Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kitchen Covet

We covered some of the things that keep me happy in the kitchen.  Now, on to the items I'm pining for as of late!

1.  This cute timer from Better Homes & Gardens with a little slot to hold a recipe card.  I know, it's cheap - I need to buy it already.  And yes, perhaps you've noticed that I'm drawn to the bold red splash around the kitchen.

2.  A pot filler.  It isn't going to happen in our current configuration or kitchen, but it's on my "Sigh.  Someday..." list. 

3.  A set of Laguiole flatware.  Best known for their craftsmanship of knives with a small bee on the handle, the Laguiole collection has always kind of rocked my world.  J'adore.

4. More of these mugs, which my sister originally bought for me from Williams Sonoma.  Unfortunately, they no longer carry them and she bought me the last four:

5.  Red Le Creuset bakeware.  Paella dishes, casseroles, you name it - I'd love to have a bunch of it.  Williams Sonoma carries it, and I have impure thoughts about it.

6.  A gorgeous new toaster that looks as though it might also be a time machine.  The likelihood of me ever purchasing a toaster with a price tag of more than two figures is exceptionally improbable, but hey - a girl can dream!

What are you wishing for to complete your culinary adventures?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Well hello, beautiful...

Garlic, capers, artichoke hearts, black olives, baby bella mushrooms, goat cheese and parmesan. Yes, please!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Favorite Kitchen Tools

I've read a few articles in trendy home magazines about people who are so chic, so uptown, so fabulous that rather than cook, they use the kitchens in their oh-so-moderne studios as additional storage.  Witness the woman who keeps sweaters neatly folded in her oven and various home gadgets in her (unplugged) fridge.  While it certainly sounds fab, let's be clear: that's never going to happen around here.

Every square inch of real estate in my kitchen is put to good use - in fact, we recently did a thoughtful resuscitation (remodel is just not the appropriate word) of our kitchen.  Watch for a thoroughly enthusiastic post on that and my dreamy pantry in the near future.  For now, I'd like to wax poetic about the specific items in my kitchen that make me happy.  You'll note I'm not going with gadgets exclusively - I love the utilitarian term tool much more because it denotes the items I use to accomplish things, whether they be happiness or a meal.  Without further ado:

1.  Hooks.  Everywhere.  For sink towels, aprons, bananas (hang one under a cabinet and get rid of that counter space hogging banana hanger), oven mitts etc.  Here's my preference, but I'll allow you to choose your own (although I'm just saying, these are the best...):

2.  Chalkboards.  We just repurposed most of our kitchen around ample chalkboards.  I'll just put this out there: I hate fridge clutter.  Disclaimer: I'm totally ok with it and nonjudgmental at your house (really!), but I hate it in mine.  And yet, I'm fine with cluttered chalkboards dripping with magnets and notes.  To each her own!  (More on the chalkboards and the entire kitchen redux soon)

3.  Storage containers.  My poor husband has grown to tolerate the fact that when I return from the store and unload all my purchases from my own produce and shopping bags (this too, he tolerates), I will immediately remove everything from its packaging and place it in my own containers just to confuse everyone.  Not really - I generally choose clear containers such as mason jars for pasta, granola bars, snacks and so forth, but I repackage it all nonetheless.  It just makes me happier.  Retro packaging?  Love it - but everything else has to be repackaged or placed out of site.

4.  The Chip Can.  All my growing up years, my Mom kept potato chips (Lay's, specifically) in a large red can on top of the fridge.  Recently, my husband remarked that we ought to do that.  God bless him.  Lo and behold, I had just the can raring to go.  I've had it for ages and hadn't thought to put it into service.  Find it below - it just so happens it holds precisely two large bags of Lay's potato chips snugly.  I think there is something immensely satisfying about making a good sandwich and putting the can of potato chips on the table.

5.  The perfect spice rack.  I love this double decker spinning spice rack my Mom found for me a few years ago.  I do have a large, separate spice storage area (more on that to come in the future), but these are my quick grab, most-frequently-used staples so it stays near my stove along with the spoons and cooking implements, but not too close due to the high temperatures.

6.  May I cheat a bit and cite my entire coffee station?  K thanks.  This station includes: my red Kitchen Aid coffee pot, post-consumer content coffee filters (I know, I need to switch to reusable) stored in a Prince Albert tobacco can that belonged to my grandfather, a coffee grinder (essential for imparting a heavenly aroma), spoons and sugar/sweetener easily accessible and a Coffeyville, KS brick because it makes me smile.  Also, please note: that's gorgeous backer board you see in the background because the tile isn't up yet in this photo.  Patience, my pretties.

