s personality. I am thankful to you for your comments, conversations, interactions. And, if nothing else, I get to steal your menu plan ideas every week!

    In celebration of the blog’s birthday, I have a spectacular giveaway for you today! One of you VERY lucky, randomly-selected commenters will win a KitchenAid 13-Cup Food Processor! You even get to pick the color! (Retail value $249.99. U.S. shipping address only, please.) It’s wicked cool (shout out to you New Englanders!), with externally-adjustable slicing, a second 4-cup mini bowl, ultra-wide mouth tube with 3 size options, and three speeds. Bottom line, it’s the top of the line. It’s beautiful. It’s awesome.

    I have been wanting a food processor forever but never pulled the trigger. The other day when I was watching the America’s Test Kitchen homemade pizza episode, they recommended the KitchenAid as their favorite food processor. I was SO happy that’s the one they picked cuz I gots friends at KitchenAid. I went a-begging, telling them I wanted to do something FUN and BIG for the blog’s birthday. Next thing I know I have a beautiful, empire red food processor in my kitchen and another one to give away! A very happy birthday, indeed. Big thanks to KitchenAid!

    I did in fact make the America’s Test Kitchen pizza (more on that tomorrow) and the food processor was fantabulous. (Side note: Spell check accepted fantabulous as an actual word.) I have a new pizza sauce recipe that I can’t wait to share with you tomorrow (that post is now published, click here!). It will be the perfect recipe for you to try out on your new food processor…but you have to enter the giveaway first!

    Here’s how to get yourself in the running!

    All comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Wednesday, February 6.

    Good luck to everyone and thanks again to KitchenAid!

    Now, go eat some chocolate. That’s how the blog wants us all to celebrate. It is the blog’s birthday, after all. We should listen.


  3. Sunday, January 27

    Week 314 Menu…and Using Beautiful Things

    Hello! I think I just might be ready to get back in the groove! Our house is still a mess of paper, boxes and piles, but we’re getting there!

    This morning I discovered that the dishwasher is basically useless. {Insert sarcastic “Yay!”} Cate and I rewashed and dried everything and had a nice time together. I don’t know if or when the dishwasher issue will be resolved, so I think we have a lot of dishwashing in our future.

    I am a firm believer in using beautiful things. For example, the cutting board that I bought at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Part of me wants to set it aside, put it on display, never let a knife hit its surface. But it is a cutting board, you’re supposed to cut on it! And because it is so beautiful, that elevates the everyday, mundane task of cutting things up. Even daily tasks can be beautiful and inspiring when looked at in the right light.

    I have been hiding away a stack of embroidered dishtowels that my grandma gave us when we got married. Embroidered dishtowels were her standard wedding gift and heaven only knows how many towels she embroidered over the years. This morning when I discovered we would be washing a lot of dishes, I decided to take these special towels out of the linen drawer. I took photos of each towel in their white, pristine state. And then I officially put them into the regular dishtowel rotation. I’m going to enjoy the towels, look at them everyday instead of once every few years when I reorganize the linens. I’m going to think of my grandma every time we use the towels. And I’m going to create memories with my children. These towels will become a part of my children’s history, just as the towels my own mother received on her wedding day are a part of my history and memories of childhood. These cute, embroidered duckies will forever remind my kids of hours spent washing, drying, talking and getting to know one another better over the kitchen sink.

    And now, a real menu for the Maynard family!

    SUNDAY (today):
    Steak
    – Roasted fingerling potatoes and zucchini

    MONDAY:
    – Chicken, zucchini and corn enchiladas
    – Guacamole and chips

    TUESDAY:
    – Chicken Masala (using TJ’s simmer sauce)
    – Rice and a veggie

    WEDNESDAY:
    – Leftovers

    THURSDAY:
    – Homemade hamburgers

    FRIDAY:
    – Takeout

    SATURDAY:
    – Breakfast for dinner (probably waffles)
    – Fruit

    SUNDAY:
    – Chicken Noodle Soup
    – Homemade bread

    Thank you all who have so stalwartly posted weekly menus over the last month of crazy in my life. I am so grateful for your inspiration every week! Looking forward to seeing what you have planned for this week! And remember to bring beauty into your everyday!


