Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Organized Chef

My favorite room in our apartment is by far the kitchen! I think this is partially due to the fact our home has beautiful stainless steel appliances, a dishwasher (!!!) and the space can fit both the Mr. and I comfortably at the same time... A luxury for downtown apartments in New York City.

And, to be honest, I'm pretty sure I enjoy organizing our kitchen almost as much as I enjoy cooking in it. Here are a few simple tricks that have simplified my cooking style and made it so much fun!

1. Location, Location, Location

Storing frequently used items near the stove is essential to simplifying the cooking process. All my heat resistant tools are organized neatly in a stainless steel canister for easy access at any time. And, because I constantly taste my dishes prior to serving, I like having a jar of sea salt and a pepper mill within reach for last minute seasoning adjustments. 

2.  Be A Clean Machine

Nothing is more unappetizing than a dirty kitchen counter or a sink full of dishes. Be sure to wipe all surfaces clean during meal preparations to prevent contamination and shorten clean-up. I also load the dishwasher, as I finish using cooking tools, so I don't have to spend additional time rinsing later. 

3.  Know What You Own, Use What You Have

It's time to say goodbye to the "catch all" drawer. Organize your cutlery and kitchen tools so you can easily see what's in your drawer. You'll be amazed at the time, energy and money saved. 

4.  The Coffee Nook

Kitchen preparations are much easier when "like" items are stored near where you use them. Especially when it comes to making my morning coffee.

5. Clean, Organized Shelves

Organize your shelves in a neat, logical way. Doing this will maximize space and protect your dishes from breaking. I like to keep everyday dinnerware together. Pots, pans and bake ware are stored in another shelf.

6.  A Perfect Pantry

A well, put together pantry is easy to do and essential for the at home cook. I like to organize the shelves by function: Baking, Spices, Snacks. Using airtight jars will ensure products stay fresh. And, be sure to seal bags tightly with clips. I purchase mine at the container store. When it comes to spices, I like to store mine in a small, bamboo box. That way, it can easily be removed while I'm cooking.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How To:: Textured Ponytail

Well, I've officially committed to morning workouts. All too often, my alarm goes off at 6:00AM (because I think I'm going to get up and go to the gym) and almost automatically, I press snooze and go back to sleep. But starting today, those days are over (yikes, I'm a little nervous)... Who's with me?

I figure the best way to make this new lifestyle happen is to expedite my showering/getting ready routine. Especially, reducing the amount of time I spend blow drying and curling my hair.

I feel like whenever I've worn my hair in a ponytail, I've hated it. Until now!

For a simple, textured ponytail, leave it to the expert stylists at Bumble and bumble.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympic Games

It's hard to believe that the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics kicks off tonight. I'm excited and a little nostalgic. I was living in South Kensington during the summer of 2005, when London was awarded the Olympic bid. Never have I seen a city filled with so much energy. Seven years later, this extraordinary event is about to begin!

Over the next few weeks, I think it's about time we celebrate the Red, White and Blue with some Olympic-themed style... Go Team USA!
{Georgetown Cupcakes in Soho have the most festive Olympic inspired treats}

{Blue suede sandals are perfect to wear while cheering on Team USA}
{These cute charm bracelets from Alex and Ani couldn't be more patriotic} 

{A stylish combination of red, white and blue}

{MAC outdid themselves with this adorable packaging}

{Decorative garland and pinwheels make any event a little more fun}

{Classy style paired with Olympic gold jewelry}

*Images via: London2012, Georgetown Cupcake, Cupcakes and Cashmere, Alex and Ani, Atlantic-Pacific, MAC Cosmetics, Martha Stewart, Atlantic-Pacific. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hello:: Chobani Soho

We all know the strong love I have for Greek Yogurt... 

And today, I woke up more excited than if it were my birthday! Chobani, my absolute 'go to' brand, is opening a flagship Mediterranean-style yogurt bar one block from my office! 

If you've never tried Greek Yogurt, you're missing out on a little taste of heaven! Unlike the thinner, more sugary yogurts typically found in grocery stores, Greek Yogurt has a thicker consistency because of the way it's strained. And, best of all, it's extremely low in fat and very high in protein.

That being said, it's the perfect breakfast or anytime snack, in my opinion! 

After viewing the menu, I think it's safe to say this is going to be a success. Here are a few things I can't wait to try! 

Pistachio + Chocolate: pistachios, dark chocolate, honey, oranges, and mint leaves

Toasted Coconut + Pineapple: Pineapple, Toasted Coconut, Hazelnuts, Light Agave

Peanut Butter + Jelly: Peanut Butter, Jelly, Grapes, and Peanuts

Plain Chobani + Olive Oil: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper, Served with Pita Chips

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Day in the Park

We were thrilled to have our first house guests this weekend! My sister and her husband traveled here from Burlington, Vermont, to spend a few days with us in the city. As they tend to be quite "outdoorsy", the Mr. and I were excited to take our visitors on an urban hike in Central Park on Saturday afternoon. 

It was a gorgeous afternoon, and my brother-in-law's first time ever being here, so we certainly saw the sights! We entered on West 72nd Street, right at Strawberry Fields. This tranquil section of Central Park was named after one of the Beatles' best-known songs, "Strawberry Fields Forever." Strawberry Fields was officially dedicated on October 9, 1985 – the 45th anniversary of Lennon's birth. Yoko Ono worked with landscape architect Bruce Kelly and the Central Park Conservancy to create a meditative spot. The iconic black-and-white mosaic was created by Italian craftsmen and given as a gift by the city of Naples. Based on a Greco-Roman design, it bears the word of another of Lennon's songs: Imagine.

