Tag Archive: Gadgets

Tour de Kitchens

Our friend Ashley

is renovating her kitchen.  When I say “renovating” I mean “gutting”… as in knocking walls down, rewiring, moving the appliance locations, new cabinets – the works!  That means she will not have a working kitchen of her own for a least 8 weeks.  She and her roommate, Lauren, devised a brilliant plan to ensure that they won’t have to live off Ramen noodles and take out for two months.  It’s called the Tour de Kitchens.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Ashley and Lauren threw a big cookout for all their friends before the big kitchen demolition.
  2. While at said cookout, all the friends signed up for a schedule of dates to have the two lovely ladies over for dinner – touring the kitchens of their friends and blogging about it along the way.
  3. Ashley and Lauren throw a big dinner party for all these friends once the kitchen is complete.

In a sense, they feed us twice and we feed them once.  Not a bad deal.  And a super fun idea!  I highly recommend it to any of you planning a major kitchen reno in the future.

Well, Sunday was our turn to host.  I love to entertain and always want to leave my guests wanting more.  So, I always try to make my dinner parties memorable.  However, for this particular dinner party the stakes were especially high. Let me explain…

First, Ashley is a foodie.  A serious foodie.  In fact, she’s been writing a blog called The Charlotte Food Snob since 2006.  It chronicles her adventures in eating out in our fair city.  Secondly, she’s in our church community group which takes turns bringing wine and snacks to various events.  Through our years in this group, I’ve developed a reputation for bringing awesome snacks like this and great bottles of wine such as this and this to our gatherings.  Not to toot my own horn, but people tend to get really excited when they know it’s our week to bring snacks.  I mean REALLY excited.

So, I’m hosting The Charlotte Food Snob herself AND I’ve got a reputation to uphold.  That means, I had to bring my A-Game.  Nothing less would do.

I find that there are three basic elements that will make or break your dinner party, not including the guests.  I call them The Three M’s of  a Successful Dinner party – Music, aMbience, and Menu.

First, the Music.  I keep a playlist on my iPod appropriately titled “Dinner Party.”  It’s a list of nearly 70 songs ranging in artists from Coldplay, to The Beatles, to Diana Krall, to Ben Harper, to Dave Matthews Band.  They are all groovy, but unobtrusive so they play nicely in the background without being “noisy” per se.   I hit shuffle so the songs play randomly and repeat so the whole thing starts over again, should we work all the way through the play list.  I usually start playing it over the speakers in the living/dining area about 30 min before my guests arrive to start setting the mood in my head.

Secondly there’s aMbience…Well, you’ve got to set a lovely table

(dig my new chairs?) and lots of candles always help.

Finally, there’s the menu…Like I said, the stakes were high.  So this menu had to be FABULOUS.  It was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

The Menu
Appetizers – Goat Cheese Crostinis with Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinagrette
Salad – Baby Spinach with Goat Cheese, Raspberries, and Toasted Walnuts
in Warm Olive Oil and Blackberry Ginger Balsamic Vinegar

Entree – Salmon with Grits and Caper Cream Sauce and Asparagus a la Plancha
Wine – 2007 Stag’s Leap Cellars Sauvignon Blanc
Dessert – Coffee Caramel Creme Brulee

And, yes, the menu was so fabulous that I printed it up on card stock and placed it at each place setting. Like I said, I had to bring my A-Game.  And speaking of my A-Game, here’s my handiwork up close:

Well, most of it anyway.  I didn’t exactly get any pics of it, but I used an old faithful recipe, Goat Cheese Bruschetta, for the appetizer with a couple minor adjustments.  First, I used small crostini bread v. a large artisan loaf.  This gave them perfect bite-sized proportions.  Secondly, I used Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar, rather than plain balsamic, for the vinaigrette.  Like I mentioned before…EPIC!

