first blush: a cabernet for teetotalers

We’ve been in a bit of a dry spell lately, so to speak, and it’s been really fun to try all of the delicious non-alcoholic alternatives out there. Recently, we picked up a couple of bottles of First Blush, made from unfermented varietals of traditional wine grapes like cabernet, syrah, and chardonnay. We tried the syrah juice and the cabernet white, which is 50% juice and 50% white tea. The results? We really enjoyed the syrah — it was very sweet and rich, without that tart pucker you come to expect from concord grape juice. My favorite was the cabernet white, which was both lighter in texture (and lower calorie!) and more refreshing. I also felt that the tannins in the tea lent a wine-like dryness that was pretty awesome! Find your own First Blush here. –Megan B.

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kinda genius: grindenstein knockbox


As a home espresso enthusiast (coffee geek), it has been a bit of a challenge to find accessories that are not only functional, but also attractive. The item giving us the most problems has been the knockbox, an espresso essential for knocking your tightly packed espresso “pucks” after they are brewed. Our first knockbox was small and attractive, but couldn’t hold up to the constant thwack of the portafilter (brewing basket). We bought a sturdy commercial model, but it was bulky and took up way too much of our precious counter space. Thankfully, Australian design firm Dreamfarm has brought us the fabulous Grindenstein knockbox, designed to be stored directly beneath the portafilter of a home espresso machine when not in use, thus eliminating our counter clutter issue. Plus, it’s impossibly sturdy, super cute, dishwasher safe, and affordable to boot! The grindenstein is available in six colors (our favorite being that hot red) for $19.95. –Megan B.

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real life test kitchen: mac & cheese with cauliflower

Do you remember the February cover of Real Simple? It featured a gorgeous photo of a healthy version of my favorite comfort food: macaroni and cheese with cauliflower. Though the “with cauliflower” part gave me pause, I had to give it a go anyway. And, I have to say, the results were pretty darn good. I barely even noticed I was eating one of my least favorite vegetables. This is mainly due to a sauce made of sharp cheddar, onion and some Dijon mustard. Also, low fat sour cream and milk are the base. Toss in some whole wheat pasta (unlike me, who went for the traditional stuff) and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal that hits at the heart. Click here for full recipe. — Angela M.

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post off: do you have a microwave?

According to Treehugger, Alice Waters doesn’t have a microwave. I don’t know if that’s shocking or not because we don’t, either. We donated our ancient college-years leftover when we moved more than two years ago, and we never got around to purchasing another. The only time I think one might come in handy is when my coffee goes cold. It wasn’t a matter of saving energy for us; it was just one less thing to have to move. What about you? Do you rely on a microwave, or could you live without it? –Mary T.

Photo by John Lee

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kinda genius: cakevase


Want to fake a designer cake without risking creating your own Cake Wreck? The brainchild of Kathleen of Kathleen’s Cakes, CakeVase is an ingenius little device that could give you “Wow!” results even with amateur skills. The CakeVase is simply a way to hold fresh flowers on top of your iced cake. There’s a “first tries” gallery at the site that shows you can get pretty impressive results the first time. (You can also use the CakeVase to fancy up a store-bought cake.) There’s a blog you can check out for fun inspiration, too. Get the CakeVase for about $20 at Amazon, or at these retailers.

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