Monthly Archives: December 2016

How To Host The Perfect New Year’s Party

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Of all sound, of all bells … most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year. Charles Lamb

Planning on hosting a New Year’s Eve bash this year? You’ve come to the right place. Whether you make it a dress-up or dress-down affair, a kitchen party or a whole house do, hosting a party doesn’t have to be stressful at all. In fact, after a year that brought you both good and bad, you deserve to have fun at your own party. Follow these tips, and I have no doubt that both you and your guests will have a wonderful time.

Pick a theme. If you and your guests can afford it, go for an old-fashioned masquerade ball. Just as fun as Hallowe’en minus the ghosts and ghouls. Guests can have fun creating costumes from budget materials, like craft store boas, or from stores that sell ready-made family costumes.

Consider doing a gift donation or exchange theme party. If you and many of your guests received gifts that no one wants or can’t use, ask them to bring them along to the party. Anyone can take the gift they want, and any remaining gifts can be donated.

Keep food and decorations to a minimum. After a holiday season bursting to the brim with Christmas and Hanukkah decor, it’s nice to simplify for a New Year’s Eve party. String up some white lights and place a few well-chosen plants around the house. Other than that, keep the focus on friends.

To save on stress and cost, invite friends to drop in later in the evening … after they’ve eaten. It will be your task to provide light snacks, drinks, and lots of fun.

Plan a group activity. Rather than relying on friends to mingle, why not organize a board game even or plan to head out together to a local New Year’s Eve count down in your city? Even better, you can make your party a pot-luck. Ask everyone to bring their best dish, and you’re bound to have an amazing meal.

Make alcohol secondary. Yes, we all like to clink the glasses when the clock strikes midnight. But, the cost of that alcohol might have you second-guessing your desire to host a party in the first place. There are, luckily, a few different ways of handling that situation.

Consider a BYOB situation. Everyone can bring along whatever they would like to drink. This idea not only saves you money, but it ensures that everyone is happy.

If you really want to provide drinks for your guests, consider stocking your bar with some basics. Have a few bottles of sparkling wine, a bottle of rum, vodka, and gin. Stock your fridge with juice, water, and soda pop.

Remember above all that paying attention to how much your guests drink is your responsibility. Make sure you’re prepared to invite (or insist!) your guests to stay over if they’ve consumed too much to drink. Have a taxi company’s phone number readily available, too.

Have a wonderful and very happy New Year!

 

Monthly Pick – 2017 Kitchen Appliance Trends

Photo: hgtv.com

Photo: hgtv.com

2017 will bring us many of the same trends we’ve been seeing over the last few years. Stainless steel remains as popular as ever. Natural materials, like wood and stone, also maintain their top position.

We can look forward to some changes, though. That’s definitely good news. As beautiful as stainless steel appliances are, they do present owners (and prospective owners) with some challenges. The fact that stainless steel seems to attract finger prints is enough to drive the more meticulous among us around the bend. Any accidental nicks and scratches are also glaringly visible. There’s also the fact that stainless steel appliances are more expensive than those with regular finishes.

The good news is if you want your kitchen to be in style, but you don’t want the hassle or expense of stainless steel, you’re in luck.

Here’s what we’ll see in kitchen appliance design through 2017.

Go French. Say good-bye to ordinary, boring doors. This year, you’ll see more French doors on ovens. French doors are basically double doors (check out the picture above). You can open one side with one hand. But, if you want to open both doors at the same time, you’ll need both hands.

Digital magic. 

Photo: hgtv.com

Photo: hgtv.com

I’m not sure why it’s taken appliance manufacturers so long to design this feature into their products. We’ve been using it for ages on our various computer devices. I’m talking about touch-and-swipe controls. Instead of turning a knob or pressing a button, you’ll swipe over a designated area.

Cool and clean.

Photo: hgtv.com

Photo: hgtv.com

Stainless steel may not be on everyone’s wish list. So, designers and manufacturers have teamed to bring the best of the past and the present together. Welcome, white. This isn’t just any old white, though. This is a streamlined, glossy, easy-to-clean white that won’t show the finger prints or dents like stainless steel does.

