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Category: Kitchen Tips

  1. Thursday, February 23

    Charcuterie for 500, Please, Alex.

    From Jane: I am super excited today because I get to introduce you to This Week for Dinner’s first-ever regular contributor (who isn’t me!). Everyone meet Cora Wallin! Cora is my sister-in-law who has been making good food for our family since the day we all met her. She’s an excellent cook who is behind some of my favorite recipes here on the blog (I’m looking at you taco meat, sour cream banana bread and sweet potato burritos with the yummiest black beans ever). Last summer when Cora and I were hanging out at my parent’s house, she was telling me about a few of her recent favorite recipes. I was thinking about how I needed to make them and photograph them so I could share these recipes on the blog, and then I had a genius idea. Cora is both a fabulous writer AND photographer, so, um, that means she can just write these blog posts for me, right? Somehow I got her to agree and now we are all benefitting! (Okay, maybe Cora isn’t benefitting so much, but whatever. She just loves me THAT MUCH.) Cora is kicking things off with a delicious and beautiful post that explains how to do charcuterie at home. Thank you Cora! 
    How to Do Charcuterie (Photo credit: Cora Wallin) from @janemaynard

    We had an official #adulting moment last month. We were invited to dinner as a family (including husband Christian, 7-year-old Maddox, 5-year-old Sophie and 8-month-old Phoebe) by one of Maddox’s classmates. Obviously, I’m not a stellar member of the PTA (excuse me, PTO) for this to be our first family-dinner-at-a-classmate’s rodeo. It felt significant. It felt a bit nerve-racking. Would it be an evening of polite and benign conversation while the smelly seven-year-olds made fart jokes at the end of the table or would this be the beginning of family friends?

    About 30 minutes before show time, I sent the husband out to buy flowers and wine. Which meant we were almost late to a dinner only two blocks away. We arrived dew-kissed (read: sweaty) and slightly winded from the horror of getting three children in and out of coats, hats and shoes. The older kids ran off to destroy our hosts’ home while Christian and I joined the grown-ups on the sofa by the fire. I plopped down onto said sofa with Phoebe clinging to me and became even “dewier” thanks to the romantic, blazing hearth. Then my eyes fell to the coffee table where there upon the altar of friendship was laid mana. Life reviving sustenance. BEHOLD, a cheese board with the all the dressings and trappings of a Pinterest fantasy. Then I knew, I really knew, we would all be fast friends.

    How to Do Charcuterie (Photo credit: Cora Wallin) from @janemaynard

    That’s the power of the charcuterie. It brings fancy salamis and smelly cheeses together on little edible carb-loaded plates and turns everyone into heart-eyed smiling emoji faces. It’s pure magic. It’s how we can heal this world. So let’s break it down Jeopardy style…behold the keys to world peace.

    What is…charcuterie?

    Charcuterie is just a snooty french word that means a collection of cured meats. Now, I’ve unsuccessfully attempted charcuteries in the past, but what my new best friends showed me was the key to friendship and charcuterie glory is an assortment. Before I would grab 3 different kinds of meats and it always felt like a bit of a let down when I made the spread. Go for a variety, not quantity. Try rosemary ham, 3 different salamis and a pate or teewurst. Have a mix of sweet, spicy, peppery meats as well as melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto. It’s much better to do a little bit of a lot of things than a lot of just a few.

    What is…cheese?

    But meat alone won’t do the trick, otherwise my southern cousins’ pepperoni logs and Slim Jims would be the height of social entertaining. The lactose-y wonder of cheese is what makes all those delectable meats sing. Again, it’s all about the the different textures and flavors. Pick up a creamy brie, crumbly blue, smoky gouda and zippy manchego. Each bite should feel like a choose-your-own-adventure book for your mouth.

    How to Do Charcuterie (Photo credit: Cora Wallin) from @janemaynard

    What are…edible plates?

    Serve that wonderful meat and cheese on delicious edible plates. And don’t forget, variety, variety, variety! (Are you sick of that theme yet?) Don’t just serve water crackers. Slice up a fresh baguette. Grab some fig and olive crackers at Trader Joe’s. Toss in thin and crunchy breadsticks. The more the merrier.

    What are…all the extras?

