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Category: holidays

  1. Thursday, February 13, 2014

    “Where there is love there is life”

    Yesterday Nate was reading and there was a giant ad for Tiffany & Co. Of course I asked if the computer was showing him that ad because he had just bought me something from Tiffany for Valentine’s Day, to which he replied, “Oh yeah, I bought you tons of presents for a made-up holiday.” And then we both totally laughed. Yeah, we’re romantic like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating Valentine’s Day with our kids and I honestly don’t have anything against Valentine’s Day per se. In fact, any excuse to make pretty cookies and give them to friends and neighbors is fine by me.

    free printable gandhi quote from @janemaynard

    Valentine’s Day aside, I have been thinking a lot about love lately, for many reasons that I won’t get into. You know the Beatles song All You Need is Love? That line has become cliché by now, but I really do think all you need is love. I can’t help but imagine how different the world would be if everyone loved first. Now, I know life isn’t always that simple. But I can’t help but think if we did love first that we’d all be kinder, more patient, more giving, more forgiving. At least I know I would be. Sometimes it’s not easy to love, but that’s what makes it all the more powerful. Nate and I teach the 16- and 17-year-olds at our church each Sunday. There is a lot to think about in this life, especially when you’re becoming an adult and navigating those often choppy waters. But I am surprised how often, when I am teaching them, it all comes back to loving others and serving without judgment. It’s so simple and yet one of life’s greatest challenges.

    Nate’s Gram Maynard lived a life of love. We all knew she was amazing and most certainly the kindest person we had ever known. She knew what it was to love unconditionally and was a great example to me. When she died, we were all heartbroken. The world needed Gram. At her funeral there was time set aside for anyone who wanted to speak to do so. It was beautiful (and not at all surprising) to hear stories from people we didn’t know, sharing how Gram had served them and touched their lives in profound ways. We knew that she had loved. We knew she had served. We just didn’t know how much.

    gram maynard | love | @janemaynard

    I recently saw this quote from Mahatma Gandhi somewhere and it really resonated with me: Where there is love there is life. When I think of Gram, a pure example of love, I can’t help but think of the full life she lived. A quiet life, filled with quiet acts of love. Her life was unremarkable by the world’s lofty standards. She was from the South Shore near Boston and lived there her entire life. She raised five children. She stood by the Red Sox through thick and thin. She had the most marvelous accent, once telling Nate’s mom she could find the fox in the dishwasher (10 points if you can figure that one out). She hardly ever cooked, but when she did it was always for others – I don’t know how many tins of her chocolate chip cookies were carried by postal workers nationwide. I don’t even think she ever flew on a plane. And yet, her love filled so much more of the world than just the South Shore. Her love made ripples that have been felt far and wide. She filled the world with life by simply loving. She was more remarkable than anyone could probably comprehend.

    Like I said, lots on my mind lately. But I keep clinging to this word: love. I need to let it fill me the way it did Gram. I need to let it spill over.

    If you click here or on the quote at the beginning of this post, you can download a pretty pdf of the Gandhi’s quote. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Wednesday, February 5, 2014

    Chocolate Cream Cheese Cut-Out Sandwich Cookies

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies from @janemaynard

    Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means it’s time to break out the cookie cutters!

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies from @janemaynard

    Anna and I decided to make some cute heart sandwich cookies yesterday to deliver to the neighbors. We used my favorite recipe for chocolate cut-out cookies (SOOOO good) and my other favorite recipe for cream cheese frosting, combined into one delicious sandwich of goodness. You can, of course, make these any time of year with different shapes and we do!

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies from @janemaynard

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies from @janemaynard

    A quick rundown of how we made the shapes for the sandwiches and why this is a great way to decorate cookies with kids. If you want to make them exactly how I did, you’ll need 3 heart-shaped cookie cutters that are different sizes but the same shape. Using the largest cutter, cut an even number of cookies. In half of those cookies make holes with the next smaller cookie cutter. Plan it so you end up with an even number of the middle-sized cookies, too. Then take the smallest cookie cutter and cut out holes in half of the middle-sized cookies. Get what’s happening? In the end you will have two different sizes of peek-a-boo sandwiches and a bunch of tiny, super cute chocolate cookies. You can of course still do this with just two heart cookie cutters, you’ll just have one size of the peek-a-boo sandwich cookies.

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies from @janemaynard

    I really liked having the two sizes of sandwiches along with the tiny cookies because it looked really cute on the plates for the neighbors.

