Menu Banner
  1. Tuesday, April 30, 2013

    Making My Mom Cry {in a good way}

    It is really easy to make my mom cry. For example, when I was 11 years old, we rented the movie Ghost Dad. I’m sure you remember Ghost Dad because it was awesome, and by awesome I mean, um, not so awesome. But who are we to judge? I loved that movie regardless of how cheesy it was. I’ll never forget the moment when Bill Cosby (the one and only Ghost Dad!) said goodbye to his family looking over to discover my mom’s face streaming with tears. Like good children do, we laughed at her. She laughed, too, though. And we still tease her about crying at Ghost Dad. This isn’t Steel Magnolias, folks. She deserves to be teased.

    With the advent of social media, my ability to make my mom cry has increased ten-fold. I can post a video to Facebook or a photo to Instagram and predict which ones are going to do her in. I’ve even called her a few minutes after posting just to catch her in the act. Let’s be honest, I am a cryer, too. I cannot deny that I inherited this trait and have, in fact, passed it on to Cate!

    This photo on Instagram just about did her in the other day.

    kids walking at Y

    I have to admit that I didn’t predict this one as well. I knew she’d love it, but I didn’t know it would send her to tears. But it did. And, on retrospect, I can see why.

    I recently had the opportunity to make a personalized Mother’s Day card for my mom through I knew immediately I had to use that photo. It’s one thing to see your grandkids randomly pop up on Instagram to brighten your day (and make you cry). It’s another to have the photo printed out for your desk at work to look at any time you want (and potentially cry in front of all your co-workers).

    While I could have had CardStore address and stamp the card to send directly to my mom (so handy!), I decided to have it shipped to me first so we could personalize the card even further, with a few notes from the kids and a hand-addressed envelope. The card arrived a few days ago and it is beautiful and will for sure make her cry. Mission accomplished! Mother's Day Card

    This post is sponsored by (as always, all opinions are my own and I think they are awesome!). As such, they have a promotional code for you. You still have time to get a fantabulous, beautiful, cry-inducing personalized card to your mom! Here’s what to do!

    • The Deal: Personalized Mother’s Day cards for $1.99 each on
    • The Promotional Code: CSF3199
    • The Details: Create any Mother’s Day card for $1.99 when code CSF3199 is applied at checkout.  No minimum purchase necessary.  Offer valid through 5/6/13.  Coupon code CSF3199 must be entered during online checkout. Coupon does not apply to shipping & handling charges and cannot be combined with other offers.  Coupon code is not valid on previous purchases, and excludes all plush and greeting card bundles as well as non-card items.  Coupon code may be used to purchase more than one Mother’s Day greeting card but is not valid on orders of 150 cards or more.  Discount applied at checkout. To prevent abuse, we reserve the right to discontinue or modify this offer at any time without notice. Offer is subject to change and expires at 11:59 pm PST on 5/6/13. Offer intended for use in the United States, US territories, and Canada.

    I take great pride in making people cry. (I did it at least 3 times this weekend at Big Traveling Potluck, including The Pioneer Woman, Bakerella and Maggy from Three Many Cooks. Booyah!) So, go make an awesome card and let’s all make our moms cry together! Logo

  2. Sunday, April 28, 2013

    Week 327 Menu

    Happy Sunday, everyone! I just got back from The Big Traveling Potluck. It was wonderful for so many reasons and I am beyond happy that I went! Maggy and Pam from Three Many Cooks and Erika from Ivory Hut really know how to make everyone feel loved. I am so grateful they are my friends!

    Big Traveling Potluck

    The weekend was filled with wonderful speakers, a walk through the avocado groves, an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, an amazing locale with breathtaking views, great food and, most importantly, time spent with good, good people. Now that I am inspired and energized, back to the blog!

    – Hamburgers
    – Fruit and avocados from my trip this weekend!

    – Chicken Caesar Wraps (nice idea, Jen!)