7.  Measure equivalents magnet.  I married smart so I wouldn't have to be, and no matter what, I can't remember how many tablespoons make half a cup.  Granted, as you'll note if you've read my disclaimers - especially #4, I do not excel at following directions closely, but in baking it is an occasional necessity.  And I do love the baked goods.  This magnet, by the way, looks très chic on my magnetic chalkboard.

8.  A recycling bin.  Duh.  Who cooks without composting and recycling these days?  If you're holding out, stop.  Grab two inexpensive matching trash cans and don't worry about labeling - train your family.  Use a mini galvanized trash can or even an old coffee can for compost depending on what you generate, and just start, for pete's sake.  This isn't a major undertaking.  All the cool cooks are doing it.

9.  In terms of actual implements, I favor wooden spoons and J.A. Henckels knives, in case you're wondering.

10.  Last but not least, I love these drinking glasses with red lids by Luminarc.  I have a set each of the 14 and 21 ounce sizes.  They are awesome for a million different uses, from everyday drinking glasses to ferreting cold cereal in the car when I dash out the door without breakfast.  Great non-plastic storage, good for sauces, wide enough to hold large cooking spoons while stirring stovetop items etc.

What are some of the unique items or must-haves in your kitchen?  Next up is my kitchen wish list, and I'll be anxious to know what you're crushing on for cooking!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Keeping it Simple: 3 Ingredient Dishes

If you don't read Real Simple magazine, I recommend it enthusiastically.  Per my mantra, cooking should not be overwhelming.  Simplicity is essential to encourage people to spend more (er, less) time in the kitchen.

One of the things I love about Real Simple is that the magazine (and blog and website) consistently delivers articles that inspire my entire week's meals and grocery list.  A good example is this month's issue, which included this article: 53 Simple 3-Ingredient Recipes.  Sold!  In fact, Real Simple has an entire mini-campaign built around it, with readers posting and tweeting (use @RealSimpleFood and #3Ingredients) their favorite three ingredient dishes.  Awesome!  I'm waiting for the three ingredient cookbook - it's coming, right?

In fact, based on that one article, I whipped up a menu for the week that highlights many of their recommendations, with my own twists as always.  A sampling:

A dinnertime rift on the Grilled Provençal Shrimp Skewers: I marinated mine in a mix of olive oil and orange juice and topped them with an orange pepper blend I picked up at my favorite gardening and spice mecca: Planter's Seed & Spice Company in downtown Kansas City.  It's a must-visit, by the way.

As a side item, I played on their Corn and Avocado Salad, but I replaced the scallions with some fresh tomatoes - I was craving them, and the color combination was fantastic.

After a date night Friday night, we hopped up and enjoyed croissants, brie, fresh raspberries and some fantastic Bee Friendly Coffee on the porch and then set off for holiday weekend time at the lake with burgers and hot dogs (and grilled portabellas for me).

Made my version of the Pasta with Goat Cheese & Basil Oil: just a couple of slight tweaks.  I used a whole wheat rotini and instead of making the basil oil, substituted some fantastic Mediterranean Garlic Oil full of herbs from the pantry.  I did mix in the goat cheese and some fresh basil from the garden, and I served more of the oil on the side for dipping with an Italian herb focaccia from the grocery store and some fresh farmstand peaches.  Trust me, it was a fantastic summer lunch.

We'll do the neighborhood Fourth of July parade, grill lunch with friends and family and then end the day with a "snacky dinner:" caprese, salami, prosciutto and cheese... inspired by the Real Simple spread as well!

We're planning on the Glazed Salmon and Bok Choy & Pineapple Slaw, but having not found red curry paste I'll make my own with some existing ingredients from the Asian market.  Stay tuned for that debacle.  

Quesadillas are a staple Chez Stephens, so we'll do a round of chicken quesadillas and a sauteed version of the Grilled Portabella Quesadillas.

We'll round out the week with our version of breakfast tacos, inspired by "the best tacos in America" (they really are) at Taco Taco in San Antonio, Texas.  We've been making them ever since craving them after my sister attended Trinity University.  Our version: skillet potatoes, scrambled eggs, shredded cheese and salsa in fluffy homemade tortillas.  Mmmmm.  And no - for some reason, it's enough of a departure that it isn't reminiscent of our quesadillas on Wednesday night.

Your marching orders: read/subscribe to Real Simple, and try your hand at easy, three ingredient recipes.  You'll find plenty on this summary of the 3-ingredient challenge.

Oh, and be sure to stop by my fabulous friend's blog: nwaFoodie.  She just did a great post on the best food bloggers to follow in northwest Arkansas, and I was tickled to be included.  She's really the top (food) dog, and you must keep up with her blog.  As she says on her blog: Eat well, my friends.  Eat well.