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  1. Thursday, July 21

    Perfect Summer Dishware {Plus a Giveaway!}

    It’s summertime, which means two things. One, we need to do something fun. Two, you need good dishes for summer entertaining. How about I combine the two by doing a giveaway (fun!) of my most favorite melamine dishes (perfect for summer)? Let’s do it.

    Q Squared NYC Melamine Dishes - Perfect for Entertaining! Knoll Gardens Pattern | from @janemaynardPictured: Knoll Gardens Serving Bowl

    I’ve been working with Q Squared NYC for some time now and continue to love their dishes and serveware year after year. Not only does Q Squared have gorgeous designs, but the quality of their melamine is top notch. I know you think you know melamine, but this melamine is just so much better than what you normally see in stores – thick, heavy (in a good way!) and just plain pretty. You can click here to learn more about what melamine is (I just discovered myself that it’s an organic-based material!) and why Q Squared’s is so lovely. We have a set of Q Squared plates we use every day. I’ve been cleaning them in the dishwasher for years and they look as good as new. And my kids have yet to break anything made by Q Squared. Their dishes are indestructible!

    Q Squared NYC Melamine Dishes - Perfect for Entertaining! | from @janemaynard

    While our family uses Q Squared dishes every day no matter where we eat, I am especially grateful for the dishes when we are eating outside. I have zero worries about anything getting broken. And I love hosting parties and taking food to potlucks because it means I get to break out all of my awesome Q Squared serving platters and trays. I kid you not, I get compliments on them every time.

    Q Squared NYC Melamine Dishes - Perfect for Entertaining! Royal Lapis Pattern | from @janemaynardPictured: Royal Lapis Dinner Plate, Salad Plate and Bread & Butter Plate

    Since it’s summer, I think you need a little Q Squared loveliness in your life, too! You have two options to make this happen. First, go shopping and use the code JANE20 to get 20% off everything at Q Squared (code is valid through Labor Day 9/5/16). I promise you will love whatever you buy! Your second option is to enter the summer giveaway below!

    Q Squared NYC Melamine Dishes - Perfect for Entertaining! Knoll Gardens Pattern | from @janemaynard

    To celebrate their beautiful new summer collections, including the Knoll Gardens and Royal Lapis patterns you see in this post, Q Squared is giving away a 12-piece dinnerware set to one of you lucky people! To enter, leave a comment below telling us which pattern you would choose. That’s all you have to do! Click here to view all of the collections. Be sure to leave your comment telling us your favorite pattern by Midnight PT on Friday, July 29, 2016.

    I don’t want to influence you too heavily or anything, but I am head-over-heels in love with my new Knoll Gardens dishes. They are GORGEOUS. I mean, the Royal Lapis is gorgeous, too, but Knoll Gardens really has me smitten. 😉

    Happy Shopping!

    Thank you to Q Squared NYC for sponsoring today’s post and hosting the giveaway!

  2. Tuesday, December 23

    Holiday Brunch is My New Favorite Thing + A Call for Brunch Recipes!

    A big holiday thank you to Q Squared NYC for sponsoring today’s post.

    Today we have a Call for Recipes, but let me first set the stage.

    My neighbor Kat recently hosted a cookie exchange. I love cookie exchanges, but, much to my surprise, the cookies were not my favorite part of Kat’s get together! Kat served a lovely sit-down brunch before the cookie swap and it was quite wonderful. The food was amazing and it was so nice to take a break mid-morning in the mad rush of December and enjoy good food and company. The whole thing made me feel happy and bright.

    christmas cookie exchangePictured: Ginger cookies on Q Squared’s Diamond Small Rectangular Platter

    For Cate’s birthday party this year the only time we could coordinate with her friends was yesterday morning, so, as inspired by Kat’s party, we decided to host a Christmas birthday brunch! While Cate’s brunch was a little less fancy, it was equally delicious and fun.

    christmas brunch on q squared servingwarePictured: Recipes linked below served on Q Squared’s Ruffle and Holiday Ruffle dishes