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies from @janemaynard

    Once the cookies are all baked and cooled, spread frosting onto the rough side of a cookie with no hole and top with a cookie that does have a hole, then fill the exposed frosting center with pretty sprinkles or colored sugar. This ended up being a really great way to decorate cookies with kids. It’s super easy for them to fill the holes with sprinkles and Anna had such a fun time with it. The other nice thing about making these cookies with Anna was that she was able to spread frosting on the cookies and it didn’t have to be a perfect spreading job because the frosting gets sandwiched inside the cookie and then covered with sprinkles. The project ended up being empowering for her because she could make a sandwich cookie from start to finish without any help and they looked just like mine, well, with maybe a few more sprinkles. 😉

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies from @janemaynard

    Without further ado, chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies!

    Rolled Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies
    • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
    • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
    • ⅛ teaspoon salt
    • ¾ cup butter, softened
    • 1¼ cups white sugar
    • 1 egg
    1. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth – this will take several minutes. Beat in the egg and mix well. On low, beat in the sifted ingredients and mix until you can’t see any white flour.
    2. Divide the dough into two and form into round balls. Place each ball on a large pieces of plastic wrap then press the dough out into a dish, about ½”³ thick. Refrigerate for about an hour. You can refrigerate longer than that, but you’ll need to let it soften up a bit before you’ll be able to roll it out. It is important to refrigerate it so that the dough is workable, otherwise it’s too sticky, but the original recipe said to refrigerate for 2 hours and whenever I do that the dough is just too hard to work with.
    3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). On a surface that has been floured pretty heavily, roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thickness. When I do sandwich cookies I go pretty think when rolling it out so that when you bite the cookies later they aren’t too heavy on the cookie. You’ll definitely need to flour the rolling pin and make sure you keep the surface below the dough floured to avoid sticking. Even after refrigeration, the dough is prone to sticking.
    4. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on cookie sheet – I like to line mine with a Silpat. The original recipe says to place them 1½ inches apart, but the cookies do not spread that much, you can definitely get them closer together, about ½ inch apart.
    5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven (mine are always done at 8 minutes). Cool cookies on a baking sheet for 5 minutes then carefully remove them with a spatula to cool on a wire rack completely.

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out cookies from @janemaynard
    Cream Cheese Frosting
    Prep time
    Total time
    • 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 with a hand blender or in a stand mixer 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. Add powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want, somewhere around 3½ to 4 cups. (Whenever you add powdered sugar, be sure to start on low and then work the speed up so you don’t blow powdered sugar all over the kitchen. I may or may not have done this many times before. I plead the fifth.)

    chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies from @janemaynard

  3. Sunday, December 29, 2013

    Week 362 Menu

    THIS is what our kitchen looks like.

    messy kitchen

    We are finally painting the wall after tearing out the kitchen cabinets over the counter last June. And, because I’m a crazy person, I also decided we needed to paint the 1970s wood paneled wall with built-in shelves in the living room the same weekend, so our house is pretty much a disaster. I can’t wait until we’re done and peace has been restored!

    Despite the home madness, we have another fun week ahead of us!

    – I’m taking the kids to Sea World for one last visit before our passes expire

    – New Years Eve with the kids! Gram’s meatballs, Pat’s Oriental Chicken Salad, chicken tenders, spinach artichoke dip, cranberry slush, and of course sweet treats of some sort! Then early to bed so we can get up for…

    – Heading to Pasadena early in the morning with the kids for the Tournament of Roses Parade! Then Nate and I are going to the Rose Bowl while our kids hang out with their Auntie Anne. Nate and I will eat at the game, I’ll let Anne figure out what to do with my kids 😉

    Homemade pizza – planning to make this with the kids as a fun vacation activity, we’ll probably make margherita pizza and honey goat cheese pizza (the kids have all decided they love those flavors – yay!)

    Malibu Melt Wraps

    – Eat out

    Grammy’s Orange Chicken
    – Rice and Veggie

    As usual, I am looking forward to seeing your meal plans for the week! Thank you for sharing!

    Happy New Year!!!

  4. Tuesday, December 24, 2013

    My Favorite Rolled Cookie Recipes…and Happy Christmas!

    Merry Christmas Eve! I’m going to take the week off, with just a quick Show and Tell post on Friday. But I wanted to take a moment to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    favorite cut-out cookie recipes from @janemaynard

    I also wanted to share my two favorite rolled cookie recipes, you know the kind of cookies that require cookie cutters! The girls and I will be spending the day decorating cut-out cookies, which just may make it the perfect day.

    I have two favorite recipes that I use and love – one for sugar cookies and one for chocolate cookies. They are both on All Recipes and I don’t have any changes or notes on either of these recipes. They are both perfect!

