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  1. Thursday, May 31, 2012

    Full Circle Home Giveaway Winner

    Time to annonce the Full Circle Home green cleaning products giveaway winner!

    Julie, who said, “Fun! I am about 75% green in my cleaning. Striving for better.”

    I think 75% is fabulous…and maybe this gift pack will tip Julie to 100%! 🙂 Congratulations, Julie!

    Be sure to read through the comments from the giveaway…there are some great green cleaning tips in there!

    Thank you to Full Circle Home for a lovely giveaway!

  2. Wednesday, May 30, 2012

    Super Cute Shower or Outdoor Party Idea: A Gourmet Picnic!

    I have a group of friends here in the Bay Area that are fancy dancy, super awesome party throwers. If I know one or more of them are hosting a party or shower, then I know I will be well fed and surrounded by beautiful ambiance. I admire these ladies and their parties. And I know I will never throw a party that is quite that awesome because I’m just too lazy, but I do find great inspiration from all the lovely things they do.

    The most recent baby shower hosted by these friends may have been my favorite yet. Our friend Katianne just had her fourth baby…which was her very first baby GIRL! In anticipation of the impending ‘girliness’ in Katianne’s life, our friends threw her a Pinknic! (You know, a pink picnic…get it? Cute cute!)

    I only took one lame photo on Instagram (see above), but Andy (one of my friends) saved the day and sent a bunch of pictures, so this post suddenly got 100% better!

    Here are a few of the party highlights for me, things I want to remember for my own party-throwing escapades:

    • The party was a picnic! They spread several quilts on the ground, with a few chairs set up around the edges. Most of the guests sat on the blankets, which was fun because we ended up in small groups that made for nice conversation.
    • They hung gorgeous paper pom-poms from the trees, as well as a clothesline across the entrance with Katianne’s old baby clothes dangling from clothespins. It was SO cute. (Click here for the pom-pom tutorial.)
    • For the food, each blanket received a GIANT picnic basket. The baskets were wide and open and filled with a delicious lunch, which included: a large glass serving bowl filled with a dinner salad (the main dish), a large cup or vase filled with fruit kebobs, a cloth napkin tied around homemade rolls, two pastry boxes filled with lemon tarts and mini cupcakes and tied with pretty ribbon, pretty plastic plates, cups and utensils wrapped in napkins, and the prettiest bottles of lemonade you ever did see. Each basket included a cute card listing all the food, a nice touch.

    It was such a nice party and I loved how they executed the picnic theme. It was super classy and I stuffed myself silly with all that good food. (Yes, I’m getting some of the recipes and will be sharing!)

    Here’s the cute (and delicious!) lemonade I told you about. I found it at Draeger’s and it sat on my counter for a few days because it was just too pretty to crack open!


  3. Sunday, May 27, 2012

    Week 279 Menu…and why the tooth fairy STINKS

    It’s a bagel morning at our house today. Want to know why it’s a bagel morning? It all starts Friday afternoon when Cate lost a tooth at school. Saturday morning she wakes up, checks under her pillow, and lo and behold her tooth is still there. Which maybe wouldn’t seem too terrible except LAST time she lost a tooth the same thing happened. That time, however, the tooth fairy snuck in during breakfast and Cate got two dollars instead of one and everything worked out. Unfortunately, yesterday the tooth fairy didn’t ever show. So, Cate wrote her a letter, wrapped that around her tooth, stuck it under her pillow then woke up this morning to find…the letter and her tooth. AGAIN. Thank goodness for the book Pinkalicious, we just keep saying, “It’s just like Pinkalicious! The tooth fairy just must be soooo busy this weekend.” Believe it or not, two other kids in Cate’s class lost teeth on Friday. Proof positive that the tooth fairy has more on her plate than she can handle.

    Which brings us to the bagels…the tooth fairy only had a twenty this morning when she realized she screwed up AGAIN. So she went and spent $13 on bagels just to get the change…and by the time she got back with the bagels, Cate was already awake. Stupid tooth fairy. I kind of hate her right now. So, bagels for breakfast, everyone! Aren’t I a nice mommy to go out and get them so early? You’re welcome! I love you all, too!

    – Happy Memorial Day! We’ll definitely be grilling up some classic Memorial Day fare, said fare TBD! 🙂

    Spaghetti and Meatballs
    – Cheddar cauliflower (from the CSA…it’s yummy!)