    I’ve decided brunch is my new favorite thing for entertaining. So much of the food can be made ahead of time, making for less stressful party prep. Plus, who doesn’t love brunch food? Nobody, that’s who. I also love having the party early in the day, it has a completely different feel and, honestly, I like having more time for clean-up when the guests go home, as opposed to night parties where you’d rather go to bed than clean up.

    q squared serving trayPictured: Q Squared’s Cool Montecito Large Tray

    Q Squared NYC is sponsoring today’s post and I want to give them a quick shout out. Until Q Squared came into my life I didn’t own any serving trays and very few platters. Now I am swimming in beautiful trays and platters and I can’t tell you how fabulous they are for entertaining. I used a Q Squared tray for my cookies at Kat’s party and it was adorable. For Cate’s party, the serving trays came in handy both for the food and the Christmas crafts. Three cheers for Q Squared’s high quality, durable, beautiful serving trays – I can’t live without them now! Oh, before I forget! Q Squared also gave me a few of their Bijou candles for the holidays and the candles smell scrumptious. They have also been the perfect decoration for our coffee table this year. I highly recommend them!

    bijou candles by q squared nyc

    It’s time for today’s Call for Recipes! Please share your favorite brunch recipes and tips! I really do want to host more brunches and become Queen of Brunch. Great aspirations, people. I think I might even plan a little Christmas brunch for this Thursday, so please share tips and recipes!

    I’ll kick us off with the brunch menu from Cate’s party.

    • Ina’s Banana Granola Muffins (made the day before, warmed in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes prior to serving)
    • Grammy’s Blueberry Muffins (made the day before, warmed in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes prior to serving)
    • Frittata Cups (used spinach instead of kale, made them early in the morning then warmed in a 200-degee oven for 10 minutes prior to serving)
    • Hot Chocolate
    • Fruit salad

    Ready, set, GO! Let’s brunch it up!

     


  3. Wednesday, December 3

    Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Shortbread + A Very Merry Giveaway!

    The giveaway in this post is now closed, but keep reading to find out about some really cute Christmas dishes and to get the shortbread recipe!

    This post is sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own, including the opinion that these cookies are awesome.

    I am so happy it’s the holiday season! Well, I mean, now I am, after my annual early-December freak out last night over the stress that this month brings (my busiest work month, two birthdays and Christmas all wrapped up into one not-so-calm package). But now, with the freak out officially behind me, I am ready to dive into present wrapping and cookie baking!

    chocolate-dipped peppermint shortbread from @janemaynard

    I started the whole holiday baking shebang with these chocolate-dipped peppermint shortbread cookies. I’m a sucker for shortbread. No, really, I kind of can’t control myself around the stuff. I decided to give my favorite shortbread recipe a holiday twist by incorporating chocolate and peppermint. The twist worked beautifully. And now there are about 30 ridiculously-adorable and delicious cookies taunting me in my kitchen.

    chocolate-dipped peppermint shortbread from @janemaynard

    These cookies are peppermint perfection. Even though there is peppermint in every element of the cookie, the peppermint flavor is not overpowering. The shortbread, which has just a hint of peppermint, is then dipped in high-quality dark chocolate, also sporting that peppermint hint. Top it all off with crunchy peppermint pieces and you’ve got yourself a COOKIE, filled with flavors and textures that work together oh so nicely. And they look crazy cute!

    chocolate-dipped peppermint shortbread from @janemaynard

    In addition to these lovely cookies, I have some lovely dishes to share with you today, too! You all know how much I love Q Squared. Well, I love them even more now that their holiday dishes are out! When I put in my order for the Winter’s Eve collection, I knew the dishes would be cute but I was not prepared for how much I would love them once I saw the dishes in person. Serious love, people.

    q squared winter's eve collection from @janemaynardq squared winter's eve collection from @janemaynardToday we are giving away a complete set of the Winter’s Eve collection from Q Squared! One randomly-selected winner will receive 1 large platter, 1 serving bowl, 6 dinner plates, 6 tapas plates and 1 coaster set. To enter, please do the following by midnight PT on Tuesday December 9, 2014 (prize must be shipped to a US address):