    – The girls and I are going to Disneyland! Boys have to fend or themselves 🙂

    – Anna has requested noodles, which we are interpreting as spaghetti. I’m sick of spaghetti, I think I’ll try to find some other pasta or noodle dish. Suggestions welcome!

    Pulled Pork Sandwiches

    – Eat out

    – Leftovers and/or breakfast for dinner

    As usual, reading through your menus from last week was such a help and inspiration. I am so grateful for all of you posting each week and being a part of this community! You know the drill…post your menu for the week, no matter how plain or fancy!

  3. Friday, April 26, 2013

    White Chicken Chili

    Last week I decided to make white chicken chili for the first time, which involved using two ingredients I’ve never worked with before: hominy and poblano chili peppers.

    America's Test Kitchen White Chicken Chili Recipe

    Honestly, I was skeptical of the hominy. Like I said, I had never used it before and when I opened the can, the smell was reminiscent of corn nuts. I can’t stand the smell of corn nuts, by the way, so I was really hoping the soup would turn out! I am happy to report that the soup not only turned out but was very delicious and a big hit with every member of the family. In case you are wondering, it tasted nothing like corn nuts. PHEW! Nate came home from work, looked in the pot and declared that he was certain he was going to love this soup, even before he knew what it was. And he did!

    America's Test Kitchen White Chicken Chili

    I used the white chicken chili recipe from The America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook. So far every recipe I’ve used from that book has been a winner. The recipes have all been delicious and quick! This chicken chili was no exception. This recipe was simple to prepare and was no problem to throw together on a busy weeknight. I will include my various notes on the recipe below!

    White Chicken Chili
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Poultry
    • 1 15-ounce can white or yellow hominy (ATK recommends white because it has a deeper flavor)
    • 4 cups chicken broth
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed (Jane note: I used two chicken breasts)
    • Salt and Pepper
    • 3 poblano chili peppers (Jane note: I only used 1) – de-seed and core the pepper, then chop
    • 1 onion, chopped fine (Jane note: I only used ⅓ of a large yellow onion)
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced (Jane note: I used my garlic press)
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground coriander (Jane note: I didn’t use coriander b/c I didn’t have it in the cupboard and didn’t feel like buying it)
    • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (Jane note: I used ¼ teaspoon of black pepper because I am out of cayenne, which makes me very sad – I need to rectify that!)
    • ½ cup tomatillo salsa or salsa verde
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro (Jane note: I bought flat leaf parsley instead of cilantro, which I didn’t discover until I took it out to start chopping. I was SO bummed because cilantro would taste wonderfully in this soup, but I just went with the parsley because that’s what I had. I am happy to report that the parsley was also very delicious! So, feel free to choose the herb you like better and go with it!)
    1. Process the hominy with 1 cup broth in blender of food processor until smooth.
    2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Pat chicken dry with paper towels, season with salt & pepper then brown chicken lightly on both sides, about 5 minutes. (If you don’t have a dutch oven, a large pot should work.) Transfer chicken to a plate. Add remaining oil, poblanos and onion to the pot and cook until onions and peppers are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, garlic, cumin, corinader (if using) and cayenne (or pepper) and cook about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in remaining 3 cups broth, deglazing the bottom of the pan. I used a flat whisk here and it worked very well, but a standard whisk will suffice.
    3. Stir in pureed hominy. Add chicken, along with any accumulated juices, and simmer gently over medium-low to medium heat until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 10 minutes. I highly recommend using an instant-read thermometer so that you don’t overcook the chicken – it will be super tender if you cook until 160 degrees. Remove chicken, shred then return to soup. Add salsa, cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 1 minute then serve!


  4. Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    Green Lunchbox Giveaway!

    This giveaway is now closed. Thank you!

    Yesterday I promised a giveaway so today I offer a giveaway. A very cute, very green giveaway!

    Want to get your hands on some of those awesome Little Green Pouches and LunchSkins?