  4. Wednesday, January 23

    Hello from the Land of Boxes

    Hey there! Can you hear me? Not sure if you could because I am literally buried in boxes right now (Ann Perkins!). I can barely move and am pretty sure my voice must be muffled by all the paper that is burying me alive.

    Since I am not cooking and I can’t download photos from my good camera anyway because heaven only knows where my cord is, thought I would just pop in and say hi real quick. I have a post about change brewing in my head, but it’s taking too long to get on paper and, right now, I really just need to unpack, unpack, unpack.

    So, we made it to San Diego. Barely. Four of the five members of our little family got the stomach flu this weekend…yes, the very weekend we were driving to San Diego. And, I may or may not have mentioned this (my brain is so fried I can’t remember), but the girls and I all had lice the week before that. (I paid a pretty penny to get rid of it, but it was worth every dime. P.S. Nitxies in Redwood City is AWESOME.) Anyway, my weeks of single parenthood are over, I am SO grateful that Nate’s company paid for movers, and we are in beautiful San Diego safe and sound. I wasn’t entirely sure it would actually happen, but it did! And, this morning at the park, we could smell the ocean. We are lucky people. (Shout out to all the single parents out there…you are amazing.)

    A long time ago I told you about Howard’s Piccalilli Relish, which I have only ever found in New England. I kind of love it. So, every time we go east, I buy a couple bottles and carry them home in my suitcase. Today, as I was unpacking, I found EIGHT JARS OF RELISH. If you combine a little bit of obsession with forgetfulness, you end up with EIGHT JARS OF RELISH.

    Wonder what else I’m going to find the next few days…


  5. Wednesday, December 19

    Gratitude

    Yesterday was a rough day, thanks to work and myriad other things going on. When dinnertime rolled around, we decided to just hit California Pizza Kitchen with the kids. When we first got there, Owen was being all grumpy-like and the girls were kind of hyper. I was feeling overwhelmed.

    Then Cate said, “Let’s play I Spy!” Honestly, my brain couldn’t handle it. I kept thinking about my to-do list, I wasn’t feeling well, I just didn’t have the energy. But Nate jumped in and proceeded to play a guessing game with the girls all throughout dinner. I sat there, watching their excitement with the game, listening to their sweet comments, gazing at their innocent, beautiful faces. It was like a healing balm. I felt grateful…grateful for Nate, grateful for those cute kids.

    Gratitude. That is what I’m focusing on this week.

    Gratitude for a 5-year-old daughter who wanted a crown birthday cake. Gratitude that I had the chance to make it for her.

    Gratitude for the work that provides us a place to live, even if it gets stressful sometimes.

    Gratitude for each moment I get to spend with my loved ones.

    I’ll survive the week. I may or may not get everything done that I’m supposed to, but that’s okay. I am grateful.


  6. Sunday, December 16

    Week 308 Menu…Honoring…

    Today, no menu. I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right. I know all of us were affected deeply by what happened in Connecticut on Friday. It was all I could do not to burst into tears at any given moment on Friday, especially as I sat in my car at school pick-up watching my daughter’s classmates stream out of the school in anticipation of the weekend, blissfully unaware of the dangers in the world.

    I talked with Cate just a bit about what happened. No details, just broad strokes.  I wanted her to know a little of what happened, in case she heard talk of the event at school or in other places, which I am sure she will. I wanted her to feel safe. I wanted her to know that, despite the bad in the world, there is good.

    A quote going around Facebook this weekend really struck me. It’s from Fred Rogers, one of my all-time favorite people. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” I shared this quote with Cate. She got it. And we both agreed, the world is full of helpers.

    My weekly menu post is normally up Sunday morning. It was on my to-do list this morning, as it is every week. Only today was also one of our daughter’s birthday.  So there were other items on the list that aren’t normally there. Blowing up balloons. Wrapping presents. Decorating birthday cake. Surviving {barely} dinner at Chuck E Cheese. The blog post kept moving down the list. Because those other items, those were more important. Those were the moments that needed to be savored and the blog post could wait.