Next, there was a beautiful salad

The basis was a recipe for Baby Spinach with Warm Olive Oil and Toasted Walnuts that I saved from Martha Stewart Living months ago.  But, I wanted to add a little something extra to it.  Hence, the goat cheese and raspberries.  The recipe calls for white wine vinegar, but…I just happened to have this delicious Blackberry-Ginger Balsamic Vinegar from Mountain Town Olive Oil Co. in Park City.  So why go with white wine vinegar when I’ve got a bottle of that within reach?  Much more interesting!

I have to give a shout out to my colleague, Sam, who gave me a head’s up on the entree recipe from Epicurious.  Ladies and gentlemen, Salmon with Grits and Caper Cream Sauce

Sorry that the pic is kind of dark.  I was ready to dig in and did not have the patience for the subtleties of fine photography.   Nevertheless, it was as delicious and as it was easy to prepare, despite how fancy it sounds. However, in an effort to deliver the courses in a timely manner, I made the grits before our salad course and they weren’t quite as warm as I would have liked, despite keeping them in the “warming zone” of my range.  The grits cooked up very quickly.  Next time, I’ll just let the salad settle while I cook up both the grits AND the salmon.

Oh, I almost forgot about the asparagus.  It’s now one of my staples from my Spain cookbook.  So fresh!  So easy!  So YUMMY! (And it sounds super fancy if you are, I don’t know, say…printing it up on menu cards for your guests.  Just a thought…)  You basically drizzle a little olive oil and fresh lemon juice on some beautiful asparagus, salt & pepper them, then grill them up for 2-3 min on each side.  You can use an actual grill or a grill pan.  I, personally, like to use my Cuisinart Griddler.

Of course, no dinner party is complete without The Wine.  Ashley and Lauren brought a bottle of 2009 La Crema Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.


We sipped on that during apps and salads.  Epicurious especially recommended the 2007 Stag’s Leap Cellars Sauvignon Blanc to accompany my chosen entree.

Plus, there was a little bit of it in the Caper Cream Sauce.  It was a perfect pairing.  Needless to say, both bottles were empty before the evening was over.   And for the Piece de Resistance (drum roll please…)

Homemade Caramel Coffee Creme Brulee!

Yes, to make this dish at home did require the purchase of a small blow torch.

What?  There’s a rumor going around that this whole Tour de Kitchens thing is a competition.  So, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  And if that means buying a blow torch…

then so be it! Seriously, though.  We had a blast hosting these ladies.

To hear their take on the evening, hop on over the The Charlotte Food Snob!  We’re looking forward to seeing how the rest of their Tour pans out.  And if this IS a competition, then I think we might just have this one in the bag! ;)

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/734

The Loot

I must have been a very good girl this year because Santa was very good to me.

He brought me lots of stuff for The Kitchen

(for serving)

(for cooking)

(for storage)

(for entertaining)

And THIS…

is for The Travel!

I was bitten by the biking bug while we were in Hilton Head this summer.  Apparently, since then, the BG has been plotting to get me one of my own!  Isn’t she pretty!  She’s black, white, and lavender…and my helmet and gloves match!  Oh, and there’s a bunch of good bike stuff about her that I haven’t quite memorized yet.

There’s mud on her tires because I had just taken her on her maiden voyage prior to taking this shot.  Is it weird that I’m stoked she’s named (i.e. read “model name”) after my favorite Disney Princess?

You’ll have to forgive me.  After 10 straight days of 3 and 4 yo nieces, I’m on Disney Princess overload!

Hope you all had as merry a Christmas and happy a New Year as we did!

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/619

What the Heck Is Pone?

Every family has their holiday food traditions, right? How much to you want to bet you’ve never heard of anything like mine?

Any thoughts…

No? Ok, then. I’ll clue you in. But first, I must ask – Has anybody out there (outside of my immediate family) ever heard of anything called Sweet Potato Pone?

