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  1. Thursday, October 31, 2013

    Trick or Treat? Chocolate Pumpkin Butter

    Okay, so, a couple of weeks ago I had this brilliant idea to create a recipe for chocolate pumpkin butter. That just sounds like it should be good, right? I did a little searching and there are practically no recipes for it out there, at least not for what I was envisioning in my head. (Side note: I should have taken that fact as a warning but, alas, I plowed on.)

    trick or treat? chocolate pumpkin butter | from @janemaynard at

    Anna and I created the recipe together other day and were feeling pretty good about our butter. It had the texture I was looking for and it was nice and chocolatey. We tasted it quickly and saved it for Halloween morning. I got up early today, made waffles and broke out the special chocolate pumpkin butter. AND…here is how breakfast went down.

    Anna: “It’s good!” (She proceeded to eat all of the pumpkin butter on her plate.)

    Cate: “I can’t decide what I think of it.” (Cate would never say anything bad about anyone or anything, so I think we can all guess what she really meant.)

    Owen: He didn’t say anything but he didn’t have to. He left the pumpkin butter untouched on his plate and ate the waffles plain.

    trick or treat? chocolate pumpkin butter | from @janemaynard at

    Nate walked into the room about halfway through breakfast and asked how the pumpkin butter was. I actually  enjoyed it on my waffle and, as I started to tell Nate that I though it was pretty good but that next time I would use water instead of apple juice for the liquid, Owen piped in with a very loud, very clear, very spirited “YUCKY!”

    Nate took one bite and said, “I have to admit, I do not like this at all.”

    And THAT is how my special Halloween concoction turned from treat to trick.

    Okay, seriously, I liked the chocolate pumpkin butter on my waffle. Anna liked it, too. But we were the only ones in the family who did. So, I’ll share the recipe with you but please know that you will probably think it is “yucky.”

    Trick or treat!!!

    trick or treat? chocolate pumpkin butter | from @janemaynard at

    Chocolate Pumpkin Butter
    Created by yours truly”¦which may or may not be something to brag about. Hey, we can’t win ”˜em all.
    Recipe type: Dessert
    • ¼ cup water (I used apple juice and that was a bad choice, stick with water!)
    • ¼ cup brown sugar
    • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 3 pinches salt
    • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
    • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    1. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir well until all chips are melted. Set aside.
    2. Add all the rest of the ingredients to a small sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat. As it starts to simmer, it will actually start sputtering a lot, so make sure you are constantly stirring. Let it cook for about 5 minutes. It should be steaming throughout this process.
    3. Remove from heat then stir in the chocolate.
    4. Store in refrigerator.

  2. Tuesday, October 29, 2013

    I finally have a tortilla warmer!

    You know what I’ve always wanted? A tortilla warmer. I’ve frequently looked for them in stores but have had a hard time finding them. (Side note: I don’t know why I never looked on Amazon, but whatever.)

    tortilla warmer |

    My wonderful neighbor Ari (who is from Mexico City and shops at a Mexican market nearby) knew I was on the lookout for one. She knocked on my door the other day, tortillas and tortilla warmer in hand! She’s a very good neighbor and she knows how to make me very happy!

    tortilla warmer |

    So, yeah, tortilla warmers are great. You should get one. You can heat up your tortillas, put them in the warmer as you go, then serve all the heated tortillas at once. It’s awesome. (Now that I think about it, my warmer will come in handy for Swedish pancakes, too!)

  3. Sunday, October 27, 2013

    Week 353 Menu

    Today we’re going to visit the woman from whom we purchased our home. She lived here over 40 years and  is, according to everyone who knows her, sweet and wonderful. Her previous gardener called her “my Ruthie.” How sweet is that? She is now living in assisted living and we can’t wait to meet her. We will, of course, come bearing cookies.

    week 353 menu pumpkin rocks |

    I can’t believe it’s time to plan another menu. Sometimes the weeks just come too fast!