    • Leave a comment on this post! Easy Peasy!
    • Bonus entry: Like me on Instagram! (You need to leave a separate comment telling us you liked! If you previously liked, it still counts but be sure to leave the extra comment!)
    • Bonus entry: Like Q Squared on Instagram! (You need to leave a separate comment telling us you liked! If you previously liked, it still counts but be sure to leave the extra comment!)
    • Bonus entry: Like This Week for Dinner on Facebook! (You need to leave a separate comment telling us you liked! If you previously liked, it still counts but be sure to leave the extra comment!)
    • Bonus entry: Like Q Squared on Facebook! (You need to leave a separate comment telling us you liked! If you previously liked, it still counts but be sure to leave the extra comment!)

    Good luck with the giveaway – I wish you could all win!

    And now for the recipe!

    Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Shortbread
     
    Delicious chocolate-dipped shortbread with just the right amount of peppermint.
    Author:
    Recipe type: Dessert
    Serves: 25-30
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
    • ½ cup brown sugar
    • 2¼ cup all-purpose flour
    • Pinch kosher salt
    • ¾ teaspoon peppermint extract, divided into ½ and ¼ teaspoons
    • 1 cup high-quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
    • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
    • ¼ cup broken peppermint pieces
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.
    2. Cream butter, brown sugar and ½ teaspoon peppermint extract together on medium-high speed in a stand mixer for about 3 minutes with the paddle attachment. Scrape down bowl.
    3. Add 1½ cups of the flour and a pinch of salt. Beat with paddle attachment on medium speed until fully incorporated.
    4. Set aside the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook.
    5. Add the rest of the flour (3/4 cup) and mix on medium-low speed with the dough hook, kneading the dough in the mixer for about 5 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed.
    6. Roll dough out on a floured surface to about ½-inch thick. Using a ~2-inch sized cookie cutter, cut cookies and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Prick the tops of the cookies with a fork.
    7. Form leftover dough into a ball and roll back out to ½-inch thick and repeat process until you've cut all the dough into cookies.
    8. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until bottoms of cookies are light golden brown. (The time will vary depending on how thick you actually rolled out the dough. The thinner the cookie, the less cook time.)
    9. When cookies have cooled completely, in a small microwave-safe bowl cook chocolate chips and coconut oil on high for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir well until all chocolate has melted.
    10. Add ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract and stir well.
    11. Dip each cookie partially into the chocolate then set on a cooling rack to let chocolate harden. Sprinkle with peppermint pieces immediately after dipping cookie.
    12. Place cookies in fridge to harden the chocolate, around 30-60 minutes. When the cookies return to room temperature, the chocolate will soften a smidge. The chocolate will be hard enough so that the cookies will be pretty and stackable (for packaging and giving!) but just soft enough that it's easy to bite through when eating the cookie. Store extras in the fridge.
    13. You will have extra melted chocolate. I like to have extra so it's easier for dipping. Just pour it over a bowl of ice cream or spread it on a silicone baking mat, sprinkle with peppermint pieces and put in the fridge for a quick peppermint bark. You need to put that chocolate to use!

     Comment #4 ellen patton was the winner of this giveaway. Congratulations, Ellen!


  4. Friday, November 21

    The Magic of Holiday Dishes

    This post is sponsored by Q Squared NYC.

    I was recently chatting with my dear friend Amy about the holidays and she mentioned the dishes her mom used when she was growing up. Amy talked about how those dishes are firmly entrenched in her memory and that the dishes themselves are as much a part of the experience of the holidays as anything else. As she got thinking about it, she found she felt the same way about the dishes her grandmother used, too.

    the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

    I loved this conversation because it really got me thinking. Often when I look back on holiday meals with the family, the food is what I focus on. In fact, when I pass traditions on to my kids it’s almost always focused on the food and sharing family recipes. But I haven’t thought much about the significance of the dishes we used. After chatting with Amy I realized my experience was the same as hers, that the dishes actually played a large role.

    the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

    When I was very young, most of our holidays were spent with the extended family, so a lot of the memories of dishes I have are from my grandmothers. My Grandma Wallin was the type of woman who would bring china to the beach for a picnic, so you can imagine what her table would look like for the holidays. Crystal glasses (perfect for serving 7-Up!), crystal bowls and china dishes abounded. As a young girl, I loved it. Her dishes made those family dinners feel extra special and fancy.