    Cream of Mushroom soup

    Tuscan Tomato Soup
    – the girls both want soup this week, but they can’t agree on the flavor, so we’re having two soup nights

    – Dinner at Cheesecake Factory to celebrate Cate’s last day of school!

    – Leftovers

    – Breakfast for dinner…waffles!
    – Fresh fruit

    Please share your menu for the week! And, if you see the tooth fairy, tell her to get her patootie over here pronto.

  4. Friday, May 25, 2012

    Grammy’s Orange Chicken

    ‘Spicy Orange Chicken’ is a recipe I’ve had on the blog since the very beginning. I put it on our weekly menus regularly but have never actually written about. Well, it is a recipe that deserves some attention and today is the day!

    This recipe has family history. It comes from Nate’s Grammy McCarthy and is one of the very first recipes I received when Nate and I got married. I feel like it’s one of those recipes that gave me confidence as a novice cook and I’m sure it will forever be part of my dinner rotation. Even though I always go to my computer to look up the recipe, I can still picture the recipe card in my head that Grammy gave to me all those years ago. Actually, there are two recipe cards…for some reason she wrote it up for me twice, and I can picture both of them clear as day. (For you sentimental folks out there, don’t worry…I still have the cards!)

    Orange chicken is one of Nate’s favorite dinners. And he doesn’t love it just because it’s Grammy’s recipe (although I’m sure that’s part of the reason!). It is just such a wonderful, homey, warm, yummy meal. My kids literally gobble it up…actually, we all do!

    A word about the name. Grammy has always called it ‘Spicy Orange Chicken.’ It is definitely not called this because it is spicy…it’s not hot at all. I think “spicy” refers to the fact it has spices in it (basil and nutmeg to be exact). So, to avoid further confusion, I’m changing the name to Grammy’s Orange Chicken. Although, in my mind and heart it will always be ‘Spicy’ because that’s what the recipe cards say. 🙂

    From our home to yours, I give you Grammy’s Orange Chicken. I hope you love it as much as we do!

    Grammy's Orange Chicken
    This recipe is a classic from Nate's Mary "Grammy" McCarthy, a family favorite!
    • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • ½ cup flour
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon pepper
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 3 tablespoons vinegar
    • 1½ cups orange juice
    • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil
    • ½ teaspoon ground ginger (ginger is not in Grammy’s original recipe, but we like the added flavor)
    • 1 can mandarin oranges
    1. Combine flour, salt and pepper in bag. Shake chicken pieces in flour until coated. Brown in butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
    2. Combine sauce ingredients and add to skillet. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes or until tender and cooked through. (Jane note: I actually hardly ever cover it at this point, and if I do cover it I keep the lid tipped so some of the moisture can evaporate out. The flour on the chicken also helps the sauce to thicken.) Add drained mandarin oranges and cook 5 more minutes, being careful not to smoosh up the oranges too much. (Grammy called the mandarin oranges a “sophisticated touch.”)
    3. Serve with rice.
    4. Freezes well if you want to make it ahead of time.

  5. Wednesday, May 23, 2012

    Green Cleaning

    This giveaway is now closed, but it’s still a handy post and there are some great green cleaning tips in the comments, so keep reading!

    I recently decided to ‘green’ my cleaning supplies, in support of my New Year’s resolution to use less plastic and create less waste. I have to admit, I’m a bit of a clean freak. I love knowing when something has been bleached and is SO SO clean. But I don’t love knowing that every time I run my dishwasher, I’m draining a bunch of yucky chemicals out of my house into the world. I must also admit that, until now, I didn’t real trust green cleaning supplies. I just wasn’t so sure that they would actually work.

    Well, I’m happy to report that Phase 1 of cleaning green has been a success! I discovered a few great products that have worked really well, including Bon Ami and Seventh Generation’s dishwasher soap, among others. I’ve also gone back to using good old vinegar and baking soda. That is by far my most favorite cleaning agent for my stainless steel kitchen sink! One day I cleaned the kitchen counters with vinegar and Anna walked in and asked what was cooking for dinner. It was pretty cute.

