Monthly Archives: February 2016

How to Choose the Right Dishwasher

When the dishwasher breaks down, it’s never fun.  Is there a kitchen appliance that’s more inconvenient to replace? Maybe it breaks one day out of the blue and it’s completely unexpected; or maybe it’s been hanging on by a thread for the past few months and you’ve been hoping it holds out just a bit longer, dragging your feet when it comes to buying a new one. If you’re like most contemporary families, the dishwasher is one of the kitchen’s must-haves. Yet, it can also be costly and time consuming to replace. Not only is there the price of a new dishwasher, but unless you’re an expert, you’ll probably need to find someone to install and set it up for you, not to mention finding an eco-friendly way of disposing of the old dishwasher. Simply put, while a better dishwasher might be more convenient, no one ever wants to go to the trouble of finding a new one or lay down the cash for it. Check out the tips below to make the process as easy and painless as possible.

The first, and possibly most important thing to consider when buying a new dishwasher are    the size constraints that your kitchen holds. Unless you’re doing an entire kitchen remodel, chances are that you don’t want to have to reconstruct your whole kitchen just to fit in a new dishwasher. Many people assume that all dishwashers come in the same standard size, but this is actually incorrect. The average dishwasher is meant to fit in a space that is 24 inches wide, 24 inches deep, and 34 inches high, but this doesn’t mean that all dishwashers fit into these dimensions. Some dishwashers are built to fit into petite spaces, and others are larger than normal to accommodate bulk loads and unwieldy dishware. Before you start looking for a new dishwasher, make sure you know the measurements of your opening and choose accordingly.

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Another important factor for your decision is the cost of the new dishwasher. There are some very nice, very luxurious dishwashers on the market, but it doesn’t necessarily make them the best fit for your budget or your dishwashing needs. Rather than choosing a style first, consider your budget. Know your ideal price, and keep that in mind so that you don’t waste time looking at something that is over your budget.

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Cleaning Requirements
A great way to narrow down the many choices available is to decide what cleaning features are going to be key for your new dishwasher. Do you like to rinse your dishes before loading them? Then it’s probably a good idea to skip the high-cost models with scrubbing and power washing features. Maybe you like to load the dirty dishes right to the dishwasher and let the washer do the work for you. If so, you probably need to invest in a model with a built-in hard food grinder. For those who aren’t sure about their specific needs, there are dishwashers with settings that vary. Are your loads small or large? The interior dimensions of the washer can be compacted or enlarged to accommodate your load size without change the outer dimensions.

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Finally, here comes the fun part – choosing your style. If you haven’t purchased a new dishwasher in the last 10-15 years, you may be surprised to find just how diversely the styles can vary. While the more common styles come with a traditional stainless steel design that differ in the placing of the control panels, other dishwashers can be custom-made to blend in with your kitchen’s cabinetry so that when the dishwasher is closed it is not even visible. Other styles come as double roll-out drawers that operate individually for flexible washing and additional storage room. There are many different styles and designs, and it’s up to you to find the one that is most suitable to your needs.

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These are just a few of the considerations to keep in mind when choosing a new dishwasher for your kitchen. While having to replace your dishwasher might never be considered “fun,” it doesn’t have to be so painful as you might think. Try to get excited about the new possibilities that will come with the new machine, and find the one that’s right for you.

Upgrading Your Kitchen Faucet

When it comes to making changes to your kitchen, some of the most noticeable changes come in small packages with small price tags. One way to upgrade your kitchen without breaking the bank is to change the sink faucet. Over time, faucets can become old and worn out. They lose their shine and polish, and they can have a dismal and diminished impact on the whole kitchen. One way to feel like you are getting a whole new space is to replace the faucet and let the new shine radiate throughout your kitchen.

Know Your Limitations
To start, it’s important to know the limitations of your faucet based on the style of your sink. Does your sink have only a single port through which the hot and cold water are controlled? Or does your sink have three or even four ports for the faucet, handles, and spray stream? If you have a sink with four openings for handles and a spray stream, chances are you won’t find the aesthetic of a single ported faucet very appealing after you’re left with three gaping holes in your sink. If you can, consider replacing both your sink and faucet so that you won’t be confined to the faucet system that your current sink requires. Otherwise, take note of the type of sink you have so that you know your limitations when it comes to choosing a new faucet.