    Click here for my favorite sugar cookie recipe. (Side note: My mom’s sugar cookie is also mighty fine and uses sour cream. You can find that recipe by clicking here! Her recipe has a bit of a lighter texture than the All Recipes cookies. I don’t feel like I’m describing that correctly, but it’s the best I can do!)

    Click here for my favorite chocolate cut-out cookie recipe. These cookies are so, so, so good.

    Happy baking and celebrating!

  5. Sunday, December 22, 2013

    Week 361 Menu

    Christmas cookie decorating has begun!

    christmas cookies from @janemaynard

    I’m going to try to take it as easy as possible this week with work (work schmwork!) and really enjoy this magical time with our kids, including some fun cooking!

    – Breakfast for dinner: Swedish Pancakes (Cate’s always begging for these, so figured it would be fun to do this week)

    – Chinese Take-Out, a Maynard Christmas Eve tradition!

    Swedish Meatballs with boiled red potatoes and lingonberry jam (plus a little bit o’ salad)

    – Leftovers

    – Homemade pizza night

    – Take out

    – Leftovers or tomato soup or something simple

    Looking forward to seeing your menus for the week, whether they are simple or filled with fancy Christmas food. All menus welcome! Happy Holidays!

  6. Friday, December 20, 2013

    Call for Recipes: Delicious but Quick Holiday Foods!

    I cannot believe that it is December 20th already! Where did the month go? For that matter, where did the year go?! I thought today we would do a Call for Recipes that could potentially be helpful for all of us during this crazy time of year!

    collection of quick holiday food ideas

    I think we can all agree that food is very closely tied to the holidays. No matter what holiday you are celebrating, food plays a big role in the celebrations, traditions and memories from those holidays. Our little family is getting excited to order Chinese take-out on Christmas Eve and enjoy Swedish meatballs and bulle on Christmas Day. I can’t wait!

    I think we can also agree that November and December are INSANELY BUSY. And as much as we might like spending time in the kitchen preparing various meals and goodies, sometimes we just don’t have the time. So, that’s the theme of today’s Call for Recipes! Please share your favorite quick and easy recipes that are perfect for the holidays! Whether it’s a main dish, side dish or holiday dessert, everything is fair game!

    collection of quick holiday food ideas

    I’ll kick us off with a slow cooker idea. I had a chance to try out another one of Campbell’s Dinner Sauces again this week. I have to be honest with you all, I haven’t been cooking much since Thanksgiving. Work has been insane, we had two birthdays to celebrate, and gearing up for Christmas and all the associated activities is a full time job in and of itself! But I really am craving some home cooked meals right now – I’m sick of eating on the fly! Yesterday morning I stopped at the store real quick after dropping the kids at school and grabbed a chuck roast and Campbell’s Tavern Style Pot Roast Slow Cooker Sauce. It literally took me 2 minutes to get everything into the crockpot and I didn’t have to think about it the rest of the day. Once evening rolled around, I boiled a few potatoes and threw together a quick salad. The result was very little time and effort expended and a truly holiday-worthy dinner! The best part was the pot roast tasted amazing. Every last person in our family had seconds. This meal is definitely a great option if you want to spend more time with loved ones and less time in the kitchen.

    collection of quick holiday food ideas

    Your turn! Share your best recipes and tips for quick and delicious holiday foods! And, if you can share actual recipes in the comments or links to recipes, that would be even more amazing!

    Here’s to surviving AND savoring the holidays!


    This post brought to you by Campbell’s Dinner Sauces. Weekend-worthy dinners with only weekday-level effort needed! Learn more at

  7. Sunday, December 1, 2013

    Week 358 Menu

    Well, it’s over. Thanksgiving is done. And it was a really good one, for more reasons than I can count.

    end of thanksgiving feast |

    We made 4 dozen rolls on Thursday and 4 dozen rolls on Friday. And I MIGHT have to make a few more dozen today. We ate sooooo well this past week, I have a feeling this coming week will be a let down. 😉

    – I’m hoping I can drag the leftovers out a bit longer…if not, hot dogs. So fancy.

    White Chicken Chili (yes, this keeps appearing week after week…maybe I”ll actually get to it this week!)

    Moosewood Pasta Primavera

    – Leftovers

    – Homemade pizza (crust recipesauce recipe)
    – I’ll either do BLT pizza again because it was so good or the honey goat cheese with caramelized onions

    – Takeout

    Waffles and scrambled eggs

    Can’t wait to see your menus for the week! (Happy Hanukkah to those of you celebrating!)

  8. Sunday, November 24, 2013

    Week 357 Menu

    Hello from Disneyland! We are so excited for the next two days – it’s going to be a blast! We are currently taking bets on whether the holiday fireworks music show will make me cry.

