Nothing makes me happier than a dinner I can cook in one dish. So when I spotted a feature in the September Martha Stewart Living that showed a collection of skillet-based meals, I knew I would have to try one (or maybe all). This one, baked rice with chorizo and clams looks like an easy version of paella, but it also suggested an alternative with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe. As longtime readers of this blog know, I love just about anything with broccoli rabe, so this quickly got added to our weeknight menu. I am happy to report that the recipe was easy, the results were delicious and the clean up was a breeze. To make, you basically follow this recipe but replace the chorizo with Italian sausage, and the water with additional chicken stock. Instead of adding clams after cooking in the oven for ten minutes, add chopped broccoli rabe. I added a bit more wine than the recipe called for (1/2 cup instead of 1/14) because I found it cooked off quickly and I didn’t want it to be dry.
I was so pleased with the way this turned out, I am already brainstorming more things to cook this way — like a homemade version Hamburger Helper, perhaps? I will definitely try the Spanish chorizo one soon though. I love nothing more than a paella with a crusty rice bottom and I’ve always been to intimidated to try myself. This makes it seem easy and manageable. — Angela M.
Our cheap Ikea shag rug met its demise a few weeks ago (the tale is too sad to share, but lets just say it involved an incredibly sick kitty), and I am determined to replace it before the weather gets a chill a in the air. Perhaps it’s time for an upgrade and something a little different. Shag rugs seem so…. 2004. I’d love to find an alternative, but one that is still soft under the feet and relatively easy to clean up spills. There are a couple at West Elm I am eying (the pebble rug or the sweater rug) but I’d like to visit them in person before ordering. Why don’t catalogs offer rug swatches? Does anyone else have suggestions? Remember we have a toddler in the house and — shhhh — there’s talk of a puppy in our future. Thanks for your help! — Angela M.
The back yard at my house has always been a bit of a problem. Well, a disaster, really. It’s cloaked in full shade, and I have two dogs, which means that when the rainy season hits, we’re dealing with a (probably) malaria-ridden swamp pit for most of the winter. It also means I spent much, much, much too much time with my Swiffer, cleaning up all those muddy paw prints.
Finally, I’d had enough – and this summer, we decided to pave over it. Except that paving over a yard is expensive, and tricky. So, we went cheap and opted to install landscaping gravel instead. I was actually really nervous about how this would turn out, but after spotting these photos in Sunset Magazine, I had to give it a try. I had visions of an awful urban jungle, devoid of color and personality, but the end result is so fantastic, I can’t believe we didn’t do it sooner. The whole project took one day, and was under $500 to complete (including labor!). The new yard is so incredibly liberating – no more mowing, seeding, digging around in piles of mud. And it’s much prettier than I imagined, even calming. The borders are edged with soil, so we can plant a few shade-friendly plants around the perimeter, and the rest is totally, 100% maintenance-free. I can hardly wait to throw an outdoor rug underneath my patio table (which can finally come out of storage), and have a little end-of-summer barbecue to celebrate! The only down side I can think of is that one of my dogs isn’t so crazy about walking on the gravel (you can see her scoping out the situation in that photo). But she’s coping, and my other dog loves being able to lay on the warm gravel in the sun…so I’m calling it a trade-off.
Have you ever considered eliminating the grass from your yard? –Becki S.
Food trends seem to come and go at lightning speed these days, particularly when it comes to sweet treats. We’ve gone from cupcakes to whoopie pies to pie to Parisian macarons – it’s enough to make a baker throw up her apron in frustration. Fortunately, the latest and greatest in sweet treat trends is as simple as can be: the gourmet ice pop.
Now, believe me when I tell you this is not the Twin Pop you remember (with great fondness) from your youth. The new generation of ice pops are packed with real fruit, exotic flavors, and even, on occasion, a bit of booze…and they are delicious. You can shell out as much as $5 for a single pop at your friendly neighborhood Farmers’ Market. Or you can pick up a copy of Perfect Pops (by Charity Ferreira, Chronicle Books) and a $3 popsicle mold, and you’ll be set for the summer.
I think my favorite thing about this new book is how easy the ice pop thing really is. No mixers, no measuring cups, no oven required. I made a batch using nothing but a cereal bowl and a mini-spatula as my “tools”. These recipes are made for winging it, and they’re all but foolproof – you’ll quickly find yourself making substitutions in your head, and the beauty is that, because it’s not baking, just about anything goes.
I got a wild hair to try the Neo-Neopolitan Pops one night, and rummaged around in my fridge to see if I could make it happen. Fresh strawberries to cook down and puree? Nope, but I had strawberry jam and a sieve…good enough. Chocolate sauce? How about melting down some hot fudge? Turns out, it worked out perfectly. And after about 5 minutes of hands-on time (spread over an hour) and an overnight stay in the freezer, they were delicious.
Next on my list are the Blackberry Iced Tea pops. Of course, I don’t have blackberries, but I have some blueberries in my freezer that are desperate to be used. And I don’t have any Earl Grey tea, but I’m thinking maybe a batch of decaf peach tea might work out perfectly. –Becki S. Click for Neo-Neapolitan Pops! (more…)
I can’t believe I hadn’t come up with this one before — using loaf pans to corral the utensils in my kitchen drawers. I stole the idea from the teaching kitchen I worked at last year, which had dozens of drawers filled with every kind of tool imaginable, all sorted in loaf pans of varying sizes. I already had two pans just loafing (sorry, I had to) around my cupboards, so I put them to use. My utility drawer has never been happier! Now, I keep on the lookout for as many as I can find at garage sales, thrift stores, where they’re usually available for a song; much more affordable than regular organizing bins. And I’m set if I ever need to make a huge batch of poundcake! — Megan B.