    The extras are what will really set your charcuterie and cheese board apart. There are SO many amazing options but here are just a few: marinated olives (pitted always feels less awkward), nuts, caper berries, pepperoncinis, roasted peppers, juicy grapes, thin-sliced Granny Smith apples, french dijon mustard, fig preserves, quince or guava paste, fresh honey…the list is endless. A great place for ideas can be your local wine shop. Many of them have cheese departments where you can get suggestions for wonderful pairings.

    How to Do Charcuterie (Photo credit: Cora Wallin) from @janemaynard

    What is…presentation?

    Lastly, don’t forget to make it pretty. Put cheese on little squares of parchment. Add fragrant sprigs of fresh herbs. Roll soft cured meats and fan out chorizo slices. Intermix your groups of meats, cheeses, crackers and extras.

    Remember this is about coming together. It’s about building bridges of hope and love. Let the cheese show you the way.


  2. Wednesday, January 11

    Anna’s Hamburger Birthday Cake

    Like most parents, I come up short in lots of ways. But there is one thing I am committed to as a mom that I have yet to fail on: birthday cakes. (I probably should knock on wood after making such a bold statement!) I blame my own mother for this obsession, thanks to the truly memorable birthday cakes she made for me as a child. Each year I let the kids choose whatever they want for their cake and then I tackle it. So far I’ve had pretty good success and I love sharing the cakes with you so you can make them, too!

    How to Make a Hamburger Birthday Cake from @janemaynard

    Anna had her birthday last month and requested a hamburger birthday cake. (This girl has a thing for cakes that look like savory foods, apparently.) It was her “family year,” which means no party, just a fun night with the fam. Rogue One came out on her birthday, so we went and saw the movie together. She could pick anywhere to go out to eat but decided to do takeout hamburgers and come home to eat in the living room while watching old Gilmore girls episodes. Naturally a hamburger birthday cake was in order!

    Anna and I did some searching on Pinterest and found a lot of ugly hamburger cakes as well as a lot of cakes that were just too much work. But then one caught our eye on a blog called Gluesticks. The mom had used unfrosted chocolate and vanilla cakes to make the bun and hamburger patty. Genius!

    How to Make a Hamburger Birthday Cake from @janemaynard

    Here is how I made the cake and a few notes for you if you decide to tackle this project yourself. (Click here for the Gluesticks instructions. She piped frosting for most of the decorating, but I hate washing frosting tips so took a little bit of a different approach.)

    • Make 2 yellow cake rounds and 1 chocolate cake round, all the same size, for the bun and hamburger.
    • For the lettuce: toss shredded coconut in the green liquid food coloring. Tip: I didn’t let the “lettuce” hang off the edges enough, wish I had concentrated more coconut to hang over the edges so you could see the lettuce better.
    • For the mayonnaise: Use white buttercream frosting in between layers 1 and 2 and layers 2 and 3, frosting out to the edge so you can see the “mayo.”
    • For the veggies and cheese: Either use marzipan or white rolled fondant. Separate and make a few different colors – red, green and yellow-orange. Roll the fondant/marzipan flat then cut into the shapes you need. I cut triangles freehand with a knife in the yellow fondant for the cheese. I used a medium-sized, smooth-edge round cookie cutter for the tomatoes. I used a small-sized, ripple-edged round cookie cutter for the pickles.
    • For the seeds: Pipe white frosting on top for the seeds!
    • I recommend using smaller round cake pans. I used my 9-inch cake pans and, well, it was SO MUCH CAKE. Plus I think the dome would have held better if the cake had been smaller. Bottom line: 9 inches was too big, 8 inches probably would have felt too big, too. However, those sizes will work for sure if that’s all you have or if you do in fact need a lot of cake. Otherwise, go with smaller cake pans!
    • Make sure you grease and flower the pans REALLY WELL and use parchment paper on the bottom. My cake ended up sticking to the pan a little too much on the edges in some parts. Those parts did not look pretty and I had to hide them in the back.
    • Do not use cake strips for this cake, at least for the yellow cake rounds. You want the yellow cake to dome so that the top resembles a hamburger bun. Two quick notes: First, you will still want to level one of the yellow layers and the chocolate layer since they will be stacked. Just the top yellow layer should have a dome. Second, my cakes did dome in the oven but for some reason settled down flat after cooling – I think it was the homemade cake recipe I used. I think boxed cake mix may work better in this instance. If your cake does go flat, I recommend putting more frosting between the 2nd and 3rd layers, concentrated in the middle to make the top layer “poof” up a bit more like a bun. (I didn’t do that and you can see that my bun looks flat.)