    Coincidentally, at the same time that I started swapping out a lot of my cleaning supplies I was introduced to the company Full Circle Home. I was totally game to try out some of their products and do a giveaway on the blog since I was already looking into these types of products! Full Circle makes beautiful cleaning tools from sustainable and renewable sources and I’m really liking everything I’ve tried so far. I was most excited to try out the cellulose cloths, hoping to replace a lot of my paper towel use. They are super absorbent and you can toss them in the dishwasher to clean them. Super cool! Oh, and the walnut scrubber sponge? I never thought I could find a sponge besides the classic green and yellow Scotch-Brite sponges to make me happy, but this one is just as great!

    They also sent me a freezer compost bin…how smart is that? Freezing compost scraps – genius! But we’re not going to talk compost just yet…that is another post for another day! (I promise, we WILL talk compost at some point, though!)

    Giveaway time! One of you randomly-selected, lucky clean freaks will receive the same lovely package of Full Circle Home goodies I did, including: Walnut Scrubber Sponge, Scrap Happy (freezer compost bin), Stick ‘Em magnetic dish towel, Tidy dish cloths, Scoop sponge, Squeeze cellulose cloths, and The Ring veggie scrubber.

    How to enter!


    You must leave separate comments to get the extra entries. Prize must be shipped in the U.S. All comments need to be posted by Midnight, PT on Wednesday, May 30.

    Good luck and happy cleaning!

  6. Sunday, May 20, 2012

    Week 278 Menu

    This past week was Cate’s school Open House. They did the coolest thing. A bunch of local food trucks came so people could buy dinner and have a picnic. I loved the idea! It was a great way to support local businesses, it was fun, and oh-so-delicious! Our friends’ food truck Pollo Fritto was there. Their fried chicken is just so darn good.

    I was much better about cooking last week. I think my schedule might be getting a little more manageable (knock on wood!). We also ended up throwing a barbecue birthday party for my sister, which gave us lots of great leftovers throughout the week.

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas

    Orange Chicken
    – Rice and veggie

    Bistro Chicken (I rant into someone at the store this week who said they made and loved this recipe, one that I had forgotten about! back on the rotation it goes!)
    – Mashed potatoes & veggie

    – Leftovers

    – Eat out

    – Brats & hot dogs on the grill
    – some combination of barbecue side dishes (beans and/or potato salad and/or fruit etc)

    – Breakfast for dinner! I think omelettes this week!

    Your turn, my friends! Get your menus up here! (Sorry, feeling a little bossy today.)

  7. Thursday, May 17, 2012

    Call for ‘Recipes’: Introducing Solid Food to Baby

    I have to admit something to you. One of my least favorite parts of parenting is feeding kids…of all ages! But I especially dread the days when it’s time to introduce baby to solid foods. It involves way too much thinking, it takes FOREVER to feed the baby, it’s super duper messy, my hand cramps up from holding that tiny spoon ‘just so’…you get the drift. Of course it IS cute, don’t get me wrong, but STILL…

    Call me crazy, but I am tempted to eat that scrumptious baby! 

    Owen is finally beginning to eat baby food. He’s not that into it yet, but we’re getting there. Today we let him have his hand at toasted oat cereal, you know, the classic first finger food. I thought for sure he’d pick them up and immediately stick them in his mouth, since that is what he does with everything else that he picks up. Funny enough, he just played with the o’s for 10 minutes or so before one ever found its way to his mouth. And when he finally ate one, well, he was not such a big fan…there was a lot of gagging going on there. So funny.

    Going in for the o…

    Look mom, I’m totally going to eat this…

    Gotcha! Come on, why would I put that in my mouth? It’s food! Dirty shoes are much tastier.

    Anyway, as I struggle through this process yet AGAIN, I am thinking maybe this would be a good Call for Recipes of sorts…a call for baby food recipes, advice, tips, favorite products, anything! I’m sure I’m not the only one frustrated and/or overwhelmed by the prospect of feeding a baby FOOD. Let’s share our wisdom with one another…hopefully it will make some of our lives a little easier. Or at least we can commiserate together! And if you love feeding babies solid food, please share some of that good positive food kharma. I need it!

    All I have to offer is that avocado is a good first food and that I like the Earth’s Best Whole Grain Rice Cereal. Beyond that, I’m useless! It’s amazing what one can forget in just a few years’ time!