    – Baked potato bar (thanks for the idea, Elizabeth!)
    – Yummy toppings for the potatoes

    – Chicken Mole
    – Rice and beans

    – Linguine with cauliflower and brown butter (from Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast)
    – Salad and crusty bread

    – Happy Halloween!
    – Ordering pizza then trick or treating!

    – Leftovers

    – I’m out of ideas right now, so let’s just say takeout and hope I come up with something better before Saturday 😉

    – Nachos
    – Guacamole, beans, etc.

    You know the drill – time for everyone to share their menus! Looking forward to seeing what you have planned for the week!

  4. Friday, October 25, 2013

    Friday Show and Tell: My Little Photobombers + Seeing New York (and People) Differently

    I have two things to share today.

    First, a little peek into what is usually going on around the food I photograph. I like to keep the photography on my site simple. It’s just my style. But there’s another reason for the simplicity, which is pictured here:

    food photo shoot photo bomb |

    I’m a mom. I work from home and I’m the primary caregiver. And those little people that I care for are always around, even when it’s time for a “photo shoot.” Nearly half of the photos I take have fingers sneaking into the shot, or faces popping up in the background. I just learn to work around it and work quickly. Yesterday, though, it went beyond cute chubby fingers sneaking in to steal a cookie. It went to a whole other heart-melting-I-can-barely-hold-my-camera-steady-garlic-what-garlic-that-boy-is-so-cute-heaven-help-me level.

    Moving on to share item #2: Humans of New York (HONY). I always assume everyone knows about this blog, but, surprisingly, many people I mention it to have never heard of it. I simply will not rest until I get all people as addicted to HONY as I am, so a blog post is in order!

    humans of new york book |

    HONY was started by Brandon Stanton, bond trader turned photographer, who interviews and photographs (you guessed it) humans in New York. His blog is wildly popular and he published his first book this month, which I pre-ordered ages ago. The book is as wonderful as the blog and made it to the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for non-fiction. If you aren’t already, you need to start following the blog and/or the Facebook page and/or buy the book.

    Beyond telling you about the website and the book, I also want to tell you an interesting experience I had as a result of reading HONY. I grew up in New Jersey and New York was our city. I went in frequently and know the place well. Last week I went on a quick business trip to New York. It was the first time I visited the city since starting to read HONY and it completely changed my perspective.

    humans of new york book |

    If you’ve never been to New York, it is just as busy and full of people as you might imagine, maybe even more so. When you’re there, you have to put yourself on fast forward, keep your head down and just go. Of course you notice people around you, how can you not? But usually you notice them in a quick way. However, on this trip, even though I was moving quickly, for the first time I was really noticing people. Not in a who-is-that-creepy-lady-staring-at-me-on-the-subway way, but in a these-are-all-humans-with-stories way. I had so much more compassion for people. I wanted to talk to people, find out what was happening in their lives. I wanted to get my camera out all the time. Instead of seeing a jacket that I previously would have thought was “ugly” I now saw a woman who really loved a fun jacket that made her feel good. I really, truly felt differently about everyone I walked by or sat next to or waited in line with.

    humans of new york book |

    It might sound cheesy, but HONY truly changed my perspective. I feel like I’m a pretty compassionate person and always have been. But what Brandon does is unique. He stops a stranger and asks them a question – not “What do you do for a living?” but “What would you tell a large group of people?” or something similarly probing. He tries to get something “real” out of the person. As Brandon says on his site, “Adding even the simplest quote to a photo can lend so much humanity to an image.” That is where the power of HONY lies – a beautiful image paired with a bit of humanity, a peak into someone’s soul. And those souls are all so different and oftentimes unexpected.

    humans of new york book |

    I’m sad that it took a visit to New York to trigger this experience and these thoughts for me, but at least it happened! There’s just something about being among 8 million people that gets you thinking. My goal is to take these feelings I had in New York and keep them with me, to look at all people wherever I am in this same way. My kids and I delivered cookies to all of our neighbors last night, as a way to meet people. We knocked on strangers’ doors, we smiled, we offered a gift, we asked their names, we showed interest in who they were. For some neighbors, they just needed a quick hello and a smile, for others they needed to sit down with us, share photos of their families, just talk. Once again I realized that everyone has a story and everyone wants to be noticed and loved, even in small and simple ways.

