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  1. Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    My Go-To Cookbooks…and a fabulous giveaway from Cook’s Illustrated!

    Whenever I want to cook something I haven’t cooked before, I pull out three cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking, How to Cook Everything and The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I look up the item in all three books, read through the recipes, then either just use one of them straight up (always to great success) or learn techniques from these books and do my own thing. I love these books. They never fail me. They have made me the cook I am today. They are my go-to cookbooks that I couldn’t live without!

    Well, I’ve added a fourth book to the list. I didn’t think that would ever happen, but it has! The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook has officially made it to my go-to cookbook list.

    A few weeks ago I had the chance to meet with a few of the folks from America’s Test Kitchen, including Lori Galvin, executive editor in charge of books…i.e. she worked really hard on my new favorite cookbook. I had a lovely time chatting with them and am enamored with the test kitchens even more than I was before. (P.S. I totally want a job there. Constant taste testing. Heaven, right?)

    Yesterday a big, heavy box arrived on my doorstep. I opened it and there was a note from Steph thanking me for spending the evening with them. The note was tucked inside my very own copy of The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. I immediately started reading through the book. This thing is AWESOME. Such a fantastic, trustworthy resource filled with wonderful, not-often-obvious tips. I am so happy to have this book!

    Of course I asked if I could share a copy with you, and America’s Test Kitchen happily obliged! One of you will receive a copy of The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook as well as a 1-year subscription to, yet another amazing cooking resource. All you need to do is add a comment to this post by Midnight PT on Monday, March 19. The randomly-selected winner will be announced on March 20.

    Your comment can be anything, but if you want to make it interesting, share your favorite America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Illustrated recipe, or your favorite go-to cookbook(s)! We may as well share some good info with one another!

    And if you’re looking for even more America’s Test Kitchen inspiration, be sure to check out The Feed. It’s really cool.

    Good luck with the giveaway!

  2. Sunday, March 11, 2012

    Week 268 Menu

    When I could only eat soft foods two weeks ago, Susan and Sarah commented suggesting I get cream of wheat. I loved that stuff as a kid but had totally forgotten about its existence. I promptly bought a box. It was perfect for when I had to eat soft foods…and I’m still eating it. I don’t know why, but I love it just like I did way back when! Especially with white sugar mixed in. Mmmmmm….

    Menu time!

    Tuscan Tomato Soup

    – Leftovers

    Orange Chicken

    – Fajitas

    Pesto Tortellini Soup

    – Eat out

    Paninis (flavor tbd)

    I think I might have planned too many meals and one of those nights might end up being more leftovers, but we’ll just play it by ear!

    As always, can’t wait to see your menu for the week. I absolutely LOVE browsing through your previous week’s menus on Sunday morning when pulling mine together. It is unbelievably helpful!

  3. Friday, March 9, 2012

    Classy Candles

    Last night we attended a birthday celebration for my friend Wendy. Her husband, Brandon, picked up an AMAZING banana cake from a bakery in Los Gatos called Icing on the Cake. Nate and I have officially found our new favorite place to get cakes in the Bay Area! We’ve really missed Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego…it only took us four years to find a replacement!

    Anyway, Brandon also picked up these candles at the bakery.

    Are they not the cutest, classiest candles you’ve ever seen? They’re called “Tag Party Candles.” I did a Google search and found them several places around the web, including Amazon. In fact, I just bought three boxes. That’s right, three. I never think to buy candles ahead of time and always end up getting whatever candles are at the grocery store, which are usually boring. Boring no more! The Maynards will have beautiful birthday candles from here on out.

  4. Thursday, March 8, 2012

    How to create ‘Happy Pins’ on Pinterest

    You know what Pinterest is, right?

    If your answer is yes, let’s follow each other! Leave your unique Pinterest URL in the comments. Mine is Let’s all be Pinterest buddies!