  8. Le Creuset Giveaway Winner

    Can’t believe it’s already time to announce the Le Creuset giveaway winner…the weeks are FLYING by!

    The oh-so-very-lucky person is…

    Kay Gee, who said, “Cool giveaway it would be great to win!”

    Congratulations, Kee! I’m sure you will love your dish!! And big thank you to Le Creuset!

  9. Tuesday, May 15, 2012

    Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

    Before I get into today’s post, I want to address those of you out there who read “banana cake” and thought, “Eh, doesn’t really sound like something I’d be that into.” Trust me, it is. I was skeptical myself before I took my first bite…but seriously, this cake is heavenly. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

    Yesterday was my sister’s birthday. She’s kind of in love with the banana cake from Icing on the Cake, so I was planning to get one for her little party we threw last night. And then the saddest thing ever happened (okay, maybe not ever, but certainly when it comes to birthday cakes it was!). I called to order the cake yesterday morning only to discover they are closed on Mondays. Noooooo!!!! Since we were all craving the cake, I decided I would just have to make one myself and hope that it even paled in comparison to the one we would be missing.

    I started digging around the Internet for banana cake recipes. I found one on that looked more than promising. The person who posted the recipe said it was the best banana cake ever…and one of the commenters said that to say it was the best banana cake ever was an understatement. Sounded good to me!

    The cake was awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to go to Icing on the Cake because it’s always better when someone else makes the cake for you, but seriously, the cake I made last night TOTALLY hit the spot. And now, if we ever move, I won’t have to mourn the loss of banana cake from my life…I’ll be able to whip one up if I need to!

    On a side note, this cream cheese frosting was PERFECTION. My sister said next year I could just stick the candles in a mound of that frosting and she’d be happy. Done and done.

    Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
    Recipe type: Dessert
    • 1½ cups ripe bananas, mashed (Jane note: mash the bananas REALLY lumps!)
    • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • ¾ cup butter, softened
    • 2⅛ cups sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1½ cups buttermilk
    1. Preheat oven to 300°.
    2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan or two 9-inch round pans. (Jane note: For the round pans, I actually had some leftover batter - you want to fill the pans up about halfway - the cake grows when cooking)
    3. In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with the lemon juice; set aside.
    4. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
    5. In a large bowl, cream ¾ cup butter and 2⅛ cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in banana mixture.
    6. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cakes are lightly browned.
    7. Remove from oven and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. (Jane note: if you are making two rounds, let them cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, pop them out of the pan onto cooling racks, THEN put in the freezer. The original recipe claims this immediate freezing step will make the cake very moist...I also like doing this because then my cake is ready to be frosted more quickly.)

    Cream Cheese Frosting
    Recipe type: Dessert
    • Frosting
    • - ¾ cup butter, softened
    • - 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
    • - 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • - ~3½ - 4 cups powdered sugar
    1. Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth. (Jane note: the recipe calls for 3½ cups of powdered sugar...I used a bit more butter and I didn't measure the sugar as I added it - just kept adding until it was the right consistency.) Spread on cooled cake.

  10. Sunday, May 13, 2012

    Week 277 Menu

    Happy Mother’s Day, my friends. I hope you have a lovely day honoring all of the great women in your life. Lucky for me my mom is actually here with us this morning, which is such a great thing! Nate and Anne (my sister) are busy in the kitchen making a wonderful brunch…including this fruit salad, which was a true labor of love!

    I can’t believe I’m sitting here posting a menu on Mother’s Day. My dream Mother’s Days are those where I do nothing…Nate likes to call it “Mother’s Day Off.” But the more compulsive side of my personality simply can’t let a Sunday morning go by without a menu going up! 😉 Although, I am just going to copy and paste last week’s menu. I’ve never done that before! But, as you learned on Friday, I did not cook this past week and didn’t ever get to the grocery store. We’ll see if I can get back on track this coming week.

    – Kitchen Sink Quesadillas
    – Guacamole

    – Lasagna

    – Leftovers

    – Oriental Chicken Salad

    – Eat out

    – If the weather is nice, grilling! I’m thinking brats and hot dogs
    – Fresh fruit and baked beans

    – Waffles
    – Scrambled Eggs

    Your turn! Everyone please share your menus for the week! The moms out there can take a break from planning today…but you know I’m going to be looking for your menus starting tomorrow! 😉