    Little Green Pouch and LunchSkins Giveaway

    TWO lucky, randomly-selected winners will each win a Green Lunchbox Giveaway Pack, which includes:

    • One LunchSkins2 set, which includes a sandwich bag and a snack bag in your choice of girl-themed, boy-themed or gender-neutral colors
    • Two Little Green Pouch 4-packs (8 pouches total), 4 extra caps and a dispensing funnel

    As usual, just leave a comment to enter! There are also three chances at extra entries!

    Be sure to leave SEPARATE comments for each extra entry. All comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Tuesday, April 30, 2013.

    Good luck with the giveaway! Big thanks to LunchSkins and Little Green Pouch!

  5. Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    Greener Lunchboxes

    As you know, I repeated the same new year’s resolution for 2013 as I had in 2012 because I did such a terrible job of cutting back on plastic and disposable items the first time around. It was a surprisingly difficult resolution! I’ve made a few specific goals to help me be more successful this year. One of the goals is that when I run out of paper napkins and plastic baggies, I’m not allowed to buy new ones and have to start using cloth and reusable containers. A couple of weeks ago I ran out of snack baggies. That day I went to Facebook for suggestions on good reusable lunchbox containers. I was flooded with ideas, on my blog’s Facebook page as well as my personal page.

    reusable containers for lunch boxes

    Today I wanted to share two of the products that I’ve tried out so far and really like!

    Little Green Pouch: I love the convenience of the applesauce pouches that have popped up in recent years and my kids love having them for snacks. BUUUUUT…the packaging is incredibly guilt-inducing for me. Those super-handy pouches are the perfect example of one-time use items that can’t be recycled, exactly the type of thing I’m trying to eliminate from my life. Enter the Little Green Pouch! I am beyond excited about this product. They are reusable pouches that are free of BPA and pthalates, freezer safe, and dishwasher safe. They’re perfect for storing and freezing homemade baby food, applesauce for snacks, and even yogurt (frozen overnight and thrown in the lunchbox for later that morning). I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about these pouches! You can order the pouches here.

    little green pouch reusable pouch container

    LunchSkins: One product that was recommended by many of you over and over again was LunchSkins. I love them. They are dishwasher safe, free of BPA, lead and pthalates, come in three perfect sizes for various lunch foods, and they’re cute to boot! You can order LunchSkins online. Target has also started carrying LunchSkins2, which includes 1 sandwich and 1 snack bag.

    lunchskins reusable lunch bags

    P.S. I have many more products to try and will keep you posted on what I think!

    P.P.S. Big thanks to Little Green Pouch and LunchSkins for sending me product to try out. They may have given me the product, but all opinions are my own and I really do love their stuff!

    P.P.P.S. Stay tuned for some giveaways!

    P.P.P.P.S Be sure to check out my article on Babble yesterday fitting in with today’s theme: 11 Ways to Green Your Kitchen TODAY


  6. Sunday, April 21, 2013

    Week 326 Menu

    One of the great things about moving back to San Diego is reuniting with my beloved book club. Originally there were 6 of us. Three of us moved away. And now 1 has moved back (me!). While we very much missed the 2 who were not there yesterday, reuniting with these women did my heart good. Despite planning our get-together with less than 24 hours notice, we were able to find a time to all meet AND put together an amazing spread of food. My body and soul were nourished yesterday. (And in case you are wondering, Unbroken was the book of choice this month. We all recommend it!)

    Surprisingly, I pretty much followed my menu last week. Which means I actually have to think of new things to cook this week. Bummer!

    – Quiche (it’s been ages!)

    – Chicken Burritos with Aunt Kathy’s Sweet Black Beans

    – Hamburgers
    – Carrot sticks and ranch dip, fresh fruit

    – Leftovers

    – I am heading to Big Traveling Potluck. I can’t wait!
    – Lasagna for the family!

    – I’ll be at BTP
    – Nate will do leftover lasagna or takeout with the kids

    – Waffles and fruit

    As usual, your menus from last week were wonderful inspiration. It’s so easy to get into a meal planning rut, but seeing your menus snaps me out of it every time! I am so grateful to all who post your menus! Can’t wait to see your plans for this week!

