Mangia Mondays:: Kitchen Can't Live Withouts II

Hi friends, how was your Thanksgiving??
I hope you stuffed yourselves silly and enjoyed time with family and friends!

I had to take a little blogging break to finish up the board and batten in my foyer {which I can't wait to show you!}, scrub the stain, caulking and paint off my hands to get a much needed manicure with Hannah, make an unsuccessful attempt at the ol' Christmas card photo {remind me why I do this???} and then give up and drown my sorrows in four different kinds of pie (and work on my double chin).
It was a good Thanksgiving!

And just like that, we are catapulted right into the Christmas season, a time when I feel like I cook and bake more than ever.

Remember my Kitchen Can't Live Withouts?  Since it's Mangia Monday, the weekly blog hop I co-host with Kristin of the fabulous foodie blog Delightfully Dowling, I thought it would be fun to chat about more random items that are put to good use in my kitchen.

So here we go! -
Kitchen Can't Live Withouts, Part II

1.  Cast Iron Dutch Oven
After lusting after, but never being able to justify the purchase of, a Le Creuset Dutch oven for years, I recently picked up a cast iron casserole dish with stainless steel lid at, of all places, Ikea.  I wouldn't think of Ikea as a place for a decent pot but we have been pleasantly surprised by how well this functions.  It is quite heavy,  can be used on the stovetop, in the oven and even on the grille, and will be in service in my kitchen for years to come.  In the short time I've owned it I've already made one-pot dinners in it like this de-lish Lemon Herb Dutch Oven Chicken {recipe found at From The Little Yellow Kitchen}.  One of my favorite purchases as of late - I highly recommend it.

2.  Recycling Bin In The Kitchen
This bin is not exactly good looking, but our current kitchen doesn't have enough room for pull out recycle bins.  This little bucket lives in the pantry and I toss recyclables into it throughout the day.  When it's full one of the kids will sort it's contents into the paper or container bins that live in the mudroom.  It's handy, out of site, and literally takes one minute to empty for my grumbling 13, 11 or 9 year old children.   I can't believe how much paper, plastic, and bottles we discard as a family of five, and I love how reduce-reuse-recyle is a way of life for this generation!

3.  A Good, Reliable Meat Thermometer
This is a staple in any kitchen.  We've had fancy digital thermometers in the past, but this basic stainless steel one has withstood the test of time and accuracy, and is a necessity for making sure your meat is not under-or-over cooked.

4.  Garlic Press
As you can see, this plain old garlic press has been around my kitchen for quite a while.  We are firm believers in freshly pressed garlic vs. the big jar of minced garlic you can buy at the grocery store.  Nothing like the smell of fresh garlic sauteing in a pan!  I like to smash cloves of garlic to remove the skin and then place in the garlic press to mince.  {Check out this tutorial at the blog Parents of a Dozen for removing garlic clove skins while keeping the cloves whole - in 10 seconds!}

5.  Apron
While I don't wear an apron every day when I cook, I do love to have one for baking and cleaning up the kitchen when I'm dressed up.  Nothing like a little grease on your cute holiday outfit to ruin your night.  My apron is a basic one from my local Williams Sonoma outlet, but I am lusting after one of these cute numbers that are functional and fun!

6.  Ramekins
We have lots of ramekins in this house, and I use them all the time!  The big one pictured above is more like a casserole dish, but they are all along the same idea, in various sizes.  The medium sized ramekins are perfect for a cup of soup or a serving of fruit for the kiddos.  I love to serve Individual Chocolate Molten Cakes to company, which I make in the small ramekins.

7.  Barbecue Turner 
(formerly the one and only Bar B Boss by Pampered Chef)
I bought this for Mark waaaay back when, along with some other grilling tools and cookbook, as a fun Christmas present.  {What is it with guys and their grills?}  It's a huge spatula that has a serrated edge and a long handle to keep your hand away from the heat.....and a bottle opener of course!  One of Mark's fave manly man cooking tools.