    Click here for my cake decorating post with TONS of tips for making and decorating cute cakes. That post also includes the buttercream recipe I used.

    Happy hamburger birthday cake making!


  3. Wednesday, October 26

    Sweet & Zesty MacGyver No-Sodium Vinaigrette + Sodium Breakup + A Low-So Good Giveaway!

    I’m going to start a post about low-sodium eating with a crazy statement: I love salt. No, really. I LOVE SALT. So when I met my friend Jessica Goldman Foung (a.k.a. Sodium Girl) many moons ago, I have to be honest that low-sodium eating was something I had never even thought about. Then I heard Jessica’s story. In 2004 she was diagnosed with Lupus and learned that the autoimmune disease had attacked her kidneys and brain. As a result of all the craziness, she had to adjust her diet, including eating no sodium. This pretty much blew my mind. No sodium? How is that even possible? After following Jessica and her culinary adventures all these years she has proven to me that a life without sodium can be a rich and delicious one indeed. She is quite the inspiration.

    Sweet & Zesty MacGyver No-Sodium Vinaigrette | Low-So Good | @janemaynard

    The American Heart Association recently asked if I would help spread the word about their new Sodium Breakup campaign. I was more than happy to so that people like me (a salt lover who could definitely improve her diet to help her heart) and people like Jessica (someone who had to give up salt to save her life) could both learn all about low-sodium eating. I was honored to be given the opportunity to write the kick-off post for the campaign on AHA’s website, which you can read by clicking here! Over the next few months you can keep checking in with the AHA to get all kinds of great low-sodium information, tips and more. The AHA is bound and determined to make your breakup with sodium a breakup you are happy about!

    And I have even more low-sodium goodness for you today: a book, a recipe and a giveaway!

    Sweet & Zesty MacGyver No-Sodium Vinaigrette | Low-So Good | @janemaynard

    First, the book. Low-So Good is a beautiful resource written by my friend Jessica. The book has 70 mouthwatering recipes (hello, Jerk-ish Fish Tacos with Sauce, Slaw and Salsa, I need you in my life), but it is also a complete guide to low-sodium eating. Low-sodium novices and experts alike can benefit from what Jessica has to offer, and I love the guest articles peppered throughout the book from other food experts. The photography is gorgeous, the book is well organized and easy to read, and, best of all, Jessica’s infectiously happy personality shines through. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to cut some (or even all!) sodium from their diet…or really to anyone at all! Click here to buy Jessica’s book!

    Sweet & Zesty MacGyver No-Sodium Vinaigrette | Low-So Good | @janemaynard

    Second, the recipe. A really helpful part of Jessica’s book is advice for eating in restaurants when you’re trying to go low-so. One of my favorite recipes in the entire book is MacGyver Vinaigrette. It’s more of a formula than a recipe, providing the guidance you need to make a salad dressing on the fly with ingredients you can find at restaurants. It’s awesome. So today I’m sharing one of my MacGyver no-sodium vinaigrette creations, which is sweet and zesty! The recipe is below and sized for one serving.

    Sweet & Zesty MacGyver No-Sodium Vinaigrette | Low-So Good | @janemaynardSweet & Zesty MacGyver No-Sodium Vinaigrette | Low-So Good | @janemaynard

    Lastly, the giveaway! One of you lucky, randomly-selected people will win a copy of Jessica’s book Low-So Good. Here is how to enter! (All comments must be posted before Midnight PT Wednesday 11/2/16. Prize must be shipped to an address in the U.S.)

    And now for a no-sodium salad that will make your taste buds super happy! And good luck with your sodium breakup adventures!

    Sweet & Zesty MacGyver No-Sodium Vinaigrette | Low-So Good | @janemaynard

    Sweet & Zesty MacGyver No-Sodium Vinaigrette
     
    Prep time
    Total time
     
    Inspired by "Low-So Good" by Jessica Goldman Foung. If you're trying to eat low-sodium, this on-the-fly dressing can be thrown together at a restaurant! (Or at home. Because it's good no matter where you eat it.)
    Author:
    Serves: 1 serving
    Ingredients
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 teaspoons lime juice (about 4 lime slices)
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • Generous pinch black pepper
    Instructions
    1. In a small bowl or in a small mason jar, add all of the ingredients. Whisk with a fork or shake well.
    2. Serve over salad!

