Sunday, January 29, 2017

My Kitchen Organization Series - Introduction

kitchen-organization-cookbooks
When I started this blog years ago, we were newlyweds who hadn’t bought our first home yet. We lived in a rental apartment and the kitchen was small, with barely any cabinets and narrow counters. The toaster oven, coffee machine and George Foreman Grill (which we used regularly back then) took up the majority of the counter space. To make up for it, I had to use cutting boards over the sink and prepare cookies on the kitchen table. The cabinet situation wasn't any better - one cabinet was off-limits because it smelled so strongly of an unidentified pungent spice. Everything you put in there would absorb the smell, so our small appliance wedding gifts had to remain in unopened boxes in a storage closet. I couldn't wait until we bought a house so I could finally put them all out on the counters and use them.

And that is exactly what I did! In our first house, I unpacked everything and lined them them along the walls on the counters – all 50 cookbooks, blender, Magic Bullet, Kitchenaid mixer. Yup, all these guys were having a party on my counters and I enjoyed finally being able to use them. It was easy to access everything, but they made the kitchen look smaller despite the wider counters. 

As a result, when I had some free time, I would look for ways to store everything but in an accessible manner. I wanted to hide these small appliances, but didn't want to lug my mixer out of a cabinet every time I had to use it. I looked for ways to make my kitchen more efficient and organized. I read organization blogs and books, watched organization videos on YouTube, paged through magazines, and scrolled through Pinterest, looking for ideas and inspiration. The best general organizing advice I have ever read was to have a "home" where each item belongs and to put the item away in its "home" immediately after using it. The key to keeping this up over the long-term is to make sure that the item's "home" is easily accessible so you have no issue putting it away. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Bean Soup that Hits the Spot and My Review of Oprah’s New Cookbook!

tuscan-white-bean-soup
Happy New Year!

Sorry to disappear, but I had to take a little break. I was doing too many things at once, then I caught a cold and it all went downhill from there – you know how it goes.

Once the New Year started, I yearned to become productive once again and to get creative with my cooking; plus I missed writing and interacting with you guys J. First, we were busy with all the holiday celebrations, and then I got stuck in a rut of cooking the same old meals or getting takeout. 

It’s now time for a fresh start! I set my 2017 goals in my Bullet Journal and I need to get to them! 

New Year, New Recipes! 

And that means a New Cookbook! Yeah!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Roasted Belgian Endives with Leeks

Roasted Belgian Endives with Leeks
I'm not sure if I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, but I have been trying out some new side dishes the past couple of weeks just in case. Thanksgiving side dishes are usually starchy and carb-y, so I want to add some fall vegetables into the mix. There are so many fall vegetables available at the market right now, so it should be easy to add some cabbage, brussels sprouts, beets, parsnips, radicchio, and Belgian endives to your Thanksgiving table next to the sweet potato casserole this year. 

The Belgian endive is a leafy vegetable in the chicory family which is a good source of fiber, folate and vitamins A and K. The plant is grown underground or indoors so that the head doesn't open up like a lettuce. They look like compact, light green-towards-white bulbs. You peel the outside leaves, trim the stem end and eat the inside leaves raw or cooked.  

You probably know the Belgian endive as a bitter salad green. However, roasting them with vingear cuts down the bitterness and results in a very tasty side dish or warm salad for lunch. You can omit the butter here, but I really liked how it adds a creaminess to the dish and goes well with the delicate leeks. 

I roasted the vegetables at a lower temperature to keep the leeks and endive leaves from burning. If you need to serve more people, you can double the recipe and serve as a side dish. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Kitchen Tools: About Spiralizers

This fall, I have significantly increased my consumption of vegetables and fruits in an effort to eat healthier. I have also included fall pumpkins and squash into my weekly menus. Interestingly, pumpkins and squash are treated like tomatoes in that they are actually fruits (botanically), but they are considered to be vegetables under US law! The US Supreme Court actually ruled in the late 1800s that a tomato was a vegetable for customs regulations, so it could be taxed (they imposed tariffs on imported vegetables but not fruits back then). Anyway, I thought this was interesting because it was accounting AND food related. 

So, to help add more vegetables to my diet, I have been using a kitchen tool called a spiralizer at least once a week. It must be working, because lately family, friends, and acquaintances mention my weight loss. I also feel healthier and less lethargic. I credit this awesome invention with helping me jump-start a much healthier lifestyle. If you don’t want to buy yet another kitchen tool, some supermarkets sell “zoodles” (zucchini noodles) and cauliflower “rice” (crumbles) near the bagged salads. You can easily swap out pasta and rice with these pre-cut vegetables. 

So what is a spiralizer? A spiralizer falls into the category of kitchen cutting tools such as mandoline slicers and julienne peelers. A spiralizer has one or more blades (usually removable and interchangeable) that cut a vegetable into long, thin ribbons or "noodles" (such as zucchini noodles or “zoodles”).

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Don’t be Intimidated by Lamb!

My family is from Thessaly which is often called “the bread-basket” of Greece due to all the flat, fertile wheat fields. My mother’s family has been farmers for years and they had a flock of sheep. They still maintain large fields of wheat, corn and cotton just outside the village. My father’s family is from a village a little higher in the hills and they were shepherds and cow-herders. My uncle still had a huge flock of sheep up until the 1990s when we went to visit! That was cool for us to see, being city kids from New York. I watched my grandmother make feta and kasseri cheeses from the sheep’s milk and they served lamb for any big celebration, as well as Easter. In the US now, we still keep many of the traditions and have lamb at Easter with roasted potatoes and other seriously delicious traditional side dishes.

OK, I know lots of people are intimidated to even try cooking lamb because it’s too expensive. Some ingredients we find at the market can be very expensive (think: some cuts of steak, lobster, scallops, veal, lamb). However, you don’t need to cook a whole leg of lamb; lamb chops are the answer! My market had some really nice lamb chops so I bought them. Then, of course, they went on sale the very next day…

Others don’t like lamb because of the strong gamey taste (you are buying the wrong lamb!) or think it will come out chewy. This might be because you haven’t yet tried Greek-style lamb chops! If we go to the Greek restaurants and tavernas in Astoria here in NY for dinner, I will usually order “Paidakia (Pa-eee-tha-kia)” or grilled lamb chops. These are made well-done since that is how most Greeks like them. I know there are those out there that prefer their meat medium-rare, but seriously, try some well-done Greek lamb chops. They are rich with flavor and not at all chewy.