8.  Cookie Scoop
If you have kids, ya gotta have a good quality cookie scoop.  I have a little one and it has logged hours scooping cookie dough.  I just bought a cheap big one at the grocery store and it broke on the second use, so I highly recommend getting one like this from Wilton - they know their baking goods!

9.  Cookie/Baking Sheet
While you're investing in a good cookie scoop, how about a decent baking sheet?  I am due for some new ones - the ones I have are almost 15 years old and the non-stick surface is wearing off {gross!}  I have heard and read that these Airbake Ultra baking sheets are fabulous for even heat distribution and a nice golden brown bottom to your chocolate chips cookies :)  Any recommendations?

10.  Measuring Spoons
My favorite thing in my kitchen.....
My mom gave this pewter spoons to me and I LOVE them (here's a link to a similar set).  They're special because I associate them with her when I use them 5,208 times a week.  I handwash them and hang them by my sink, and I hope one of my kids will use these same spoons in their kitchen someday.  Pretty measuring spoons are bountiful and would make such a lovely gift for a chef on your Christmas list!

Pier One

Pier One

Simply Chi on Etsy
{I love these!!  What a lovely gift they would make!}

Alissa at 33 Shades Of Green is hosting a Kitchen Favorites party this Friday so if you're looking for more kitchen inspirations be sure to check it out!

In the meantime I hope you'll join in the fun of Mangia Mondays by linking up or sharing in comments a recipe, kitchen tips or tricks, or a restaurant review - or better yet -
I'd love to hear about YOUR favorite items in your kitchen!

Thanks for visiting and have a great week ahead!


Mangia Mondays:: Fall Recipe Highlights and Gobble Gobble Cupcakes

Happy Thanksgiving week
and welcome to Mangia Mondays,
the weekly blog hop I co-host with the ever-fabulous Kristin of Delightfully Dowling!
Every week we are inspired and amazed at all the goodness you're all cooking up in your kitchens!

The week of Thanksgiving is, to me, the unofficial end of autumn.  After this week we'll be in the throes of the Christmas season, so before we bid this season adieu, I thought I'd highlight some Mangia Mondays recipes that truly capture the essence of fall, before getting to my Gobble Gobble Cupcakes.

{It's high time I start featuring some of the great recipes linked up each week, don't you think?!  
Start looking for highlights every week and grab a button if you've been featured!}

So let's get to it!
How about a Pumpkin Spice Latte with real pumpkin from Mo'Betta?  YUM!

You know what would be delicious with that latte?  These Autumn Spice Cookies from 3 Boys And A Dog!  I'd love to make these with the kiddos this week!

The rub on this Spice Rubbed Turkey with Cognac Gravy at Cook Lisa Cook really caught my eye.   Even though I'm not hosting Thanksgiving this year, I'm definitely going to make this for a Sunday dinner this winter!
{Lisa says that roasting the bird dark meat up results in a moister and juicier turkey - I have to try that method.}

A couple weeks back Tracey at The Kitchen Is My Playground shared Maple-Mashed Sweet Potatoes with a bruleed topping - ohmygoshthatsoundssogood!!!  {Plus I have always wanted one of those little torches to brulee something with!  I'm a closet pyromaniac.}

How about rounding out your Thanksgiving meal with homemade Cranberry Sauce?  This recipe from Coupon Cookin' includes mandarin oranges and sounds soooooo good.....and much more appetizing than the gelatinous stuff in the can!  How yummy in a post-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, or served over biscuits as dessert!

Many thanks to these creative bloggers and chefs for these great fall recipes, and to everyone who links up each week to share recipes, kitchen tips and tricks or restaurant reviews.  I'm so THANKFUL for the opportunity to get to know and be inspired by you!

Now before you head off, here is a fun little activity to keep the kiddos occupied while you get ready for your Thanksgiving feast!

Last year all the cousins got together and made turkey placecards and turkey cupcakes - from the littlest cousin, all the way up to our oldest nephew who was home from college!  

