Walk right in

As I constantly renovate my kitchen in my head I have come to one conclusion: I would give up coveted cabinet space in my kitchen for a walk-in pantry.

I know cabinet space is premium, but I'm convinced that fewer cabinets combined with a large walk in pantry with open shelving is a better solution compared to a kitchen where cabinet space in plentiful.

My imaginary walk in pantry would be outfitted with simple, open, industrial shelving around the wall. A basket, lazy susan or two for organization but mostly just unobstructed, easy access shelving.
As is customary, most of the shelves would be reserved for food--now with lots of space for bulk purchases. But there would also be space of the shelves for all of the appliances and cookware I use, but use infrequently. Things like my huge dutch oven, bunt pan, food processor. I really think I would rather a walk across the kitchen to bring these things out rather than digging to the back of bottom cabinets on my knees.

Convinced? No? What if I promised to add these yellow barn doors?



If you are reading I need help. Not major my-life-is-threatened help, but food help.

We are usually participating in a supper club with our Sunday School class, so at least 4 times per year I have to come up with an appetizer to bring to dinner. This should be easy but no. Here is why...

-Most of the recipies I come up with are best served hot, or at least warm. We are always driving about 30 minutes to supper club and I am never quite sure how well things will keep thier heat.
-I am not above a good cheese tray, but sometimes feel like its a little of a cop out.
-I rarely know what is for dinner so I want to bring something fairly general that I know will work for the meal.
-Crackers and Dips are begining to bore me.
-I never know if I should do something really specific (stuffed mushrooms ect.) for some reason all of those types of appatizers seem to work best as part of a appetizer spread.

So if you are reading help. What is your go to app for situations like this? Am I over thinking this? Are crakers and dips not really that bad:)


Menu Monday

I had a very successful week of meal planning, grocery shopping only once and using coupons. So far I am off to another good start. I did shopping yesterday for the week, stuck within my budget and used about $5.00 worth of coupons.

So here us what is on tap menu wise for us this week.

Beef Stroganoff and steamed broccoli*
Baked Ziti and Salad
Filets, baked potato and salad
Baked Chicken and Sweet Potato Spears with Bacon vinaigrette

*I am also attempting to use my crock pot at least once each week for an easy dinner.


Oh Spring

I do not need this dress, but I do love it. With no spring baby shower, wedding or party on my calendar I can't even convince myself to look--but maybe you can. It is from Loft (surprised, yes me too) and just like OZ, things come and go so quickly there so you must hurry.

Menu Monday

In an attempt to hold myself accountable for my 2010 plan #2 (see the sidebar), I thought I would share our meal plans for the week.

Slow Cooker Green Pepper Chicken with Brown Rice and Salad.

Baked Ziti and Salad

Mustard Chicken Salad and wild rice

This is not quite 5 or 7 days of meals, but depending on our night schedule I plan to throw in a winter vegetable stew or frozen pizza from the freezer. I have everything I need for the meals for the week and shouldn't need to make any mid-week trips to the store.


Not what it looks like

I know this looks like a New Year's Resolution post, but dear friends you are wrong. Plus if it were a resolutions post I am about 14 days late. This is a post about a few things that I would like to focus on in 2010 and beyond.

So what is the difference? Who really knows, but it seem that 90% of the time resolutions are meant to be broken, like its OK if you spout off life changing goals on 1/1, but then by February are back to your old self. So remember the list below are NOT resolutions, but goals or plans to make my life a little more like it is in my head, coordinated and organized but fun and relaxing.

So my plans:

1-Take advantage of the local farmer's market regularly. I am excited that this will help us both eat fresh and shop local. I have already started by attending a winter market in our area.

2-Be more intentional about our grocery budget without sacrificing our eating style. We are big eaters in our house and I like to try new things in the kitchen. Yes, we could bring our grocery budget down by radically changing our menu, but that I not what I am proposing. I would like to continue to eat and cook as I always have (mostly) but pay better attention to meal planning, freezing and couponing to help save some cash.

3-Actually join the church we have attended for the past three years.

4-Plan 1 thing each month that is out of our routine. I have a problem with ruts, I get stuck in them and then get annoyed. I don't need be entertained or have plans 100% of the time (just 95%:), but I want to make sure I don't look back at the month and ask "what did I do for past 4 weeks?"

5-Continue regular running routine. Using the couch potato to 5k program I built up to a 28 minute run. I pretty much ignored my routine for December but its time to get back started. I really had no idea where I would be, but last night I donned several new running related Christmas presents and made it though 20 minutes, the last 5 even felt pleasant. So I am looking at sticking with 20+ minutes, 3x per week, until I can come up with a better goal to measure.

6-Finish projects before starting new ones, but keep starting new ones. I have a ton of 1/2 finished little things to complete, but then it's game on (bedroom, kitchen, paint, curtains...). I have to have something to keep writing about.


Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary and Garlic

An easy weeknight meal or something for guests.

Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary* and Garlic
1 pkg Pork Tenderloin (these usually have two in a pack)
Olive Oil
4-6 Fresh Sprigs of Rosemary
4-6 garlic cloves, diced.
Salt and Pepper

Slice each tenderloin longways, but do not cut all the way through the meat. Drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper in the incision for each tenderloin. Stuff garlic and rosemary* into each incision. Place meat with the incision facing down into an oven safe pan. Drizzle olive oil and salt and pepper over meat to taste. Bake at 350^ for 30 minutes or until "pork" reading on meat thermometer.

