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  1. Thursday, October 18, 2007

    The Goods (or The Not-So-Goods?): Mexican Vanilla

    Aren’t you lucky? Two posts from me today! Both are “The Goods” – I must be in a shopping mood.

    I’ve been planning my Mexican Vanilla post for ages. Today when I sat down to do a little research and write up the post, my enthusiasm was quicky squelched. Here’s the background – you can get huge bottles of pure vanilla in Mexico for cheap. It’s yummy, lasts forever, and 500 mL costs less than $6! I’ve been using it for years (given our close proximity to the border) and have always been happy…which is why I planned the post. But today, after a little research, I’ve discovered that gringo Jane has mostly likely been duped.

    Here’s the deal. Vanilla is native to Mexico and you CAN get great vanilla from Mexico. Unfortunately, there are many knock-offs (from Mexico & the Caribbean) that aren’t pure vanilla. Here’s how to tell if you’ve got “The Goods” instead of “The Not-So-Goods”: it should have at least 35% alcohol content, it should be translucent and amber colored (NOT clear or dark/murky), it should NOT have coumarin (a vanilla taste-alike that is banned by the FDA and may cause liver damage), and it should NOT be ridiculously cheap.

    How did my bottle of vanilla match up to the “rules”? Color: it’s pretty dark. Price: wicked cheap. Uh-oh…not looking so good. Alcohol content: 5%. OH GEEZ. I’m done. My vanilla is a fraud! I’ve got one good thing going for me…I knew coumarin was bad, and the label says “coumarin free.” Although, I just read that while there are labeling laws in Mexico, they aren’t always enforced. So hopefully my chocolate chip cookies aren’t damaging my liver.

    Am I going to throw it away? Nope. I’m using it til it’s gone. It tastes good, is supposedly coumarin-free…we’ll survive. But I think this is my last bottle. At least the picture is pretty.

  2. The Goods: Just Peachy Baby

    Just Peachy Baby is a great new company founded by a stay-at-home mom that I’d love to share with you! Just Peachy Baby provides designer, high-quality grocery cart & restaurant high chair covers that you will want to be seen with. πŸ™‚ Not only will your baby be comfy, cozy and clean, but you’ll feel cool pushing the cart around with such hip fabrics – and isn’t that what grocery shopping is all about, being cool? Shop now to take advantage of a 10% discount + free shipping! Just enter the promotional code TWFD – that’s right, a special for my readers!

    You may be thinking, “Do I really need a shopping cart cover? The carts can’t be THAT dirty.” Think again: check out these facts about just how yucky shopping carts really are. Those of you without babies may want to get one just to protect YOUR hands when you shop! πŸ™‚

    Since grocery shopping is such a big part of weekly meal planning, thought this was a fun item to share with you, something a little different. And if you don’t have a baby, it’s definitely a great gift idea!

    Image courtesy of Just Peachy Baby

  3. Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    Real Live Carrot Sticks

    I like baby carrots as much as the next guy, but REAL carrots taste so much better. Usually I’m too lazy to drag out the cutting board, peeler & knife (sad, I know). But once in a while I do and it is SO WORTH THE EFFORT. Regular, grown-up, non-baby carrots just taste great, raw or cooked. Since I was lazy with the main course last night (thank you Mr. Manwich), I decided I could take the time to cut up a few carrot sticks. The result: yum, especially with that oh so healthy ranch dip.

  4. Tuesday, October 16, 2007


    There is definitely some nesting going on in pregnant Jane’s world. The latest endeavor: renting a Rug Doctor & cleaning our couch and arm chair (pregnant people ARE crazy, huh?). They don’t LOOK that different, but it sure is nice to know they’re CLEAN. And, just so you know, the Rug Doctor worked great for this task.

    I have to brag a LITTLE…when I pulled up the couch cushions (something that, sadly, had NOT been done in ages), this is all I found! Pretty good, eh? (We won’t get into how dark the water was that came out of the “Doc” after clean-up.) While I’m glad I only found writing utensils, a few twenty dollar bills would have been nice. I need richer friends.

  5. Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Week 38 Menu

    I am feeling SO uninspired about this week’s menu. Nothing sounds good and I definitely don’t feel like cooking. Can you believe I’m already 31 weeks prego?!?! It is flying by so fast…I think the speed of this pregnancy is what’s making me tired! I definitely need a personal chef, and while we’re at it can you throw in a cleaning person, a stylist, a nanny…

    I made this Martha Stewart Mac & Cheese recipe tonight since several of you recommended it. Delish! It made enough to feed my entire apartment complex, so half went in the freezer. Hopefully it freezes well. We shall see!

    Please share your menus. And for those of you new to TWFD, I don’t care WHAT is on your menu – please share what you’re eating for dinner! Fancy, boring, easy, hard, WHATEVER. πŸ™‚

    – Tortellini w/sausage & tomato sauce
    – Yummy bread
    – Salad

    – Sloppy Joe (yes, straight out of the Manwich can…Nate’s not gonna be happy – sad, huh?)
    – Carrots & dip
    – Chips

    Margherita Pizza
    – Salad

    Mac & Cheese
    – Yummy bread
    – Salad

    – Friend Ellie’s 2nd Birthday Party!