     

     

     


  4. Monday, June 6

    How to Make an Italian Soda Bar

    Last Friday Nate and I hosted our second annual lip sync/deaf man’s karaoke party (which was hysterical, by the way). Anyway, for the first annual lip sync party I created an Italian soda bar. It was delicious and fun, so I decided to make it a lip sync tradition and did it again this past weekend. Today I’m sharing some quick tips for how to make an Italian soda bar so you can do it, too! It’s perfect for summertime parties, but my kids love making their soda any old time. 😉

    How to Make an Italian Soda Bar - The Supplies | From @janemaynard

    How to Make an Italian Soda Bar from @janemaynard

    What you need for an Italian soda bar:

    • Club soda or sparkling mineral water. Seltzer water works, too, but the club soda/sparkling mineral water has a little more flavor that compliments the Italian syrup nicely.
    • Italian flavored syrup, like Torani. I went to Cost Plus World Market to buy my syrup, but you can also find it on Amazon. I provided six flavors for people to choose from. FYI: Vanilla goes nicely with every flavor, so that’s a good one to have.
    • Half & Half or Cream: Both half & half and cream work, and it gives your Italian soda a certain je ne sais quoi (or however you’d say that in Italian).
    • Cups & Straws: The people need something to mix their drink in and with! I buy clear plastic 16-ounce cups with lids. For some reason the lids really impress people. The straws work for stirring and drinking.
    • Ice: Be sure to have a big bowl of ice at the ready for your guests!
    • Vodka (optional): If you want to spike your soda, vodka is a good neutral-flavored option.

    How to Make an Italian Soda Bar from @janemaynard | Mixing the drinks!

    How to Make an Italian Soda:

    • Fill glass halfway with ice.
    • Add about 6 pumps of syrup for a 16-ounce cup. Feel free to mix and match flavors!
    • Add club soda, leaving about an inch at the top of the cup. If using vodka, add 1-2 ounces of vodka to the cup before adding the club soda.
    • Add a splash of half & half or cream (about 1 tablespoon).
    • Stir gently with a straw.
    • Enjoy!

    How to Make an Italian Soda Bar from @janemaynard

    That’s it! Creating an Italian soda bar is seriously super easy and it looks impressive at a party. {You’re welcome.} Plus, the syrups last pretty much forever, so that’s nice, too! Enjoy!


  5. The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist

    Last November my friends Catherine Connors and Tracey Clark invited my daughters and I to go camping in Joshua Tree for Catherine and Tracey’s very first Project Girl Quest adventure. Catherine and Tracey told us to simply bring ourselves and they would take care of the rest. It ended up being an amazing weekend that completely inspired me to give camping another try. You see, Nate and I historically have not been great campers, and, to be honest, I always felt a little guilty that we weren’t giving our kids more camping experiences. After camping with Catherine, however, I was totally ready to give it another go. She’s an expert and I learned a lot from her that weekend. I’ve gathered all of that wisdom and created the ultimate car camping checklist, which I am sharing with you today!

    The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist from @janemaynard

    The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist from @janemaynard | Cooking!

    After sending Catherine many texts and pretty much copying everything she and her husband Kyle did, our little family went camping in Joshua Tree for spring break and it was the best! Since it went so well, I feel it is my duty to share with you my checklist, as inspired by Catherine Connors.

    The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist from @janemaynard
    Click on the image above to download a PDF of the checklist.

    Please note: this is all about car camping, friends. You know, your-car-is-10-feet-away-from-your-tent type camping, not backpacking-10-miles-into-the-wilderness-to-find-a-remote-place-to-rough-it camping. I don’t know that we’ll ever attempt that latter type of camping because the car camping is just so perfect with kids. Maybe one day, but not now with littles under foot.

    The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist from @janemaynard | Hot Dogs!

