All About My Kitchen

Our Kitchen

As a passionate cook, I was really hoping for a better kitchen in our Squirrel Hill apartment, but we moved out on really short notice and had to make some compromises.  Our apartment is wonderful with a great view and lots of space. We are very comfortable.  While it isn’t much to look at, I’ve made our kitchen work for us with just a few adjustments and some organization.  It’s a work in progress, but so far I’m pretty happy with how we are using the space.  

When I’m cooking, I like to have easy access to the most important tools and ingredients. When we first moved in, I knew I wanted to use the walls to help organize and keep the kitchen user-friendly.  My favorite addition has been the Ikea peg board above the sink.  We’ve re-arranged it a lot as we get used to the space.  I have so much fun changing up what we hang on the board.  Ikea sells so many different hooks and holders, so these peg boards are infinitely customizable. 

Kitchen Peg Board
Ikea SKÅDIS Peg Board Collection, All-Clad Pans Williams Sonoma Fish Spatual, Measuring Spoons, Whisk, Peeler, Microplane, Kitchen Aid Tongs, Williams Sonoma Dish Soap Bottle, Redecker Scrub Brush and Bottle Brush, Ikea Tumbler (to hold brush), Williams Sonoma Pop-up Sponges, PUR Water Filter

Counter StorageI like to have things I use frequently on hand: Trader Joe’s Olive Oil, Maldon Sea Salt, and tasting spoons.  I used to put my blender away every time I use it, but it is so heavy I started to leave it out all the time.  The knife rack just went up this weekend. The shelves in our cabinet gave us plenty of space for our pretty extensive collection of glassware, jars and mugs.  We picked up the shelves at The Container Store, they only cost $7 a piece and made a world of difference.  In the other set of cabinets we store spices and other ingredients that I mix into smoothies.  The second shelf houses our collection of storage containers and mixing bowls.  Admittedly, this area could use a little more organization.  

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By hanging things on the walls, we opened up our drawer space.  We use the drawer closest to the sink for flatware, spoons and spatulas.  The drawer next to the oven hold more tools, things like plastic wrap, foil, and trivets. The left most drawer has cooking tools and a tin that holds all those little things that are nice to have on hand in the kitchen: a pad of paper, pens, a measuring tape, phone charger, scissors, rubber bands etc.  We use the main lower cabinets to hold most of our All-Clad collection.  I made the small cabinet into something that is really special to me: a baking cabinet.  It is pretty packed with most of my decanted baking ingredients, specialty pans and tools, and my Kitchen-Aid mixer.  

The kitchen as it stands features a lot of beige.  I wanted to make it more modern by incorporating a lot of stainless steel with the knife rack, the hanging pans, and the tea pot on the stove.  I’m looking for some sort of art or decoration to customize the kitchen and make it feel more homey.  It would be nice to use the wall in the entryway for some organization and storage for mail and keys.

The Pantry is small but we’ve made it work.  The bottom holds our garbage and recycling, and the shelves above hold dry goods.  I installed hanging baskets from Ikea for kitchen linens – pot holders, aprons, and a huge stack of my favorite Ikea kitchen towels.

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For additional storage, I bought a small sideboard for the dining room.  The cabinets and drawers hold things that aren’t used very frequently like our 12-quart stock pot and specialty things for serving.  The sideboard mostly functions as a coffee bar for my Nespresso Machine and collection of analogue coffee makers (a French press, a moka pot, and a pressure espresso maker).  We also store wine in one cabinet and can convert the sideboard to a bar or buffet for entertaining.

One of the keys to making it work in a small kitchen is making sure everything always gets put away and the counters stay clear.  I like to minimize clutter and only have what I need.  It makes the small kitchen not feel so small.

Potato Leek Galette

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What’s a reasonable way to have pie for dinner? A savory galette, naturally. Recently, I made one featuring leeks and Yukon golds. The beauty of the galette is that it really doesn’t have to be much of a beauty. The scraggly, folded edges give it somewhat of a rustic charm. A galette comes together pretty quickly and bakes for less than an hour. I was very tempted to use a store-bought pie dough, but it didn’t seem reasonable since I had all the ingredients for dough on hand. Galettes work well in a lot of places: a small wedge could be an appetizer or side dish with salad, roast chicken, or scrambled eggs. The versatility of a galette really lends itself to a lot of dishes. We had ours with a glass of White Burgundy.

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Potato Leek Galette 

Pie Crust 

1 1/4 c. Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 c. Butter
2-3 tbl. Water

Filling 

2 Leeks
2 Large or 4-6 Small Yukon Gold Potatoes
Thyme
3 tbl. Butter
1 tbl. Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Salt & Pepper
1 beaten egg
Assemble the pie dough by mixing the dry ingredients, cutting in the butter, and bringing together with water.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least an hour.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  For the filling, thinly slice the leeks and add to a pan with butter, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cook until leeks soften.  Thinly slice potatoes (either using a mandolin, a knife, or a vegetable peeler).  Toss the potatoes with the cooked leeks.  Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano.  Roll out the dough into a large circle.  I can’t emphasize enough that it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Add the filling to the center and fold up the dough around it.  Brush the pie dough with the beaten egg.  Bake for 45-55 minutes until crust is golden brown.

