Closet Upgrade

As I have mentioned before, my new/current apartment has great closets (for NYC): I have a clothes closet by my bathroom as well as a coat closet by the front door opposite a massive 3 door closet that is divided into 1 section of shelves and 2 sections of hanging. Shown below, those two hanging sections are divided into “utility” and off season & special occasion clothes. Yes, I am very spoiled!

Of course closet space is only as good as the storage within it and although my utility closet has always been functional, I’ve known that I can do better.

One day I received yet another new catalogue in the mail – almost in-flight shopping in style Improvements featured a rolling pantry rack on the front cover followed by many pages of fanny-pack replacements. On sale and the perfect size for my utility closet I knew I had finally found the upgrade my storage situation needed!

My trick to make sure the shelves are placed at useful heights is to place common objects on the shelf you think it will live on before determining the height of the shelf above. This quick trick can save you lots of frustration when your detergent is just too tall!

Although the cart came with the option of 6 shelves I decided that I prefer 5 set at taller heights, so the 6th metal shelf went out with the recycling. Never be afraid to adapt things this way. There is no reason to live with with the way the product was pictured if it isn’t useful to you!

In the end the new rack was a huge upgrade for my closet! As you can see I am now storing much more on the new rack then I did on the old shelves. The increased space allowed me to consolidate all of the miscellaneous storage from around the apartment – a very satisfying improvement!

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Reinterpreting the Ham & Swiss Wrap

I am very lucky to live extremely close to my office – not only do I have a super short commute on rainy days like today but I also occasionally go home for lunch. Although I definitely don’t recommend going home every day (it screws with your work-home balance) it can be a really nice break on days where the work-load allows.

On the days where I do run home, occasionally I’ll take advantage and step up my standard boring lunch-fare. Today I changed up  my ham and Swiss wrap by throwing it into a pan, changing it into a faux-quesadilla!

The “quesadilla” is nothing more than 1 multi-grain tortilla, rosemary ham, Swiss cheese, arugula and honey mustard warmed in a non-stick fry pan (no oil or butter needed). Served with a side of Sabra hummus and carrot chips it was a delightful step up!

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Awaiting Spring with a Dinner Party

Like many, the start of Day Light Savings signals to me that spring is coming. To celebrate the sun not setting until 7PM I held an “awaiting spring” dinner with two friends last night.

Despite the chilly temperatures and cloudy day, I tried to make the menu feel very season-transitional. We started with an amazing salmon salad with fennel, orange and mint that I have made before. It is such a refreshing way to start a meal and provided a real transportation to the warm spring days ahead! Also, because it is a cold salad, it is easy to prep in advance and serve at your convenience.

The only adaption that I made to the recipe was to use Cara Cara oranges (sometimes called “red navel”) instead of classic navel as the recipe calls for. I sprung for the Cara Cara at the recommend of Fresh Direct – of course! The flesh is a beautiful dark pink (like a grapefruit) and it’s juice is just a little sweeter with noticeably less acidity – which made it a great addition to the salad! The only downside of using the Cara Cara is that the sections aren’t as easy to cut out as a navel’s are.

The second course looked back to the warming comfort foods of winter and was suggested by the lovely Nancy who found and recommended the Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Gouda Cheese Sauce recipe found on The Noshery. Although I originally intended on making the gnocchi myself as Nancy had done, when I realized I was trying to execute this dinner on a weeknight I relinquished and bought prepared Sweet Potato Gnocchi from The Amish Market for $3.98. New Yorkers are blessed to have high-quality freshly-made pastas very readily available, often at such a great price there is no reason to make your own!

Although I am positive home-made gnocchi would have been more delicious, the Gouda sauce really is the stand out of this dish! The milk used in the sauce was flavored with garlic, onion and sage, which gives it a wonderful complexity when mixed with the smokiness of the Gouda. This photo is missing the sprinkle of nutmeg on top that was very important since the gnocchi themselves were missing that spice. Also please don’t skip the minced fresh sage garnish on top – it really pushes the dish right over the top!

Lastly, we finished off the meal with my favorite non-indulgent dessert: Roasted Plums with Toasted Hazelnuts and Greek Yogurt. I love this dish becuase the flavor combination seriously tricks me in to thinking I’m eating something really rich! The plums are roasted in a small amount of butter and sugar and the final plate is drizzled with honey to keep the whole dish feeling sweet. Greek Yogurt serves as the perfect base (I use 2 Tbs Fage 0% at the bottom of each bowl) to give a creamy taste without melting like ice cream could. Finally the hazelnuts are what really keeps me coming back – something about their association with chocolate, the smell and taste of toasted hazelnuts just says “desert” in my mind, and taste buds!

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It’s all about the ingredients!

We all know the old adage that the quality of the final product is only as good as the quality of the ingredients – I bet you never thought to apply that to popcorn!

At this point my obsession with popcorn is well known – I think it’s the perfect versatile snack that can be dressed up with whatever your craving! This weekend I was craving sweet and made one of my favorite standards:

  • Just under 1 Tbs Unsalted Butter
  • Hefty dash of Vietnamese Cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp good-quality clover honey
  • Few turns of your favorite Sea Salt
  • 5 cups air popped popcorn

By using good quality ingredients a little can go a long way and you can have an amazingly delicious treat that tastes much more unhealthy than it really is!

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That came frozen?!