I didn’t think so. I’ve never said those words to any non-immediate family member who didn’t utter “Huh? A sweet potato what?” in response. But that’s it. That’s our It’s-Just-Not-Thanksgiving-or-Christmas-Dinner-If-We-Don’t-Have-This-Dish dish. Sweet Potato Pone. What is it exactly? You mean, aside from the most awesome way to eat sweet potatoes? Well, it’s sort of a cross between a sweet potato casserole and a sweet potato bread.

The idea of trying to explain this dish to the internet at large prompted me to do a quick Google search for “pone.” Pone is apparently some sort of bread my by Native Americans with cornmeal, basically the ancestor of what we now call cornbread.

Ok. So that makes sense to me as, again, this Sweet Potato Pone is a hybrid of a casserole and a bread. Generally, it’s pretty easy to make…that is once you get past the very first step. I’m not going to lie to you, folks, the first step is a pain in the A**!!

What is this wretched step, you ask? It’s grating 3 cups of sweet potatoes. You’ve basically got to turn this

into this

Since my family scarfs this stuff, we usually double the recipe…meaning we need 6 cups of grated sweet potatoes, which amounts to grating up about 6 sweet potatoes.  My baby sister and I had to take it in shifts, so that we didn’t wind up with shriveled claws for hands!

In the past I’ve always used your standard issue cheese grater. This year I decided to try my Pampered Chef Rotary Grater. I don’t know that I would say that this device made the grating easier, but it certainly did reduce the likelihood that I would shave off slivers of my finger or knuckles into the sweet potatoes as I grated…and grated…and grated…

After that, it’s a piece o’ cake…just mixing your standard baking ingredients and popping it in the oven.

I can not stress enough the importance of the inclusion of flour in the recipe…particularly self-rising flour.  This is a minor detail my grandmother failed to include when I attempted to make this for BG’s family the first Thanksgiving we were married.  As a result, I basically served them sweet potato soup.  I kept trying to explain to them that this was wrong…so very, very wrong.  They ate it anyway with weird grimacing smiles, but I haven’t been asked to bring it back to any of the subsequent holidays we’ve shared over the last 11 yrs.

Trust me, though, when you include all the appropriate ingredients – BAM! So very, very yummy!

Here’s the official recipe:

  • 3 cups grated raw sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp self-rising flour
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix in the order listed above. Bake at 350-375 degrees for ~45-60 min until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


Enjoy!  What about you?  In this holiday season, what are your family food traditions…or mishaps?  I’d love to hear them!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/531

$0.99 Well Spent

Do you ever get in a rut and feel like you make the same five things for dinner every week?  Well, if so, do I have a recommendation for you!  If you are a busy working girl like me, mom or not, and have an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, then then Martha Stewart Everyday Food App is for you.

I already admitted to you that I am a Penelope and I believe it’s fairly obvious by the scope and title of this blog that I’m a foodie.  So in what warped alternate universe would anyone not assume that I watch Marth Stewart’s show, check her website, and read Martha Stewart Living like crazy?!  Add into the mix that second only to my MacBook Pro, my iPhone is my favorite material possession ever, and the Martha Stewart Everyday Food Fresh and Easy Recipes App is the best $0.99 I’ve ever spent.

Ok, I hear you.  Enough about my craziness.  You want to know what this little piece of gadgetry does that is so spectacular, right?  Basically, with this app you have access to thousands of new quick, easy, and healthy recipes right at your finger tips.  Everyday around 3:30 pm I get a text (I like to think it’s from Martha herself) with a “Dinner Tonight” recipe.

Now, the fact that the text is titled “Dinner Tonight” is a little disappointing in that it confirms that Martha does not know me well and did not, in fact, text me herself.  If she did, she would know that I planned my meals for this week last week and don’t need a suggestion for tonight’s dinner.  As such, she would title her text to me “Suggestion for Dinner One Night Next Week.”  But I digress…

Each day I get text with a recipe suggestion in title only.  I then click on my app, which automatically pulls up the recipe.  I look it over, scroll down to the bottom to review the nutritional info, and decide whether I want to save it or not.  If I want to save it, I tap the little “+” in the top right hand corner and have the option to save it, add it to a shopping list, email it, tweet it, or share it on Facebook.

