Kitchen Essentials: My Top 10 Favorite Cooking Tools.

As I pack up for Thanksgiving this week I’m including a few favorite kitchen tools in my overnight bag — totally normal, right? You see, I’m really quite particular about the tools that I use – which makes my family really laugh when I pull my own tongs out of my purse — but the right pieces can make all of the difference when making a meal. And after years of living in apartments with teeny-tiny kitchens, combined with a real love of cooking, I feel like I’ve honed a pretty well-curated collection of just-the-essentials kitchen tools.Best Basic Kitchen Tools 1 It hit me that maybe this list of  kitchen items (that I so passionately feel the need to pack in my suitcase) is something worth sharing with my readers as you prepare for the holiday cooking season. Check out the list below for my top 10 basic kitchen tools: Best Basic Kitchen Tools 2

  • I have tons of knives, but I always keep going back to this simple 8″ Calphalon chef knife; it works for most tasks, has a good grip, and bonus: this knife isn’t going to break the bank.
  • The Ikea Tekla dish towels are maybe the greatest deal on earth — at less than a dollar a piece I don’t ever worry about them getting stained or ruined. They’re also a staple ‘prop’ and tend to end up in a lot of my blog posts! I’m also a big fan of Williams-Sonoma classic dish towels for bigger clean-ups, they’re super absorbent and come in a really nice range of colors — shown here in the background.
  • We registered for our wedding at Pottery Barn and were gifted tons of their Great White dishes — the dipping bowls are probably my favorite item from the collection because in addition to being great serveware, they also make the perfect prep bowls to mix up spices, portion out ingredients, and bring things like butter up to room temperature; I grab these all the time when I’m prepping a recipe.
  • The Oxo y-shaped peeler is one of those items that makes you realize how terrible your old cheap kitchen tool was before you replaced it. I tossed several broken peelers before finding this great version; the shape of the handle and the grips on each side make it so much easier and faster to peel veggies.
  • My Kuhn Rikon garlic press is probably the biggest splurge on this list, but I can not stress enough how amazing this thing is — it just works so well. You’ll get much more garlic out of a single clove with this tool, and the way that the press pieces separate make for a really easy clean up (something that was so annoying with my previous garlic press!). I can’t recommend this model enough, as someone who cooks with a lot of garlic, this has changed my life in the kitchen!

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  • If I could choose just one item in my kitchen to work with everyday, it would probably be my Oxo 9″ tongs; I use them pretty much every time I cook. They snap open and closed really easily and they’re the perfect length — not too big!
  • I don’t love using too many silicon kitchen tools when I’m cooking with heat, but I did need a solution for avoiding scratched pans. So a few years back I purchased Pampered Chef bamboo spatulas that I use all the time for moving things around the pan. Bamboo doesn’t transfer much heat so I always find that these are a good tool for forgetful folks like me that leave them sitting on the edge of the hot pan.
  • The Kuhn Rikon fish spatula is designed for flipping fish but I actually use it for a ton of other cooking purposes. The spatula is just flexible enough that gives you some great leverage and maneuverability for flipping delicate foods like pancakes, but is sturdy enough to handle something as substantial as burgers. I’ve had this one for years, it might be one of the oldest items in my kitchen from this list!
  • Similar to my notes above about using bamboo spatulas in lieu of silicon, I always grab my Williams-Sonoma Olive wood spoons – they’re perfect for stirring up a pot of sauce and sneaking a little taste test. Olive wood is really dense so it doesn’t absorb flavors or smells from the food, and they’re pretty darn good-looking.
  • On the rare occasion that I’m putting on my baking hat versus cooking something, I grab my Williams-Sonoma spoonula – it’s got all of the functionality of a great spatula for scraping the sides of the bowl, but the slight curve gives it utility as a spoon too (and I’m all about multi-purpose tools in a small kitchen like mine).

This listen isn’t completely comprehensive, but these are my go-to items that I use every week when cooking. A few other favorites include a good cast iron skillet, an all-clad stainless steel fry pan, a quality whisk, an olive oil drizzle bottle, my marble pastry board, and glass tupperware. Okay now spill, what are you essential kitchen tools?

Cookbook Book Club.

From the time that  I first heard about Farm and Fable’s Cookbook Book Club,  I was sold — what is better than hanging out with a group of friends and chatting about cookbooks? Oh right, eating the recipes from them! I finally was able to join one of the meet-ups this weekend and it was a ton of fun. This month the book was Huckleberry, the new cookbook from the famed Santa Monica bakery. While I love cooking, I’m actually not the most skilled baker (sticking to proportions and instructions can be tough for me, I always want to add more butter, oops!), so I ended up picking one of the more savory recipes from the book, a tomato goat cheese cobbler. It was really tasty, and so were the 10 other recipes that book club attendees made. My favorite? The chocolate banana bread bundt cake — holy yum. I loved getting to hear their experiences with the recipes and even got a few new tips and tricks to use next time! IMG_5217.JPGIMG_5226.JPGIMG_5227.JPGIMG_5234.JPG

Pillows, Poufs, and Throws with Wayfair.