    – Leftovers

    – Something Sundayish…I’ll decide later this week. My brain AND my belly are too tired right now.

  6. Friday, October 12, 2007

    Fab Faves: simply breakfast & simply photo

    Today I have a little eye candy for you (not the Brad Pitt kind, the food kind). Visit simply breakfast. Photographer Jennifer Causey of Brooklyn ‘simply’ takes a picture of her breakfast each morning. Love it! Be sure to visit her other blog simply photo as well. Happy Friday!

  7. Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Featured Recipe: Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies, a.k.a. The Perfect Cookie

    The recipe I’m sharing with you today is amazing, if I do say so myself. In fact, it’s one of those recipes that I’m hesitant to even share with others…you know, kind of like that crazy new psycho character on Desperate who won’t share the lemon meringue pie recipe? That’s a little how I feel…these cookies make me look GOOD, and if others can make them, I lose my magic. At the same time, I think people who don’t share recipes are, well, a little shallow and mean. So, the real question is do I want friends or do I want to have that secret cookie recipe that people are willing to break into my house for? Believe it or not, this was a tough decision, but I’ve decided I like being popular more, so you get the recipe.

    Seriously, these cookies are perfect. I guess the official name is “Chocolate Oatmeal Coconut Cookies” but that is so boring and doesn’t really fall off the tongue so easily, so let’s just call it The Perfect Cookie. Where did I get the recipe from? The name on my original recipe card says Barbara Boczany. I have no idea who Barbara Boczany is. But she makes a damn good cookie. I have adjusted the recipe, so let’s just say it’s mine. Yeah, that sounds good. Keep reading for the secret (and no, not THAT secret, but the yummy cookie secret, which is WAY better).

    Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Coconut Cookies (aka The Perfect Cookie)
    When I originally received this recipe from a friend, the name on it was "Barbara Boczany." We have no idea who Barbara is but we are eternally grateful to her for this wonderful recipe!
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter (I always use salted and they taste fine)
    • 1 C brown sugar, packed
    • 6 Tbsp sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1½ tsp vanilla
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ½ tsp baking soda
    • 1 C flour
    • 2¼ C oats
    • 1½ C coconut
    • 12 oz (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chunks – I prefer using semi-sweet mini chocolate chips because they distribute through the cookie very nicely with the other ingredients
    • ¾ C chopped almonds (I actually never add the almonds)
    1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Beat butter and sugars at high speed until fluffy (about 5-7 minutes). Add eggs and beat till well blended. Beat in vanilla, baking soda, and salt. Add flour and mix at low speed until just blended. Stir in oats, coconut, chocolate and almonds.
    2. Arrange ¼ cup mounds about 3 inches apart on large buttered baking sheets. Pat down to ½ inch. Bake in upper oven, rotating occasionally, 15-18 mins. Cool one minute. Transfer to cooling rack.
    3. If you bake smaller cookies (which I often do), adjust the baking time accordingly.
    4. The cookies usually get pretty crispy and brown around the edge and you will see that the center of the cookie is set.

  8. Tuesday, October 9, 2007


    My friend Maria recently picked these pretty pomegranates and was nice enough to share with us! I’ve never worked with pomegranates before. I found a great website with tips on how to cut them and recipes. To the pomegranate experts out there, what’s your favorite way to eat pomegranates?

  9. Monday, October 8, 2007

    Giveaway Winners! Dream Dinners Melamine Sets

    I am happy to announce the winners from the most recent random giveaway. As you know, Dream Dinners is giving away some very cute melamine sets to THREE of my lucky readers. As always, I wish you could ALL win, but three is pretty awesome. πŸ™‚ Drumroll, please…

    heather: delightful!

    Nemesis: these are sooooooo cute!!!!

    FoxyJ: I love that bowl! So cute πŸ™‚

    Congratulations, winners! Please email your full name and address to Thanks again to Dream Dinners for a very cute giveaway! And to everyone else – thank you for all your nice comments and keep coming back…you never know when another giveaway will pop up! πŸ™‚

  10. Sunday, October 7, 2007

    Week 37 Menu

    Happy Sunday, everyone! I like Sunday mornings because I have time to make breakfast, my favorite meal by far. This morning we had a Puffed Oven Pancake. Hit the spot!

    A few repeats on the menu this week as we’ve had lots of leftovers and some surprise invites to friends’ homes for dinner…love those weeks!

    Don’t forget to enter the giveaway if you haven’t already – less than 12 hours left! And share your menus!

    Pork Chops
    – Wild & Long Grain Rice
    – Veggie

    – Chicken Stir Fry
    – Sticky Rice
    – Chicken Shu Mai (from Trader Joe’s freezer section)

    – Quiche
    – Baguette & cheese
    – Fruit

    – Leftovers

    – My friend Barbara’s daughter’s wedding!

    – Eat out

    Mac & Cheese
    – Yummy bread
    – Salad