    the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

    My Grandma Blomquist had 7 children, so when that family got together it was always a large group. I’ll never forget the tall stacks of plates on the buffet table or the basket she used for her giant rolls. What stands out most, however, is the silverware. She had several sets of silverware, complete with intricate patterns. I remember helping get the silverware out of the drawer in her china cabinet (and how that drawer was always a bear to open!). We would wipe the silverware down with a towel and, when dinner was done, carefully put it all back in the drawer.

    the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

    Eventually we moved far from our extended family, at which point the dishes my mom used for the holidays take over my memories. My mom had a set of Christmas china that made an appearance very year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We loved those dishes and using them at Thanksgiving quite literally marked the start of the holiday season in our home. Once the holidays were over, we would scour the post-Christmas sales to find more pieces to add to the collection. Those dishes are firmly planted in my holiday memories and, to this day, whenever I see that set of dishes at a store, I am transported back in time.

    the magic of holiday dishes by @janemaynard

    As I mentioned before, while I’ve always had these memories, I’ve never stopped to think about how strong they are. And, on a related note, I haven’t really thought much about the dishes I use for the holidays and whether or not my kids have the same kinds of memories. Our family is young, relatively speaking, so I’m still in the phase of collecting those dishes that will play a special role at our holiday dinner table year after year. After doing all this thinking about these particular memories, it makes me that much more excited about adding new dishes to our holiday collection and setting the table with my kids each year.

    I want my children to have similar memories to what I have, memories like polishing silver and pulling china down from the high cupboard. Of course I have fond memories of the food, but as I ponder those holiday meals from the past, I find that the act of preparing the table for those meals is where the strongest memories lie. Making the table special and beautiful with the women that meant the most to me in my life ended up being the times where we talked and bonded most and I will be forever grateful for those memories.

    I hate ending posts with open-ended questions because it feels super cheesy, but I’m breaking my own rule today because I really want to hear from you! Please tell us about your own memories!

    Pictured above: I’ve added some really lovely pieces to our holiday dish collections from Q Squared NYC. For Easter we use white dishes combined with serving dishes from the Heritage collection. For Thanksgiving we’ve added serving dishes from both the Ruffle and the Diamond collections, both of which are pictured above. Also pictured is the Maple Apple Bijou candle, which is the perfect scent for Thanksgiving and looks beautiful on the table, too!


  5. Tuesday, October 21

    Adorable Yet Simple Halloween Party Table Decor + 13 Spooktacular Recipes!

    I have a monster of a post for you today (mwah-ha-ha!!!), complete with ideas for completely cute yet simple Halloween party table decor as well as a 13 (mwah-ha-ha!!!) ridiculously adorable Halloween recipes.

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    When it comes to entertaining, I keep it simple. I like to have a whole bunch of white serving dishes in storage that I can pair with a few accent pieces and a colored tablecloth for the occasion. Then I just throw a few decorations on the table – simple but elegant. A vase of flowers, a Christmas wreath with candles, a few pumpkins for a Halloween party…you know, SIMPLE. There’s enough going on to get ready for parties I just can’t go over the top with my decor. But I find by playing in a simple way with color and using lots of white dishes, the table always looks impressive.

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    My ruffle dishes from Q Squared NYC are just such pieces that come in handy for all kinds of occasions. The ruffle design is elegant and a little bit different than your standard white dishes. BUT…if you pair it with a black tablecloth and a few of Q Squared’s slate platters, those wavy white dishes suddenly take on a spooky air! Seriously, I can’t tell you how much I loved using these dishes to decorate a Halloween table! Throw a few pumpkins on the table and make Halloween-themed food and you’re all set!

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    I think Halloween food is the most fun food in all the land. Whenever October rolls around, I am always so impressed with the creative food I see in magazines and on blogs! Here are a few favorites I’ve found this year, including a couple I used for my own Halloween party decor!

