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  1. Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    The Cranberry Cutie Mocktail

    This giveaway is now closed. But if you’re looking for a yummy mocktail, keep reading!

    Time for my second Sierra Mist Natural mocktail post, just in time for New Year’s Eve!

    As you know, my first post featured the Frost Bite Mocktail, a recipe I received from Sierra Mist Natural. This time around I was asked to come up with my own recipe using Sierra Mist Natural. So, I thought, and I thought, and I thought some more…and all of that thinking actually worked. I’m happy to introduce you to the Cranberry Cutie! Or, if you live on the East Coast, The Cranberry Clementine! But ‘Cutie’ is, well, cuter. 😉

    Nothing quite says the holidays like cranberries and cuties, and I thought both of those flavors would be mighty delicious combined with a little lemon-lime. And I was right. Yum yum!

    I’ll share my recipe for the Cranberry Cutie, but first a giveaway! One of you lucky people will win a Sierra Mist Natural holiday gift pack (shaker set, sugar garnishes, party glasses) and a $50 AMEX Gift Card! That’s right, $50 just for you to spend how you like…and a cute set to get you mixing up drinks to your heart’s content!

    To enter the giveaway:

    • Share your favorite mocktail or cocktail drink in the comments…and the drink’s recipe if you have it!
    • For an additional entry, get those creative juices (and drinks!) flowing! Share your most creative Sierra Mist Natural mocktail or cocktail recipe on the Sierra Mist Facebook page.
    • Be sure to leave TWO separate comments on this post if you do both of the above to get your extra entry!

    Comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Monday, January 2. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, January 3.

    Good luck with the giveaway and I can’t wait to see all your creative cocktail and mocktail ideas!

    The Cranberry Cutie Mocktail
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    Recipe type: Beverage
    • 3 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 3 ounces Cranberry Juice
    • Juice from 1 cutie/clementine orange
    • 1 ounce lime juice
    • Cutie slice and cranberry sugar for garnish
    1. In a shaker filled with ice, mix cranberry juice, cutie juice and lime juice. Add Sierra Mist Natural and stir. Strain into two martini glasses with edges that have been dipped in cranberry sugar (sugar optional). Garnish with a cutie slice.

    Note: This post is part of a sponsored campaign that I am participating in. My opinions are my own and the drink I created is DARN GOOD.

  2. Sunday, December 25, 2011

    Week 257 Menu

    Merry Christmas!

    My Christmas present to myself this year is NO MENU! 🙂 That’s right, I’m rebelling and not planning a thing for the week. We’ll just pull stuff out of the freezer, eat out, pick at leftovers…you know, holiday eating!  I’m thinking Christmas chocolate should keep us sustained, right?

    Hope you all have a great holiday season whatever holidays you are celebrating!

    And, if you do by chance have a menu planned for this week, please leave it in the comments!

  3. Friday, December 23, 2011

    My New Fave Peppermint Bark and How the Grinch Kicked Off Christmas!

    If you’re still looking for a Christmas present for me ;), Ghirardelli peppermint bark should cover it. Seriously, it’s my new favorite peppermint bark. I tried it for the first time last weekend when we rode the cable cars around San Francisco and stopped at Ghirardelli Square for hot chocolate. They were passing out samples and I immediately fell in love. It’s nice and creamy, with the peppermint bits buried in the chocolate. YUM.

    In other Christmas-y news, SHN recently invited our family to see the Broadway production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas in San Francisco. We took the kids up yesterday afternoon for the play and it was…AWESOME! If you get the chance to see this production, do it! It was such a fun way to kick off our Christmas weekend. The play is short enough that it doesn’t need an intermission, which is great for kids, the costumes and the sets were amazing, and the Grinch was really funny. Anna was scared for the first half but eventually warmed up (and she even admits that despite her reservations, she still really liked it!). Owen was mesmerized! Cate just loved it and giggled her way through the show.