Beyond the texting, the app gives you options to

  1. Search and download  new recipes organized by main ingredient, holiday, cooking method, or course.
  2. Create shopping lists that are automatically sorted by store and aisle.
  3. Add all of a recipe’s ingredients to a shopping list in one click or  add ingredients to a list by name or bar code scan (iPhone 3GS and above only).
  4. Simplify your shopping trips by locating grocery stores near you with maps, directions, and store specific shopping lists among other things.

I mentioned that you get all this for  $0.99, right?  Basically, with this you purchase the most versatile cookbook ever and a grocery shopping assistant for under a buck! When I first got my iPhone BG, who had his iPhone for a year before I did, advised me to “never pay for apps.”  By that he meant to only download the free ones.  Well, I must say that this is some spare change that I have absolutely no regrets about spending.

With the help of this app, I can count on one hand the times I’ve repeated a recipe in the last five months because I get a new recipe idea everyday.  If I wanted to repeat a recipe, however, it’s incredibly easy because I have them all saved on my phone!  During this time I have  made such yummy deliciousness as this Flank Steak and Arugula Salad (I’m not an Arugula fan, so I substituted Romaine)…

and this Roasted Salmon with White Wine Sauce…

these Turkey Sloppy Joes…

this Chicken Breast Stuffed with Herbed Couscous (those are MY awesome green beans on the side, not Martha’s)…

and this Zucchini Lasagna…

just to name a few.

Most of the recipes take only 20-40 min to prepare.  I love that the nutritional information is available for the vast majority of the recipes.  I generally try to keep it pretty healthy in our kitchen (at least during the week…there may be some weekend splurging every now and then), so if any of the recipe texts have more than 500 calories, I don’t save them.  Or, if I do save them, they are never options for regular weekly meals…only special treats.

So there you have it.  Talk about bang for your buck.  I don’t know about you, but that’s the most I’ve ever gotten for $0.99!

Cheers, y’all!
Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/266

how this blogger stays organized

I have a confession to make.  I’m a Penelope.

What’s a Penelope, you  ask?  According to Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists

“Penelope is unabashedly organized. She makes no apologies for her love of lists, and notebooks, and pretty office supplies. She adores anything that’s called a “storage solution”. She thinks See Jane Work and Pottery Barn are the first and second wonders of the world. She loves useful websites and shelter magazines. She hunts down smart work organization software and swoons for project management tools. She’s tidy, she’s a bit OCD. She’s got a To Do List and knows how to use it.”

For those of you who know me well, this does not come as any surprise.  Nor should it surprise you that I apply the same level of organization to my kitchen, meal planning, and cooking as I do everything else.  One of Meredith’s post series is called “How This Blogger Stays Organized.”  In it she interviews seasoned bloggers on how they keep their blogging organized, current, and (most importantly) balanced among their other roles and duties.  Well, I’m not stealing her post idea, just the title.  Today I’m putting my spin on it and letting you in on how I stay organized in my kitchen and for my week.

As you have undoubtedly noticed, I have a pretty healthy appetite.  While I do try to eat healthily on a daily basis, I have to make a decision to do it.  I could easily go the other way.  I realized a few years ago that the key to my eating healthily daily was to – wait, let’s say it together – “STAY ORGANIZED!”  Otherwise, I’ll end up driving across the street to Burger King for lunch then going out to eat again for dinner.  Not good.  But if my lunches are ready to be put in the lunch box and taken out the door and dinner is ready to popped in the oven, then I eat the healthy food I bought at the grocery store.

Here’s my process.  First of all I keep one of these handy dandy Real Simple lists on my refrigerator.

I got it in the office supply section of Target.  They don’t come with magnets, so I also bought some peel and stick magnets at Target, and stuck it on the side of the fridge. As soon as we realize we are out of something, we just check it on this list or write it in on of the blanks.