    Here are a few of photos from HONY that I love, although I could list photos all day! Each click is a different link. Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click! Click!

    It’s show and tell, which means everyone in class gets to share. Show us what you got!

  5. Thursday, October 24, 2013

    2 Totally Awesome Garlic Press Tricks

    About a billion years ago, I mentioned on the blog how I love using a garlic press. My friend Lindsay commented saying she doesn’t like using a garlic press because she feels like she loses so much of the garlic in the process. I responded that I just “re-moosh” it a lot and don’t care that much about the waste. (I know. I’m a total garlic waster. Quelle horreur.) Then someone else named Misty commented saying that she loves her garlic press, too, and that she puts the whole clove in, paper and all. And then Lindsay was like, “That is genius!” and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t really get what Misty was talking about, which was dumb because when I went back to find the comments this week I realized Misty totally linked to a post about her trick and I could have learned this a billion years ago. (Did you follow all that? I think multiple episodes of The Vampire Diaries last night may be having an impact on my ability to communicate like an adult.)

    how to effectively use a garlic press | from @janemaynard at

    I finally figured out Misty’s trick this week and I LOVE IT. It also inspired another trick that I want to share, which isn’t quite as cool but still handy.

    Misty’s Garlic Press Trick: When you use a garlic press put the WHOLE CLOVE, paper and all, into the press and then push it through like normal. Remember all that waste that Lindsay was so worried about? The paper becomes the waste that gets stuck in the press and almost every last bit of garlic gets pushed through. It’s like magic. Vampire Diaries-worthy magic. The other really cool part of this trick is that the garlic press is easier to clean when you use it this way. The paper doesn’t get all stuck in the bumps and grooves like straight-up garlic does. It’s so much easier to clean up!

    how to effectively use a garlic press | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.comPut the whole clove in, with paper.

    how to effectively use a garlic press | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.comPush it all the way through.

    how to effectively use a garlic press | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.comVoila! Only the paper is left behind.

    My Related Garlic Press Trick That’s Not Quite as Magical: Okay, so, you can also use your garlic press to get the paper off of your clove easily. Once again place the whole clove, paper and all, into the press. Then push, but not too far. Just enough to crack things up a bit. Remove the clove from the press and you should be able to easily peel the paper off the clove. Alternatively you can just smash the clove under the flat-side of a knife to get the same effect, which is what I normally do, but the press works great, too!

    how to effectively use a garlic press | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.comPut the whole clove in, with paper.

    using a garlic press to get paper off of garlic cloves | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.comPress about half way, remove the garlic clove, then pop off the paper!

    Happy mincing and de-papering of garlic!

    Please note: Garlic was harmed in the making of this blog post. In fact, I wasted one entire clove just for a picture. I didn’t use it for anything. I am a true garlic waster. I’m surprised I even care about this cool garlic trick at all.

  6. How to Make Spooky JELL-O JIGGLERS (It’s really easy!)

    Making JELL-O JIGGLERS with my mom as a kid is a very clear and happy memory for me. I can picture the kitchen and the JELL-O like it was yesterday. For some reason making those JIGGLERS was super, duper exciting. I mean, what kid doesn’t like JELL-O, but JELL-O that you can make into shapes and then eat with your hands? For a six-year-old, that is living the dream.

    Fun and Easy! How to make spooky JELL-O JIGGLERS | from @janemaynard at

    Even though it’s such a fond memory from my own childhood, I have never made JIGGLERS with my own kids…until yesterday! I finally got my act together and we jiggled it up Halloween style. I told the girls the day before that we would be making Halloween JELL-O JIGGLERS and they talked about it non-stop for over a day. It made me so happy that the charm hasn’t worn off from generation to generation.

    Fun and Easy! How to make spooky JELL-O JIGGLERS | from @janemaynard at

    JELL-O has some fun recipes and projects you can make, so I went browsing the site for inspiration. I liked the idea of just making our own shapes, like these hands, but I loved the color of these creepy crawly JIGGLERS. I decided to make a sheet of the “black” JELL-O and was going to have the kids design shapes for the cutouts. When we actually started making the JIGGLERS, however, we decided to just use our Halloween cookie cutters. It was a lot easier and just as fun!

