17 January 2010

Dear bloggy friends,

Did I mention we are moving?

Yes. It's true. C, Poppy and I have decided to uproot our Kentucky lives and move them to South Carolina.

Charleston, South Carolina, that is. When is the move-date, you ask?
...In March :)

But first, a chilly adventure to northern Ohio.

So, we are leading a hectic life at the moment. And I apologize in advance if life (and limited internet access) lead to not-so-often posting. But I will do my best! That, my friends, is a promise.

Hope everyone is doing amazingly well and I'll do my very best to keep you updated on life within Maple and Shade.

14 January 2010

Sampson the great.

Rather sad today. We knew this was coming. Still, though, so sad. Sampson, the biggest, most beautiful, most loving black lab you could possibly imagine, and a Maple family institution, passed away from Bone cancer this afternoon.

He will be sorely missed.


08 January 2010

Kitchen Essentials.

Or, so I think.

I've found I love to cook. I mean really, there's nothing like it. It's so rewarding to put the time and effort into piecing together a meal and sitting down to truly enjoy it...devouring every crumb...til the taste is merely a memory...but a memory you will relish in.

Mmm...this is making me hungry.

Anyhow, as I've slowly begun to build my confidence and my skill level (I mean, a year ago I knew next to nothing about cooking and baking), I've discovered there are several items housed in my pantry that I simply couldn't do without.

You will find these great contraptions below.

a. Whustof pull-apart shears, $19.95, Williams-Sonoma.
Couldn't imagine cooking without these. Super handy when it comes to cutting chicken, tough red meat, veggies...anything really. I also keep a cheap Target pair in the drawer for opening food packaging, etc. Save the good ones for actually cutting food.

b. Le Creuset Dutch Ovens, Williams-Sonoma, starting at $185 a piece.
Expensive, yes. Worth it? Absolutely. So handy. So durable. So fun. Will last forever. They do wonders on the stove top, but are also oven safe and make fabulous serving pieces since they retain heat so well.

c. white and blue porcelain measuring spoons, $15, Brooklyn Farm General Store.
mine came from Anthropologie, but they no longer carry them. Surprisingly durable. Amazingly cute. Just one of those things that makes me want to use them.

d. color-coded flexible cutting mats, set of four, $16, Sur La Table.
Clearly labeled as to avoid cross-contamination. Extremely flexible and light-weight for easy cleaning and storage. I love my wooden cutting boards, but with these I don't have to worry about bacteria sinking into the pores.

e. All-Clad Stainless Steel Measuring Cups, $30, Williams-Sonoma.
I'll have these babies forever, as they will last forever. And you don't have to worry about them warping in the dishwasher.

f. dual-ended spatuala, Target, $9.99
Love this tool. Two spatualas in one. So easy to use. Even easier to wash. Fun colors. Love it.

g. Whustof Classic 8" Chef's Knife, $139.95, Williams-Sonoma.
If there's one thing I'm glad we splurged on, it's our knives. Hard-as-rock potatoes don't stand a chance next to this German-engineered piece of steel. I use to prepare nearly every dish I make.

h. 10-piece glass bowl set, $38, Williams-Sonoma.
So this is the set that inspired my whole post. I could not imagine kitchen life without these. So easy to store, as they all stack together. 10 super-handy sizes, ranging from teenie tiny to a large mixing bowl. This week I cooked a meal in which I used 8 of the 10. They're so useful to organize all your ingredients while you prepare, and to mix in, of course. These will forever be a pantry staple in my kitchen.

i. Le Creuset 12" cast-iron frypan, $135, Williams-Sonoma.
My dad gifted this to me and Corey for our wedding, in hopes that we would have a lifetime of wonderful meal prep in the kitchen. (His one word of advice to me was to marry a man that loves to cook, in which I did, of course). And, Dad would be happy to know this pan has already brought us great joy and delicious meals. I cook everything in it. My gorgeous stainless steel frypan stays in the cupboard. I prefer the durability of this one, not to mention it's natural non-stick qualities.

j. KitchenAid 5-speed blender, $129.99, Macys.
I've yet to purchase a food-processor, mostly because this guy handles everything I need. I love it. It purees, it liquifies, it chops ice, it simply mixes or stirs. It's amazing. I pureed soup in it this week. I will chop black beans and other veggies in it tonight. And I am forever making smoothies in it. It's so fast and precise. I'm obssessed.

k. Kuhn Rikon Paring Knife, $12, Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table.
Maybe I love it because mine is bright green. Yes, even the blade is bright green. Maybe I love it because it comes with a nifty blade cover for storage. Maybe I love it because it's super sharp and super easy to grip in your hand. Whatever the case, food prep wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable without this little guy. And look at all the fun colors to choose from!