A few weeks back I was getting ready to host a baby shower at my apartment and I felt my living room could use a little ‘zhush’ — but I also didn’t want to spend a ton of money making updates. The fastest way to get a new look for your living room? Mixing up the textiles! I added some new pillows from Wayfair (I’m pretty obsessed with the Paris street map pillow, doesn’t it have a little bit of a Kate Spade vibe?), a cozy Mexican blanket that I got this summer from my trip to Creative Overnight, and pulled in my floor pouf  in for some extra seating. Just layering some new colors and textures on top of my existing pieces made a huge difference.
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Want to get in on this fun? I’ve rounded up a few of the items used in my living room below, and bonus: Wayfair is sharing a 15% off ANYPillowPouf or Throw through November 24th! Just use the promo code: WFPTP15

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Mexican Blanket | Paris Map Pillow | Knit Pouf Ottoman

Please note: This post was sponsored by Wayfair.com, all opinions are my own. 

Thanksgiving Leftovers Stuffed Mushrooms.

Guys! We’re one week out from my very favorite holiday (because it’s all about food and family, my two favorite things!). Being as food obsessed as I am, I’m already thinking about delicious leftovers. The day after Thanksgiving at my family’s house is usually a continuation of the festivities, we dig into leftovers and friends and family pops in to visit. Of course no one would turn down a post-Thanksgiving leftover turkey sandwich, but I thought I would mix it up this year and try to repurpose some leftover side dishes to make a festive appetizer to enjoy while family is still visiting at the end of the holiday weekend. Leftover mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sweet potatoes got a little dressed up and repurposed as filling for stuffed mushrooms — the taste of Thanksgiving in a bite sized snack! Full recipe below.
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Ingredients:
  • Mushroom caps
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Leftover baked sweet potatoes (1 potato)
  • 1 tsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • Leftover stuffing
  • Cooked italian sausage
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley (for garnish)
  • Green Onions (for garnish)
  • Crispy bacon (for garnish)
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Clean the mushroom caps and remove stems.
  • Using a small spoon or melon-baller, scoop out the inside of the mushroom caps to make room for filling (cup the mushrooms in your hand to keep them from breaking.
  • For Mashed Potatoes: fill mushroom caps with leftover potatoes, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  • For Sweet Potatoes: combine sweet potatoes with a drizzle of honey and melted butter; fill caps with mixture.
  • For Stuffing: combine leftover stuffing with cooked and chopped italian sausage, fill caps with mixture.
  • Arrange filled mushroom caps in a baking dish, salt and pepper to taste, and bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
  • Remove and garnish: add green onions to the top of the mashed potato stuffed mushrooms; chopped crispy bacon to sweet potato stuffed mushrooms, and minced parsley to the top of stuffing filled stuffed mushrooms.

4 Fun Twists on Thanksgiving Recipes.

At the Wayfair + Boston Bloggers ‘Home for the Holidays’ Event last weekend, my Boston-blogging partner in crime Alison gave a great chat about planning your content around the holidays and one of her pieces of advice was resurfacing old posts to share when seasonally relevant. It got me thinking about some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes from blog posts past. As I’m sure you’re in a similar Thanksgiving menu planning mode that I’m in this week, I thought I’d round up four of my favorite that offer a fun twist on a traditional Thanksgiving food element.

To start things off: a seasonal cocktail that brings apple cider to the forefront, Apple Autumn Punch. A tasty appetizer that brings in the sweet flavors of apple pie but the savory balance of a baked brie, Baked Brie with Apple Compote. We always have mac and cheese on our Thanksgiving menu for the vegetarians, and this version is baked in cored apples; Mac and Cheese Baked Apples. For dessert, I’ve tried a bite sized version of pumpkin pies and used cookie cutters to spell out a message of thanks: Thankful for Pie.

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A Holiday Table DIY Menu.

On our holiday dinner table, space can be at a premium — and we would always prioritize food and drink over tons of decorative details, which is where the idea for this simple, multi-use DIY came from. I washed out a rich green colored wine bottle with the intention of serving water in it on the Thanksgiving table, and decided to give it one more purpose: a passable menu detailing all of the great Thanksgiving dishes we’ll be feasting on. With a thick permanent marker, I hand-lettered the main dishes down the center of the bottle and finished it off with a large script ‘menu’ title where the base and neck meet. The best part? It costs nothing to make (well, minus the cost of the wine, but let’s be honest: I was going to drink that anyway!). IMG_5082-0.JPG

Wayfair + Boston Bloggers Holiday Event.

