Monday, March 21, 2011

Current Kitchen Favorites: Making things bright

I am crazy for bright colors among my kitchen utensils and other items I might use while cooking.  Our kitchen, though newly designed by Ikea for the previous homeowner, is white and gray and somewhat drab.  (On a side note... Is it gray or grey?  One seems more English than the other.)

I've added pops of color here and there to brighten things up and give it more of a retro feel.  Here are some of my current favorite kitchen items.

Quite possibly my favorite kitchen item of all time.  Ever.
My red KitchenAid stand mixer.  Amazing!

These cherry kitchen towels from Crate and Barrel look straight out of the 50's.

My KitchenAid mixing bowls.
Not only does KitchenAid make fantastic, sturdy products, but they also carry really great colors in almost everything they make so you can get their appliances and tools in your favorite color!

Cholula Hot Sauce!
If you're looking for a bit more flavor that still brings the heat, look for the bottle with the pretty lady.

I always love hearing about the great items other people are using in their kitchen, so please feel free to share some of your current kitchen favorites!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Party Nerd Edition - Mardi Gras Dinner

I love parties!  Both attending and throwing them.  I especially love an occasion that calls for a fun theme party and getting costumed.

Recently, we bought our first proper dining room table.  Finally feeling like grownups, we decided to have our first official dinner party and invited friends over for a Mardi Gras dinner.  I found a few really great recipes, got some ideas from Sandra Lee, and threw the rest together myself.  We had a great night with our friends and the dinner was a success!  I've included the menu and some photos, but will be happy to email any recipes if anyone is interested.

Mardi Gras Dinner Menu

Muffaletta and Veggaletta Bites
Hurricane Punch
Garlic Bread
Tri-colored Roasted Vegetables
Creole Shrimp and Grits
Mardi Gras Slaw
Cajun Chicken Wings and Dirty Rice
King Cake

Yours truly with my co-host and husband, Adam

The dinner table

Tri-colored Roasted Vegetables

Making the mirepoix for the shrimp (celery, onions, and carrots).  In Louisiana, the vegetable base is referred to as the "Holy Trinity" and substitutes the carrots for bell pepper.  I already had peppers throughout the meal, so I stuck to the original trio for the shrimp dish.

Dinner is served!

Cajun shrimp and grits

King cake for dessert

Our friends getting in on the mask fun!

Laissez les bontemps rouler!  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

An Age Old Question: Hard or Soft???

As Lent is fast approaching, I find myself thinking about pretzels.  (I am also a religion and history nerd so please bear with me as I bore you with the religious history of this delectable snack...)  During Lent in the 600's, an Italian monk used leftover dough to make "pretiola" or "little rewards".  He shaped them to resemble children's arms while praying and gave them as a reward to those who remembered to do so.  We have this monk to thank for the wonder of soft, delicious pretzels the world has enjoyed ever since.

It wasn't until the late 1800's that hard pretzels emerged, which brings me to the question, "Do you prefer soft pretzels or hard pretzels?".  Pretzels are a really underrated snack.  I never really think about them, but the moment that smell comes wafting up from the pretzel shop in the mall and hits my nose, I'm in Heaven!  These are soft pretzels, leading me to believe I am a soft pretzel kind of gal.  Yet, is there anything more delicious than a white chocolate covered hard pretzel?  Therefore, hard pretzels, right?

Recently I found an amazing snack in the freezer section of the grocery store.  A company called Kim and Scott's Gourmet Pretzels has a line of STUFFED pretzels.  I bought the spinach and feta version and had one with a small salad for lunch.  Delicious!  They have a variety of other flavors, both savory and sweet, and I will definitely be trying more of their line very soon.  I visited their website to find out more about their company.  Not only do they use all natural ingredients, but they have gluten free versions and are involved in charities, such as raising money for schools.  Check out the website if you get a chance!

I was back to daydreaming about soft pretzels again when I remembered a pretzel brand, Snyder's of Hanover.  Their flavored hard pretzels are (in my opinion) some of the best you can find.  I am partial to the honey mustard and onion flavored pretzels, but my husband recently bought the spicy buffalo version and that was delicious, too!  Their pretzel rods are also really great for dipping in chocolate and serving at parties.

Alas, can one love hard and soft pretzels equally?  I do believe so.