    If your answer is no, Pinterest is essentially a visual bookmark tool, like having a cork pinboard on the web. AND you can look at other people’s pinboards.

    I must admit, I love Pinterest. And not just because it drives an insane amount of traffic to my site (which it does). Blogging and non-blogging friends of mine are all using Pinterest regularly and are acting on the content they discover through the site. It’s really great!

    As much as I love and appreciate Pinterest, there has been a lot of buzz lately over some of the not-so-fabulous aspects of Pinterest, like credit not given for original content and straight-up copyright violation. If you want to read more about the issues, these blog posts here and here are a fantastic place to start. Bottom line – the kinks have not all been worked out. And I really hope Pinterest does work them out…and quickly.

    Given all the buzz, I thought I would share my two most favorite tips for creating ‘Happy Pins’ on Pinterest. You know, pins that make people happy and do happy things in the world!

    1) Pin the ORIGINAL source. When I’m out and about pinning, I always make sure to pin the original source. If I have to dig for it, I do, and then I pin. If I can’t find the original source, then I do not pin the page. That’s right, no matter how much I love something and want to remember it, I bid the page adieu. Pinterest is too powerful to be sending traffic to people who are stealing content. And just think how HAPPY you are making that wonderful person who created the content to begin with when you send some traffic their way. They deserve it!

    2) Always click through on your pins! When you pin or re-pin something, CLICK THROUGH to the site! I don’t let myself pin something unless I have actually visited the original site. So, go ahead, click through and take a look at that article or blog post. Send the lovely person who made that lovely “something” some lovely traffic. They worked hard to create that content for you. They deserve the love. PLUS…if the pin is awesome enough to be a pin in the first place, just think how awesome the entire blog post or article will be!

    Are you ready to go forth and pin responsibly? I know I am!

    A few final notes:

    And, to end this pinteresting post (ha ha), my own plea to Pinterest. Please figure out the kinks. We love you! We want to keep using you with happy hearts and clear consciences. Here are my two cents, in case you’re wondering…please have the site download thumbnails instead of full-size images. That would solve so many of the problems. And when someone clicks on a pin, please direct that person to the link (a la Tastespotting and FoodGawker) rather than to the unique url for that pin. By creating a timestamp for the pin (like on Twitter), one could still click through to a unique url for the pin, but the real goal is to direct people to the content and that’s what a click on a pin should be doing. Just sayin’.

    Happy Pinning!

  5. Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Ina’s Banana Granola Coconut Muffins

    You can trust today’s recipe for two reasons. #1: My friend Amy made these muffins and shared the recipe with me. Amy is an amazing cook. Amy knows good food. Amy always finds the best recipes. #2: It’s an Ina Garten recipe.

    I haven’t made this recipe myself yet, so I don’t have much to say except that it is DELICIOUS. These muffins were SO GOOD I just had to photograph them (thanks for being my hand model, Ana – J.P. Prewett would be proud) and share the recipe with you.

    I’m trying not to think about how many of these muffins I ate. It was like I lost all self-control. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Banana Granola Coconut Muffins
    My friend Amy, who is a fabulous cook, adapted this recipe from Ina Garten's Banana Crunch Muffin recipe. They are fabulous. 'Nuf said.
    Serves: 18
    • - 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • - 2 cups sugar
    • - 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • - 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • - ½ teaspoon salt
    • - ½ pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • - 2 extra-large eggs
    • - ¾ cup whole milk
    • - 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • - 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (~2 bananas)
    • - 1 cup medium-diced ripe bananas (~1 banana)
    • - 1 cup granola
    • - 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Line 18 large muffin cups with paper liners.
    3. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and blend. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. Don’t overmix.
    4. Fold the diced bananas, granola, and coconut into the batter. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each 1 to the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.
    Jane note: I ate these muffins fresh out of the oven and then later on after they’d cooled. WAY BETTER fresh out of the oven. If you are able to resist eating the whole batch when they have just finished cooking, be sure to heat up the leftovers in a toaster oven at 200 degrees for 5-10 minutes. It will be worth it, trust me.