    We were lucky enough to meet the Grinch afterwards and he was actually quite delightful, despite his grinchy exterior. The first child he approached was Owen, who maintained a poker face throughout the entire meeting. The Grinch tried and tried, but Owen was too cool for school. Anna wouldn’t take a picture with him (surprise…you can see her far right sucking her thumb, next to my friend Gina), but Cate jumped right in for the camera. It was such a fun day!

  4. Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Salgar ROCKS…and Recipe for Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

    I am so voting for Leslie Knope because she truly is a visionary. She is the brains behind salgar after all, which is nothing short of a revelation! Plus, salgar is going to save me a lot of $$$ that otherwise would have been spent at Starbucks.

    Let’s start at the beginning. I’m a little bit in love with the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at Starbucks. However, there are two things wrong with this love affair. First, it costs me too much money. Second, they only serve the stuff during the holidays. I’ve kind of sort of half-heartedly tried to replicate it at home before, but never with much success. Probably because I wasn’t trying that hard.

    This year, things are different. Which brings me back to Leslie Knope. When she introduced the world to salgar last week, well, I knew that my days of whipping up salted caramel hot chocolate to rival Starbucks’ had finally arrived. And I was right.

    For those of you who don’t watch Parks & Rec (p.s. you should be), salgar is simply sugar and salt mixed together. Sure, everyone thought Leslie was crazy, but I’m a believer.

    Which brings us back to the quest for the perfect salted caramel hot chocolate recipe. On Sunday I pulled all my ingredients together. Yummy hot chocolate. Perfect whipped cream. Caramel sauce. Salgar.

    I nailed it. And I might even be so brave as to say that it’s better than Starbucks. The best part? When the whipped cream and salgar topping are gone but you still have hot chocolate left, you can just throw a little more cream and salgar on top! For some reason Starbucks doesn’t let you go back for seconds. Who needs them? 😉

    Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate
    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner
    • Hot chocolate (whatever kind you like”¦but make sure it’s not flavored with cinnamon or peppermint or anything like that”¦just something pure”¦my favorite is melting chopped chocolate in milk)
    • Salgar (see below)
    • Perfect whipped cream (click through for “recipe”)
    • Caramel sauce (the kind that’s made for going on/in drinks, I got mine at Starbucks, I’ve seen it at other stores, too)
    1. Make your hot chocolate and pour in a mug. Add a pinch or two of salgar and a swirl of caramel sauce. Stir well. Top with whipped cream, another swirl of caramel sauce and salgar. Drink and get ready to thank me for transporting you to hot chocolate heaven in the comfort of your own home.

    From Jane Maynard, This Week for Dinner, inspired by Leslie Knope
    • 1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar (i.e. sugar in the raw)
    • ½ teaspoon ground sea salt.
    1. Mix. Done and done.


  5. Monday, December 19, 2011

    Perfect Whipped Cream

    Whenever I go to Cafe Borrone, I order hot chocolate. For one reason. The whipped cream. It is HEAVENLY.

    I’ve been trying to perfect it and I think I’ve got it down. In fact, the last time I made whipped cream, Cate took a taste, looked up at me and said, “Mom, why is this whipped cream so good?”

    “Because I’m so awesome.” That was the correct response, right?

    Anyway, it’s super simple to achieve nirvana with whipped cream. There are only two ingredients: cream and powdered sugar (the powdered dissolves better than granulated). And there are  just two little things to remember when you’re whipping it up with your beaters or mixer:

    1. Don’t be stingy with the sugar. Seriously, no skimping! I mean, don’t go too crazy…but you should at least be approaching crazy.
    2. Whip it until it is THICK.

    That’s it. Throw that cream on some pumpkin pie or hot chocolate and I promise you’ll love me forever.

    Speaking of hot chocolate, I have my best hot chocolate post ever planned for tomorrow. Be still my beating heart…you do not want to miss it.

  6. Sunday, December 18, 2011

    Week 256 Menu

    Anna has officially taken butter to a whole new level. She’s such a pipsqueak, we figure a little fat will do her good.

    The holidays are here. Hanukkah starts Tuesday, Christmas is Sunday…I imagine many of us are running around like crazy people! I hope we can all find some quiet moments this week to enjoy the things that really matter!