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Consider Style and Color Tones
While a new, more contemporary style faucet looks very appealing in its display, this doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the best option for your home. While a bronze faucet may seem like a great idea online or at the store, will it clash with your kitchen’s existing color patterns?  If you have outdated or old-style kitchen design, will a contemporary faucet look awkward or out of place? These are just some of the things to consider when choosing a new faucet.

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Think About Cost
Finally, it’s important to have a budget in mind when you go to pick out a new faucet for your kitchen. While faucets can be an affordable way to update your kitchen, there are certainly some faucets that challenge this assumption. Do you want a simple, yet elegant faucet that will improve the overall appearance of your kitchen while keeping your wallet smiling? Or, do you want faucet that will be almost as pricy to replace (if not more) as the refrigerator or range hood? It’s all up to you, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind so that you can eliminate certain options as you go along.
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Can you think of anything else that is important to consider when investing in a new faucet for your kitchen sink? Do you have any processes or methods for shopping and finding the right styles and products for your kitchen? Leave your questions and feedback in the comments below and let us know what you think!

A Special Meal for Your Valentine

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and if you’re a foodie who loves to cook, you might be thinking of ways that you can give your Valentine something special from the kitchen.  If you regularly cook and bake for your Special Someone, chances are that you are looking for something truly extraordinary for this year’s celebration.  You can go many different directions with your Valentine’s Day feast and it all really just depends on your cooking preferences and your Valentine’s level of pickiness. If you want some fresh ideas on what to prepare this Valentine’s Day, check out our suggestions for delicious recipes below and choose the one that’s right for you.

Cheesy Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip
If your Special Someone is a shrimp scampi lover, this treat could be just the thing for them. This delicious shrimp scampi dip goes perfectly with breads or pita chips and can be served with a variety of your favorite snacks. After prep and bake time, this recipe still takes only about 35 minutes to prepare, and it’s definitely easy on a scale of simple-to-hard.

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2 tbsp. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. dry white wine
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1/2 lb. medium peeled and deveined shrimp, defrosted
1 c. ricotta
1 c. shredded white Cheddar
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
Sliced baguette, for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes, then add white wine, lemon juice, parsley and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until shrimp is no longer opaque and wine is reduced, 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer ingredients to a cutting board and finely chop shrimp. Add ingredients to a large bowl, along with ricotta, cheddar, and Parmesan. Stir to combine.

Transfer to baking dish and bake until warm and bubbly, 15 minutes. (Broiler for 3 minutes if you prefer a darker top.) Garnish with parsley and serve with bread.

Recipe via Delish

Boursin-Stuffed Chicken
If you’ve never tried this boursin-stuffed chicken, we promise you’re in for a treat. This is a special meal that your Valentine is sure to love, and with a few simple touches, this easy, 10-minute meal can become a fancy, Valentine’s Day banquet.


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4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
1 package Boursin cheese or herbed goat cheese, 4 ounces
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
4 slices prosciutto

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Using a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken to 1/4-inch thick. Pat it dry and liberally season it with salt and pepper on both sides. Place a spoonful or two of Boursin on one end of each piece, top with a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, and roll the chicken up, starting at the cheese-topped end. Wrap the chicken with a slice of prosciutto and place in the baking dish seem-side down, so the prosciutto doesn’t unravel. Repeat with all of the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear when pierced with a fork or knife.

Recipe via Delish

Four Cheese Heart-Shaped Pepperoni Pizza
Pizza is an American favorite, and while it’s usually thought of as a casual type of meal, you can certainly add your own twists to spruce things up. If your Sweet Heart is a pizza lover, this might be their ideal version of the ultimate Valentine’s dinner and it will mean even more as a hand-crafted peace with special heart-shaped pepperonis.


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1 pizza dough, rolled out into a large (about 12”s across) circle
8 ounces mozzarella, shredded
3 ounces  Locatelli Romano Cheese, shredded
3 ounces Monterey Jack, shredded
2 ounces gorgonzola, crumbled
1/8 pound pepperoni, cut into heart shapes (optional!)
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (F).