Last weekend was one of my proudest moments while running Boston Bloggers with Alison. We worked with the creative and passionate team at Wayfair to host a full-day conference for local bloggers to kick off the holiday season. It was an amazing group  of ladies (over 100 bloggers came from all over Massachusetts and Rhode Island!), and we had so much fun. There were great speakers, DIY sessions (one of which was hosted by me!), awesome blogging tips, including a session about SEO from the expert team at Wayfair and conversation with Alison that asked us “why are we blogging in the first place?” A special shout out to Third Eye Chic Studio for sharing these photographs with me — I was so busy leading my DIY session that I didn’t have time to take any pictures — a few of my favorites from the day are below, and if you’re interested in checking out more, visit the hashtag #HFTHboston on twitter and instagram.
Wayfair Wayfair 2I was setting up for my DIY session and just caught a few minutes of the keynote opening session with Heather Armstrong of Dooce and Christiane Lemieux of Dwell Studio, but what I heard blew me away — these are some amazingly inspirational women that have followed their dreams and made it big. We were so very grateful to both of them for joining the event and sharing their expertise with us (and so thankful that the Wayfair team brought them to the event!).

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The absolutely charming and talented Abby Larson of Style Me Pretty hosted a tabletop styling session using products from all of the Wayfair brands; it was so great to meet her and her team in person and see them in action — they were  truly talented and the results of the tabletop styling were gorgeous!

Wayfair 8Wayfair 9As a huge fan of Island Creek Oyster Bar, I fan-girl-ed out meeting Chef Jeremy Sewall. Chef Jeremy brought the group through his tips for planning holiday meals. I really loved that it had such a local focus on seafood and ingredients that you can find from New England. I learned so much about seafood (did you know that longer antennas on lobsters indicate they’re fresher? And that all of the lobster from ICOB and Row 34 come from Jeremy’s cousins in Maine?). It was also really enlightening to hear him talk about the process of writing his new cookbook: The New England Kitchen — which I snagged a signed copy of at the end of the event!Wayfair 10

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My session was all about getting crafty — the Wayfair team and I worked to create five different DIY gift tags that represented the five major Wayfair brands. It was great getting to demonstrate the DIY ideas and create with the bloggers, but for me the best part was that the groups got to network and chat with each other while working on their projects. I got to catch up with some old blogging friends and finally put a few real-life faces to blog names with new friends too. Wayfair 4Wayfair 7Wayfair 5Wayfair 6We ended the day with an amazing cocktail hour and yankee swap that Wayfair generously organized with dozens upon dozens of amazing gifts from their sites. It was a little bit like the Oprah Christmas Special (you get a gift! you get a gift!) and everyone got to swap, cheers, mingle, and enjoy themselves after a long day of getting into the holiday spirit. Wayfair 13Wayfair 1Wayfair 12Interested in reading some more recaps from the event? These fabulous bloggers have shared their pictures and impressions of the event too:

Four Festive Place Cards for the Holiday Table.

I spent Saturday at the Wayfair + Boston Bloggers‘ Home for the Holidays event and it got me majorly into the holiday spirit. I’m fine waiting a little longer until we start chatting about Christmas, but Thanksgiving is just 3 weeks away so you better believe I’m starting to scheme up holiday  tablescape decorations. I started to test  a few ideas for place cards using natural elements — first, a big fresh artichoke centered on a plate with a small hand-drawn paper banner that I lettered in gold. For the next  place card I tied a silk blush ribbon around the stem of a tiny pumpkin (I love the golden and green colors in this one!). I used a deep red pomegranate and a gold permanent marker to create some faux-calligraphy for another option. And my fourth and final test was a small wreath that I made out of fresh thyme sprigs. A small piece of peach ribbon covered up where I tied off the wreath and I personalized it with a gold glitter monogram sticker. This one was my favorite because it smelled so fresh and rich! So what do you think, any favorites?
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A quick brunch fix.

This weekend I was busy testing some recipes for Thanksgiving ideas (and blog posts!) and the best thing ever that can happen when you’re cooking occurred: I had leftover stuffing. My family has a special little trick for leftover stuffing, we use it to make a little breakfast hash. It’s barely a recipe, which is just how breakfast should be made: add a tiny pat of butter to a hot pan and throw in the stuffing and, if you have it, some chopped onions, sausage, bacon — you can’t mess it up! After the mixture cooks together for a few minutes push it the sides to make an opening in the center of the pan. Crack in egg in the center of the stuffing and let it fry up, then slide that whole thing on a plate and dig in! I garnished mine with some fresh chopped green onions, and let me tell you, it was tasty. IMG_4918.JPG

Mingle Magazine.

I was super excited to get my hands on the new issue of Mingle Magazine to see not one, but two (!) articles featuring my writing and styling work. The first article was a holiday party where my girlfriends and I DIY’ed holiday crafts and sipped on seasonal cocktails — with flowers by Little Flower Cottage and photography by Bring to Light Photography. The other article was a gals get together with the awesome team at Urban Grape where we tested whiskey cocktails and whiskey-infused foods; all of the gorgeous imagery in that story was shot by Brian Samuels. A few of my favorites from each article are below, but grab the magazine to check out  the full articles! Mingle Magazine 1Mingle Magazine 2Mingle Magazine 3Mingle Magazine 4

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