  7. Thursday, April 18, 2013

    Those Berries Got Jammed! {Yearly Freezer Jam Tip}

    Note: I now use Pomona’s Universal Pectin, click here for reasons why and the recipe for freezer jam using Pomona’s. Also, click here for a Freezer Jam ingredients buying guide for both Sure-Jell and Pomona’s. Keep reading for a tip about prepping strawberries.

    I just finished my annual task of making strawberry freezer jam for the upcoming year! I ended up with twenty-two 2-cup containers, but I’m worried that it might not be enough jam. I’m probably going to have to make more since, apparently, I’m raising a wild pack of rabid jam eaters.

    I write about my jam escapades every year and I find that I’m constantly finding new little tips that help out with the process. This year is no exception! You know how you’re not supposed to puree the fruit because then it won’t gel properly? (If you don’t know that, true story.) My least favorite part of making strawberry jam is smashing the strawberries. They’re tricky little buggers. I noticed in the directions this year, though, that it said you could use a food processor. You simply process the fruit to a fine chop, but do not puree. Since I finally have a food processor, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.

    Yes, that container is almost empty! It’s been two days. These kids are rabid, I tell ya. RABID.

    Using the food processor worked beautifully. The whole process went SO MUCH FASTER and I liked the final texture of the jam a lot. The fruit is more uniform in size and there aren’t any of those giant berries floating around in the jam. (I’m sure some people like the giant berries in the jam, but I’m not a fan.) So, that’s this year’s tip! Don’t be scared to use your food processor ”” just make sure you don’t process too much and you’ll be good!

    P.S. Those berries got JAMMED. (Please, someone, get the joke! Here, maybe this will help…) Those berries got retro-jammed! (Now? Anyone?)

  8. Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Easy Spaghetti Carbonara

    Spaghetti is definitely a go-to meal around here and my kids could eat it every day, much like myself as a kid. Once, when I was in 3rd grade, my dad and I found ourselves home alone for a week. We ate spaghetti every night. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. My dad was lucky I was a clueless 9-year-old.

    While I am grateful to know that my kids will always eat spaghetti (it really is a good option on a busy night), I must admit that Nate and I are less enthusiastic about the dish. I don’t know, it’s just kinda boring. The razzle dazzle of spaghetti has finally worn off for me. Sorry, Dad! 😉

    Last week, however, I decided to try to make spaghetti more interesting. The result was delicious! I used a recipe for spaghetti carbonara from Christina Ferrare’s Big Bowl of Love cookbook and it came out beautifully. The ingredients are simple, the taste is flavorful, and the sauce is creamy without using actual cream.

    Nate and I both really liked this recipe. I actually loved it. The girls stuck with classic boring spaghetti that night, but I don’t think they even tried the carbonara, little stinkers. Owen, however, ate three servings and couldn’t get enough!

    Easy Spaghetti Carbonara
    Adapted from Big Bowl of Love by Christina Ferrare (I changed a few of the ingredient amounts and also some of the technique based on my experience with the recipe)
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Pasta
    • 2 cups peas (original recipe calls for fresh, I used frozen)
    • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 4 ounces diced pancetta
    • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot (or regular onion if you don’t have a shallot on hand)
    • 8 ounces spaghetti or linguine (fresh is yummier, dried is fine)
    • 1 cup low-fat milk
    • 1½ cups freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for garnish
    1. If using fresh peas, remove the peas from their pods and set aside. For frozen, run warm water over the peas to separate them, drain, then set aside.
    2. In a cold, large, heavy pot, pour the olive oil and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the pancetta, cook over medium heat until pancetta is crisp. Remove pancetta and set aside. Add shallot to the pan and saute until crispy. Remove from heat, add pancetta back to the pot and set aside. I am lazy, so I cooked the pancetta then just added the shallot/onion to the pan without removing the pancetta. I added the shallot before the pancetta got crispy then cooked until the onions were softened. Once cooked, turn off heat and set pan aside.
    3. Cook pasta to package directions. Be sure to salt the water – 1 tablespoon salt per 3 quarts of water. Three minutes before pasta is ready, add peas. Drain pasta and peas, reserving 3 cups of the pasta water and set aside.
    4. The original recipe tells you to add the pasta to the large pot with the shallots and then mix in the sauce ingredients. I did it this way and found that the cheese was very clumpy. It tasted good, but I didn’t get a smooth sauce. So, I am modifying the directions. Return the pancetta/shallot pan back to the stove and turn the heat on to medium-high. Immediately add ½ cup pasta water, ½ cup milk and ½ cup parmesan cheese. Whisk well. Add remainder of the parmesan cheese and milk and keep whisking. If the sauce is too thick or gooey, add pasta water ¼ cup at a time until sauce is creamy. Reduce heat to low then stir in the peas and spaghetti.
    5. Serve topped with additional parmesan cheese and mint leaves if desired.