    Fun and Easy! How to make spooky JELL-O JIGGLERS | from @janemaynard at

    Fun and Easy! How to make spooky JELL-O JIGGLERS | from @janemaynard at

    So, we grabbed our tin of spooky cutters and got to work. The girls divided up the cookie cutters between them and did a great job taking turns. Fitting all the shapes into our square pan was kind of like doing a puzzle. The girls were so happy the entire time we worked on the project, it did my heart good.

    Fun and Easy! How to make spooky JELL-O JIGGLERS | from @janemaynard at

    I hope this ends up being a lasting memory for the girls – I know it will be for me! The only thing more fun than being a kid is to be the parent watching the kid.

    • 1⅓ cup boiling water
    • 1 package (3 ounces) JELL-O Grape Flavor Gelatin
    • 3 tablespoons JELL-O Lime Flavor Gelatin
    • 8×8-inch pan
    • Halloween cookie cutters
    1. Mix grape and lime gelatin in a bowl. Add boiling water and mix for 2 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved. Poor directly into pan and refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm.
    2. Press Halloween cookie cutters into JELL-O, making sure to push all the way through to the bottom of the pan. Carefully remove cookie cutter – the JELL-O shapes should come out easiliy with the cookie cutter. Pop out onto a white serving platter (for high impact with the dark JIGGLERS!) and eat with ghoulish intent!


    Fun and Easy! How to make spooky JELL-O JIGGLERS | from @janemaynard at thisweekfordinner.comThe girls aren’t very ghoulish, but they sure are cute!

    This post brought to you by JELL-O, making Halloween more wiggly for everyone. Check out more Halloween recipes here: This post was sponsored as part of the DailyBuzz Brand Ambassador Program.

  7. Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    Time for a Kitchen Counter Makeover!

    I know I always brag about how awesome my mother-in-law Pat is and you’re probably sick of hearing it, but she really truly is amazing. I seriously would have no problem living with her. That’s saying something, right?

    Wilsonart HD was one of our SocialLuxe Lounge sponsors last year. They were great to work with and it was fun learning about their product. Because I was a VIP (in other words, I worked my tail off throwing that shindig), I had the chance to get some new kitchen countertops. Happily I was able to give the counters as a gift to Pat. Because she needs them. Because these were the counters she had forever:

    before wilsonart hd counter makeover |

    before wilsonart hd counter makeover |

    before wilsonart hd counter makeover |

    before wilsonart hd counter makeover |

    She even had the edges of the counter taped down in one spot. Pat is in the kitchen a lot, so she deserves to have nice, high-tech counters to work on!

    The counters were just installed, but we’re not quite ready to share the ‘after’ pictures. Once the backsplash is done we’ll have the big reveal, along with the reasons Wilsonart HD is a great option when you’re on a budget. Stay tuned!

  8. Tuesday, October 22, 2013

    Easy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup (a.k.a. Homemade Ramen)

    Today I have a super fast and easy dinner recipe for you that is also delicious and healthy. That’s the best kind of recipe, right?

    easy asian chicken noodle soup aka homemade ramen | from @janemaynard at

    But first, a confession. I love ramen noodle packs. You know, the 89-cent packages of ramen noodles paired with the sodium-rich broth that is oh-so-good. But…but. The sodium. Ah, the sodium. I haven’t bought ramen in years and years because of that darn sodium. Happily, today’s recipe will let us have our ramen and eat it, too!

    easy asian chicken noodle soup aka homemade ramen | from @janemaynard at

    You will need to buy one of those cheap-o packages of ramen for this recipe, but you’re going to throw the flavor packet in the trash where it belongs. Instead, we’ll use healthy, natural ingredients and just a bit of salt to create a yummy meal that’s perfect for kids, adults and college-kids alike!