    The list is pretty self-explanatory and I imagine I may be the person who uses it the most in the future. If you click on the image of the list above you can download a PDF and use it yourself! I do want to expound on a few of the items that you see on the list, so here we go:

    • FOOD. Here’s the deal, Nate and I were the worst when it came to food and camping. NO MORE! We bought a camping stove, which makes all the difference. And with some strategic food planning, we ate very well on our trip. For dinners I picked meals that could either be made ahead and frozen and then simply cooked in a pot (like chili or soup), or I chose items that keep well (like spaghetti, which doesn’t require refrigeration, and hot dogs, which are super easy). We had lots of good snacks, simple lunches, and planned on cooking breakfast (eggs and sausage) just one of the mornings, with oatmeal and cereal for the other mornings. Oh, and freezing a lot of the food ahead of time (including bread and muffins) was super helpful. The food keeps longer and helps keep the cooler, well, cool.
    • Instant Canopy: An EZ-Up is critical since most campsites lack permanent shade (especially in the desert!). We kept it anchored over the main picnic table at our campsite.
    • Multiple Tents: When we camped with Catherine she had one tent that was dedicated exclusively to supplies. When Nate and I went with our kids, we brought 2 tents and had the kids sleep separately from us, which left lots of space for luggage and supplies in both tents. It’s just so much easier to stay organized and find stuff with that extra space.
    • Tent Heater: This isn’t always necessary, but depending on the time of year it may be. We recommend only turning it on as you are going to bed and when you first get up in the morning.
    • Extra Tables: If you are staying at an established campsite, there will be at least one table, but it’s so nice to have more. I have two folding tables and we had them both set up.
    • Binoculars: We purchased a pair of Celestron 15×70 binoculars, as recommended by Catherine, and they are SO FUN to have, especially at night! Not necessary but definitely a nice-to-have!
    • Solar-Powered Twinkle Lights: Yes, these are cute and make your campsite pretty, but they are also very useful. I strung up a strand of these lights around the pop-up canopy over our table, so at night there was always a light source in our campsite. It wasn’t too bright but could help guide the way. I loved having these, plus they come in useful for other things, too (like decorations for my lip sync party here at home last weekend)! Just make sure the solar panel is exposed to the sun during the day.
    • Power Bank Charger: I have an external battery charger that can charge things for hours and hours. I bought it for plane rides but it is awesome for camping, too.
    • Outdoor mat or artificial turf: Some friends lent us a big piece of artificial turf and another friend lent us an outdoor mat (like for a patio). We placed these at the entrances of our tents and they were SO AWESOME TO HAVE.
    • Coffee When Camping: If you are a coffee drinker, there are two suggestions for you. First, instant coffee packets (like Starbucks VIA) totally work. But the second suggestion is just as easy and makes much better coffee: take an Aeropress. Easy cleanup and perfect for camping.

    Everything else on the list should be pretty easy to figure out, but let me know if you have questions! And, as always, feel free to share your own tips below in the comments! I am certain there are some awesome car campers reading this who have secrets to share!

    The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist from @janemaynard | Joshua Tree National Park

    Before we go, I have one final tip: Joshua Tree is the best place ever for camping with kids. (Indian Cove Campground and Jumbo Rocks are our favorite campgrounds.) Joshua Tree is truly magical. The granite boulders are incredibly grippy, making it easy to hike and climb. And, with an emergency whistle and walkie talkie in tow, the kids can explore this otherworldly place and feel like true adventurers. My favorite part is that the desert is so DRY, so nothing gets damp or wet! (I am such a mom.) I know this last tip isn’t helpful for everyone, but I just felt like I needed to sing the camping praises of Joshua Tree National Park. If you ever have the chance to camp there, take it!

    The Ultimate Car Camping Checklist from @janemaynard | Joshua Tree National Park

    All photos in this post were taken by my talented friend Nicole Watkins. Thank you for sharing them, Nicole!


  6. Thursday, May 26

    This Week for Dinner Podcast #44: Cheryl Sternman Rule + My Favorite Pasta Tip

    This Week for Dinner Podcast #44: Cookbook Author and Yogurt Expert Cheryl Sternman Rule + My Favorite Pasta Tip and Recipe

    Today on the podcast I share my favorite pasta cooking tip along with a great pasta recipe. Afterwards comes the really good part – I chat with award-winning food writer, cookbook author and yogurt expert Cheryl Sternman Rule. Cheryl is fabulous and she shares all kinds of fantastic yogurt tips and recipes with us today. It’s a must listen! Cheryl’s done all kinds of cool things, from getting a masters from Harvard, attending culinary school, working at the Department of Justice as well as doing a Peace Corps stint in Africa. What hasn’t Cheryl done?! The best part about Cheryl, though, is her warmth and approachability and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with her just as I have. Thanks for being on the show, Cheryl!

    Shownotes:

    It’s easy to listen to the show!

