Kitchen Essentials :: Items I Use Everyday

Kitchen Essentials :: Items I Use Everyday

I was asked a few weeks ago about my kitchen. Specifically, what tools could I not live without? And what would my dream kitchen look like?

I actually love my kitchen. It’s an open concept and I don’t feel like I am stuck in a room away from people while I am cooking. When we built our house, we specifically choose this because we knew it would be a gathering place. It never fails when we have friends over, people will just gather around the island talking and snacking on food. I absolutely love that!

But what would I change? Well, I am pretty sure I saw my dream kitchen the other day…but seeing as that isn’t anywhere in the near future, I would actually only make one small change. I would rip out the microwave above our cooktop. I don’t like my microwave and rarely use it, but even more so is that it is obnoxiously huge. I would love a range hood that opens up my cooking area (especially when I am canning and always bumping stuff into the microwave.) I love this hood in the image below!
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In my ultimate dream kitchen my cook top would have twice as many burners and even more counter space with a larger island, but I would be more than happy to simply just replace my microwave with a fun range hood.  I am pretty sure this range from BlueStar Cooking is my ultimate dream one.

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As for the question, what items do we use every day? My first thought goes immediately to my Vitamix and my Le Creuset cookware. Both of these were purchased in times of our lives when we were tighter on cash and they were big splurges. Our Vitamix is over 5 years old and has lived a really good life…literally it is used multiple times a day in our house. I remember when I was trying to convince my husband of why we “needed” one and his response was “isn’t it just a blender?” I borrowed a neighbor’s and had my husband make hummus and from that point on he was convinced.

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As for my cookware, when we started purging all Teflon and aluminum pans, I slowly began collecting pieces of Le Creuset. For Christmas one year, my husband found a collector who was selling her entire lot… they are over 25 years old and are in incredible condition. So I went from a few prized pieces to my entire kitchen be stocked for an incredible deal. I love them and they are also used every single day in my kitchen.

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But, what is used the most and could I absolutely not live without? My answer is sort of a random item. Not in the least bit expensive or hard to find, but we use them everyday and for multiple things. I could not live without the simple Mason jar.

We ferment in them. We store all our pantry items in them. They are our drink glasses. We can fresh produce in the summers in them. When I am prepping meals early in the day, my chopped veggies always get stored in them. I literally have mason jars in every area of my kitchen. Such a simple item, but wow, our kitchen would not run smoothly without them.

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A Snapshot of Life: Packing Lunches

A Snapshot of Life: Packing Lunches

This year one of my goals is to share more about our daily lives.  From the little things, like where I shop, how I buy in bulk, what school lunches look like, what snack time looks like etc.

So today, I thought I would share a quick picture of my 1st graders school lunch.  I actually hate packing lunches…you know all those cute Pinterest images of cheese and sandwiches cut into cute shapes…yeah, never happens in our house.  To simplify the process of  lunches in our house, I always make a large enough dinner for leftovers.  As I am putting away/cleaning up dinner I fill all the boys lunches boxes, making morning’s so much easier.  The mornings I didn’t pre-pack lunches or didn’t have leftovers to use, just makes me feel like I am scrambling.

We have chosen to use the Goodbyn System for our lunches.  I love them because they seal really well, don’t have multiple components for my boys to keep track of and they are the perfect size for their lunches.

Pictured above:  leftover sauerkraut & meatballs, green beans with coconut oil and sea salt and an orange.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs (Our First Attempt)

I picked my boys up from preschool yesterday and decided we needed a fun project for our afternoon, so we swung into EarthFare to grab some eggs, cabbage & onions.  (Really the trip was more pre-meditated than that because I had one of their $14 of $70 coupons and had no eggs, no orange juice, one apple, no bananas and I really wanted a flank steak for dinner).  Though to my little boys, the trip was all about getting supplies to color Easter eggs.  I have seen Pinterest posts and Facebook posts all over the place about naturally dying eggs, so I thought we would give it a try.  I bought, both brown and white eggs to experiment with, but by far the white turned out the best.

It was a super easy process.

First, I hardboiled all my eggs.  My favorite method for hard-boiling is to start with the eggs in cold water, bring to a rolling boil for one minute and then remove from heat, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.  Then I cool them off quickly in cold water.

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I decided to try three different dye colors.  Honestly, it was a pretty cheap dye mixture, becuase you only use the onion skins and can keep the onion for cooking, I used half a head of cabbage and my turmeric was an old stale bottle jar that really needed replaced anyway. To prep I filled 3 pots with water and added my dye items. My ratio I worked with, was one cup of chopped onion skin/cabbage to one cup of water.  For the turmeric, I used 1 Tbps of spice to 1 cup of water.