    My friend Kristen from Dine & Dish shared Frankenguac just this week. Is this not the cutest guacamole ever? Be sure to click through to Kristen’s post for details! (I put my Frankenguac on a slate platter and it was beyond adorable and a great centerpiece for the table.)

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    My friend Sommer from A Spicy Perspective posted these adorable Halloween skewers, which my kids happily gobbled up! I couldn’t find dark grapes, so I used blackberries instead. I think blackberries (i.e. black pickled brains!!!) might even be spookier. Check out Sommer’s post for more details! (The skewers looked perfect on the ruffle long platter.)

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Here are a few more Halloween recipes I am dying to try! (Mwah-ha-ha!!!)

    Gingerdead Cookies from Kailley’s Kitchen

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Healthy Halloween Monster Mouths from Texan Erin

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Butterbeer Popcorn from An Edible Mosaic (because I simply cannot resist anything Harry Potter!)

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Jalapeño Popper Mummies from Simply Sated

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Mummy Milanos from Chelsea’s Messy Apron

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Graveyard Chocolate Cheesecake Dip from The Law Student’s Wife

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Peanut Butter Cookie Ghost Cups from Food Faith Fitness

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Easy Pumpkin Patties from Mom On Timeout

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Healthy Halloween Pasta Salad from Smile Sandwich

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Carrot Rice Ball Jack O’ Lantern Bites from Apron Strings

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Spooky Spider Brownies from Dinners, Dishes and Desserts

    adorable and simple halloween party table decor + halloween recipe roundup from @janemaynard

    Well, that list should keep you busy until Halloween rolls around next week. Happy Hallowen!

    This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own. Seriously, those dishes I used are PERFECT for Halloween. Get shopping!


  6. Tuesday, June 17

    Sweet Tomato Jam is My New Favorite

    A few weeks ago my parents were staying at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach (the same hotel we stayed at a few years ago and LOVED). My mom was a head honcho for a work meeting they were holding at the hotel, so the Hyatt delivered a cheese and charcuterie tray to the room as a gift. Lucky for my mom we were all there to help her eat it! (Don’t worry, we left her a few bites.)

    recipe for tomato jam from @janemaynard | thisweekfordinner.com

    On the tray was a jar of sweet tomato jam. Between the six of us, the jar was empty by the end of our snacking and, ever since that day, I’ve been thinking about that tomato jam. Then my friend Gaby mentioned on social media that she was going to do a bruschetta bar for a party, which I then decided to do for my lip sync battle party last Friday night, giving me the perfect excuse to finally try a sweet tomato jam recipe myself.

    recipe for sweet tomato jam from @janemaynard | thisweekfordinner.comrecipe for sweet tomato jam from @janemaynard | thisweekfordinner.com

    Not to brag, but the tomato jam I made was just as good as what we had at the Hyatt. And thank goodness since I pretty much constantly crave it now.

    The recipe is really simple but oh-so-scrumptious. The only labor-intensive part of the process is prepping the tomatoes, which isn’t hard, just a little time consuming. But it is WORTH IT. And, for those of you into canning, tomato jam can be canned, although you may want to follow the original recipe on Epicurious that has twice as much sugar and, therefore is more conducive to preserving. (Thanks to commenter Alice and my friend Aimee for input on this!)

    recipe for sweet tomato jam from @janemaynard | thisweekfordinner.com

    So, what is tomato jam good for anyway? Everything! It’s a great topping for bread and pairs beautifully with all kinds of cheeses. It’s also a great condiment for just about anything – sandwiches, burgers, whatever your heart desires! It’s sweet but with a savory flavor to it. It’s basically pure deliciousness.

    recipe for sweet tomato jam from @janemaynard | thisweekfordinner.com

    I found the recipe on Epicurious but cut waaaaaaaay back on the sugar. My jam was still super sweet so I can’t even imagine what their recipe would taste like! 😉