    • Via the web: Just click play below!
    • Via an app: For iPhone and iPad, subscribe to the This Week for Dinner Podcast on iTunes and listen to it through the purple Podcasts app. For Android devices, use the Stitcher, Podcast Addict or Pocket Casts apps. In all cases, launch the app, then search for This Week for Dinner Podcast. The benefit of using an app: once downloaded, you can listen to the show without an Internet connection.

    Other Stuff!


  7. Thursday, May 19

    This Week for Dinner Podcast #43: Chef Justin Warner

    This Week for Dinner Podcast #43: Tips for Cooking Popcorn + an Interview with Chef Justin Warner

    It’s Thursday, which means a new podcast episode! Today I kick things off with various tips for cooking popcorn, including my most favorite technique, along with a delicious and easy recipe for using that perfectly popped popcorn. Afterwards I talk with Justin Warner, a self-taught chef, the winner of the eighth season of Food Network Star and the author of The Laws of Cooking: And How to Break Them (Flatiron Books, 2015). In addition,  Justin also served as chef and co-owner of Michelin-rated restaurant Do or Dine in Brooklyn, and he continues to be a frequent guest on Food Network and hosts Foodie Call. Justin talks about what he loved about owning a restaurant, shares a few of his favorite recipes and offers up a kitchen tip that I am especially excited about. I met Justin a few months ago on my trip to General Mills, where we bonded over cereal and 90s rap music. It was great to chat with him again! Enjoy the show!

    Shownotes:

    It’s easy to listen to the show!

    • Via the web: Just click play below!
    • Via an app: For iPhone and iPad, subscribe to the This Week for Dinner Podcast on iTunes and listen to it through the purple Podcasts app. For Android devices, use the Stitcher, Podcast Addict or Pocket Casts apps. In all cases, launch the app, then search for This Week for Dinner Podcast. The benefit of using an app: once downloaded, you can listen to the show without an Internet connection.

    Other Stuff!


  8. Monday, April 25

    This Week for Dinner Podcast #40: Interview with Rachael Hersscher

    This Week for Dinner Podcast #40: Interview with Today's Mama CEO Rachael Herrscher + A Great Taco Tip!

    Before I get to today’s episode, which includes an interview with the smart and talented Rachael Herrscher, a quick update on the podcast! New episodes will now be published once a week on Thursdays, starting next week!

    Let’s get to today’s episode! First I share a great tip for making tasty tacos. For this episode’s interview I chat with Today’s Mama CEO Rachael Herrscher. Rachael is smart, funny, kind and just all around awesome. We talk about our mutual love for Atul Gawande (we love you, Atul!), sweaty hairy cartoon monkeys that stress us out, Rachael’s journey to healthful eating, and, of course, her favorite kitchen tips and favorite recipe. Lots of good stuff – enjoy!

    Shownotes:

    It’s easy to listen to the show!

    • Via the web: Just click play below!
    • Via an app: For iPhone and iPad, subscribe to the This Week for Dinner Podcast on iTunes and listen to it through the purple Podcasts app. For Android devices, use the Stitcher, Podcast Addict or Pocket Casts apps. In all cases, launch the app, then search for This Week for Dinner Podcast. The benefit of using an app: once downloaded, you can listen to the show without an Internet connection.

    Other Stuff!


  9. Friday, April 22

    Super Easy Chicken for Tacos That Tastes Awesome

    Hi friends. Today’s recipe isn’t really a recipe at all. I would say it’s more of a kitchen tip and one that I am loving. Today I’m going to tell you how to make super easy chicken for tacos that tastes so good. And when I say easy, I mean easy.

    Easy Chicken for Tacos that Tastes Great! from @janemaynard

    My cousin Jamie gave me this idea and I will be forever grateful to her. We were cooking up tacos one night and had chopped up a bunch of grilled chicken thighs. Jamie grabbed some leftover taco seasoning and tossed it in the bowl. GENIUS. The chicken turned out awesome and now I make it this for tacos all the time.

    Easy Chicken for Tacos that Tastes Great! | Penzeys Taco Seasoning | from @janemaynard

    You can use any taco seasoning, but my favorite is from Penzeys. Not only does this seasoning taste great, but it comes in a jar, so you can use as much or as little as you want. It’s so much better than a packet.

    Easy Chicken for Tacos that Tastes Great! from @janemaynard

    Also, I always grill my chicken and while this is super tasty with chicken breasts, chicken thighs are definitely my favorite. Just grill up the meat, cut into bitesized pieces, then toss with taco seasoning.

