strawberry macarons

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When I was editing the photo up there, and trying to think of what text to put up—which, by the way, can take as much as an hour. I’m not kidding. Apparently, adding clever text to a picture is often beyond my realm of ready wit. That’s why a lot of the time it only says the name of the food.

Anyway, when I was trying to come up with what I should write there, only one phrase came to me: “think pink.” As cliche as those words are, my brain would not let go of them. I knew that by adding those words to the picture, I would have to write about different things than my usual jibber jabber about my kids, or why I used cardamom in a sauce instead of just vanilla. I knew that by writing “think pink,” I knew I would be encouraging discussion about what the color pink means to you.

The first (and obvious) thought I jumped to, was that people would think of breast cancer research. Cancer is something that has not avoided our family. However, I am relieved to say, that at least for now, breast cancer has passed over me and my loved ones, and for that I am grateful. It does not diminish how much respect I feel for women and men who have suffered as a result of this disease. Their courage is an inspiration to me. When I put myself in their shoes, I want to hug my kids a little tighter, and steal kisses from them more often.

Then I thought of my daughter. Pink will always be her color. At least for me, anyway.

When I was a child, my brother would instruct me on all things pertaining to life, success, love, and happiness. Had my mother been aware that a seven-year-old was having free reign advising a four-year-old, she may have intervened before he filled me in on the reality of Santa, or (when we were a few years older) the miracle of life explained with skin colored silly putty as visual aids. Among my brother’s vast wisdom, was the notion that all things girly were stupid. That included ballet, Barbies, girls’ bikes, and most of all: the color pink.

Of course, I love my brother, and it’s more fun than anything else, to reflect on his profound influence on my shaping character, but when I had my own daughter, I promised myself that nothing would interfere with her comfort in expressing her femininity. Even if that meant nudging her a little (Insert angry shouts here). She is sandwiched between two boys, after all.

I figured, if she wants to hate the color pink, she has her whole life to decide that. But I wanted her to start out by knowing it was okay to be as girly as she wanted. I wanted her to feel safe in knowing that being a girl is beautiful, and never something to be ashamed of. That it’s okay to like wearing fingernail polish (she hates it though—scrapes it off within a few hours. Just like her mom), and it’s okay to like dresses, and lace, and princess movies. I want her to be happy, knowing she is a daughter of God, well-loved by Him, and by her own family.

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So what about you? What does the color pink mean to you?

celebration chicken with newman’s own dressing

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I discovered this recipe while raiding someone else’s fridge.

I was sixteen (Ugh—that was almost twenty years ago. I need to throw up), and was babysitting a boy and girl in our neighborhood. Their mom was classy and dignified, and although she always told me to help myself to any of the food in the house, I’m sure she didn’t anticipate all her chicken leftovers to be gone by the next morning. She was probably expecting that the kids and I would open a couple sodas and pop a bag of popcorn. Newman’s Own, incidentally enough—their natural flavor. (Now that was a completely unintentional plug for their popcorn. Cross my heart. It was honestly the popcorn we ate every time I babysat at their house).

The kids would watch me, standing near the fridge with an open Rubbermaid container, gobbling down cold pieces of chicken. I felt a little guilty, I guess. But the truth was, my will was no match for that chicken. And it was best for their family and myself if I could make it on my own instead of mooching off of them whenever I was at their house.

I guess I was too embarrassed to ask their mom how she made it, so I asked the kids instead. They told me they thought their mom called it “Celebration Chicken.” We then went through the cabinets and fridge together to piece together the ingredients. It ended up being a rather simple recipe: Dredge chicken tender strips in creamy Italian dressing. Coat with breadcrumbs and cook to perfection.

When Newman’s Own* contacted me to take a recipe and then make it my own, using their salad dressings, I remembered the Celebration Chicken. To make it my own, I used Newman’s Own Lighten Up! Italian Dressing and panko breadcrumbs. Of course, if you want to change it up to make it your own, you could add fresh basil to the bread crumbs, switch out the Parmesan for Romano cheese, fry it in butter, bake it, whatever.

broccoli crunch salad

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This recipe isn’t my own . . . well, the recipe is my own, but the idea isn’t. I was addicted to a very similar salad they sell at Whole Foods. I googled the recipe and discovered as many variations on the recipe as there are food blogs.

This is my take—I tried to get as close to the Whole Foods version as possible. I first posted a similar recipe on babble.com, but this time I made sure to include candied cashews.

It’s a balance between sweet, tangy, crunchy, and nutty. I love it. I hope you do, too.

wheat grass-filled easter baskets

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In high school, I spent many an afternoon at my friend Colby’s house. In a bright corner of her home, her mom used to grow grass in a shallow pot perched on a beautiful pedestal every spring. Colby said it was for their Easter baskets. At that very moment, I decided I would always use real grass in my own kids’ (yet to be born) Easter baskets.

Well, through years of living in apartments with not-so-sunny windows, and then three years in a house where I learned that I couldn’t grow a dandelion if I tried, and then back to an apartment with no sun at all, my well-intentioned hope chest dreams have turned into plastic strands of pink and purple easter grass, choked up in swirling vacuums.

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Still, every year, in the back of my head, I think, Darn, why didn’t I grow real grass for their baskets this year? To which I respond, Oh, yeah, my apartment has no sun/I kill plants/my apartment still has no sunlight.

This year, though, I had a breakthrough. I discovered our health food store sells wheat grass for juicing. Now, I probably noticed it years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that I remembered I could use it for something other than a power shake.