    Tomato Jam
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Adapted from Epicurious
    Author:
    Recipe type: Appetizer
    Serves: 2 cups
    Ingredients
    • 4 pounds plum or heirloom tomatoes (I used a variety of heirlooms, all different colors!)
    • ¾ cup sugar
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • ⅛ teaspoon paprika (smoked paprika if you have it)
    Instructions
    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Make an ice bath in a separate bowl and set to the side. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water in batches, boiling for about 1 minute. Remove tomatoes from the boiling water and place directly in the ice bath. Remove the skins by hand right in the ice water, leaving the skins in the water. I would empty the ice water bowl between batches. By removing the skins in the ice water bowl you cut down on some serious messiness in the kitchen!
    2. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise, seed them, then chop into pieces.
    3. Place chopped tomatoes in a large pot. Mix with sugar and stir well. And let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    4. Bring tomatoes and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat and let cook for 15 minutes.
    5. Add salt, pepper and parika and cook until thickened, about 10-15 more minutes.

    This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. Pictured: The Heritage Small Bowl and the Cool Montecito Tapas Plate. I am as addicted to my Q Squared Dishes as I am to this tomato jam, by the way!


  7. Wednesday, June 4

    Why You Need Melamine Serving Trays and Platters

    Until a few years ago I had zero serving trays or platters to my name. For some reason, I didn’t get any as wedding gifts and then never thought to buy any. I finally acquired a few white ceramic serving platters. They’re nice and all but, honestly, I hardly ever use them. They just aren’t very versatile and are too heavey for easy, everyday use. And, even with those few platters, I still didn’t own any actual trays.

    montecito melamine serving trays from q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    montecito melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    montecito melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynardThe trays pictured above are from Q Squared NYC’s Montecito line. These are the trays we probably use the most. Nate was especially happy on Mother’s Day when they had a tray to bring me breakfast in bed!

    A few months ago when I started working with Q Squared NYC, they sent me several serving trays and platters. Suddenly I was flush with melamine serving trays in different sizes and shapes, and every last one of them was completely adorable.

    kids' melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    kids' melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynardThese fun kids serving trays have come in especially handy for snack time during playdates! My kids think they’re super cute and I don’t have to worry about anyone breaking anything!

    When I first discovered Q Squared, I was mostly excited about their dishes and flatware. Little did I know my most favorite items would be the serving trays! The longer I have them, the more I realize how much I was missing out all these years. They come in handy all the time, both for everyday use and when entertaining. I really love that they are made of melamine. The trays and platters are so much lighter than something made from ceramic, so I actually pull them out all the time. They’re easy to carry and perfect for taking outside. Basically, I can’t live without them now!

    heritage melamine serving trays by q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    heritage melamine serving platter by q squared nyc by @janemaynardThis serving platter is from the beautiful Heritage line. 

    If you don’t have any melamine serving trays or platters, I highly recommend getting one (or two or three!).

    montecito melamine serving platters by q squared nyc by @janemaynardMore from the Montecito line, this time the serving platters.

    Three cheers for serving trays! Hip, hip, hooray! (Yeah, I’m a little crazy, but I really am in love!)

    This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.


  8. Tuesday, May 27

    The Perfect Taco Night

    I have perfected taco night. No, seriously. When you have tacos at my house, they are the best. And, yes, I’m totally bragging. I can’t help it, I am in love with taco night!

    how to cook the perfect taco night by @janemaynard

    Let’s begin with a little history. Until I moved to San Diego, taco night meant hard shell tacos, seasoned ground beef, iceberg lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, salsa and cheese. I’m not saying those tacos aren’t good. They totally are, in fact, that’s Cate’s favorite kind of taco. But when we moved to San Diego many years ago and started having dinner at Maria’s house, things started to change. Maria is a close family friend and she also happens to be Mexican. And, when we go to her house, she almost always feeds us homemade Mexican food.

    how to cook the perfect taco night by @janemaynardhow to cook the perfect taco night by @janemaynard

    One of our favorite Maria meals is carne asada, corn tortillas, homemade pinto beans and rice, topped with super spicy homemade salsa (of course!). Needless to say, these tacos are quite different than the gringo version I grew up with! Now, whenever I have corn tortillas and homemade beans, I think fondly of Maria and her kitchen.

    how to cook the perfect taco night by @janemaynardhow to cook the perfect taco night by @janemaynard

    So, anyway, back to the present. I have finally created the perfect taco night. It’s taken years of cobbling together different recipes, but all of the work has paid off! Thanks to Maria and my new neighbor Ari (also Mexican!) for their inspiration and recipes over the years, I’ve figured out how to create an awesome “taco bar” that will please Mexicans and gringos alike! 😉

    how to cook the perfect taco night by @janemaynard

    Also, I will admit that you do not need ALL of the following ingredients to have a fabulous taco night. But, I will also tell you that when I do spend the time to pull all of this together, it really is magical! (Yep, dinner can be magical in my little world.)

