A Few of My Favorite Things

Thank you for supporting Dinner: A Love Story. As a token of my appreciation, I’d like to offer you the chance to win one of these gifts. They aren’t just items — each one was chosen for this promotion because it fits right in with our philosophy of parenting and cooking. To be eligible to win, follow two simple steps.

1) Take a look at this list of prizes and take note of your top two favorites.

 2) Go to this survey to answer one simple question about the book. (You are of course always free to leave comments on this page, but please know that this does not officially enter you in the contest.)

We’ll pick our top 15 favorite responses and announce the winners the week of July 9 JULY 16! See bottom of this page for all the legalese. —Jenny

Travel Wizard Buddha Board, from Lavish and Lime (retail value $25)
Ideal for the long road trip, the playroom, the bedroom, just about anywhere, these painting boards offer screen-free play that is as pure and simple as it gets. Kids (and, let’s be honest their parents, too) can paint their pictures using only a brush dipped in water but the creations disappear a few minutes later, once the canvas dries, so you have to really be in the moment as you create. As its name indicates, there’s something very Zen about the whole process. Great for kids ages 3 and up.

Week of Free Dinners from Annie’s Homegrown (retail value, $35)
During Abby’s hyper-picky eating phase, I literally do not know what I would’ve done without Annie’s Mac ‘n Cheese, which was the only thing I could put in front of her that I knew she’d eat without protest. (Even today, when I’m feeling not-so-grumpy in the morning — rare — I make a batch for her thermos for a hot school lunch). But Annie’s Organic offers way more than this —  and they’d like to prove it to a lucky DALS reader by offering not only the pasta, but a week’s supply of pizza coupons, dressings and other assorted goodies that will help grease the wheels of family dinner.



Organic Cotton Blankets from In2Green (retail value $150)

I can’t tell you how many of these I’ve owned and purchased as gifts for people throughout the years. They are made from recycled cotton and every time I check in with their site, they are offering are new and exciting designs. They were nice enough to offer a milk and spice blanket from their Eco-Links collection (pictured at right). As soon as I finish this mammoth post, I am going to one-click it myself. It’s gorgeous!

A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Complete Set, from Harper Collins (retail value $165)

How much do I love these books about three down-and-out orphans named Violet, Sunny, and Klaus? And how sad am I that both of my kids have read all thirteen volumes and might not have that kind of reaction to a series for a long time?  As Abby once wrote about Lemony Snicket, “The way he tells the story, once you read the first word you are praying it won’t ever end. This is not like a Rainbow Fairy book. This has meaning. It’s like if you take a puzzle and you think there’s only way one way to put it together. But Lemony Snicket finds a way to put the pieces together in a way you’d get a whole different picture.” Plus, the hardcover volumes, when stacked next to each other like this, look beautiful in a bookshelf.


Crazy Cool Reusable Lunchbox, from PlanetBox (retail value $40)

When I wrote about these lunchboxes for DALS (and offered one as a gift) a few months ago, it was our most popular giveaway to date. You know how fraught with peril the lunch packing situation is in our house, and I have to say, these do manage to take a little of the drudgery — or at least the thinkwork out — of the whole operation. Plus, they are reusable, so you don’t get feel like you are tripling the size of the local landfill every time you send the kids off to school with a pile of zip-top baggies.

Insider’s Tour of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (New York Visitors/Residents Only)

If our family goes too long without visiting Stone Barns we go through withdrawal. Located in bucolic Pocantico Hills (a 45-minute train ride from Grand Central Station, NYC) and home to Blue Hill, one of the most influential farm-to-table restaurants in the world, the place is a food lover’s (and just general children’s) paradise — especially in the summer when the farm animals are out and the cafe is serving some of the freshest, most flavorful farm fare that money can buy. Stone Barns is contributing a gift certificate for four people to participate in our Insider’s Tour, an in-depth, staff-led farm tour that is offered year-round on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.


Gift Certificate to Trader Joe’s (retail value $25)

Longtime readers do not need to hear any explanation of why this is on my favorites list. In addition to being the source of our Main Weekly Shop (where we pick up any combination of these or these), Trader Joe’s will always be special because the whole family shops together on Sundays and regards our specific duties (Abby unloads, Phoebe & Andy pack, I supervise) with the utmost reverence. Dare I call it our church?