My local grocery store, Harris Teeter, provides an online shopping service and drive through pick-up service as certain locations.  (There are a whole host of reasons why I prefer to do this rather than spend my Saturday morning at the grocery store with everybody else in Charlotte that works a 40 hr work week, but that’s a post for a another day.)  Luckily, one of these locations is down the street from my office and on my way home.  Orders have to be placed a minimum of 4 hrs prior to your desired pick up time.  So, on Wednesday nights I sit down and plan out my meals for the week.  Because I’m a Penelope, I like to fill them in on this calendar that hangs under my Real Simple list on the side of my fridge.

Thursday night I place my order.  Then Friday after work, I swing through Harris Teeter and Presto!  My grocery shopping is done before my weekend has officially begun.  You don’t even know how happy that makes me!

Don’t get too excited, though. THAT is only the beginning.  We’re only on Friday night.  The real magic happens on Sunday afternoon.

First I organize the week’s vitamins for BG and myself.

Yes, I know that’s an old person medication organizer, but I don’t care. It saves me from having to dig them out of all the little bottles in the morning when all I want to do is drink my coffee.  It also gives me a visual reminder as to whether I have or have not taken my vitamins that day.

Then I start getting my lunches and snacks ready.  For lunch this week I will be having salad topped with Goat Cheese, grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, and sliced almonds.  I go ahead and grill the chicken breasts that I’ve had marinating since Saturday night.

(That gadget is my Cuisinart Griddler.  I’ll post the wonders of that thing another day.)  While those are grilling, I wash, tear, and spin my salad.

When that’s done I divvy it up into these perfect Martha Stewart Collection “Lunch On The Go” containers, sprinkle the sliced almonds and goat cheese on the salad, prep the oranges for topping (I don’t put those on until right before I eat it.  Otherwise the lettuce gets soggy.  Ick!) and my side fruit like so…

Then I close them up put one in my lunch Monday and the others in the fridge.  My snack this week will be Fage 0% Greek Yogurt, topped with honey and sliced almonds.  The only prep work needed here is for the almonds, the yogurt and the honey are already packaged for portability.

Now that lunch and snacks are taken care of, I start to work on dinner.  At this point, I whip up any marinades or pre-chop any veggies that need to be prepared so that the prep work for the meals I have planned for this week is all done.  That way, all I have to do when I get home from work is put it together and cook it.  This week I only need to chop some celery and boil/cut up some new potatoes.

Whew!  I think that’s it.  Vitamins ready.  Lunches cooked, prepped and packed.  Snacks prepped and packed.  Meals prepped.  That is a full Sunday afternoon!  And THAT, my friends, is how THIS blogger stays organized.

Cheers, y’all!
Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/196

Score!

So I mentioned my obsession with Mario Batali’s 2008 series for PBS, Spain on the Road Again, right?  After watching the original airing of the series and all the reruns I could find, I decided to ask Santa Claus for both the accompanying cookbook/travel guide (I WILL take that trip one day) and the DVD series.  That was the Christmas before last (as in 2008) and I have barely made anything out of it.  That is all going to change VERY SOON!  Of all the scrumptious recipes in the book, the one I have most wanted to make is the paella.  I have yet to make it because I did not have a proper paella pan, which is apparently essential to making paella…something about the distribution of the heat for the rice.

Well, since the Beer Guy and I are trying new things and breaking out of our rut, I decided to seek out a paella pan.  On a hunch, I decided to just pop into Sur La Table after work since it is located in the mall right next to my office, just to see if they happened to carry paella pans.   And guess what… THEY DO!  What’s more, they were 40% off!!  So, I got this beautiful 16″ paella pan and 2 lb bag of Bomba Rice (which is also apparently essential to a good paella) for the same price as the pan would normally have been by itself!

I’m not usually one who gets overly excited about bargains, but this made me giddy.  It’s like it was meant to be!  I can’t wait to take it for a test drive!

Cheers!
Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/6