    This recipe is fast to prepare and should be eaten immediately, so plan accordingly!

    easy asian chicken noodle soup aka homemade ramen | from @janemaynard at

    Easy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup (a.k.a. Homemade Ramen)
    Cook time
    Total time
    Adapted from a recipe in America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook
    Recipe type: Main Dish, Soup, Poultry
    Cuisine: Asian
    Serves: 4
    • ½ tablespoon vegetable oil
    • ½ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
    • 2 green onions, sliced thin with greens separated from whites
    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1 garlic clove, minced (I use my garlic press)
    • 3½ cups low-sodium or sodium-free chicken broth
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus extra as needed (a commenter mentioned that soy sauce can be high in sodium, so if you really want to cut back, try using low-sodium soy sauce or reducing the amount used)
    • 1 3-ounce package ramen noodles, flavor packet discarded
    • 1½ cups shredded coleslaw mix (I used a coleslaw mix made only with green cabbage)
    • 1½ cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
    • ½ tablespoon sesame oil, plus extra as needed
    • salt and pepper
    1. Heat vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped white green onions (reserving the greens for later), ginger and garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
    2. Stir in chicken broth and soy sauce and bring to a simmer (you’ll want to turn the heat up to get it boiling gently, then reduce the heat to medium or so to maintain the simmer).
    3. Stir in ramen noodles and coleslaw and cook for 4 minutes.
    4. Add chicken and spinach and cook for 1 minute.
    5. Stir in the rest of the green onions and sesame oil. Mix together, taste, then add salt, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. Serve immediately.
    *Cook the chicken however is easiest for you – grill, sauté, boil, whatever!


  9. Monday, October 21, 2013

    ‘Minimalist Parenting’ Fundraiser to #HelpWomenAtRisk

    Today’s post doesn’t have anything to do with food, but it does have to do with helping people and supporting friends, which is even important to me than eating. That’s saying something. 😉 One of my dearest blogging friends is Christine Koh from Boston Mamas. She’s amazing and I promise if you met her you would instantly fall in love.

    minimalist parenting women at risk fundraiser |

    She recently wrote a book with Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks called Minimalist Parenting. The book is as wonderful as the two women who wrote it.

    minimalist parenting women at risk fundraiser |

    Last year Christine traveled to Ethiopia with ONE Moms (another of my favorites). She and Asha have decided to put together a fundraiser for Women at Risk, an organization that helps Ethiopian women lift themselves out of prostitution by providing them with practical support, job training, and viable employment. Christine witnessed firsthand the impact this organization has on women’s lives and wants to continue to support them in their work. For the month of October, Christine and Asha are donating 100% of royalties on all copies of Minimalist Parenting sold through the tracking link to Women At Risk.

    minimalist parenting women at risk fundraiser |

    If you’ve been thinking about buying the book, have just discovered Minimalist Parenting and think it sounds wonderful, or want to purchase the book as a holiday gift, buy it before the end of the month to help make a difference! Click here or on any of the links for Minimalist Parenting in this post.

    Image credits: graphics by Christine Koh; photos by Karen Walrond


  10. Sunday, October 20, 2013

    Week 352 Menu

    Hello! Today I can actually plan a real menu for the week – no more traveling! It’s hard to believe in the last 10 days we drove to Utah and back and then I flew to New York City and back. Phew! It’s been a great couple of weeks but it will be nice to settle back into normal life and get caught up on everything. Side note: if I lived in New York, all I would want to do is take photographs all the time. Even the subway escalator was photogenic!

    nyc subway |

    I’m going to try to get back into the habit of trying recipes in my cookbooks again. May as well use all those wonderful books and mix up our repertoire a bit!

    – Asian Chicken Noodle Soup (From America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook)
    – Potstickers

    – Frittata and roasted potatoes (thanks for the idea from last week, Sarah K!)

    – Meatball subs (thanks for the idea from last week, Mona!)
    – Fruit and chips

    – Leftovers

    Homemade barbecue chicken pizza

    – Take out

    – Some sort of pasta dish, probably No. 3
    – Salad and garlic knots

    As always, looking forward to seeing what you all have planned for the week. Bring on the menus!