A Weekly Supply of Peak Season Summer Produce, from My Farm Share (New York Visitors/Residents Only)

Just think, a huge box of fresh eggs, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, eggplant, greens, apricots, plums, plump juicy peaches, blackberries, delivered right to your door. Farm Share is a CSA that works with local family farms to bring freshly harvested organic crops to your dinner table. They are currently serving Manhattan, all of Greenwich and Stamford, CT, Ardsley, Armonk, Bronxville, Dobbs Ferry, Eastchester, Harrison, Hartsdale, Hastings, Irvington, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Mt. Vernon, New Rochelle, Pelham, Pleasantville, Port Chester, Rye, Rye Brook, Scarsdale, Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, Tuckahoe, West Harrison, White Plains, Yonkers, Mt. Kisco, Bedford and Chappaqua. This offer is good for one weekly supply any week between now and September 1.

Cooking Class from Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) (appoximate value $100-$150, New York Visitors/Residents Only)

Would you like to brush up on your egg poaching skills? Or learn the proper way to use a paring knife? Or even learn how to edit a recipe or write about food? (Call me before you sign up for that one.) When I was just finding my way in the kitchen, Andy gave me a cooking class for a birthday present and to this day, the things I learned in that class have stayed with me. (As you might even know by now, there’s even a section in the book devoted to the techniques I learned there.) The Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan is offering a gift certificate for one class — and they literally offer everything so the hardest part will be deciding which one — so check out their online catalog and kickstart a hobby that will pay back in delicious dividends for years to come.

Cast Iron Chefs Skillet, from Lodge (10-inch, retail value $15)

This pan does not ever leave my stovetop. (And that’s not because it’s just too damn heavy to put away.) It’s naturally nonstick and I use it for just about everything — omelets, frittatas, pan-fried chicken thighs, scalloped potatoes, pancakes, French toast. It’s the very definition of family. PS: Here’s a riddle for you: What do parenting and a cast iron pan have in common? (Click for the answer.)


ExerSaucer Jump & Learn from Evenflo, Safari model (retail value $90)

It has been a looong time since I’ve seen one of these, but when Evenflo approached me about a giveaway, I instantly knew the answer was yes. Anyone who doesn’t understand the connection between having a go-to gizmo for containing a toddler and making dinner….either doesn’t have kids or has never made dinner.

15-piece Gift Set from Lake Champlain Chocolate (retail value $30)

We were lucky enough to use our neighbor’s ski house in Vermont last year during February break — and I say lucky because that meant we would be in the land of Lake Champlain chocolates. Those same neighbors once brought us home a box of these all-natural artisanal chocolates for us as a gift and I had been thinking about them ever since. You know when someone does something really nice for you — like they drive your kid to baseball every other Thursday all spring because you are always stuck at work? — and you think “Maybe I should get them something to show how much I appreciate their help?” Well, the $30 gift box of these truffles and creams and caramels is your answer. I will be buying about 800 boxes of them for the 800 people who help me on a daily basis.

OK, so you know which gifts you’d like to try to win? Click here to enter!

Giveaway Rules: Void where prohibited. Adults only, in the USA, please. No purchase necessary. All prizes will be awarded. We’ll contact the winner by email, but you have to respond within two days or we’ll go to the next winner. You may only enter once. Thank you!

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Jen kuester

I Love the honesty and integrity of the book. The title I agree with 100%. I am a SAHM to a almost 4 year old and a 2 year old. We have a strict rule in our home to eat dinner together at our dinner table EVERY NIGHT. It is a rare occasion that we deviate from this ritual. It is a relief to find others that feel the same way. We want our dinner table conversations to be a “safe Place” and a much anticipated time of day in our home.


I have made so many of your recipes! I’ve been a follower of your blog for a while, and can’t wait to read the book. My children are all grown, but when they were home, we ate dinner together every night. I love the idea that you keep a menu diary! The prizes are amazing! I would love the cotton blanket or the lunchbox! The Trader’s gift certificate would be cool, too!

Lindsey Franger

The name of your blog captured my attention when I first started reading it a couple of months ago. Even though I love cooking, making dinner, after a long day of work, seems to be more of a chore than a magical encounter.
Reading your blog reminds me that it doesn’t have to be like that. With the smallest bit of preparation and that last teensy bit of motivation, dinner can mean more than unexciting leftovers and mundane repeats. It can mean LOVE! 🙂

Stefanie Rock

Congratulations! Can’t wait for my book to arrive. I would love to provide a prize for from my eco-friendly company, please contact me if you’re interested.