    The Perfect Taco Night
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • The Tortillas:
    • Corn tortillas: These are my absolute favorite for tacos of all kinds!
    • Flour tortillas: Even though I gorge on corn tortillas, my family also likes to have flour tortillas handy.
    • (Optional) Hard taco shells: It’s good to have some hard shells handy for the pure gringos in the group, like my daughter Cate and my mom Phyllis!
    • Do you have a tortilla warmer? If you don’t, you should get one! I love being able to heat up a bunch of tortillas, toss them in the warmer and have them ready all at once when we dig in.
    • The Meat:
    • Grilled chicken: Whether you cook the chicken in a grill pan with a bit of olive oil on the stove or on an actual grill, simply salt and pepper the chicken prior to cooking and cook it until it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF. I like to use boneless skinless chicken breasts and/or thighs. Sometimes, after I cut the cooked chicken into small pieces, I will toss it in a bowl with about a quarter of a packet of taco seasoning. Super yum!
    • Taco Meat: Everybody still loves good ol’ taco meat! I often use a taco seasoning packet but, if I don’t have that handy, I just season the cooked ground beef or ground turkey with salt, pepper, dried garlic, dried onion, chili powder, paprika and cumin.
    • (Optional) Carne Asada: We hardly ever have this because I’m lazy, but it makes for some darn good taco-ing.
    • (Optional) Grilled Salmon: This is another one that we rarely serve on taco night, but when we do it’s delish! Click here for a recipe for grilled salmon that is flavored perfectly for tacos.
    • The Rice:
    • Whether you put the rice right on your taco or eat it on the side, rice is a necessity for the perfect taco night! Click here for a cilantro-lime rice recipe that works great!
    • The Toppings:
    • Grilled bell peppers and onions (both sliced thin before cooking)
    • Avocado (sliced or cut into chunks) and/or guacamole
    • Lime slices
    • Shredded cheese
    • Beans (pinto, black or peruan are all delish!): You can of course use canned beans, but homemade beans are really, truly easy to make and TASTE SO GOOD. Click here for recipe.
    • Sour cream
    • Salsa
    • Creamy Tomatillo Dressing
    • Chopped romaine lettuce or jalapeño slaw
    • Chopped tomatoes
    Instructions
    1. Putting It All Together!
    2. Obviously one taco can’t hold ALL of the yumminess in the list above! Just mix and match your favorite ingredients! Here are my two favorite taco combinations:
    3. Chicken taco: corn tortilla, grilled chicken, beans, rice, peppers and onions, creamy tomatillo dressing, salsa, avocado
    4. Grilled salmon taco: flour tortilla, grilled salmon, jalapeño slaw, sour cream, avocado

     

    This post was sponsored by Q Squared NYC. You will find dishes from the Heritage line, the Montecito line and the Provence Blue flatware set in some of the photos above. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love having Q Squared in my kitchen and that opinion is 100% my own!


  9. Tuesday, April 29

    Fig and Prosciutto Pizza with Balsamic Glaze

    Last summer on Cape Cod we ordered pizza from a restaurant in Falmouth called Stone L’Oven. Every last pizza we tried was delicious, but there were two flavors in particular that really stole my heart. I’ve been meaning to recreate them since July and finally got around to making one of them. (The second favorite flavor will have to remain a mystery until I can get a post together!)