    Instead of menus this week, let’s focus our comments on honoring the families of Newtown, Connecticut. One of my online friends Victoria, aka VDog, lost her nephew Noah on Friday. Her tweet was one of the first I read on Friday and it broke my heart. Please comment and share words of comfort, love and support for sweet little Noah’s family and all the families affected by this tragedy. (You can click here for more info on how to support Victoria.)

    Much love to all…


  7. Wednesday, November 28

    Holy Long Recipe, Batman! (Confiture de Lait)

    Remember a few years ago when I went to the Fancy Food Show with my lovely French, food-blogging friend Vanessa? And how she introduced me to confiture de lait, a.k.a. milk jam, a caramel sauce made from milk that is a specialty item from Normandy? And how my life was never the same because from that moment on I knew milk jam existed but had no way to actually buy it? You don’t remember? Well, trust me. It’s all true.

    You may be wondering even after my roundabout description above, what the heck is milk jam? It’s just that…a jam of sorts made from milk and sugar. It’s kind of like sophisticated sweetened condensed milk. And it’s heavenly.

    Since you can’t buy it in the States, I decided to make confiture de lait myself once. And I failed. Miserably. This past month, however, I felt like I needed to give it another try, maybe using a slower cooking technique. I followed this recipe for confiture de lait exactly because it looked like it would turn out very nicely. I had a day where I was going to be home all morning and doing a bunch of other cooking anyway, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. If I started cooking the milk around 9 am, it would be done by the time I had to pick kids up at school at 2 pm. No problem. Easy peasy.

    Yeah, not so much.

    ELEVEN hours later I had a small pot of confiture de lait. Yes, you heard me. Eleven. I picked Anna up at school then rushed home to stir. I picked Cate up at school then rushed home to stir. I dropped the girls off at dance then rushed home to stir. I picked up the girls from dance then…you guessed it…rushed home to stir. It was bananas, people. Bananas.

    So, was it worth it? Nope. It wasn’t. My milk jam just wasn’t the same as the stuff from Normandy. Mine is still good, but just not the same. And, to top it all off, once I refrigerated the confiture de lait after it had cooled, I ended up with a giant, hard, sugary lump of milk jam in the center of the container. Only half of the batch ended up being useable. Quel horreur!

    It’s story-sharing time! Tell us about the most time- or work-intensive recipe you’ve ever made. And tell us if it was worth all that time, labor and love. And, if it was worth it, please share the recipe because it must be amazing!


  8. Friday, November 9

    {Food for Thought Friday} All You Need is Love

    Photo courtesy of the inspiring Tracey Clark from Shutter Sisters

    Today I feel sad. But with that sadness I also feel hopeful.

    I feel sad for those who, still reeling from Sandy, were hit once again this week with more destructive weather. Weather that makes it hard to clean up the mess that is already there. Cold weather that is impossible to fend off without heat and electricity.

    But I feel hopeful for these same people. Hopeful when I hear story after story of those sacrificing to help others, stepping up to comfort, feed and house those who can’t do so for themselves. Like Tad Long, a Dallas food truck owner I heard about through one of my high school friends in New Jersey. He’s heading to the Jersey shore this week. His food truck can serve 200 meals, so he’s serving those meals to people in need, even if it means driving 1,500 miles.

    Despite the destruction, I have hope. People are resilient, especially when they lift one another up, love one another, serve one another.

    In addition to the storms, the election has made me sad. Well, the election itself hasn’t made me sad. In fact, I’m grateful for the election, for the process, for what it represents. Taking my kids with me to vote was incredibly positive and uplifting. What makes me sad is watching the reactions of some people to the election results. I have been stunned at comments by friends and family, both online and in person. Hurtful comments that have brought people I love dearly to tears (I may have shed a tear or two myself, hurting for those hurt by the comments).

    I know this is nothing new. It happens every four years. The losing side gets frustrated, sad, often angry. According to a Montreal-based immigration lawyer, every four years Americans start calling in September, convinced they will be moving to Canada in a month’s time. (In case you’re wondering, only 3 or 4 people in 30 years have made good on that promise.)

