1.31.2011


Do you find yourself saying this at the end of every month when you're scrambling to write a note to a teacher or you're in the shower, trying to organize your thoughts for the day ahead of you?  My mother learned this poem as a child and in turn, taught me....isn't rote memorization a grand thing?  {Hated it growing up, but just think of how often you turn to the times tables that you were forced to memorize in fourth grade.}

After being away this weekend (more on that later), we returned to find this surprise waiting for us: 
the hardware for our kitchen cabinets! 

It was like Christmas morning, I tell ya.  I'm kind of pathetic that I get so excited about new hardware for my kitchen!  {That is, I was excited until I realized I had to drill some holes in the cabinets to install the new hinges, so I had to leave the project until today when the kiddos went off to school.} 

I can't wait to share my refreshed kitchen with you - yet again I am amazed at the power of paint.
Happy Monday and last day of January!  Yee-Haw!!!!!!  One step closer to springtime!

1.28.2011

Snowy New England Fun

If you're going to live in part of the country that has snow on the ground from December to March, you might as well make the best of it!


The steps were covered,
The sidewalks were, too;
The roof tops were gone
Except for the flue;
The bushes were there,
Just humps on the ground;
 
The grass was certainly
Nowhere to be found;
 
The little twigs quivered
On each willow tree,
 And swayed back and forth
And threw feathers at me.
The window was covered
With fluffy white flakes
Like frosting on one
Of my best birthday cakes.
 
O what a delight
 
 To awaken today
 And see sparkling white snow
In which to play.
{Helen Kitchell Evans}


Wishing you lots of fun this winter weekend, wherever you are!

 

1.27.2011

I Want To Live In A Barn

No seriously, I do.

Particularly if it's this "barn" on Ina Garten's property in the Hamptons. 
Last week I posted pictures of the Barefoot Contessa's kitchen that was replicated in Rockefeller Center as House Beautiful's 2009 Home of the Year.  I can't help sharing yet another of her spaces because I'm currently obsessed with kitchen design as I give my own a little facelift, and I love how pretty, yet functional, her kitchens are.  Ina Garten is known for her simple, fresh approach to cooking, and apparently this is her home design philosphy as well.

I'm a big fan of a large dining area that is open to the kitchen so while you cook, you can chat with your guests.  In this design I really like that the cook's workspace is along one wall so guests are on the other side of the island and not underfoot.  Friends and family can chat with you, help you chop veggies, and enjoy the brie and fresh fruit you've put out for them, all while not being in the way.

While I'm really not a fan of this fireplace I adore one in a kitchen/eating area.
See that door above on the right?  Look what it leads to:

a simple, organized open pantry.  Love the casual feel of this space.  It's made for someone who actually enjoys cooking and uses these items frequently.

And then the dining space - bright and cheerful for everyday living, big enough to have a dinner party (or superbowl party!)

Then there's the patio that features stone walls for lingering with a glass of wine, and, of course, a fire pit for toasting marshmallows with the kids and chatting around long into the evening.

Wouldn't you love to be a guest at this barn?  You could relax with your coffee and a book in this cozy nook in the bedroom.......

and then you could come visit Shine Your Light from this sweet little spot!

My refreshed kitchen won't exactly be Ina's, but hopefully I can incorporate some her form and function into the room.  Despite the fact that my little darlings are home today, I'm off to finish painting cabinets - wish me luck that there will be no more snow days for my kiddos until it's done! 

Have a wonderful day! 

1.25.2011

Ten For Tuesday: Kitchen Can't-Live-Withouts

Yes that's right, last week I posted about common grammar errors and this week I am making up my own nouns (or is there really such a thing as a Can't-Live-Without?)

I have been putting together these recipe books as a Christmas present for my niece Angela.  She was the only grandchild in my family for 12 years, and basically the center of the universe.  She's an only child, and all through her childhood she was completely doted on by her aunts, uncles and grandmother,  yet somehow she grew up to be as beautiful and genuine on the inside as she is a vision of loveliness outside (except for those high school/college years....you were kind of a punk then, Bubs!)
My niece with her dad, my brother John.  They will kill me for posting this photo, but aren't they cute?

Angela is almost 25 and is a total home-body - she loves to nest and cook.  When I started compiling my recipes months ago for her, I realized I had a lot of kitchen items she may not have yet so I started jotting down things she had to have in her kitchen.  The list has grown and grown, and it's really quite funny to think of what I thought I needed when I first got married when I was Angela's age, versus what I actually use on a daily basis. 

PS - I could think of 30 items I use constantly, but let's get started with 10 for this Tuesday!