    No picture today because, well, I’m at Disneyland!

    – California Adventure Park food

    White Chicken Chili

    – Pizza Port

    – HAPPY THANKSGIVING! (Be sure to click here to share your Thanksgiving menu!)

    – Leftovers

    – Leftovers

    – Hopefully we’ll still have leftovers…if not, breakfast for dinner!

    I am thankful that so many of you post menus – it makes me happy week after week! Thank you for helping make the blog what it is! Looking forward to seeing your menus for the week. And, don’t forget to click here to share your Thanksgiving menu!

  9. Friday, November 22, 2013

    Thanksgiving Menu 2013

    Hi everyone! I was going to post my Thanksgiving menu on Monday, but then I was thinking, we’re all probably doing a bunch of our grocery shopping this weekend, so it’s time to get planning for the Thanksgiving feasts NOW. Let’s get to it!

    2013 Thanksgiving Menu by @janemaynard at

    Here is what we are having for Thanksgiving this year. I can’t WAIT for Thursday!

    Dessert is still up in the air. We’re going to have a serious discussion about it once everyone is in town, but there will for sure be Pumpkin Pie and something with chocolate. And maybe makes-its-own-crust apple pie. And maybe even more than that. Who knows? It might get crazy around here.

    P.S. I didn’t get any cooking done ahead of time besides the cranberry sauce. So much for being organized and ahead of the game!

    Click here to see all the Thanksgiving Prep posts I’ve published over the years for even more inspiration.

    And, as always, please share your own menu plan for next week’s Thanksgiving feast! If you have recipes or links to recipes, share those, too!

  10. Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce from The Pioneer Woman

    holiday gifts & giveaways on


    This giveaway is now closed, but keep reading for a great recipe!

    I’ve decided this year I’m going to make a lot of our food for Thanksgiving ahead of time. So, this week I’m going to get cooking and freeze it all so that we can really enjoy our time with family next week. To kick off the flurry of pre-Thanksgiving cooking I made homemade cranberry sauce!

    ree's easy homemade cranberry sauce from @janemaynard at

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the best parts of blogging has been building relationships with wonderful, amazing people from all over the country. One of those people is Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. Ree is pure kindness and I am thankful to know her! As you may know, Ree just came out with another fun and colorful cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.

    ree's easy homemade cranberry sauce from @janemaynard at

    I decided since Thanksgiving is right around the corner I should check out the Thanksgiving section of her book, which is chockfull of homemade goodness, including several different kinds of stuffing. I decided to make the cranberry sauce because, well, we need some for next week! The recipe is delicious and very simple to throw together. So simple, in fact, I forgot I was cooking the sauce. Like, as I was typing this paragraph and I started typing the word “cranberry sauce” it reminded me that I was simmering the sauce on the stove for quite some time and had to stop typing immediately and  run to the kitchen to save the sauce from certain destruction. Crisis averted, cranberry sauce is a-okay! So, in addition to being delicious and easy, this sauce is also indestructible!

    the pioneer woman cooks: a year of holidays giveaway + recipe for easy homemade cranberry sauce from @janemaynard at

    The cranberry sauce and the book are both great, which is just what I would expect from Ree! And today I get to give away her wonderful book! THREE of you lucky people will win a SIGNED copy of Ree’s new book The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.

    Here is how to enter the giveaway! (Comments must be posted by Midnight PT on Monday, 11/25.)

    • Simply leave a comment, any comment, on this post! That’s it!
    • Bonus entry: Follow This Week for Dinner on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow, that counts!)
    • Bonus entry: Follow me on Pinterest and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow me on Pinterest, that counts!)
    • Bonus entry: Follow me on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you did! (If you already follow me on Pinterest, that counts!)

    ree's easy homemade cranberry sauce from @janemaynard at

    To wrap things up, here is the recipe for Ree’s Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce. Enjoy!

    Easy Homemade Cranberry Sauce from The Pioneer Woman {Giveaway!}
    Cuisine: Side Dish, Thanksgiving
    • One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
    • 2 large oranges
    • 1 cup pure maple syrup
    1. Rinse the cranberries under cold water. Zest the oranges. Add the cranberries and zest to a medium saucepan. Squeeze the juice from both oranges into the saucepan. Add the maple syrup and stir it all together. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until it’s nice and thick. If the sauce still seems a little thin, just simmer longer until it’s the right consistency.
    2. Transfer the sauce to a dish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Can be made up to 2 days in advance. Store in the fridge. (I am going to freeze mine and defrost it the day before Thanksgiving.)