Naptime Simple Tips: Fun & Essential Tips for Your Kitchen
Last week I got the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. As I always do with her books, after only a couple of quick passes I tabbed dozens of recipes to try and kicked off with this one last weekend. I am slipping this into my week of Thanksgiving food because, although I have never served it for Thanksgiving, I can honestly say it would be a great addition to any Thanksgiving table. While creamed spinach may be more traditional at Thanksgiving, this lightened up version with salty feta and crunchy pine nuts would be welcome break from the tried and true. I’ll be reviewing the book more in the new year but I promise this one is a great place to start!
Last week I revealed a little bit about on my recent collaboration with Whole Foods Market. In mid-October, pre-Sandy, I spent one whole week feeding my family exclusively from Whole Foods on a strict budget of $100. It was not easy considering the “whole paycheck” reputation of Whole Foods Market but I found it surprisingly doable. One of the keys to the challenge was changing my Whole Foods Market shopping habits. I’ll admit, I’ve never been a super-strategic shopper at Whole Foods Market and was surprised at how much money I could save when I actually applied myself to learning the signage and zeroing in on a set meal plan. Today I am going to share my new favorite tips for shopping Whole Foods Market and tomorrow I will share the menu we enjoyed for the week.
It is technically never too early to start thinking about holiday gifts. This year I was especially organized with my ideas. Since I knew I’d be in no mood to stand on my feet long periods in December I canned all my Peppermint Fudge Sauce in August! However, that isn’t the only think I give out around the holidays. Oh no, my friends, I always have several gifties up my sleeve including simple homemade vanilla extract.
We carved a jack-o-lantern last weekend and you better believe I was all over the “guts” as they spilled out. My daughter, of course, was completely non-plussed by my whisking away the mixing bowl of pumpkin gore. She stayed outside and kept right on carving! Meanwhile, I went outside and toasted some yummy pumpkin seeds for a quick snack.
Now and then I like to pop in to chat about some of my newest favorite things. This is the stuff I’ve been enjoying recently from around the internet and beyond. As you can probably tell, my baby nesting instincts are starting to emerge. Lately I’ve been flipping around home decor websites just as much as my favorite food rags. I’ve also been scooping out a few fashiony items, mostly concentrating on the things I can actually take advantage of now (i.e. shoes, bags, and make-up) while I can’t fit into normal clothes. I am also happy to report that I am far less absent-minded and wiped out than I was when I checked in last summer. Phew – I am glad that phase is over! Now I am just a normal pregnant lady who gets out of breath carrying groceries and craves chocolate like it is going out of style.
School is officially in session and stress season in the kitchen. One of the hottest cooking topics amongst my group of friends is quick, easy recipes for school nights. Of course, I am a huge advocate for a little advance prep the morning or afternoon before meal time if possible. If not, I focus on powernap-style recipes that are quick and easy and somewhat experimental. Above all, I really try and remind people that, no matter what, cooking should be fun. While whipping something up against the homework clock is not always a snap, it is possible. Give yourself a break in the kitchen and remember that food is love, serve up it with a smile and enjoy. To help you along with your quest I’ve compiled a round-up of some great recipes for school nights for your consideration. As always, let me know if there are more recipes you are interested in that you don’t see here!
While we were in Cooperstown my Dad and I did a LOT of canning. It was so nice to have the time together in the kitchen, one of our favorite places, to catch up on life and exchange canning tips. After our canning marathon last year he sent me my first ever Ball Canning Set which I used all fall. This year he had me geeking out over my grandmother’s vintage Wear-Ever 17-quart aluminum cooking pot. When I finally located one on eBay he taught me how to actually use eBay (what can I say, I’ve never used it!) and he won it for me. Yay! Here is a summary of what we made this and the canning projects I have planned for fall! (Note: I’ll be taking the rest of the week off to concentrate on back to school insanity preparations, but will be back next Tuesday!)
I’ve been bursting to tell you all the most exciting news!! I’ll admit, I’m actually slightly amazed that none of you have guessed it out loud already. Either that, or you are all way too polite to say anything. I was nearly certain when I wrote about homemade ginger ale someone would call me out on how ginger combats queasiness, or at least how Twix Ice Cream Pie sounds like the perfect meal for someone craving excessive amounts of sweets. I mean – what kind of condition would lead me to post such things in quick succession while avoiding normal food completely?
There are lots of delicious vegetables abound in farmer’s markets all over the country right now. I am especially excited by what I am finding in the Northeast. Because we have such a relatively short growing season what is available right now is truly a fleeting pleasure. Here are some of the awesome locally grown vegetables I’ve been spying on Martha’s Vineyard this week and a few ideas for what to make with them. If you have resolved to have your children try some of these scrumptious vegetables with you this summer I suggest you pick up a copy of Crunch a Color. This award-winning eating game by Jennifer Lee ( I chatted with her yesterday) will get them happily munching away on healthy summer veggies in no time. Even better, enter to win one of five copies here today!
Every year or so I do a huge ice cream celebration. In fact, way back in 2009, the first summer of this blog, I did a new ice cream recipe every week all summer!! This year I’m back with a fun new ice cream week and a round-up of my favorite ice cream gear. All week I’ll be focusing on ice cream and including a few new recipes everyone will love. To kick things off, here are my favorite tools for making luscious, silky ice cream at home. I swear, it is so easy and soooo naptime-friendly!
Here is my big secret about canning gear: you don’t need much. A lot of people don’t believe me but it is the honest truth. Canning doesn’t take a lot of expensive, fancy equipment. When I make things like the hot fudge sauce and strawberry-vanilla jam you find in my cookbook I use the basic canning set my Dad generously gave me a few years ago when he was tired of me swiping his. For the actual boiling and jam-making I use my regular old stainless steel pot and candy thermometer. I swear – that is all!
On the heals of last week’s Kitchen Gadgets post I am bringing you a round-up of my favorite items for the kitchen garden. When I say kitchen garden I am talking about a simple container garden of assorted herbs and maybe a few small tomato plants that thrives on nearly any porch or shady fire escape. Not the lush English-style garden that requires much more gear than this to maintain. For example, a kitchen garden does not require a lawnmower, wheelbarrow, or electric clippers (thank goodness!) It only requires a few basic necessities to thrive. With these items on hand you are all set to grow herbs and enjoy cooking them with them all season (or year) long!