    I for one am looking forward to making my annual batch of vetebröd, the yummiest Swedish cardamom bread this side of anywhere.

    – Pulled Chicken BBQ (in the freezer) sandwiches, topped with coleslaw

    – Teriyaki chicken (in the freezer) and rice
    – Stir fry veggies

    – Roasted chicken breasts (in the freezer)
    – Green beans

    – Leftovers

    – Eat out, or maybe pancakes or something

    – Chinese take-out, a Maynard Christmas Eve tradition!

    Swedish Meatballs with boiled red potatoes
    – Veggies on the side (whatever comes in my CSA bag. Yes, our CSA never stops all year. Gotta love California!)

    I can’t WAIT to see your menus for this week, as I’m sure many of you will have wonderful holiday meals (and sweets!) planned. And even if you don’t, I still want to see your menu, so bring it on! 🙂

  7. Friday, December 16, 2011

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year…Birthday Cake Time!

    While the rest of the world is celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the like…you know holidays involving winter, snow, lights…well, our house is celebrating birthdays galore! Both of my sweet daughters were born just a week before Christmas. It’s crazy town. But (as long as I can survive the stress) it’s lots of fun!

    Since their birthdays are so close to Christmas, each year I make them whatever birthday cake their little hearts desire to make sure their day is special and non-Christmasy.

    Anna is having a “Glamour Party” this year, which evolved into a “Hello Kitty Glamour Party” when she discovered the Hello Kitty plates and napkins at Target. So, a Hello Kitty cake it is! Hello Kitty by the way is an AWESOME subject for a cake. SO easy. Thank you, Anna! She was so cute this morning, staring at her cake the whole time she ate breakfast.

    Cate picked out some kitty cat cupcakes from my favorite kids’ cake book. For some reason I thought Juicy Fruit was white. It’s yellow. So yeah, yellow ears and whiskers is what we got. I’m pretty sure Cate won’t mind!

    Because I would like to make this post semi-useful to you, I used regular buttercream frosting this year (adding a little cream cheese to the frosting for Cate’s red velvet cupcakes). And I most definitely did a crumb coat on the Hello Kitty cake (a thin layer of icing on the cake that picks up all the crumbs, followed by 10 minutes in the freezer before doing the final coat of icing). And for the kitty eyes, just use a food writer on M&Ms. Instant cat eyes!

    Even though the birthday cakes invariably cause me to stay up way too late at night, I must admit the torture is fun. 😉

  8. Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Frost Bite Mocktail

    Today I made my first cocktail. Okay, it was a mocktail. But I still got to use a shaker. Which feels cool, people. Even if you’re just mixing up a mocktail for your kids.

    Sierra Mist contacted me recently about doing two sponsored posts involving cocktails and mocktails made with Sierra Mist Natural, a new drink that contains only real sugar, no artificial ingredients and 100% natural flavorings. I thought it would be fun so I decided to give it a go! I’ve honestly always liked Sierra Mist, so I’m happy they now have a natural version. And it’s a great ingredient for mixing up some fun mocktails and cocktails! {Shake, shake, shake! Shake, shake! That’s me with my new shaker. I can’t get enough of that thing.}

    For my first post I tried out one of Sierra Mist Natural’s mocktail recipes, the Frost Bite (see below). The girls and I had a little mocktail party and we all loved the drink! I like the subtle taste of lime and pineapple, which pairs nicely with the hint of mint. AND, I think I almost got frost bite shaking the cold stainless steel shaker, so the drink is appropriately named. 😉

    Without further ado, the recipe! I am going to share a few recipes with you, actually. The one I made was the Frost Bite Mocktail. Like I said, it was YUM. But there is a cocktail version, as well as a mighty delicious-looking martini, too! If you’re looking for even more mixing inspiration, you can “Like” Sierra Mist on Facebook and gain access to a bunch of other great drink recipes.