  6. Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Week 267 Menu

    This morning I was in the bathroom getting ready and I heard, “Mom might like to take a picture of this!” and Cate came running back to find me. They had cut open a grapefruit and were waiting to eat it until I took a photo. It was really cute. Nate continued to have breakfast with the girls in the kitchen. They have been having the cutest conversations. I came into the living room, having missed most of what had been said, but I did hear Cate say, “Mom sure is a good cook, but she’s not a good planter!” I guess that’s why I do not have a gardening blog. 😉

    I’m back to eating normal food. Woohoo! My mouth is almost back to normal, which is so nice. Thank you all for your well wishes over the last two weeks! Our menu pretty much went out the window last week since we were busy as bees getting my sister Anne all settled into her apartment, which we have fondly named ‘Anne’s Cottage.’ It’s been a lot of fun!

    – Special Cheesecake Factory dinner to celebrate my sister starting her new job!

    Tuscan Tomato Soup

    Homemade Pizza (honey goat cheese w/caramelized onions and cheese pizza for the girls)

    Chicken Piccata
    – Mashed Potatoes and cauliflower

    – Leftovers

    –  Eat out

    – Breakfast for Dinner

    Your turn! Please share your lovely menus!

  7. Friday, March 2, 2012

    How to make delicious scrambled eggs…even when they’re green!

    Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

    I got to spend the morning in Cate’s first grade class making green eggs for the Dr. Seuss festivities. We scrambled up two dozen eggs, which were all cracked by the kids. Amazingly there were only 2 egg shells in the final product. I consider that a success!

    My eggs were a hit. Yes, I’m bragging. The kids were asking for seconds, which we didn’t have. Sorry kiddos!

    Here’s the trick to perfect scrambled eggs. Simply use salt and pepper and make sure you don’t overcook the eggs. When the eggs are still a bit wet-looking, call it quits and they’ll be cooked perfectly. Trust me.

    I hear they taste even better when they’re green.

  8. Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Anne’s Pumpkin Squares

    My sister Anne has moved to our town! We haven’t been closer than 800 miles to family since we moved to California, so having a family member just one mile away is soooo exciting for us. My girls are especially ecstatic and are planning their first sleepover at Auntie Anne’s apartment on Friday!

    Anne’s Twitter and Blogger profiles state the following: “I’m night blind but I make the best pumpkin squares you’ve ever had.” Well, after years of reading this every time I visited her blog, I decided it was time to have Anne prove herself. First, we made her drive around at night without her glasses on. Then, we made her throw together some pumpkin squares. Okay, scratch that first part, but I did beg her to make pumpkin squares last night and she happily obliged.

    And I think they might have been the best pumpkin squares I’ve ever had. Especially hot out of the oven…be still my chocolate-loving heart. And yeah, yeah, they’re pumpkin. I stand by the fact that pumpkin can be enjoyed at all times of the year, even if the leaves on the trees aren’t turning orange and falling to the ground.

    Anne, we’re so happy you’re a Californian now. (And, don’t worry, it’s not just because of the pumpkin squares…although those certainly don’t hurt!)

    Anne's Pumpkin Squares
    From Anne Wallin, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe
    Recipe type: Dessert
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon salt (if using un-salted butter, ¾ tsp)
    • 1 cup butter
    • 1¼ cups sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1½ cup pumpkin puree (sometimes Anne adds more, but no more than 2 cups)
    • Bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1 or 2 cups, depending on how much you like chocolate)
    1. Whisk flour, cinnamon, soda and salt together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar in mixer until well-mixed. Beat in egg. Add vanilla, mix. Beat in pumpkin puree so it looks lumpy and sort of curdled. Mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
    2. Spread in 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes – the edges will pull away from the side and the toothpick should come out clean (with maybe a crumb or too on the toothpick).