  9. Sunday, April 14, 2013

    Week 325 Menu

    After two weeks of Spring Break fun (Anna one week, Cate the next) and throwing caution (or at least responsibility) to the wind, it’s back to real life this week. Perhaps that means I’ll actually make more than one or two items on the menu plan! But, really, who cares about meal plans when there are zoos to be visited, beaches to play on, and flower fields to gaze upon?

    – Chicken and Bok Choy Stir Fry (from Real Simple’s Easy, Delicious Meals)
    – Rice and dumplings

    – Island Pork with Sticky Coconut Rice
    – Green Veggie

    – White Chicken Chili (from America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook)

    – Leftovers

    – Breakfast for dinner

    – Takeout

    – Roast chicken with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots

    Crossing fingers I actually cook this week! 😉 As usual, I can’t wait to see what your menu plan is for the week! Remember, we don’t care how fancy or un-fancy your menu is, and feel free to share any day of the week!

  10. Friday, April 12, 2013

    Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Hey everybody. I’ve been a little MIA this week. Cate has Spring Break so we’ve been partying! The state of my house can attest to this. Anyway, life took priority over cooking and blogging, which is the way it’s supposed to be, right?

    In my never-ending quest to find perfect chocolate chip cookie recipes, I discovered a serious gem of a recipe this week. My blogging friend Alice was claiming to have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe EVER. Of course I had to test out the claim. She might be right. For reals. These cookies are unbelievably good and are the exact texture I love in a cookie. You can find Alice’s original recipe here. When I make the recipe I do make a few tweaks, which I included below. Make these cookies this weekend. (Yes, I’m getting bossy again. Sometime I have to.)

    Alice's Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
    This is the only chocolate chip cookie recipe you need.
    • 1 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 1½ cups packed brown sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • ½ teaspoon smallish-mediumish coarse sea salt (Jane notes: I reduced the salt amount a bit, Alice’s amount was really tasty, but I think a little less offers a bit more subtlety, but you still get the salty punch from the larger crystals; Also, when I am out of sea salt I use kosher salt with good results, but the sea salt texture does make them more special)
    • - 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • - 1½ teaspoons baking powder
    • - 2¾ cup all-purpose flour
    • - 2¾ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Jane note: I increased the amount of chocolate chips)
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Jane note: I decreased the temperature a bit from Alice’s suggestion based on my oven and how the cookies were cooking.)
    2. Cream butter and both sugars for 3-5 minutes at medium to medium-high speed, until very light in color. Scrape down the bowl and add eggs and vanilla. Beat for 2-3 more minutes. Add all dry ingredients (except chocolate) and mix until just mixed. Pour in chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed.
    3. Form cookie balls about 2 tablespoons in size (I used my medium scoop) and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and tops are starting to brown a bit.
    4. Remove from oven. Jane note: when you take the pan out of the oven, drop it straight down, flat onto the counter to force the cookies to suddenly settle. This makes for good texture and a handsome-looking cookie. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes, then slide the parchment paper/Silpat to a non-pourous surface to complete cooling.
    5. Recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.