It was so cute to see them all at the table together being silly!
They did such a great job with the turkey placecards for the Thanksgiving table the next day....
and the cupcakes were pretty darn cute too!
So simple to make....
let the kids frost cupackes with chocolate frosting, then add chocolate sprinkles.
The head is a mini Reese's peanut butter cup, the feathers - Swedish Fish.
The eyes are made with writing gel or frosting, and the "gobble gobble" is a sliced red Swedish Fish.
Fun to make, fun to eat!

Thank you for stopping by for a visit.

Wishing you and your family a 
happy Thanksgiving 
filled with blessings big and small!


Shabby Apple Giveaway Winner!

I'm thrilled to announce the winner of the Black Oak dress from Shabby Apple!

You Are Lucky Number Twenty One!!
The rest of you lovely ladies can still take advantage of 10% off at Shabby Apple with the coupon code SHINEYOURLIGHT10OFF!

And if you've yet to visit, be sure to check out Andrea's blog, Oak Ridge Revival - home to tons of beautiful home inspirations, and one of my favorite kitchen remodels ever!!

So excited for you, Andrea!

Thank you to Shabby Apple for sponsoring this giveaway.

Have a wonderful day everyone!


This & That & Cupcakes

Hi everyone,
First off, have you entered my Shabby Apple dress giveaway?  If not, head over and enter!  A winner will be drawn tomorrow by random.org and you could win yourself this cute little black dress for the holidays!!

Second, thank you so much for your love about my stairs redo that I posted about last week!  I know a few of you are waiting for a tutorial on that one and it's coming.
The next plan of action for my foyer was to add a seagrass, jute or sisal runner to the stairs, but the one I wanted is, of course, backordered, so I threw myself into another project that I've been chomping at the bit to get started on:  board and batten!

I was going to go with picture frame molding for wainscoting in the foyer, but Mark & I had a last minute change of heart.  I'm hoping to finish this up today but in the meantime here's a peek of what's been happening around my house!

Last but not least, long ago when my girly girl turned 11 back in MAY, and I promised her a little sleepover with a couple of her girlfriends in honor of her birthday and we finally got around to it {now that she is just about 11 1/2!} Hannah has such a nice group of friends and it was really hard for her to choose who to invite.  She worries about hurting someone's feelings if they are not invited and I love her kind heart.  I gave her the choice of having a bunch of friends over for a few hours or a couple of girls for a sleepover and she chose the latter.

Seeing as Hannah loves to bake, we decided that in lieu of a cake, the kids would frost cupcakes.  The two of us are learning how to use different tips but we're both still really spazzy cake decorators.
{I'd love to take a cake decorating class with Hannah, just for fun!  Have you ever taken one?}

I bought Wilton food colors, colored ready-made white frosting, and filled icing bags with different tips and colored frostings.
Oh my gosh - this stuff is awesome!!  
Why haven't I invested in these icing colorings before?
All you need is one dip of a toothpick into the gel coloring, and then mix it into your frosting to create beautiful rich colors!  These colors are SO much more concentrated than the the food coloring I buy at the grocery store.  I bought the 12 pack of 1/2 oz. jars at AC Moore {regularly $16.49 but were on sale for 30% off.}  I made the investment because my kids love to bake with me and I think these will last us a good long while.

Although I have filled icing bags with frosting many times in the past, I always get frosting here, there and everywhere, so at long last I checked out some youtube videos and learned how to do it properly.  Once I got the technique down I was filling those bags lickety split like a pro.  Here's how in case you're interested.

I made cupcakes and gave them a skim coat of frosting before handing off to the girls.
In years past I would have had the whole table tricked out with cute decor, but this year I simply turned up the music, set all the frosting bags and oodles of sprinkles out on the table the let the girls go at it.
They had so much fun and were so creative!!

The kids made two cupcakes that night:  one to eat and one to take home the next day.
I found these perfect little cupcake boxes at ACMoore and dare I say they were the icing on the cake??? I popped them into goody bags along with some fun sprinkles, cupcake liners and writing gel.

The best part, of course, is that my little girl (okay, she's already 5'3", but she'll always be my little girl!) had fun with her friends, made some memories, and felt
celebrated and loved.
There is nothing sweeter!

Have a wonderful day!