Roll the pizza dough to desired shape and place it on a large, lightly oiled baking sheet or a pizza stone.

Combine the mozzarella, Locatelli, and Monterey Jack in a large bowl.

Evenly distribute the cheese mixture over the crust. Top with pepperoni and gorgonzola, evenly distributing them around the top of the pie.

Drizzle with olive oil, and bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is completely melted, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Serve at once!

Recipe via Baker by Nature
These are just a few ideas to jump start your Valentine’s Day meal ideas. Do you have a traditional recipe that you make each year for your Valentine? How did you decide, and what do you make? What are your favorite dessert dishes for Valentine’s Day? Leave your suggestions and feedback in the comments below!

Kitchen Backsplash Ideas

A kitchen backsplash is almost a must these days. It adds color and personality to the contemporary kitchen and gives it a more edgy and upfront design. The color, material and location of your kitchen backsplash are all variables that depend on your specific kitchen layout and design. Do you want to make a bold statement with your backsplash? Or do you want something a little more conventional that makes your range hood seem to pop out from the wall and accentuate the stove and oven area? There are many different ways to do a kitchen backsplash and today we want to discuss some of those options, as well as what options may be right for you depending on your kitchen’s design and layout.

Backsplash Location
The backsplash location can really be anywhere you choose, but typically the backsplash lies against the wall above the counter and stove and goes up to beneath the range hood and higher cabinets. Sometimes, however, the backsplash can surround the kitchen or range from one end to the other and cross above the sink and other kitchen appliances.  Where your backsplash is located, and how far you want it to go is really up to you and depends on the structure of your kitchen. If you have a small kitchen or a kitchen with a big island center that includes a range hood, you may not have as much opportunity for a backsplash as other kitchens.

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Backsplash Colors
The backsplash colors are also up to your discretion, but they may be limited based on the type of material you choose for your backsplash (which we will discuss in the next section). Many people choose to go with a backsplash that will complement and accentuate there standing design and color themes, but others choose to use their backsplash as a way to make a bold statement. The choice is up to you, but we encourage you to think about the kind of tone you’re trying to set with your kitchen and what kind of statement you’d like to the design to make about you and your home.

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Backsplash Materials
Kitchen backsplash materials come in all shapes and sizes. Just a few of the very common materials used include glass, metal, wood, natural stone, mirrors, and brick; however, the most popular option for a kitchen backsplash, by far, remains tile. Tile has been a longstanding trend when it comes to the kitchen backsplash, and it continues to rule this realm of the kitchen. Think about what you would like to see in your kitchen day after day and what is going to stand the test of time. Styles change frequently, but some of the best designs stay popular. Also, think about the kind of work you’ll be doing in your kitchen and consider the materials that will be most suitable for this work. If you do a lot of cooking and use the counters, marble and mirror materials might become a cleaning and maintenance nightmare after time. On the other hand, wood may not stand the test of time and other materials have their faults, as well. Aside from testing the suitability of different materials, you may want to take samples and test them against your current design to get a real picture for ideal suitability.

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These are just a few of the most important things to consider when thinking about adding a backsplash to your kitchen design. Are you a fan of the kitchen backsplash? Do you have a backsplash in your kitchen or have you considered installing one before? What kind of things do you think need to be considered when choosing a backsplash design? Leave your suggestions and feedback in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you.

Healthy Jerky Options

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Jerky has been an American favorite since a South American native tribe introduced the wonder in the 1500s. With most folks, it tends to be a love or hate relationship, and for most of us that love could almost be considered obsession. With so many snacking options these days, there’s a reason why jerky continues to remain high on the list. But is it healthy? With the continued focus on healthy options for today’s society, it’s important to know what your consuming and if it is going to hurt or help you with continued usage. Below, we have included some nutritional information for beef jerky, and we’ve also given you some healthier alternatives for your standard beef jerky.

Beef Jerky Nutrition Information
There are both positive and negatives included in the beef jerky nutritional facts. It is high in sodium, low in vitamins, and has one gram of fat.

