avocado, cooking, essential oils, garlic, health, home, kitchen, kitchen aid, oils, young living

Kitchen Staples

So everyone who cooks at home has a few things they always have on hand and use on a regular basis. When you’re a beginner, you start with a few basic spices and accessories and then add as you go along. So now that I would say I am an intermediate home cook, I have definitely figured out what my staples are.

Garlic (fresh and powder)- The rule in our house is that you can never have too much garlic. Plus, if we’re both eating it then it we don’t even notice when we kiss. Garlic taste good in pretty much everything and has so many great health benefits! Adding more flavor to my food and not using any fattening or high calorie sauces is great. We use mostly fresh garlic and I throw it in my ninja and 5 seconds later, fresh chopped garlic. When it’s for eggs I tend to use the garlic salt. Garlic taste great in burgers, cauliflower mashed potatoes, steak, eggs, etc.

Avocado- Considered a major superfood, avocado has so many health benefits and is delicious. You can add it to breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert! We always have a few on hand and it always makes a great addition in health and taste. No, I am not thrilled with avocado shortages (thanks Mexican drug cartels!) but it is worth the high price sometimes to have such a great food on hand. It’s even great in smoothies, so weird but true! Plus just slice it, add some lime juice or garlic salt and it makes a great snack

Kitchen Aid Mixer-Really any mixer will do but there is just something about owning a Kitchen Aid mixer. I got mine about a year and a half ago as a birthday gift and I am obsessed! Joey got mine from Williams-Sonoma in Raspberry Ice. I use it for cookies, pie dough, banna bread, whipped cream, dips, etc. It makes life a million times easier and has so many awesome attachments. I want the meat grinder next but that will wait until we do a meat CSA and get a freezer.

Food Processor- I have the Ninja Pulse and am obsessed! It’s funny because I didn’t use it that much when I first got it and now we use it daily. I use it for chopping garlic to making pesto to making smoothies and even almond butter. With the different attachments it comes with and then the little cup for single serve smoothies/juices, it is a life saver. It is easy to clean, store, and makes prep work a dream. We used to spend forever chopping garlic and doing everything by hand and now it’s all done in a matter of minutes. Averaging about $80, it is a great investment!

Spices-I know I already mentioned garlic but there a few more spices that are great to have in your arsenal. Besides, it usually takes a while to go through this and they last a long time so it’s not much to invest in great flavor. So try to always have: (himalayan) salt, pepper, paprika, oregeno, chilli powder, and onion powder. Depending on what you like, don’t forget basil or rosemary.

Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning- This is my new favorite staple hands down!I know a lot of people are really into FlavorGod seasonings and I will probably check them out but I don’t think they can beat Tony’s amazing spice blend. No MSG, just a delicious mix of spices to adda kick to any meal. I love it on chicken or in my eggs and I have been adding it to my burgers to make a fabulous dish. We started using Tony Chachere’s for the deep fried turkey on Thanksgiving and now I am hooked.

Oils (including Essential Oils)-Keep Olive oil and coconut oil on hand, and even some vegetable oil. I don’t like spray in my pans, why have the extra chemicals when you can use olive oil? As for essential oils, they are great for cooking as well. I love using peppermint for baking or adding a little lemon or rosemary to a dish. Pure and simple and a little goes a long way.

 The great thing about cooking at home is that you can experiment and try new things and not worry about being judged. Unless you’re a home cook on Master Chef, then good luck! I like being able to find healthier alternatives to some of my favorites meals so cooking at home really helps with that!

I know my friends Samantha and Michelle love their immersion blenders and make great soups so that’s on my want list. I also want a new spice rack to hold all the fun spices were acquiring.

So what are your kitchen staples? What are your ‘must have’s’ to cook with?
christmas, family, happy, holiday, holidays, home, italian, joeywaffles, kansas city, love, taylor swift, xmas

Wednesday is the new Monday

Christmas 2014

So my holiday 4 day weekend was busy and fun and went by too fast! Don’t they all though? I spent it shopping, Christmas tree decorating, removing bathroom floor tile, playing Tetris Attack with JoeyWaffles, and just enjoying time at home, I missed posting my Monday Must Haves but since it’s my blog, this week it’s going to be on Wednesday. Bear with me the next few weeks because life is crazy around the holidays. I have to finish shopping, find shoes for my company holiday party, clean the house, make Christmas cookies, get end of the year stuff done at work and so on and so on. Blogging is such a great outlet to relax, be inspired, and reflect. I love my cozy office so maybe I’ll end up writing more.