Julie Gerien

I grew up with a family dinner but it’s only since I’ve had my own kids that I realize what a feat that was for my mom. This book is inspiring me to follow in her footsteps.


My birthday was last Thursday, 5/31, and all I wanted was your book! My husband pre-ordered so it should be shipping soon. I can’t wait! 🙂


It’s a relatable book. It helps readers realize that cooking dinner every night with kids and a job, etc., etc., IS possible. Thank you for that!
(I would love the skillet or the TJ’s gift certificate)


Can’t wait for that Amazon box to arrive on my doorstep! My favorite thing about the blog is how you manage to encourage family meals without sounding preachy…not an easy task! Brava and congrats on all your success. I like the lunch box and cotton blankets.


As a newbie to your site and book I am amazed at how calm and excited you make me feel family meal time. Hearing your non-judgmental voice and doable alternatives for eaters of various persuasions makes me feel better about being the mom who puts the food on the table!


IMPORTANT: I very much appreciate all these comments, but to be eligible to win your prize, you must head over to the official questionnaire. The link and the instructions are in the introduction to this post.

Thanks guys!


Although I am new to your blog, I love the concept and am looking forward to getting a copy of your book! Just wanted to say that I made the steak recipe you wrote in Bon Appetit and it was a huge crowd pleaser! I will certainly be adding it to the summer repertoire of dinners. Thanks and good luck!

wendy shugarman

Congratulations on the book! I found you in BA magazine…..love your writing…..it always makes me smile.
My favorite part of the book so far is the title. Family dinner is truly a love story…….we did it every night as a kid…and it’s sad that it seems to have fallen by the wayside in today’s world.
Bravo for trying to get this wonderful tradition back in kids lives!
I learned to cook as a young girl as my dad cooked us dinner every night.
I would enjoy the Trader joes or the cast iron skillet.
Much success with the book. Mazel tov!


Jenny, I am fairly new to the blog (last year or so), and was able to page through a majority of the book last night. I have a 3 year old and one year old. I work full time with a 2 hour commute each day. On a good week, I get a family dinner on the table about 2-3 nights a week, and you are 100% right, it is due to planning. I haven’t even made it all the way through yet, but your book let me feel good about the good weeks (I beat myself up that it was only 2 nights a week), and let me know that there are (as people do say) better/easier times to look forward to.

Love the book so far, and I think it would make a great gift.


I love reading the stories that go with the recipes. That is what really makes this special. I would love the lunchbox or the Trader Joe’s certificate!


I like the fact that a meal is usally simple. Delicious yes, but attainable.
I’m no cook but I can rustle up most of these. As a harried parent I appreciate that


That you limit expectations off the bat by saying family dinners are difficult to pull off with any children under the age of 3, that you have a section devoted to being a new working mom, and I’m sure there will be something else when I flip back to the pages I missed by skipping ahead to the new parenthood years!


Love the “don’t worry about this until they’re 3” focus and the “it gets better” reminder. I hate that I don’t enjoy dinner w/ my crew, but we’re not there yet, and you give me hope! And delicious recipes, too.


I entered the contest even though I live in Canada (for shame!!) and as a result, as always, am excluded from internet contests of all stripes.

I entered anyway because I wanted to let you know how much the book has resonated with me. I’ve been living with my (now) fiancee for a few years, we’re on our second house together and are getting married this August. The first section of the book took me through yours and Andy’s relationship with eachother and dinner, and has really inspired me to continue to improve mine.

Jenny you are an extremely talented writer and reading through the phases of your love story has me looking forward to the rest of mine – future sleepless nights, picky eaters – all of it. I’ve been brought to tears by many of the pages, overwhelmed by the love and dedication that shines through these many love stories.

Thanks for putting you and your family out there for us to learn from.

I’m buying this book for every wedding/baby shower I have to attend from now on.


I think the Pasta with Asparagus, Tomatoes, Ricotta & Lemon looks like a great meal. Am a new follower of your blog. I love the blankets and the crazy reusable lunch box. Thanks for the giveaway. also congrats on the book!

Nia Bowling

I love that the book is so, how do you say this, readable? Just got mine in the mail today and I am so excited to start cooking and reading the wonderful stories and anecdotes the book is filled with.