Serving Size: 1 oz.
Calories: 73
Total Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 20mg
Sodium: 410mg
Carbohydrates: 4g
Fiber: 0g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 12g
Vitamin A: 0%
Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 0%
Iron: 8%

It’s important to look at the ingredients of the jerky you want before purchasing it. You may find that some brands have unnecessary additives or preservatives and there are certainly more healthy and organic options to choose from. Typically, something that has a long shelf life will be less nutritious and high in preservatives.

So, what can you do if you want a slightly healthier alternative to beef jerky or you have a dietary constraint that prevents you from eating beef? One great alternative is to switch to turkey jerky. Compared to beef jerky, the nutritional information for the same serving of turkey jerky includes:

Serving Size: 1 oz.
Calories: 89
Total Fat: 0.5g
Cholesterol: 25mg
Sodium: 410mg
Carbohydrates: 8g
Fiber: 0g
Sugar: 5g
Protein: 13g
Vitamin A: 0%
Vitamin C: 0%
Calcium: 0%
Iron: 4%

While the nutritional information looks very similar, the health-conscious understand that red meat is hard on the digestive system and that poultry is generally a more healthy option when it comes to consuming protein in meats. Reducing the intake of red meats can reduce the risk for heart disease and give your digestive system a break from the tough work it has to do in breaking down red meats.

Ultimately, the choice between beef jerky and turkey jerky is really based on personal preference.  Both options provide a low-calorie, protein-packed snack, with the only real nutritional defect being the high sodium levels and possible additives or preservatives depending on the brand. Look around and see if your local supermarket or your town butcher has a jerky option with reduced sodium, or compensate for the high sodium by consuming less sodium on the days that you know you’re going to use jerky as a high-powered snack. Finally, consider finding a recipe, and dry it out in your own kitchen so that you can monitor the amount of salt that is going into it.

The Pros and Cons of Meal Kit Services

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It’s 2016 and life just continues to get busier. Between work, picking up the kids for school, running errands, and the other duties that plague everyday life it can be difficult to find the time for a home-cooked meal, let alone doing the shopping and prepping the ingredients. In this busy time of our modern lives, meal kit services are becoming increasingly popular. Not familiar with the idea of a meal kit? The basic idea is that you can pay for a service to have perfectly measured ingredients, along with a delicious recipe, dropped at your doorstep at the date and time of your choice so that all you have to do is spend a few minutes in the kitchen putting the those ingredients together and coming out with a home-cooked meal for the family (or you can choose a solo option).

But what are the pros and cons of subscribing to a meal kit service? It sounds like a no-fault solution for busy night dinners, but there’s a downside to everything, right? Below we include some of the most obvious pros and cons that subscribing to a meal kit service might include.

The Pros
Food doesn’t go to waste, because you have exactly what you need for the recipe, and it is meant for the precise number of people in your household.

Everything is pre-measured and proportioned for your recipe, which saves you a lot of prep work.

You won’t have to spend money on large quantities of herbs that will almost never be used.

You don’t have to go grocery shopping or deal with going multiple places to find that one item that no one seems to have in stock.

You’ll never have too much or not enough of any single ingredient.

You get to hone your cooking skills without so much focus and concern over prep work.

The meals will be something you pick ahead of time, and you can feel confident that the outcome will be positive and delicious.

The Cons
It can be expensive: if you have four or more members in your family, you could end up spending upwards of $200 per week on only 3-4 meals for your family.

There will almost never be any leftovers to count on for a quick and easy grab and go meal the next day.

If full-circle process of cooking is something you’re interested in, you won’t get it with these pre-prepped meals. You’ll miss out on learning how to prep certain foods or how to monitor food portions.

Ingredients may not be as fresh as if you picked them up from the store yourself on the day of prep.

These are just some of the biggest pros and cons that we could find when it comes to meal kit services. Are there anymore that we’re missing? Leave your input and feedback in the comments below. For most, especially those with larger families, the cost of a meal kit service is probably the largest deciding factor. For two career-focused individuals who simply don’t have time to make a home-cooked meal, this might not even be an issue, but for those with families and kids, the cost can add up quickly and make the meal kit option pretty impractical.