Next, we headed North East toward The Reservoir. Officially named the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in 1994, the Reservoir is famed for the 1.58 track that encircles the 106-acre body of water. This favorite jogging spot for a number of other influential people covers approximately 1/8th of the Park and hold over a billion gallons of water.

As we walked South, we found the Central Park Boathouse, packed with people renting row boats and eating lunch outside. We stopped on the bridge to enjoy beautiful view!

It was a lovely day! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lucky In Love:: Wedding Welcome Bags

After a wonderful weekend away, the Calgary Stampede has come to an end and the Mr. and I have returned home. No surprise here, my favorite event was surely the rodeo... Even though it rained for almost the entire afternoon! Yet, despite the rain, we had a great time cheering on all the cowboys in our attractive yellow rain ponchos. Hmmm, I don't think I've worn one of these for about 20 years. The last time had to have been walking around Disneyland with my family as a little second grader. Wow, do they work though!

Being back in Calgary, during such a festive time for the community, reminded me of how we tied the city's traditions into a few wedding details. We welcomed our guests visiting Canada with themed Welcome Baskets for a true taste of the New West. Inside each bag, we included a small note to greet our family and friends.

Many people attending our wedding planned to stay for several days to enjoy Calgary and the gorgeous mountains nearby. As there is so much to see and do, we also included a newsletter from us, detailing our favorite places and restaurants.

And, of course, no welcome bag is complete without snacks. We packed ours full with Minnesota's famous caramel corn, white chocolate cowboy hats from a local chocolatier, homemade snack mix and a bottle of artisan soda.

Finally, for a little more fun: Canadianisms. I mean, it's always good to be fluent in local lingo!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Country Time

There are many perks to living in the city. But sometimes, what I look forward to more than anything else, is some quality time spent in the country. Fortunately for us, the Mr. grew up in Alberta, Canada, so open farmland and the Rocky Mountains have become our 'go-to' whenever we need a little downtime.

I'm packing my bags as I write this post because we're headed to Calgary tomorrow. However, this trip may be a little less relaxing than usual: it's that time of year... Stampede!

While there's so much to enjoy, the event I'm most excited for is the Rodeo. The first time I attended, I was a little nervous to watch, but by the end, it was the best time ever! And, part of the fun is dressing up in full Western attire. My cowboy hat and boots are all set!

{Denim skirt and cowboy boots: country classic style}

{Every time I attend the Stampede, I always want to leave with a horse}

{Who's excited for Beef on a Bun? Yum, I can't wait} 

{Lake Louise: one of the pretties places I've ever been}
*Images via pinterest

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cold Brew Iced Coffee

A refreshing iced coffee is one of my favorite morning treats during the summer. And, surprisingly enough, it takes very little effort to make at home.

The secret to the perfect up: cold brewed concentrate.

I like to follow THIS recipe, from the NY Times. It yields two generous cups and tastes delicious with a little splash of cream and sugar.

Be sure to use good quality coffee. My personal favorite is Black Cat. It makes a difference, trust me.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July

I woke up this morning extremely surprised, and relieved, to see bright blue sky and sun, because all week, rain had been forecasted. And, while it's seems a little strange to celebrate Independence Day in the middle of the week, it's also kind refreshing.

The Mr. and I plan to enjoy our afternoon at a rooftop BBQ with some friends and watch the fireworks later this evening over the Hudson River.

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

DIY:: Picnic Blanket

Well, I should have been writing my own post last night, but instead, I spent my time admiring all the other creative types out there! It's amazing how many great ideas you can come across, just by exploring a few blogs. 

This was my favorite find of the evening, by far! I'll surely be making this for upcoming afternoon get togethers in Central Park. Because, let's be honest, if you're going to have a picnic, you should probably have a stylish blanket. 

*Image and video from Design Love Fest

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sunday Supper:: Farro Risotto With Wild Mushrooms

Sundays are all about relxing and enjoying time at home before the start of a busy week. And, for me, it's the perfect time to try slightly more time consuming recipes that just aren't possible to make after a long day at work.

Many of these inspirations come from Martha Stewart's Cooking School. This is one of my favorite cookbooks because each dish is representative of a culinary technique, which Martha thoroughly explains to the 'at home chef'.

Today, the Mr. and I were in the mood for "healthy" comfort food, which, made it a great time to try risotto made with farro. Farro is an ancient Italian grain packed with many more nutrients than traditional rice and pasta. It's slightly chewey and has a very rich, nutty flavor.

To start the recipe, I made a quick vegetable stock. If I've learned one thing from this book, it's to always make your own, and never use canned. For the stock, prepare:

1 celery stalk, cut in half lengthwise
1 medium carrot, cut in half crosswise
1/2 small onion, peeled
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
7 cups water

Combine stock ingredients in a 4-quart stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to the lowest setting to keep stock hot, but not evaporating.

In another 4-quart pot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Add 1/3 cup diced onion, and cook until transluscent, 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat if onion begins to brown. Add 1 cup farro to the onion mixture and cook for another two minutes.

Add 1/3 cup dry white wine to the pan, stirring just until absorbed. The farro should be glistening, but not dry. Using a ladle, add 1/2 cup hot stock to the rice. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, at a moderate speed, until about three-quarters of the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently. This process should take 25 minutes, exactly.

When the farro has finished cooking. Add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter to the pan. Allow to melt. Then, stire in 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley and salt and pepper, to taste.