    This seasoned chicken is also great on salad or in a wrap. Basically it’s the best. You’re welcome.


  10. Monday, April 18

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth from @janemaynard

    Earth Day is just around the corner! As cheesy as this may sound, every day is Earth Day in our house. I know, I know. CHEESE. But it’s true. For the last 6 years, my new year’s resolutions have all been centered around helping Mother Earth by making changes in how our family eats and cooks. As I look back on those years, I can see how much better we’ve gotten about a lot of things and I can also see how those resolutions have really gotten me (and my kids!) to be constantly thinking about how our actions are impacting the environment. The best part is that it’s all been easier to do than I thought it would be!

    When I say that I am constantly thinking about how our food system impacts the environment I am not exaggerating. I think about environmental food issues all the time. I regularly read articles and reports about the environmental impact of the food industry and I love getting the chance to talk with food companies of all kinds to find out how they produce food, what they are doing about their carbon footprint and more. This year I’ve already talked with at least 3 different food companies regarding sustainability and have gained so much insight into how food companies think about sustainability and what they are doing about it.

    One of those companies I’ve met with is General Mills. I visited their headquarters this past January, where I participated in a small Q&A session with the president of the cereal group as well as a one-on-one conversation with Catherine Gunsbury, director of sustainability and transparency at General Mills. My talk with Catherine was awesome and I got all kinds of great intel out of her. We also discovered that she and I are kindred spirits – we are both obsessed with not throwing food into the trash (obsessed). I spoke with Catherine on the phone again this week, at which point she filled me in on General Mills’ latest annual Global Responsibility Report. We talked about General Mills’ goal to sustainably source 100% of their top 10 ingredients by 2020 (and what that means) as well as General Mills’ commitment to achieve zero waste going to landfill at 100% of their global production facilities by 2025 (they are at about 6% now and making good progress). If you want to read more detail about what General Mills is up to in terms of sustainability and social responsibility, click here.

    As I’ve spoken with many food companies over the years, both big and small, and really mulled over all the issues surrounding food and the environment, I’ve been encouraged to see that a lot of these companies really do care and are working hard to turn the ship that is our food system around. One of the other big things I keep coming back to is how powerful consumers are. If we as consumers demand better food (and packaging and production and everything else!), food companies will continue to deliver better food (and packaging and production and everything else!). Like I said, the food industry is a large ship and it will take a lot of work and time to turn it around, but I have faith we can all contribute to that process. It can feel daunting, but if we all keep on keeping on, we can make the world a better place and ensure our food sources will be sustainable for generations to come.

    So, what are some of the things we can actually do in our daily lives to help that process along? To celebrate Earth Day this week, I’d love to share ten things our family has done in the kitchen over the years to have a positive impact on the environment. Some of these tactics are more involved than others, but none of them are difficult and all of them make a difference! And, before you let yourself feel overwhelmed by the list, I promise these are things our family does every day. I’m about the laziest cook you’ll ever meet and I’ve still been able to follow these steps! For me the key to success is to keep it simple and realistic and focus on working on a step-by-step basis.

     

    1. Eat Less Meat.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Eat Less Meat | Sweet Potato Bacon Pizza from @janemaynard

    My first official what-we-eat-and-how-we-eat-it-affects-the-environment resolution was to eat less meat. Per capita meat consumption has increased significantly over the last several decades. In fact, if we all switched to natural, pasture-raised meat, there wouldn’t be enough land to support our demand. The natural resources that go into producing a pound of meat versus pretty much any other food is significantly more. Reducing meat consumption across society would have a huge positive impact on the environment! So, how do we do that?

    For our family we did not go vegetarian, we simply cut back on the amount of meat we ate week to week. I experimented with vegetarian recipes that incorporated beans because our family likes beans. I chose recipes that made it easier to spread out the meat I was using so I could use less meat overall in that meal, like salads with just 1 or 2 chicken breasts for the whole family. I thought cutting back on meat would be so hard, but it wasn’t, and I think that’s because we took a moderate approach that was realistic for our family.

    (Pictured above: Sweet Potato Bacon Pizza, where very little meat is used…and dinner is still filling and beyond delicious!)