PPS - Much like how I like to pontificate about home design & decorating but am not an interior decorator, I'm also not a professional chef.  I just like to play these things on my blog.
I'm just a girl who likes to cook for my family and to entertain. 
{These opinions are entirely my own, based on my experiences in the kitchen, and I am not being paid by any company mentioned......although if someone would like to give me a boatload of cash, who am I to say no?? :)}


My Ten Kitchen Can't-Live-Withouts:

1.  A stainless steel mixing bowl.
I bought a medium sized bowl at the W-S outlet years ago; I'm not sure if they sell them individually anymore. 
I don't think I would ever need all the various sizes.  One is good, especially if you have #6 below.

I've had ceramic, plastic and glass, but if you purchase one SS mixing bowl you'll never need to replace it; it can be sterilized; it won't crack or chip and you won't find out in 10 years that the material it's made out gives off particles that are cancer-causing (things that have happened with other products I've owned!)

2.  Gallon-sized storage bags.

My #1 necessary item for marinating meats (check out this yummy steak tip recipe while you're thinking about meat); I also use them for storing baked goods like my mom's Irish bread, and if I haven't put anything yucky in there, I rinse them and reuse.

3.  Airtight containers for dry goods.


Get thee to the nearest Target and purchase some airtight containers for your flour, sugar and whatnot.  Did you know that some dry goods that sit in your pantry can attract bugs?  Yes, it's true, and the airtight seal preserves freshness as well as your peace of mind.  Read this article at TipNut on how to keep pests out of your pantry.  (Now I have the heeby-jeebies!)

4.  Pampered Chef chopper.
Why do I love this?  Because my children are pesky little buggers who will spend half of our dinnertime picking unidentified vegetables out of dishes and making me crazy, so I like to chop said veggies as finely as possible.

I love this little tool to chop onions, garlic en masse, carrots, etc. when I don't want to drag out my Cuisinart.  I've tried other brands but they don't last as long as the Pampered Chef version.  While I won't tell you that this investment lasts forever, I have had my current model for 5 or 6 years and it's still going strong with constant use.  Bonus - the kids love to use it and when they help in the kitchen, they are more likely to eat what's on their plate.

5.  Stainless steel pots and pans.

When we first got married we got all nonstick pans.  They're awesome when they are brand new, but eventually the finish gets scratched and when that finish starts to come off, watch out.  You don't want that stuff in your food, and in your body.  There is a lot of controversy right now about whether the nonstick finish gives off toxins, but to date scientists believe non-stick cookware is safe as long as it is not overheated.  To read more about the safety of non-stick pans check out this Good Housekeeping article.  I'd rather not take the chance, plus I really enjoy cooking with SS pans.

Over the years I have been slowly changing out all our pots and pans to good quality stainless steel by keeping an eye out at Marshalls & TJ Maxx for professional grade heavy duty brands and purchasing them individually.   All-Clad is one of my faves and is highly rated.  I'm talking professional grade, because if you're to make a purchase, you might as well get something that is going to last through the years.  I would rather have one good saute pan than an entire box of inexpensive pots and pans that won't last.  The All-Clad products can go into the oven also.  An added bonus to stainless steel:  after soaking, you can scrub your pan with a nylon scrub pad and that sucker will look brand new.

6.  Kitchenaid Mixer.
This beast used to live inside a cabinet, but I pull it out so often I just had to suck it up and leave it on the counter.  At least it's shiny-ness distracts the eye from the bologna countertops, right?
{I have the Kitchenaid Artisan Stand Mixer in Metallic Chrome, which is currently on sale at Williams-Sonoma for $228}.   

I know, this is a big-ticket item that is really a luxury.  But if you love to bake and don't have one, please, please, please save up your pennies and watch out for a sale somewhere, because I can't believe how long I lived without mine.  How on earth did I survive? My mother has been making her afore-mentioned Irish bread by hand - no measuring cups, no mixer, for years, so yes it's possible to live without it, but it'll make your baking so much easier and enjoyable!  Trust me on this.  I'm on a mission to convert my mom to the mixer.

7.  Coffee grinder.

For the coffee enthusiasts:  grind your own beans daily.  It makes such a difference in your cup of joe.

8.  Standing cheese grater.

I've had about 10 different versions of graters over the years, when all I ever needed was this lovely lass.  Again, the stainless steel - it lasts forever (if it has minimal plastic on it), and holy moly - the difference in freshly grated cheese vs. the packaged stuff (which I still buy, but there's no comparison!!)  My sister-and-brother-in-law freshly shred cheese and keep in the fridge for use over the week.  They're wicked smahht.

9.  Cuisinart food processor.
Another big-ticket item that is essential for chopping veggies for soup, potato gratin or carrots for your famous carrot cake...oh the list of uses goes on and on.  When the motor of mine died last year, I lamented to my girlfriend B how I'd love another but it just wasn't in the budget.  Because she is so wonderful, she looked online for me and found one used, in perfect, barely-used condition, being sold for $30!!  Thank you B for saving the day!  (If you buy used appliances through Craigslist, a yard sale or a want-ad, be sure to run it first to make sure the motor is fine.)