    In spite of my sadness, though, I feel hopeful.

    Hopeful…because of people like my amazing friend Amy, a committed Republican who posted on her Facebook wall the night of the election, “Congratulations to President Obama. He fought a hard race and, while I hoped it would go the other way, I salute him as my Commander in Chief and pray he is successful in his hopes for a better America.”

    Hopeful…because of people like my thoughtful and passionate friend Carina. I don’t react very emotionally to the results of elections (even though I react emotionally to people’s reactions), so I have a hard time understanding where many of the negative commenters are coming from. But Carina does, and she has great empathy for those who are feeling sad/frustrated/angry this week, even if she disagrees with them politically. She wrote a letter to her conservative friends and it’s wonderful.

    Hopeful…because of people like Emily Ley, a Romney supporter who wrote a touching letter to her son, teaching him about respect and love, in spite of differences.

    And I believe that is the key: LOVE. I know it might sound cheesy or cliche, but love is transformative. It just is. If you stop and put your love glasses on, you see people differently. And, as a result, you treat them differently. And while love may not make things perfect, it does make things better. I believe John Lennon was right: all you need is love.

    No matter what side of the political spectrum you are on, we all have the same goal, to make our world a better place. We may have different means to reach that end, and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of our country. We all have the liberty to believe what we want to believe. For example, I am not libertarian and my friend Dennis is. We don’t agree, but I seriously love it when he comments on my Facebook posts. He’s thoughtful about his beliefs and I completely respect him, even if I interpret things differently.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

    I’m going to stick to love, too. Let’s love each other, in spite of our differences. In fact, let’s love each other because of our differences. It’s hard sometimes, but I have great hope that we can do it. And, when we do, we’ll be that much closer making our world the better place we are all striving for.


  9. Friday, October 26

    {Food for Thought Friday} Fair Trade Cocoa

    One of my most favorite people I’ve met through blogging is Kristen Howerton from Rage Against the Minivan. Her blog is great, she’s a fantastic writer, and she’s even better in person, if you can believe it. The first time we hung out, we spent several hours just talking, you know, about those light topics new friends talk about…politics, religion, the purpose of life. She truly is a kindred spirit and I admire her very much. So, when Kristen posted about fair trade chocolate, well, it really got me thinking.

    I’ll be honest, I haven’t thought much about fair trade cocoa. I mean, I sort of have. But, as Kristen points out, when something doesn’t affect us or our family directly, we as humans tend to not take much notice. I’m definitely guilty of that in this case. Her post is very thought-provoking and I recommend you go read it. She includes video in the post of a BBC documentary that is even more thought-provoking and, at times, gut wrenching. I’m not going to go into details here because I’m still learning, but please go use Kristen’s post as a springboard to start informing yourself about the issue. That’s what I’m doing. And, after reading and watching what I can, I’m going to think long and hard about how what I’ve learned is going to change my behavior.

    My mom works for Mars and I grew up in a town next to the M&M factory. We could smell the M&Ms in the air in the mornings, which is a fond memory for me. I certainly have a soft spot for them. I did a little research to see what Mars has to say on the topic. Over 2009-2011 they invested $70 million in sustainability efforts and say they expect to (let’s hope they really do) spend $30 million annually going forward. As of 2012, 20% of their cocoa is certified sustainable. It’s a step. Which is good. But there is still a long way to go, and the press release, while encouraging, doesn’t explicitly mention child labor. I have a feeling, as with most of the big food issues, change will take time but what we choose to buy and eat will be powerful for effecting that change going forward.

    Last week at the DailyBuzz Food festival I was introduced to the company MadécasseMadécasse was founded by peace corps volunteers who lived in and fell in love with Madagascar. They decided they really wanted to make a positive impact on the country, so they started a chocolate company, one that doesn’t just source fair trade cocoa from Madagascar but also actually produces the chocolate in the country. This has 4 times the impact of straight up fair trade cocoa and is also good for the planet. The chocolate was delicious and it was really neat chatting with them and learning their story. Madécasse isn’t the only company out there trying to do right by cocoa, and it’s exciting to see thoughtfully-built companies like this doing such great things to make a difference. 