    fig and prosciutto pizza with balsamic glaze from @janemaynard

    Pizza is sort of becoming my thing. The last few times we’ve had guests over it’s what I’ve made. It’s great all hanging out while the pizzas come out of the oven, one-by-one. The cooking and the eating get all mixed up together and it’s a lot of fun. And, not to brag, I’ve gotten really good at making pizza. I am planning to write a comprehensive post with all the tips and tricks I have, but for now you’ll just have to settle for a totally amazing pizza flavor – fig and prosciutto.

    fig and prosciutto pizza with balsamic glaze from @janemaynard

    THIS PIZZA. So good. It almost beats the honey goat cheese and caramelized onion pizza. (I’m coming to realize no pizza will ever actually beat that one, but coming close is an accomplishment!)

    fig and prosciutto pizza with balsamic glaze from @janemaynardfig and prosciutto pizza with balsamic glaze from @janemaynard

    This pizza is the perfect combination of salty and sweet and is drizzled with a delectable balsamic glaze. It’s so tasty you won’t know what to do with yourself.

    fig and prosciutto pizza with balsamic glaze from @janemaynard

    Also, my new trays from Q Squared NYC were perfect for pizza night. I just fall in love all over again every time I use Q Squared’s dishes! We’ve entertained a few times since my dishes arrived – they always come in handy (especially eating outside) and look gorgeous to boot. Love, love, love.

    (>> Find out more…)


  10. Wednesday, April 23

    The Only Lentil Soup Recipe You’ll Ever Need {Plus More Pretty Dishes}

    One of the very first recipes I ever made was lentil soup. And it was terrible. It was just not a good recipe and, as an inexperienced young cook, I had no idea how to make it better. Sadly it convinced me that lentils were a bad thing. Then, about a year later, my friend Amy made lentil soup and insisted that I try it. She swore it was the best ever. I was skeptical but gave it a go and, much to my utter amazement, I discovered that lentil soup can be wonderful. I owe it all to Amy. If I ever win a lentil academy award, she’ll be the first person I thank. After the Weinstein brothers, of course, because that seems to be an academy award thank you speech requirement, especially when lentils are involved. (Sorry, I think that was a case of stream of consciousness gone wrong.)

    the only lentil soup recipe you'll ever need from @janemaynard

    The moral of the story is that I have had this lentil soup recipe hidden away on my blog since Day 1, when I added a bunch of random recipes to the site from my recipe box (you know, the real live recipe box with notecards inside). But I’ve never actually written about this recipe because, well, I have no idea why! It’s about time because it really is a gem of a recipe. Plus, the soup looked gorgeous served in my new Q Squared dishes, which I was planning to write about anyway, so it was kismet!

    the only lentil soup recipe you'll ever need from @janemaynard

    As you know, I’ve started working with a great company called Q Squared NYC. When I first received my Montecito dishes, I didn’t think I could love any of their other dishes more. But for Easter I decided to use the Heritage line for all of our serving dishes and decorated the table with a blue and white theme to match, including the flowers. The table was simple and so pretty, if I do say so myself. And I really fell in love with the Heritage dishes. I don’t know, I might even love them more than Montecito. It’s just so hard to decide!

    heritage line from q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    Last night when I was photographing the orange-hued soup that complemented the blue in the dishes so beautifully, the girls started fighting over who would get to use the fancy bowl. I think I’m going to have to buy more of these dishes because I don’t think I’m the only one who loves them. Even Nate commented on how pretty they were after dinner on Easter and he’s a guy.

    heritage line from q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    In addition to the color and pattern, the Heritage dishes have a really great texture, with sort of a hammered look to them. I tried to capture this in the photography so hopefully you can see it. The dishes really are stunning and, like the Montecito line, you can tell they are really high quality. I could go on and on and ON about these dishes.

    heritage line from q squared nyc by @janemaynard

    One last note on the recipe: you probably won’t like other lentil soups after trying this one. At least not as much! Honestly, whenever I have lentil soup at a restaurant I just end up disappointed. I now save all my lentil soup-ing for home, it’s just better that way. Oh, and one more last note: this soup is easy to throw together and is done in 30 minutes!

    the only lentil soup recipe you'll ever need from @janemaynard

    Without further ado, I give you the soup! Everyone say thanks to Amy!

    (>> Find out more…)