I knew that I would love your book because I’ve loved the blog for years. But little did I know that I would choke up a little when I opened the cover to see the homemade pot holder. It’s my favorite surprise. The rest of the book is wonderful, but that’s my “hit me in the gut and make me want to hug my kids and cook them dinner every night” favorite part. My son occasionally makes the potholders for me and of course they are my favorite kitchen tools.

Btw- if you ever make it to central PA please consider a book signing at our local bookstore, Whistlestop. My book club will hook you up with good food, laughter and wine. 🙂


So many things I love about the book! The recipes…I want to make all of them…literally! The narrative…are you living my life? “We don’t get tired, We are tired!!” “Dessert after every meal” “Table Terrorists” So many things are things I’ve struggled with, thought through and pondered. It’s nice to see that I’m not alone. Would love the lodge pan or TJ gift certificate.


I received the book last week and have been enjoying daydreaming about how I’m going to implement it into
my kitchen and life. I’m currently pregnant, and reading the book just about makes me cry in anticipation of family dinners with my husband and growing brood. Such a hopeful, happy book!
I must say, though, that the most useful thing about this book for me, so far, actually happened several months ago when you posted a peek into the index of the book. I had no idea what a “spoonula” was, googled it and immediately purchased one. What a great and handy tool! Thanks.

(I’d love the evnflo or the super cool lunch box if I win!)


Hmmm… that’s tricky. In general, I like the book because its sparking a dinner mojo that I’ve never really had before. Specifically, I loved the references to Andy and the witty letters between the two of you. After all, it is, ultimately, a love story!

I’d love the chocolate. Which I will share.
And I’d love the blanket. Which would make an excellent Snuggle Central.


I have to favorite parts.

1. Jenny confessing her hatred for olives. ME, TOO. My husband and older son try to foist them on me all the time. They cannot conceive of anyone not liking olives. My son says, “Come ON, mom. You have to have one bite! That’s our rule!” Listen, kid., I had my one bite long before you were born and it was ENOUGH.

2. Andy’s quote, “We don’t *get* tired, we *are* tired.” Still waiting for my 16-month-old to sleep through the night. (yawn) Tired is the default setting on the adults in my house.

Carrie Z

Love the book, was especially cracked up by your list of items NOT to put on the wedding registry – spot on! I’d love the lunchbox. Thanks for sharing your stories.


I inhaled this book. Much like the pork ragu. All I kept thinking was, really wish these guys were our neighbors and friends.


My copy of the book has a ridiculous number of slips of paper poking from the top – marking recipes to try. And I just finished reading – a cookbook! – from cover to cover. But my favorite part so far and where the book falls open to already, is “medicine”. And I am not a big drinker, but had to hit the liquor shop to give all of these a try. Dark and stormy….

Love the blankets and trader joe GI card (just opened here in KY!), but wish I was in New York to try for some of the local prizes.

Thank you for your book, your sense of humor, and the work you did on two of my favorite all time magazines – Biography and Cookie!



I am about halfway through your book on my Kindle and am enjoying it so much!! I love the story, but my favorite part is all the tried-and-true recipes!! I can’t wait to try all of them, but especially the Greek-Style Shrimp with Feta. I am going to buy this book as a gift for a baby shower I’m going to next month. I think it is perfect for new parents!!


Hi there – I just got your cookbook at my favorite little bookstore here in Decatur, GA – The Little Shop of Stories. Congratulations on the book – I am going to crack it open when I’m with my in-laws, kids and their cousins this month in the Adirondacks. I know there will be heartfelt writing and yummy recipes in store for us all! Thanks for your generous spirits! And come to Atlanta!


My favorite part of the book is “it’s just a scallop”. Makes you feel so much better (and less guilty) when you take that perspective.

I also love that it is a cookbook that reads like a novel – so fun to sit down with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and read.


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Dear Jenny,
I just want to say thank you for your blog. I read it religiously–and everything resonates! Plus–I think you changed my life when you introduced me to smoked paprika. AMAZING.


We had dinner together almost every night as our boys were growing up … and it was awful! Good times together, great to be one as a family, nice to decompress, insightful gleanings into personalities … but the food was dreadful! I was a terrible cook and disliked putting out the same old same old every day; wish I’d had your book way back then! (I’ve improved and those bad meals make great family stories now!)