High tech.

Photo: hgtv.com

Photo: hgtv.com

Bluetooth technology is just about everywhere … even in the kitchen. Welcome to the modern world where your oven can sync with the clock, the microwave, and any other appliance you might need to prepare a meal.

Which of these trends would you love to install in your own kitchen?

 

Winter Recipes – Turkey Salad with Minted Mango

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We’re almost there … holiday (over) eating is almost, well, over. Before we all put on our New Year’s best, how about we go easy on food for a few days?

If your festivities are anything like mine, food plays a huge role. It’s not so much that I do a lot of overeating over the holidays. It’s more about the fact that there’s so much food and so much variety and so many opportunities for food-focused parties over a very short span of days. It’s easy to go even a little overboard at times.

So, in an effort to take a healthy break from all the good stuff I’ve been consuming over the last few days, I’m heading straight for the veggies!

This wonderful turkey salad is healthful and delicious. It will also minimize your time in the kitchen. No turning on that range hood fan for this one. Nor will you need to mess with any pots and pans. This recipe is all about fresh vegetables and leftovers.

Turkey Salad With Minted Mango

  • 8 cups spring greens (or your favorite type of lettuce)
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lime zest, grated
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  1. Slice or chop leftover turkey into bite-size pieces.
  2. Toss together salad greens, red pepper, cucumber, and green onions.
  3. Combine lime zest, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl.
  4. Drizzle lime mixture over greens mixture. Toss to combine.
  5. Top with peanuts, mint, and mangoes.

Enjoy! What’s your favorite after the holiday feasting dish?

2017 Kitchen Trends

Thurs - 2017 trends

Before we know it, 2017 will have made an entrance. With it comes all kinds of new kitchen inspirations. So, let’s take a look at where kitchen design trends are heading.

One trend that’s true globally is that our living spaces are shrinking. With the cost of land, building materials, taxes of any sort, and volatile money markets, the dream of owning or living in a large home is fading for many people.

If that’s your reality, you’re not alone … nor should you feel bad about it. Who wants to clean a large home, anyway?!

So, kitchen design trends throughout 2017 are all about living and working in small spaces. Here’s what you can look forward to:

  • Integrated stations. Using every bit of space without making the kitchen look overstuffed will become popular. Most of us love our appliances, so making room for them will be paramount. We’ll start to see tables that slide in (and out of sight) under the countertop. Extendable countertops are great for when you’re preparing for a party. But, they can fold away for easy storage every other day. Cutting into, and finishing, the space in between the wall frames can give you a little bit of added shelving.
  • Neutral colors. Soft neutral colors will continue to dominate. Look for greys, especially. Accent colors can lend personality without making the space seem smaller.
  • Pared down everything. Remember those appliances that we all love? Coffee makers, waffle makers, blenders, mixers, even range hoods and refrigerators … there are so many appliances that just sit on our counters because they’re too cumbersome to move or we just don’t have the space to store them anywhere else. Those appliances are getting a make-over, too. Small kitchens can’t possibly house large appliances. Manufacturers and appliance designers will begin to create more streamlined products that take up a minimum of kitchen real estate.

What kitchen trends have you loved from the past, and which would you love to see again?

Monthly Pick – Kitchen Backsplash Trends 2017

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Whether you love it or hate it, having a backsplash lining the kitchen wall behind appliances, the stove, and the sink is absolutely necessary. Paint, even the high-gloss, easy-to-clean variety, will still require a whole lot more elbow grease to keep it looking its best. So, in preparation for 2017, we thought we’d take a look into the future at some of the best kitchen backsplash trends.

Go all the way up. Most backsplashes go as high as the bottom of the wall cabinets and the bottom of the range hood. This year, you’re going to see a lot more designers and renovators extending the backsplash all the way to the ceiling. It has the effect of making the wall seem taller and the kitchen bigger.