So there you have it. My scaled-down version of the tools and gadgets I simply can't do without. There are more, of course, like my set of Pyrex glass baking dishes, which I am incessantly using. Or my bread knife. Or my spice measuring spoons. But really, there are only a few more. For all intensive purposes, those listed above are my absolute favorite. They are the gadgets that help make prepping and cooking meals in the Maple kitchen so much fun.

I hope you enjoyed. And I hope it was somewhat helpful. If you have any questions concerning any of the above listed and there listed, I'd be more than happy to answer them.

And one last thing...what's in your kitchen that you could never live without?
I'd so love to hear.

07 January 2010

I like you, snow.

How wonderful it was to wake up to a sky of white flakes spiraling to a powdery landing. I'm in love with this day...enamored by the way the snow renders our busy lives captive, beckoning us to a slower pace, opening our eyes to the wonderment of the town we live in.

Okay..yes, I am so excited about the snow.

And my pot roast simmering in the kitchen, filling our teenie apartment with the most delicious & comforting smells.

And that I'm out the door and on my way to pick up Maple from work, so we can wander home, bundle up and rummage in the snow.

And that sis and bro are coming to din. To sit by the fire. To play cards. To play, again, in the snow.

Have such a happy snow day, wherever you may be.

And be sure to check back in tomorrrow, as I'm avidly working on a lovely kitchen essentials post.

05 January 2010

Colossally cold.

It's quite chilly outside. Blustery winds blowing around some flakes, making the world seem as if it's negative 2 degrees. Meanwhile, I'm happily making this and this for dinner...hoping to warm our souls and at most our bellies. Thank goodness I have my colossal cable-knit throw, thanks to my Corey and a recent birthday, to cuddle up in, with a cup of hot tea, after feasting on the above.

It's a blissful night in my world.

Peek inside my pantry.

A few have asked, so I will tell. :) I try to keep a well-stocked pantry...and a natural one at that. I try to avoid "refined" foods at all costs...using whole wheat flour, brown sugar, honey and agave nectar instead of white sugar and I stock as many whole-grain, low-sodium, zero-transfat, low-sugar, natural and organic goods as possible. I've started to look at food with a new concept: every bite should be nourishing. If it's not, I really try to resist it.

And yes, my downfall is those dang peppermint bark Dove chocolates. I could eat a whole bag. They sit in a bowl, in my living room, constantly tempting me with their deceptive deliciousness. Have you had them? I mean, they are soo good.

And... white cheddar popcorn.

But, here's the consistencies on my grocery list:

organic salad greens
organic red pepper (truly can't live without these, I put red pepper in everything)
gorganzola (for a yummy pasta dish I love, and salads)
whole-grain pitas
Ezekiel Bread (if you haven't heard of sprouted grains, google this brand of bread)
Minute Maid pomegranate-blueberry juice
raspberry green tea (caffeine-free)
agave nectar (low-glycemic, natural sweetener)
avocados (also obessed with these)
canned black beans (I could eat them all day, everyday...in any thing)
whole grain pastas
no-salt added, organic diced tomatoes
organic tomato paste (I like to make my own tomato sauces vs. high-sodium cans)
frozen berries (for smoothies)
all-natural, low-sugar vanilla yogurt (a big tub)
whole-grain cheerios
almond milk (for coffee and smoothies)
ground turkey
organic chicken
frozen vegetables
edamame (shelled...so good to put in pasta dishes)
canned chickpeas

And there you have it. By no means perfectly healthy, but a good try, I think.
Just avoid processed foods.
Fresh fruits and veggies are always your best bet, and shop around the outside aisles of the grocery--this is where the natural, healthier foods tend to be :)

04 January 2010

Here's to 2010.

{ littlebrownpen.blogspot.com }

{JenniPenni, whole living, JenniPenni, Gabrielle Kai}

Rather excited for this new year. It's sure to be filled with epic adventures, of the most exciting proportions. As I prepare to follow my dreams, and more likely, a foggy trail of chaos and uncertainty, I have to remember what's most important: my health, and my sanity.

So, thank you, 2010, for inspiring me to make this the healthiest year yet. Both physically, and mentally. I've learned so much about food and nourishment in the past few years, and I look back on the sodas I would drink and the candy I would eat and the meals I would consume with no regard to nutrients and how it would affect my health...and cringe. Ugh. To go back in time.

I mean, really...my roommate and I thought that movie night at our apartment went hand in hand with diet pepsi, doritos, a tub of Ben and Jerry's...and cinnamon rolls in the morning. How we did not weigh 600 pounds I DO NOT KNOW.

Thank goodness that's all in the past. And this year is sure to be my healthiest yet. So excited about yoga. And cooking. And being organized...in every aspect of my life. And making the decision to be happy no matter where I am or what venture I stumble upon. And making the most of life, and the time I have with the ones I love.

And thank you, Whole Living, for extra inspirational nudge you gave me this morning. :)

To living a healthy, well-balanced life...this year...and forever more.
Who's with me?!