 

 

 

Field Trip: The Farnsworth House

On a quick visit home I stopped at The Farnsworth House, an architectural masterpiece designed by Mies van der Rohe in Plano, Illinois.  The 1,500 square-foot, one room weekend retreat features glass walls that showcase the adjacent Fox River.   The house was commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth in the late 1940s as a place for her to get away from Chicago and enjoy nature.  When she met van der Rohe at a party and asked him to design the house she knew she was in for something special.  Berlin born van der Rohe directed The Bauhaus before bringing his designs to Chicago.  He emphasized that less is more with the simplistic design of The Farnsworth House.

 

Preserving the house as presented many challenges over the years.  Within the first few months of ownership the Fox River flooded into the home, ruining the expensive silk curtains.  The materials for the home were all very fine quality, primavera wood and Italian stone floors, but expensive to maintain and replace.  The home has flooded a few times, causing a disaster each time; the glass breaks, the wood warps, the curtains stain.

Visiting the house feels like stepping into a sculpture, a piece of art you can walk through and feel.  It’s marvelous to look at photos of the stunning house but only when experiencing it in person do you feel just how silent it is on the inside or how cool the stones feel beneath stocking-covered feet.

I love visiting a new place that offers something new to learn and experience which is why I’m starting a new section on the blog: Field Trips.  Keep checking in for more education day trips like a visit to The Farnsworth House.

To plan a visit to The Farnsworth House or make a donation, visit: https://farnsworthhouse.org

September Shopping List

 

September Edition Shopping List

Duvet Cover, Clarifying Shampoo, Backpack for 15″ laptop, Salt Box, Woodblock Print, Net Bag, Utility Jacket

I’m looking at this duvet cover from Schoolhouse – a home design store that will be opening in Pittsburgh this fall.  I like keeping my bedroom really simple and neutral because I think it helps me sleep.

Woodblock prints like this one from Blockshop Textiles have been catching my eye lately.  The prints are simple designs with great composition.  Blockshop Textiles also sells graphic scarves, rugs, pillows, and table linens.  I really like the Hans Napkin, too. 

Utility jackets like this one from Everlane have been a staple of my wardrobe since high school.  I count on my jacket to have a lot of pockets because my pants usually don’t have any. Structure gives this casual jacket a more formal look.

I have been wearing Fjallraven backpacks for years but am looking for one to fit my 15″ laptop.  I’ve also been carrying these simple net bags, which work great for grocery shopping.  I always travel with one stashed away  so I never have to use a plastic bag.

This clarifying shampoo really helps my hair feel extremely clean, clearing up any built-up product.  It’s something I really only need to use once a week.  I like this one from Sachajuan because it barely has any scent (maybe just a hint of rosemary?).  Neutrogena makes a very inexpensive and effective clarifying shampoo, but I couldn’t stand the smell.

 

 

Fall Destination Guide: Hudson River Valley

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The Mountains cradling the Hudson River are not intimidating as a name like Storm King would suggest. The tall walls of fall foliage wrap the little river towns like a scarf. Independent shops, art galleries and cafés dot the walkable streets. Bountiful farms, orchards and wineries lay just beyond the towns. Many restaurants in the area proudly source ingredients almost exclusively from the valley. Hiking trails through forests, up mountains, and along cliffs lead to panoramic views.   Hudson Valley embraces both the old and the new serving as a backdrop for opulent estates of the gilded age and modern conceptual sculpture. It’s a great place to spend a long weekend and take in the very best parts of the fall season.

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Weekly Recap Sept. 25, 2017

 

 

Newsletter No. 011

I’d like to start off by thanking everyone who has encouraged me to keep this newsletter going. Right now, despite the almost 90 degree weather all week, I’m very excited for plaid, crispy leaves, bonfires, and apple cider. The transition into a new season always brings me creativity and inspiration. This time last year we were planning our trip to Hudson Valley. It’s a great place to spend a fall weekend and I’m working on a travel guide. Look out for that soon.

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Recipe: Baked Coconut Shrimp

Baked Coconut Shrimp

 

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Eating healthy while on vacation is absolutely a challenge.  For me it’s so hard to pass up the opportunity to try new things.  Back in April on a trip to Sanibel Island, Florida, I made a point to cook a healthy (Whole 30-compliant) meal.  Inspired by Florida flavors, I made coconut shrimp with an avocado-lime slaw.  I love this dish because it has a great balance of protein, healthy fat and nutrient-dense vegetables.  To cut down on cooking time I bought a pre-made slaw mix and just made the dressing.  Simplicity is key when cooking in someone else’s kitchen.

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Weekly Newsletter

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Spring is finally here after another long winter (doesn’t winter feel longer every year?).  I feel like a different person when the sun is out.  This week, I’ve felt very inspired by spring – the colors, the produce, the weather, etc.

Thank you to everyone who read last week’s newsletter; I can’t say how much I appreciate all the feedback and support.  Please continue to send feedback, and if you think someone would enjoy the content, please pass it along

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Weekly Recap 3.19.17

Newsletter No. 001 

First I have to thank everyone who signed up for the Newsletter.  I appreciate all the support and feedback. So far the newsletter is designed to be a little recap of my week focusing on three topics: things I bought or want to buy (which will mostly fall under the umbrellas of beauty, food, and home goods), media I’m consuming (anything from news articles, tv shows, podcasts, books, etc.) and the best thing I ate all week – either my experience with a recipe or a restaurant.  If you know someone who might enjoy the content please send them here to sign up.  Thanks again!

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