Gray looms large. 

shutterstock_529867228A stone gray backsplash is neutral so it will match easily with your existing cabinets, countertops, and furniture. If you’d like the gray to match your countertop, take one color that’s found in the countertop and find gray backsplash that replicates it.

Faux is back.

Photo: HouseBeautiful.com

How do you feel about faux? In 2017, look for wallpaper decked out (as in the picture above) with the brick wall look. It certainly has its upside, right? You don’t have to worry about all that dust that inconveniently attaches itself to real brick. You won’t need to worry about bits of mortar or brick potentially drying out and breaking off onto your clean countertops.

What do you think about this trend toward the faux?

Decorating For The Holidays

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We decorate our kitchen walls with art. We paint or wallpaper those same walls with whichever color or design that sparks our interest, and we live with that (and enjoy it) all year round. But, come this time of year, there’s just something so special about kicking the decorating up a notch!

Whether your kitchen is large or small, there are lots of ways to liven up your space for the holidays. I’ve listed some ideas below. Let me know if you have any of your own to share!

  • Visit your local flower shop and pick up some pretty paperwhites.
  • Buy a small Christmas tree (real or artificial) and decorate it with fun, homemade ornaments or cinnamon and gingerbread cookies.
  • String Christmas lights around the window frames and along the bottom edge of the countertop.
  • Buy real or artificial holly wreaths and hang them on the walls or cabinetry.
  • Create a pretty fruit and floral arrangement in a tall, clear glass vase, and place it in the middle of the table.
  • Pull out that special silver service that you never use.
  • Buy Christmas themed kitchen utensils, like a bright red colander or festive tableware.

3 Kitchen Design Trends That Are Fading

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Kitchen trends come and go. Hopefully, those trends will last several years so that you don’t feel put upon to constantly pour out dollars to update your space.

Even with trends that do stick around, some ideas just get old. Those are the elements that, when people walk into your kitchen, they can immediately date the decor.

Some trends change because designers and consumers have just had enough. Moving from the pink and greys of the ’80s to the neutral tones of the ’90s was just that. After a decade of staring at the same color scheme, everyone just kind of agreed that it was time for a change.

Other trends change because of technology. A few years ago, no one would have thought to lay wood flooring in a kitchen. The amount of water splashing from the sink would have resulted in warped and damaged floors in less than a year. There goes that investment!

Now, though, engineered wood and wood that has been coated with protective materials have become more available and less expensive. So, laying wood flooring in kitchens has become much more viable.

Here are three trends that are fading fast:

The kitchen-office mash-up. For the longest time, everyone wanted a desk built into a kitchen renovation. That desk provided an easy place for homeowners to store cookbooks, pay bills, talk on the phone, allow kids to complete homework all while someone else did the cooking. Convenient? Yes! But, that’s no longer the case. Now, few of us own cookbooks in hardcopy form. They’re stored on our devices. Landlines are becoming less popular, and the portability of computers means that bills and homework can be completed anywhere.

The exposed loft look. Up until recently, exposed brick and no window dressings marked a popular urban look that everyone wanted to achieve regardless of whether home was a condo loft or a suburban house. Exposed brick is still in. But designers really want to see curtains or blinds covering windows. Those window dressing help soften the look of the room and also add privacy.

The microwave-range combo. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Place the microwave over the range. Doing that would free up counter space while still providing the cook a fan to eliminate odors and grease. Unfortunately, it wasn’t such a great idea. Placing the microwave over the range is fine if you’re tall. If you’re not, then reaching up over a potentially hot stove is inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst. The other issue is that range hood fans built into microwaves do not vent odors and grease properly. The best choice is to invest in a proper and high-quality range hood fan.

What kitchen design trend would you love to see fade fast?

The Best Gifts For Cooks

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With Christmas and Hunukkah converging close together this year, the gift giving season has really kicked into high gear. Are you one of those very organized people who have been shopping all year round? If you are, you’ve probably got everything you need. You hit the sales at the right time. You had the time you needed to think carefully about what to get that special person. You’ve no doubt got everything wrapped and ready to go.