    The cookie nabber is also a chocolate nabber…


  10. Friday, October 19

    {Food for Thought Friday} Type 3 Diabetes and California’s Prop 37

    It’s Friday. Time to party, right? Nope. Time to think and think hard, people! 😉 I feel like by the end of the week, I often have heard and read lots of “stuff” that really gets me thinking. So, I’m going to process my thoughts with you, share what I’ve learned, get your thoughts, see where it gets us. Thinking is good, even on Friday.

    So, for our first Food for Thought Friday post, I’m dropping two big bombs. Get ready.

    Alzheimer’s is probably the “new” diabetes
    As if two kinds of diabetes weren’t enough, several studies are indicating that Alzheimer’s could be considered Type 3 diabetes. Mark Bittman wrote a great piece on this subject on the New York Times recently that is worth a read.  No, really, go read it.

    I love dessert. Nate often teases that I should rename my blog This Week for Dessert. In all seriousness, though, it’s becoming increasingly clear just how bad sugar is for our bodies. One study after another indicates the great amount of havoc that sugar wreaks on our systems. I still stand by the adage “everything in moderation.” But, I must also admit, my sugar intake is not always moderate (and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one). How many times have I looked at people with Alzheimer’s and thought, “Oh, I hope that never happens to me.” Genetic predisposition plays a role, but it’s looking like what we eat plays a much bigger role in whether or not our brains go to pot. Which stinks, because I really love dessert. And french fries, for that matter. But I also really want to be lucid until the day I die. If I can affect whether or not that happens, I should seriously consider what I’m putting in my mouth every day.

    California’s Prop 37 and why it affects all of us
    If you live in California, you most certainly have heard of Prop 37. If you don’t live in California, let me give you a quick rundown.

    First off, as we all know, California is kind of a crazy place and here is just one more example. We have this initiative process where laws are proposed and get voted on by the people directly. The California constitution is probably 3,000,000 pages long because of all these propositions that get passed. I actually kind of hate the whole process because, well, I’m not an expert on any of this stuff and neither are most people. I think people in general tend to vote on many of these issues in an emotional way, which may not be the best way to, say, make budgetary decisions for a state in astronomical debt. But this is the system and it’s what we have to work with. You can read more about California’s ballot initiative process here if you like.

    Proposition 37 is one of these such initiatives that will be on the ballot in California this November. In sum, Prop 37 mandates labeling of genetically-modified food. And, if it is passed in California, it will impact the rest of the country somehow, somewhere. You know, setting wheels in motion and all of that.

    As with all propositions, I approach it skeptically. Especially after learning how poorly it is written, including so many exceptions to render the labeling almost meaningless. In addition, while I feel very strongly about the various impacts the industrialized food system has on our health and the health of the earth, I don’t think we can say that GM foods are all bad and evil, and mandating a label implies as much. (P.S. I reserve the right to change my mind as more information comes to light, of course!). I’m married to a scientist, a bioengineer at that. Nate and I believe in science and it’s ability to do a huge amount of good.

    HOWEVER, genetically-modified crops are a mainstay of Big Food (i.e. the big, rich, powerful companies that drive the industrialized food system). They are fighting this proposition tooth and nail and they are the reason there hasn’t been labeling from the get-go. And, as flawed as the proposition may be, it just might be the first time we can take a real, meaningful stand against a broken food system.

    I’m torn. This must be what a legislator in Washington feels like when a bill they believe in ends up with riders they don’t agree with but are necessary to get the bill passed. Politics are messy. I am sooooo glad I am not a politician. But, like it or not, voting on Prop 37 in a few short weeks gets me involved politically. And it puts the food system on the political map.

    Michael Pollan wrote a piece about Prop 37 for (you guessed it) the New York Times last week. He puts it all down on paper far more eloquently than I have. Go read it. It is, at the very least, thought provoking.

    I’m not telling you how I’m voting. Although, I have to say, I can’t imagine ever being on the same side as Monsanto. Much to ponder, here, my friends. Much to ponder.