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I then brought each pot of water/dye substance to a boil and then covered and reduced the heat and let it simmer for about a half hour.  After it cooled down a bit,  I strained the liquid into mason jars and added 1 Tbsp of white vinegar per cup of dye.

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At this point my boys were so impatient for their eggs to turn colors.  This is definitely the step that was the hardest for them because it required waiting and the eggs aren’t just instantly colored.  We tried a mixture of both white and brown eggs in each jar.  After we filled the jars with eggs we put them in the fridge to sit.  We actually were so busy that night, that we didn’t check them until morning.  In the morning, we pulled them out and lightly dried them off with paper towels.

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The front ones are the turmeric dyed eggs, then the red cabbage and finally the onion skins.  I think the onion was by far the strongest most concentrated dye and it turned both the white eggs and brown eggs very similar in color.  Though, I do think the blue ones turned out to be a really pretty color also.

I also had one batch that flopped.  I had read somewhere that you definitely wanted to add brown eggs to the red cabbage dye and you will get green.  Now, I am a graphic designer, have taken color theory and that idea didn’t seem like it was going to work, so I tried it anyway because I was curious…Not only are they not green, but they are splotchy messes.  Next year, I will experiment with some green veggies and see what I can come up with.
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Look’s like we are going to be eating a bunch of cobb salads or egg salad this week, since I have a bunch of colorful hard boiled eggs in my fridge now! Happy Easter Weekend!

traveling gluten free – punta cana, DR (part 1)

traveling gluten free can be interesting, tricky, scary and down right frustrating.   i have been gluten free for a little over 4 years now and since then the majority of our trips have been within a few hours drive (little kids contribute a lot to our lack of big trips).  the longest trip we had taken until this past december was to san diego.  which honestly, is an amazing place to visit gluten free.  i had so many options of restaurants to try that i never had a problem finding good food.

that being said, i haven’t travelled internationally since our dietary changes.  so when the opportunity to spend 7 days in the dominican came up i was both excited and terrified.  not only was i leaving the comfort zone of my kitchen, but also many times when we travel we rent a house, having full access to being able to pack and prepare foods for some meals. i knew i also would be dealing with a language barrier, my spanish is fairly pathetic at the moment…i can read it pretty well, but that’s about it.

to make everything a little more interesting,  i actually found out that i was expecting our third, two weeks before we left.  my pregnancies aren’t super easy and i struggle badly with morning/all day sickness.  so i was definitely a little nervous about traveling.

 

the majestic colonial (colonial club) punta cana

before we made plans for an all-inclusive resort, i read a bunch of reviews, emailed resorts and tried to discern which ones were better options.  (we were traveling with 2 other couples, so it wasn’t a decision that was only ours).  to be honest there aren’t a ton of reviews on any of the resorts, so it did feel like a crapshoot.

the majestic colonial had said that i would meet with a concierge and a chef upon arriving and that they would have me pick my restaurants for the week and would also give me a letter to present at every restaurant.  when we first arrived, it didn’t go quite as planned, (though i do have to give the disclaimer that we were staying in the new adults only section and it had only opened the week prior, so they were still working through some communication kinks.)  after leaving check in, i was pretty frustrated, hungry and fearful that i might starve…but then we met elana.  she was fairly fluent in english and pretty much ran the entire colonial club section.  she got me set up with a letter to present to every chef and sent out a memo to every restaurant letting them know about me, my restrictions and that they needed to take extreme care.

so we headed off to our first meal with my little letter in hand.

our first night we dined at the rodeo grill (their steak house).  as soon as i got there, the server took my letter back and a chef came right out to talk with me and go through the menu.  i had a simple but fabulous rib eye, potato and a beautiful plate of fresh fruit. no problems.  i was definitely starting to relax and feel better about my eating situation.