Kudos to you. Seriously. Most professional shoppers agree that thinking ahead about gift-giving is the ideal way to approach it. You end up saving money, and finding the perfect gift.

For some of us, though, gift shopping is a last minute (or near last minute) experience. Sometimes, that’s because of time constraints. Sometimes, it’s a choice. I have seen stores pull out their best products at this time of year.

Regardless of where you stand on the early or last minute gift shopping spectrum, I’ve pulled together some fun gift ideas for the cooks on your list.

New appliances. Yes, this will no doubt be the priciest gift you could possibly gift. But, a new, super sensitive range hood or energy-saving fridge might be exactly what that special person on your list needs and wants.

Mini appliances. Toasters, mini doughnut makers, and the like might remind you more of a typical wedding gift than a Christmas or Hunukkah gift. Trust me. Choose a mini appliance that features fun colors and your special person will love it. I know I would!

Healthy gifts. Not everyone has the room for a Vitamix blender. So, opt for a handheld version, like the Oster Myblend. Throw in a cookbook loaded with healthy smoothie recipes, and a basket of fruit and vegetables.

High tech kitchens. This one’s perfect for all the tech loving people on your list. The iGrill thermometer keeps a close check on whatever that special person on your list is cooking so that they don’t have to. As soon as the food has reached the right temperature, the thermometer sends the information to the iGrill app.

Check out these other great kitchen gift ideas!

What kitchen gift would you really love to receive?

Monthly Pick – Green Kitchen Trends

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If you love those neutral tones that have dominated design for the last few years, you may find that it’s time to make some room for color. Not just any color, either.

Green.

Green is seeing its popularity rise like nothing before … or at least not since the 1950s. I’m not just talking about the paint color. The environmental community has opened the eyes of many designers to the benefits and possibilities of incorporating eco products in kitchen design. Actual greenery makes a fresh and healthy addition to kitchen decor, too. Some strategically placed plants help make the space less sterile. Better yet, consider building an entire living wall.

Living walls feature plants growing all over them. There’s usually a pool of water at the bottom or a waterfall feature behind the plants allowing them to thrive. Living walls have been associated with better health thanks to the oxygen, relaxation thanks to the soothing sound of water, and beauty.

Follow some of these tips to green up your own kitchen.

  • Green paint brightens a kitchen, even if that kitchen is very small. In large kitchens, consider painting an accent wall.
  • Choose wallpaper that features large floral patterns.
  • Install a recycling center in your kitchen design.
  • Use natural materials in building your kitchen, like stone and wood.
  • Install a high-quality range hood to properly ventilate grease, odors, and steam.

How have you used the color green or eco materials in your own kitchen?

Fall Recipes – Turkey, Kale, and Bean Soup

Tues - soup

Did you eat more Thanksgiving dinner than you’d planned to? Or maybe you did plan on eating all that. Why not? Thanksgiving only comes around once per year!

Now that Thanksgiving has passed and more holiday parties are on the way, it’s time to go healthy. Take this in-between time to re-set your health meter. Eat healthful meals between now and your upcoming events, and you’ll make it through the holidays happy and in good health. Have a taste of this very delicious soup. Then peruse the rest of our Fall Recipes.

Tip: turn on the range hood fan to vent the steam that rises from the pot.

Turkey, Kale, and Bean Soup

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1-1/3 cups carrots, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cups butternut squash, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
  • 1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
  • 8 cups chicken broth (extra, if desired)
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • 1 cup cannellini beans
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and carrots. Sauté until softened and translucent. Add the herbes de Provence, broth, beans, tomato purée, and squash. Bring to a boil. Then turn down to a simmer, and cook covered for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the cover and stir in the kale and turkey. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue simmering over low heat for another 5 minutes.
  3. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle parsley and Parmesan over each bowl of soup.

Serve with crusty bread.

Let me know what you thought of this recipe.