     

    2. Cut Back on Paper Towels and Napkins.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Cut Back on Paper Towels & Napkins from @janemaynard

    I honestly thought cutting out paper towels would be impossible, but it was EASY. I swear. The trick is to buy a big stack of towels and to have them in a very accessible place in the kitchen. The only time I use paper towels now is to soak up grease. Click here to read more about our family’s system that’s made living without paper towels no big deal. Our family also only uses cloth napkins. They go in with the normal laundry and it hasn’t been any extra work. Quick tip: my favorite cloth napkins are the cocktail sized napkins – they are perfect for everyday use!

     

    3. Use Less Plastic.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Use Less Plastic from @janemaynard

    This was a multi-year goal for me and one I am still working on. Reducing plastic use is hard because it is everywhere, especially when it comes to food products. The good news is that all that plastic gives you ample opportunity to tackle the problem! Maybe start by eliminating one-time plastic use items, like throwaway food containers and baggies. Then slowly replace plastic storage containers with glass, and so on. And, don’t forget the classic bring your own bags to the grocery store! One step at a time is the way to go with this goal!

     

     

    4. Recycle Even More!

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Recycle More from @janemaynard

    I know most of us recycle a lot already. But I also know a lot of us don’t realize just how much we can recycle. For example, I learned just 3 months ago that the cereal bags inside the boxes for General Mills cereals are recyclable! Upon closer inspection I discovered that the bottom of the boxes told me that very fact, I just never bothered to look. Now I check all food packages much more carefully to see what packaging is recyclable! I also took the time to visit my waste management company’s website and reviewed their recycling list. Did you know you can recycle aluminum foil? The list goes on and on!

     

    5. Waste Less Food.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Waste Less Food from @janemaynard

    This is my 2016 resolution and it’s a big one. It’s amazing, though, how simply being mindful of food waste has automatically decreased the amount of food our family throws away. For example, I am so much better about using leftovers now. I’ve also discovered that a lot of our food waste happens when we eat out, so I try to adjust our takeout orders accordingly. There are just so many ways to decrease food waste and paying just a little bit of attention is a simple way to make a big difference!

     

    6. Compost.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Compost from @janemaynard

    Composting is related to my food waste goal and something I just started doing this year. I’ve always been scared of composting (actually, terrified), but now that we’re composting it’s seriously no big deal. I have a bowl on my counter where I toss compostable items, which I dump each night in our compost bin we have out in the yard. Total added time to my daily routine? 1 minute. Easy peasy! And, if you’re lucky enough to live in a community that picks up compost with regular trash pick up, then composting is even easier. Be sure to research what your town has to offer!

     

    7. Don’t Throw Food in the Trash Whenever Possible.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | No Food in Landfill from @janemaynard

    This is also related to numbers five and six, but I think it’s worth a specific call out. Did you know that when food decomposes in the landfill, it puts off significant amounts of greenhouse gases that would not be emitted if the food was composted naturally? Keep food out of the landfills by putting it in the disposal or compost pile. There are some items that can’t go in compost or down the sink, but that list is small. This is an easy way we can all make a difference!

     

    8. Buy Food in Bulk.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Buy Food in Bulk from @janemaynard

    Buy food in bulk to cut down on packaging and encourage cooking! But keep those food waste goals in mind…don’t buy more than you will use. And don’t forget to utilize your freezer! I’ve found that my freezer has been a great friend both in reducing food waste and allowing me to buy more foods in bulk.

     

    9. Reusable Containers for Food Storage and Packing Lunches.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Reusable Food Containers from @janemaynard

    When I started cutting out plastic, I bought a bunch of glass food containers. I recycled a few of the old plastic items, but kept the good quality ones, which I use when I run out of glass. I’ve forced myself to stop using plastic wrap for covering food in the fridge, too. I’ve also switched to reusable lunch food bags for my kids’ lunches. Washing them every day takes a bit of time, but nothing crazy and it’s definitely worth saving all those plastic bags from going into the trash!

     

    10. Join a CSA.

    10 Simple Kitchen Tips for Protecting Mother Earth | Join a CSA from @janemaynard

    There’s nothing like joining a CSA to help you eat more locally and seasonally! Plus being connected to local farmers can teach you a lot and really connect you to your community. If a farm share is too expensive or simply too much food for your family, consider splitting it with a friend!

    I hope this list isn’t daunting but instead encouraging! If you have any questions about any of these tips, let me know! And, as always, if you have your own tips or tricks for implementing any of the steps above, please share!

    Today’s post is sponsored by General Mills.