(photo of our meal being made at the Hibachi restaurant ma+suri)

the restaurants i ate at while at the majestic colonial:

rodeo grill – fantastic grilled meat

le gourmet – this restaurant was open during the day to colonial club members only, so it was a nice break from busy buffets. rico the head server knew me as soon as i walked in and would give me thumbs up after he put my order in and talked with the chef.  their dinner and lunches were fantastic (octopus ceviche was the most unique item i ate there).

ma+suri – japanese hibachi and sushi restaurant. we dined here with a group of 10 around a hibachi grill (which can be a little nerve wracking).  as soon as i arrived, they removed my sushi plate and made me salmon and shrimp only rolls (most soy sauce and artificial crab have wheat in them).  they then cooked the entire hibachi meal with out adding any soy sauce and served me my plate before finishing off with sauces for the other diners.  it was a fantastic presentation and meal.

supreme – was the buffet restaurant, which we visited a few mornings for breakfast.  it is buffet based, which can be a gluten-free nightmare, but they had an omelet station and everything made on that grill was safe.  (i ate a lot of eggs).

tres carabelas – seafood restaurant with main dishes served ala carte.  they had grill stations with unmarinated meat, so i could get grilled meat safely.

i avoided the domincan/mexican resturant…almost every dish was in gravy, stews or had flavored rice.

 

overall, i had a fantastic experience at the majestic colonial.  i never got sick and though my options were limited at a lot of the meals, i still had fantastic food.  the only major area that was lacking was in the desserts.  basically the options were fresh fruit plates, ice cream (which i eat very little dairy) and i had one banana flambé.  needless to say i ate a lot of tropical fruit.

i would recommend the majestic colonial to gluten-free vacationers, but always do your homework before you arrive, let them know you will need accommodations and make sure to get a letter from their head staff and a memo sent out to all the restaurant chefs. our first half of the vacation in punta cana at an all-inclusive went really smoothly and i didn’t feel like the language barrier caused to many issues.  i will share more on the second part of our trip in santo domingo later.

 

blogging hiatus. where i have been.

i know i haven’t had a blog post in a long time.  so i though i would explain my little blogging hiatus.  i had originally planned on taking the month of december off from blogging because we had a packed schedule with holidays and traveling.  in early december we also found out that we were expecting our third baby.  i get pretty bad morning sickness and since i am balancing pregnancy with 2 active little boys, i figured it was best to cut some of my extra activities.  now that i am almost 18 weeks, i am finally starting to feel a better and get some energy back!  so i am back and have plenty of recipes to share and some tips on traveling gluten-free!

30 days – $30 giveaway – earth fare noblesville

30 days – $30 giveaway – earth fare noblesville

not gonna lie, i was a little bummed when border’s shut down at the outdoor mall near us.  {i know, i know…first world pain} but it was a favorite little hang out for my husband and i when we needed some time away from the kids.  needless to say, i was so excited when i saw the banner hanging on the building welcoming “earth fare” this fall.

don’t get me wrong, we live in fishers.  we are spoiled, we have both a whole foods & trader joes about 25 minutes away and farmer’s markets galore, but there are always those times when i decide on a whim that i want to make something, that i have none of the ingredients for and having more organic, nutritious options nearby is very exciting. earth fare will literally be less than 5 minutes from our house.  if i am adventurous, i could even ride my bike with the boys in the bike trailer there.

my first experience at an earth fare, was 3 year ago, when i was looking for gluten-free foods while on vacation in the carolina’s and we happened to visit the charlotte store. overall, i was very impressed by the selection, the local options and the prices.  as a store, their motto is “eat better. live longer.  spend less. start now.”  i love that they have a list of banned food products and that they work hard to keep prices affordable.  i am excited to have another healthy super market and the convenience of how close we are to it is an added bonus!

earth fare is set to open in noblesville at the hamilton town center on november 7th.  as part of welcoming earth fare to the area, the sprouted life is taking part of their “30 days, 30 dollars” contest.  we will be giving away a $30 gift card {for the noblesville earth fare only} every day for the next 30 days. yes, we are giving away $900 in gift cards!

how to enter:

it is a simple contest.  all you have to do is comment on this blog post one time and tell us why you are excited about the new earth fare store or how you would spend your $30 gift card.  this will enter you for a chance to win all 30 days. each day, starting monday, october 8th,  a generator will randomly select a winner.

to double your chances, “like us” on facebook and your name will be entered in the drawing twice.  {if you already like the sprouted life, like the post on the facebook about the contest, and you will receive your second entry)

to triple your chances – share the contest link from the sprouted life’s facebook page to your friends on facebook and you will be entered in the drawing a third time!

all the other details:

each person is eligible to only win one gift card.
this offer is for the noblesville, indiana store only
winners will need to be available to pick up their gift cards in person at the noblesville store november 7th – 11th
please make sure your comment has a valid email address, this is how i will notify winners and daily winners will also be posted on the sprouted life’s facebook page.

 

join us in welcoming earth fare to the northside of indianapolis!

 

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