1pkgs (2 tenderloins) easily serves 6

*This originally also called for fresh sage, but since I always have rosemary in the garden and most of the other ingredients in the house, I tend to forget I need to buy sage.

Dinner for 2, 4, 6, 8....

This was a foody weekend for me. Two different groups of dinner guests and a trip to the winter farmer's market (which by the way is one of me 2010 goals). So for your eating pleasure I thought I would share two pretty easy winter menu's when you have to cook for more than 1 or 2.

Menu #1: Ina Garten's 40 Clove Garlic Chicken (remember I am obsessed); Couscous; Fresh Green Beans

Why it works: There is a bit of prep work with the chicken, but once it is all in the pot you can enjoy your company. The beans and couscous take about 5 minutes each on the stove, right before everyone is ready to sit down. I made this on a frigid evening and its was warm and hardy. It satisfied my need for something a little fancy but didn't offend the "meat and potatoes" crowd I was cooking for.

Menu #2: Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary and Garlic; Paula Deen's sweet potato fries; roasted asparagus with ciabatta and honey cinnamon butter

Why it works: The pork tenderloin is easy prep with moderate cooking time and once its in the oven you can pretty much ignore it. I have made it for years and its never dry. Interestingly enough I find that most guests really enjoy the pork, but don't tend make it much in their homes so its something a little different. Paula's sweet potato fries were an excellent and simple savory use of the locally grown sweet potatoes that I got at our winter market and the roasted asparagus can't really be any easier. I was dying to try Darcy's honey cinnamon butter and it seemed like it would fit well with the meal-I was right. I made the honey cinnamon butter earlier in the day and everything else pretty much hung out in the oven as we were enjoying our wine an appetizers.

Tonight I am sticking with the winter vegetables and planning butternut squash soup (the squash is also from the winter market) and sweet potato biscuits. I think the left over honey cinnamon butter will reappear as well.
*Disclaimer: None of the pictures are actually of my meals, sorry.


I want to be ...

Ina Garten when I grow up.

With the lack of new TV on this week I found reruns of Barefoot Contessa to DVR and have been watching them nonstop. I would love to visit (or live in) her NYC apartment.
Image from Bandelle.com

The "barn" in the Hamptons isn't bad either.

Image from House Beautiful

Her style and food always seems like such relaxed elegance.


Stealing Household Tips From The Not So Rich

Lavender and Lilies posted this article ripped from Domino. In it, the author recounts conversations with a few folks in the "super rich" tax bracket detailing how they (and their staff) keep their homes running in tip top shape. These are apparently the type of people that always have freshly baked cookies, even for unexpected guests and to quote the article "can arrange kid's birthday bash in 15 minutes flat."

The tone of the pieces was humerous, but also had some great suggestions about how to make life around your house a little eaiser, not to mention how to seriously impress house guests with your "on-top-it" nature. Here are a few of my favorite from the article with a few of my own added.
#1-Keep it all in one place.

-Establish a "home bible." Use it as a calendar for when to change filters, call the exterminator, or clean carpets and as a contact list for all people home (and home-repair) related, contractors, babysitters, neighbors. When you need something, emergency or not you know where it is.
#2-Know what you need.

-In the same vein, keep a mini "home bible" for you purse or car. I posted about mine here. Do this and never wonder again when you are out running errands what type of filter is on the vaccum or the exact paint color on the living room walls.
#3-Keep it in view.

-Buy in bulk, then make things visible and accessible for guests. I use TP rolls as part of our bathroom decor (see the glass cylinder). A guest never has to ask for a new roll mid-party, and I never have to stop hosting long enough to dig through my bulk stash. I also try to keep a bathroom drawer for extra tooth brushes or tolieries for guests who visit without something.

#4-Have it on hand.
-Always have coffee and filters stashed away to be made after dinner or for overnight guests. Especially if you are not a coffee drinker yourself.
#5-Be Prepared; buy white.

-The article has a different suggestion about wrapping paper, but I say all you really need is one large roll of white paper then a range of pretty ribbon colors. Keep this stocked at all times and come a last minute wedding, a baby shower or birthday you can't go wrong. If you need a little something different come holiday time just remember to buy next year's paper on 12/26. You can start wrapping Christmas presents in June if you want.
#6-Always wish them well.

-Keep a stash of a variety of birthday, get well and sympathy cards. If you keep these on hand you can drop them in the mail on short notice and without having to run an errand. Don't forget stamps.


And I'm back

I apparently took a little month+ long hiatus from the computer, but I am hopefully back to regularly scheduled programing in 2010. Is it really January 5th already?

After the Christmas decorations are put away (tonight's goal), the house always feels primed for an update--paint, organization or just switching things around to accommodate the house and home related stash that was received on the 25th. I have a few in-progress projects that are first on the list, but then who knows.

I hope to spend even more time in the kitchen using Christmas gifts.


And this:

Not to mention consider a mini-update (paint, curtains, uncluttered counter tops) for said kitchen. Stay tuned.