    Frost Bite (Cocktail)
    • 3 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 1 ounce Blue Curacao
    • 1 ounce Coconut Vodka
    • Fresh mint
    • 1 ounce Pineapple juice
    • Fresh blueberries (optional)
    1. In a shaker filled with ice, mix coconut vodka and pineapple juice
    2. Add blue curacao, fresh mint and blueberries (optional)
    3. Shake all ingredients well and strain into a large glass filled with ice
    4. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
    5. Garnish with fresh blueberries for a holiday twist (optional)

    Frost Bite (Mocktail)
    • 3 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 2 ounces of White grape juice
    • Fresh blueberries
    • Fresh mint
    • 1 ounce Pineapple juice
    • 1 ounce Lime juice
    1. In a shaker filled with ice, mix fresh lime juice and pineapple juice
    2. Add white grape juice, mint and blueberries
    3. Shake all ingredients well and strain into a large glass filled with ice
    4. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
    5. Garnish with fresh blueberries for a holiday twist (optional)

    Meet Me At The Mist-letoe Martini (Cocktail)
    • 2 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 1 ½ ounces Raspberry Vodka
    • 3 Leaves fresh basil
    • ½ ounce Fresh lime juice
    • 1 ounce Blueberry juice
    1. In a glass, muddle two basil leaves and lime juice, then add to shaker filled with ice
    2. Add raspberry vodka and blueberry juice to the shaker; shake well and strain into a martini glass
    3. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
    4. Garnish with a basil leaf for decoration (optional)

    Meet Me At The Mist-letoe Martini (Mocktail)
    • 2 ounces Sierra Mist Natural
    • 1 ½ ounces Raspberry juice
    • 3 Leaves fresh basil
    • ½ ounce Fresh lime juice
    • 1 ounce Blueberry juice
    1. In a glass, muddle two basil leaves and lime juice, then add to a shaker filled with ice
    2. Add raspberry and blueberry juice to the shaker; shake well and strain into a martini glass
    3. Top with Sierra Mist Natural
    4. Garnish with a basil leaf for decoration (optional)

    Next week I’ll share an original mocktail recipe created by yours truly (now that I have a shaker, I am a mixologist after all) and a giveaway you won’t want to miss!

    Tell me, did I make the right choice going with the Frost Bite Mocktail? I think so…but the Meet Me at the Mist-letoe Martini is starting to call my name…might have to get that shaker out again!

    Merry Mixing!

  9. Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Picture the Holidays: Reflecting on the Season

    Reflecting on the Season. One of the recent prompts for Picture the Holidays was to “shoot something in a reflective surface and see what you find. It could be you looking back at you, or it could be some other kind of seasonal magic.” Of course my first thought was the shiny ornaments on my tree. But that seemed too easy. I wasn’t entirely sure what reflective surface I was going to shoot or what seasonal magic I might find, but I kept an eye out all day.

    Then, that night, in a very rare quiet moment, I was standing in the dark kitchen contemplating what chocolate might be lurking there. And then I looked up. The tree was reflecting on the sliding glass door, which in turn was reflecting off of the kitchen table. I probably spent 45 minutes that night shooting this reflective scene in a zillion different ways with a zillion different settings.

    At the very end of the night, Nate stepped into the frame. I told him he was ruining my shot. (I know, real nice.) He told me he was making it better. And he was SO right. What better way to “reflect the season” than a photo with my sweet husband and newborn son standing by the Christmas tree? Not only did it give me a chance to study the literal reflection in the window, but I stopped for a moment to reflect on what really matters during the holiday season…my family.

    And, yes, Owen is wearing his Halloween skeleton costume. He takes “Happy Holidays” very literally.

  10. Busy Body Book Giveaway Winners

    Time to announce the winners of the Busy Body Book giveaway!

    Winner #1: Jessica Hansen, who said, “Would this replace my addiction to google calendar on my iPhone? It just might!”

    Winner #2: Jenn, who said, “with a 19 year old and a 6 MONTH old, i need this :) thanks for the opportunity.”

    Winner #3: Jen, who said, “Omg! Would love thissss!:)”

    I guess the key to winning this time was having a name that starts with J! 🙂 Congrats, ladies! You’ll love your planners!

    For the rest of you…if you want to buy one (I know many of you do), click here and get shopping. It will be worth every dime. Promise.