Now on to the Must Have’s!

When I was younger, we had a lot of Christmas traditions that I sadly no longer do but really loved. We always drove out to the boonies to a tree farm to pick and cut our own tree. We would get dessert at the same local spot and then get to play video games at this crazy arcade. I always spent my $5 on the crane/claw machines and had to wait patiently for my brother to go through his which took forever. We would read from the bible, ever year a different gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and light the advent wreathe. We also took the ubiquitous holiday family photo in front of the tree, although the year we had the chicken Betsy and the dogs was rather memorable.
So while I no longer have those traditions, there are still a bunch that are going strong and are what Christmas means to me. I have added a few others the older I get so read and enjoy!

Christmas Crime Scene Tape: When we were little and always wanted to peek at the tree, my Dad came up with the idea that the Elves would block off the tree and if we crossed it, we wouldn’t get the gifts. That wasn’t really the point, it was really how funny the signs were and still are to this day. There is usually a theme and now with FB my Dad has all year to collect photos and embarrass us. The youngest person gets to cut the tape, or ribbon if we can’t find any. Then we race to the stockings and Christmas can begin!
The Santa Claus: This is my favorite Christmas movie, I actually love all three in the series. They are funny and silly and sweet and I love Tim Allen. When JoeyWaffles and I were first hanging out and it was Christmas and I mentioned how much I loved them, he downloaded all three and watched the first one with me one night all cuddled up. The fact that I had mentioned it in passing and he remembered and surprised me was one of the million reasons I fell in love with him. There is nothing better then watching this while cuddling with him and all the animals, the soft lights of the Christmas tree, and a soft blanket on us. This is probably our first Christmas tradition so I really cherish it.
MiMi’s Peanut Butter Balls and Grandma Fern’s Brownies: When my great Grandmothers were alive, they each made a signature amazing desert and my Aunt has kept the tradition alive. Mimi’s PB balls are the best frozen and there is s special gold tin they have to come in. They are the perfect size and go so fast. You have to make sure to hide some so they don’t run out! Grandma Fern’s brownies are probably my favorite desert ever and I look forward to these all year. Paleo be damned, these are worth a few days at the gym.
Traveling: Christmas has always been huge in my family, much like many people. I have so much family that it had to be precisely scheduled when I was younger. My older brother and I celebrated Christmas Eve morning with my two Dads, then headed over to my Mom to open gifts with her and my stepdad and then we headed over to my Italian grandparents to celebrate with cousins, aunts, uncles, and more. We would go home around 11 or 12, sleep for a few hours and then drive to the airport, get on an early morning flight to Kansas City, MO for my paternal grandparents, aunt, and other family. We did this until one day in my mid 20’s I had enough of the missing or delayed flights and being stuck in airports and now we go to Missouri the weekend before Christmas.  Plus without going to Kansas City, I would miss out on the one meal a year my Grandma cooks, a delicious roast with mushrooms and bacon, patrician potatoes, Rhodes rolls, green beans and corn casserole.  
Pop Christmas Albums/All Christmas music: Mariah. N’Sync. BSB, 98 degrees, Hanson. I love em all and need my fix of their holiday albums. Taylor Swift and Josh Groban too. Plus 93.9FM in Chicago plays all holiday music from November ’til Christmas and I don’t change my radio. You can’t leave out Bing, Frank, and all the originals. Favorite Christmas song? “Baby it’s cold outside”
Italian Christmas Eve: My Mom’s family is Catholic so we don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve and instead have pasta, homemade cheese pizza, and seafood. Food is a big part of our culture, the making, eating, the family recipes, the warmth it is to be in a kitchen. Some years we’ve had eel, calamari salad, mussels, and more. The stuffed artichokes my Aunt Laurie makes are out of this world and what’s being Italian without some wine?We eat my Aunt Diane’s special chocolate chip cookies. Our Christmas’s are loud, full of laughter, smiles, the most wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen, and of love. It’s cheesy but I’ve always been so proud to be Italian and of my heritage and of the strong people who came before me.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? What is your favorite holiday movie or song?
Check out Kristen’s post on balance and the traditions she and her husband keep!
Bella and Dante in their holiday wear