This isn’t my first time raving about Fresh Direct and I am sure it won’t be my last! This time I’m impressed by one of their frozen meals, Bay Scallop and Vegetable Risotto. Fresh Direct is known for their freshly made 4-minute meals but this kind arrives frozen and can be stashed away for the next time you’re desperately in need of a delivery alternative!

I should be honest, the photo above only shows about 2/3 of the meal – after scarfing the first portion I realized it was fantastic enough for a photo and forced myself to pause. For my taste it is the perfect proportion of vegetables, scallops and rice. Best of all it has a great mix of fresh vegetables – fire-roasted corn,  asparagus, fava beans & Romanesco cauliflower – that balance out the richness of the risotto and give a good variety of textures. At $7.99 they are a treat and a great alternative for times when you would otherwise have really splurged!

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Fabulous Grilled Cheese

Who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese sandwich? I know I do! This sandwich is certainly not the typical – have a with a cup of tomato soup – kind of grilled cheese sandwich. It honestly is the product of what was left in my fridge!

  • Multi-Grain Bread (Frozen Pullman Loaf from Fresh Direct – you never have to worry about it going stale!)
  • Sliced Brie
  • Fresh Direct Rosemary Ham, thick sliced (very important)
  • Sliced Granny Smith Apple (leftover used as “chips”)
  • Honey Mustard

A heavenly and decadent use of the odds and ends in the fridge – now it’s time to get some more groceries!

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Epic Burrito

I am a big fan of the burrito – I think it offers an incredibly versatile way to combine the common ingredients I usually have in my fridge into a quick and easy meal. Beyond the tortilla, I love a good breakfast burrito – again, my love of all things eggs, combined with the simplicity of the burrito!

One of the reasons I love the burrito so much is because of the freedom to combine ingredients without worrying about how they will stay together – unlike an omelet or sandwich. Basically it allows you to use more healthy ingredients and proportionally less cheese. In this amazing and colorful burrito above I let my creativity run wild and used ingredients that you don’t normally associate with “burrito”:

Like many things in the kitchen, when it comes to burritos, creativity is king.

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So much new fabric…

… makes me a happy girl!

This weekend I took a very short trip out to Banksville Fabrics in Norwalk, CT to pick up some additional yardage so I can finish my throw pillows. While I was out, a family friend dropped off some old decorating samples that were destined for the trash – as you can see I salvaged quite a few!  🙂

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Newest Catalog Find: Wisteria

If catalogs are any indication of the economy I would say things are looking up! I have noticed a sharp increase in the number of catalogs I receive on a daily basis in the past 2 months. Among the masses there are tons of standards as well as a few new companies – or at least new to me! The catalog that most recently caught my eye is Wisteria.

Wisteria is new to me and I am so delighted to have found them! I am absolutely loving their style and how they dress their layouts – look at the beautiful living room above! I also love how so many of their products have a found or vintage feel while still maintaining classic style sensibilities. While the prices are honestly out of my range, there is no cost for window shopping and looking for inspiration!

Here are some of the things I am lusting over the most:

This Chinese Chippendale Chair, shown above in teal also comes in black and white ($349).

I absolutely adore this coffee table! At almost 4′ square it is quite huge and I love the paneled and two tier design. ($699)

I love these Happiness Pots ($199 for set of 3) and the Chinese Toile Ceramic Stool ($199) in the foreground! Wisteria also has a Blue and White Flourish Bowl ($19) and a Blue and White Porcelain Strainer ($19) that I’ve totally got my eye on!

Lastly, this Weathered Window Pane ($249) was the show-stopper that really got me to consider Wisteria. I have been on a very uninspired search to fill the big, empty, main wall in my living room and I think this might be the idea to do it! Of course I intend on searching out my own glassless window pane to distress and hang – but Wisteria gets the credit for the idea!

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For the Love of Breakfast

Looking back at Table’sUp it’s clear how much I love breakfast foods. Weekend brunch is one of my favorite things – although this is mostly to do with the leisurely pace of cooking and consumption! Beyond brunch on the weekends, I really do love eggs any time of day. They are such a versatile protein with the ability to play nice with really any ingredient or flavor profile. Also they are cheap, easy and fast to make!

My love is exemplified by the beautiful and delicious omelet I enjoyed last night for dinner:

To make this omelet I used some of my favorite ingredients and best quick-dinner tricks:

I think one of the best ways to make an outstanding egg dish is to flavor the eggs themselves. In this case I used cream cheese, although I often use a tablespoon of milk (or even water) for the fluffy effect without the creamy taste. Whipped cream cheese is also important if you don’t want any lumps in your eggs – although a little burst of cream cheese is really never a bad surprise!

Penzey’s Sunny Paris Seasoning really is the all-star of my spice rack! It is fairly expensive but the difference it can make to any dish is totally worth it. It is a mix of freeze-dried shallots (main ingredient), chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil and bay leaf.

I have mentioned my love of chicken sausage before – let’s revise that to a love of mini chicken sausage! Although not as many flavor’s are available in the mini-version, their small size make them great for chopping and using in a greater variety of dishes without worrying they will break free from their casing. Also you can more easily choose your serving size using the mini variety (a serving is 5 links at 110 calories).

Lastly, my favorite quick dinner trick – diced Laughing Cow Mini Babybel Light Cheese! It always seems to be the perfect amount of cheese with very little fuss. Warning, when melted this cheese gets very stringy so be aware if you mix it into something like a pasta stir fry – it has to go in at the very end or your pan will be a mess!

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