real life test kitchen: a tasty pasta for fall

Usually I don’t feel like breaking out squash and other fall vegetables until October, when it truly feels like fall. But here in New York, there was already an autumnal breeze in the air mid-September, so I enjoyed this meal to ease into the season: a hearty pasta with butternut squash, radicchio, and bacon. The recipe is originally from the late, sure-to-be lamented Gourmet, but I made a few tweaks — namely, switching to ziti, which is easier to fork up with the vegetables. I also added some bacon, which lent a nice smoky note to the sweetness of the squash, the bitterness of the radicchio, and the tanginess of the ricotta salata cheese. Open a bottle of red, toss together a simple green salad, and you’ve got a cozy fall dinner! –Lisa C. Click for fall pasta! (more…)

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zombie plates for our favorite time of year


You already know our longtime weakness for ghoulish decor, which means you’d had better brace yourself for another October filled with macabre housewares. We love these things all year round, but Halloween gives us an excuse to dust of the cobwebs and show it off. One of our newest finds are these Zombie plates by Soule on Etsy. We love how they offer up a spooky twist on trendy silhouettes. Hand-painted, each Zombie is unique. At only $16 each, these are bargain. Order four and throw a party. What’s on the menu? BRAINS!

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my favorites from trader joe’s


Trader Joe’s is our go-to store for good food on the cheap. They’re not the hugest in terms of square feet, but we’re always able to find a surprisingly large selection of food and drink for surprisingly low prices. I thought I’d share some of my TJ’s favorites. For those of you without a Trader Joe’s nearby, what’s your store for good, cheap goods? –Mary T.

Soy Chorizo
This is one of Megan B.’s favorites, and I know why — I’ve had one of her breakfast burritos, and the soy chorizo is a great way to go veg with a lot of taste. You can really stretch the amount that comes in each package, too, to get plenty of bang for your buck.

Pre-seasoned Seafood Steaks
First, I want to acknowledge that Trader Joe’s was the target of concerns about not sustainably harvesting seafood — they are addressing those concerns, which you can read here. They offer a changing selection of frozen seafood steaks that come already seasoned, such as the Chimichurri Pacific Salmon that we enjoy. Throw it on the grill, add a vegetable, and you have a quick, delicious meal.


Simpler Times Lager
Yes, it’s true — just $4.99 will get us a six-pack of beer that is surprisingly tasty. Great choice for a party.

Liquid Laundry Detergent
It smells pleasant, it cleans well, and a gallon of this stuff goes a long, long way. Read an in-depth review at Greener One.


Chicken Taquitos
Pop these in the oven, and you have a party treat that seems like you put in a lot of effort. These aren’t super-expensive, and every time I’ve served them, all of them are gone in a flash.

A few other Trader Joe’s faves: 100-Calorie Cookies (Oatmeal Chocolate Chip or Chocolate Graham Toucans), California Estate olive oil, Crunchy Curls, Fully Cooked Bacon, Organic Tomato Sauce, Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa

Soy Chorizo image via The Vegan Mouse
Refrigerator image via Flickr member rei_saru

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real life test kitchen: easy peach and cornmeal crisp


Please forgive the photo, as it was taken just before I served this, but I couldn’t help but share this amazing and super-easy dessert I came up with on the fly. To celebrate the last of this summer’s peachy bounty, I sliced some up, tossed with a touch of sugar, and topped it with a simple mix of butter and cornbread mix. When it emerged from the oven, all golden and bubbly, I had a bona fide success: velvety soft peaches topped with a rustic, slightly sweet corn crust. It was, for me, the perfect farewell to a fabulous summer. –Megan B. Click for the recipe. (more…)

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