10.  Stainless steel measuring cups and spoons.
I know - what is with me and the stainless steel?  Okay lets look at my inexpensive plastic measuring cups.  Do you see any markings identifying their measurements?  No?  Me neither.  They washed off after many trips to the dishwasher.  And baking is a science, people - you can't mix up 1/3 and 1/4 cups, for the love of your baked goods!!  This holds true for measuring spoons to - spend a little more money, get yourself one stainless steel set and you'll have them for life.  For life, peeps.  That's serious commitment right there.

What items are your Kitchen Can't-Live-Withouts?

 

1.24.2011

Apple Stuffed Pork Roast & New Printable Recipe Feature!


Yesterday, in the middle of my disaster-zone of a kitchen, we made a fabulous Sunday dinner that I thought you might enjoy.  This recipe is adapted from Paula Deen and is perfect for a cozy winter meal.  Get it started in the afternoon, pop in the oven and then relax with a glass of wine while your house fills up with a delicious aroma!

Before we dive into the roast recipe, I'm excited to tell you that I'm {slowly} adding printable, text-only links to the recipes I post!  {Check out my sidebar on the right for a list of recipes .}  Eventually each recipe will have a print link and I certainly hope you enjoy this new feature of my humble lil' blog.  In a few weeks I'll also have a brand-new design for Shine Your Light and I hope it will make your navigation over here even better. 

Without further ado, I present to you a dish that everyone, even the picky eaters at my table, enjoyed tremendously. 

Apple Stuffed Pork Roast
Print Recipe
Adapted from Paula Deen/Food Network 2007
Prep time:  30 minutes
Cook time:  1 hour 45 minutes
Serves 6-8

Ingredients:
6 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped  (I used Gala because that's what I had on hand)
4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
2 cups thick-cut white bread, crusts removed, cubed (I used regular white bread - see below!)
1 egg, beaten
salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 lb. pork roast

Preheat oven to 375. 
In large skillet, heat 3 T olive oil and add onion, apple and sage.  Saute until onion is transluscent. 
Remove from heat and stir in bread, egg, salt & pepper to taste.  Add chicken broth and stir until everything is moistened. Let the stuffing cool completely before adding to pork.  {Except for the fact that there is raw egg in here, I could've eaten this whole pan with a that spoon right there!  That's some yummy stuffing, I tell ya. Mmmmm.}

Now for a real-life shortcut:
For the bread, I toasted regular sandwich bread that I had on hand, including the ends that no one wants in their sandwich,  and chopped it into 1/2 cubes.  I didn't remove the crust, but if you're using a French loaf or another really crusty bread you may want to do as Paula directs.  Either way, toast your bread slightly because I have found the stuffing can get mushy if the bread is not toasted.

Trim most of the fat from the pork roast.  Butterfly the roast by slicing the pork 2/3 of the way through as shown.

Open like a book and lay flat:

Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the roast and pound with meat mallet:

If the football game your husband is watching is not going as he would like, invite him in to take out his frustrations on the roast.  It will make him feel better AND it will make your roast nice and tender!

Spread the stuffing on the pork.

Starting at a long side, roll the pork up, pushing the stuffing back in the sides as you go, and then tie with kitchen twine, seam side up.

Mix together 3 remaining tablespoons of olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt, pepper, and cinnamon. 

Rub all over pork, then turn roast over and place into a cooking pan (mine fit into a 9x13 pyrex) and rub this side with the oil also.

Cover with foil - this will help it remain juicy.  Pop it in the oven for about 90 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 155.  Remove from heat and let rest for about 15 minutes before slicing. 

I made a little gravy to serve with this:
While roast is resting, spoon out some of the pan drippings  (2-4 T) into a saucepan and add 1 C chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and turn down heat to medium.  Combine 2 T cornstarch with 2 T broth and stir until no lumps remain, then add to saucepan.  Whisk until gravy thickens.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.

We served this with mashed potatoes and asparagus and it got rave reviews.  If your kids are skittish about ingredients like onion and sage, I recommend chopping them up finely.

I hope you enjoy this, and have a great week ahead!  Thanks for visiting.

I'm linking to these wonderful blog parties this week - if you're looking for some more inspiration in the kitchen (and in the home!), I hope you will check them out!

Mouthwatering Mondays @ A Southern Fairytale
Tasty Tuesdays @ 33 Shades of Green
Hope Studio's Tutorial Suesdays
Tuesdays at the Table @ All The Small Stuff
Remodelaholic's Recipe Swap - Sundays
Thursdays at It's A Keeper
{Thank you, ladies, for hosting!}