Planning what to grow in your backyard vegetable garden

When we first purchased our own home, my first thought was that I finally had the chance to have a garden, a space all my own to do what I wanted. It took a year before the raised beds were in and ready to be planted in the spring – and plant them I did.

A bit too eager to get food from the ground, I overloaded my space and so by about midsummer, the zucchini had taken over, the potato plant was expansive, and the tomatoes were literally out of control. A good problem to have, for sure, but with all the overcrowding, it was hard to get in to harvest, and I often lost tomatoes and zucchinis that I missed under the tangle of vines and leaves.

I learned an important lesson that summer: Proper garden planning helps avoid harvest heartbreak.

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Q&A: Let’s talk about kitchen-related gifts

This is the time of year when I get a lot of requests for recommendations on smart purchases of quality kitchen items. Most people are looking for gifts and some just want to take advantage of Black Friday and other holiday sales, but everyone has questions about knives, pot sets, gadgets and the like.

Below I link to a few gift guides I put together last year that still hold plenty of weight now at the end of 2011.  Hopefully these lists will inspire you to stock your kitchen (or someone else’s if you are gifting) with a few key quality items that will prove themselves to be invaluable for cooking and will last a long, long time.

Then, I’ll be hanging out in the comments today to take your questions on kitchen items, should you have any. Opinions expressed are entirely my own of course, but I am drawing on my experience from culinary school, professional kitchen employment, and daily life cooking in my own kitchen.

So read on, make a wish list for yourself, or bookmark a gift item for that budding chef on your Christmas list.

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How to Organize Your Kitchen for the Holidays

Countdown planners and holiday calendars are popping up all over the place as we collectively try to organize ourselves before the big slide into the holidays. I don’t for a minute pretend to have it all together when it comes to prepping for the holidays, but I do have my strengths.

While my good intentions for deep household cleaning might not get carried out, the kitchen is one area where I must be organized heading into December. If the heart of the home is clean, uncluttered, well-stocked and in top working capacity, then anything is possible – or so I see it!

I’m not talking about anything too major – none of us have the time to drop everything and revamp the entire workspace – but I write up a tidy and legible list, stick it to the fridge, and tackle the jobs one at a time over the month of November. If I’m lucky, Danny will team up with me and cross off a few items on his own initiative. The man loves a list.

Here’s what that list looks like.

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Eat Well, Spend Less: How to Store Pantry Food for Maximum Shelf Life

Back by popular demand, our series, Eat Well, Spend Less, will be returning once a month.

We all know the benefits of a well-stocked pantry. It’s essential for menu planning organization, helps maintain a healthy diet full of real foods, and saves you money by allowing you to stock up when food items are on sale.

But if food is not stored properly and is allowed to spoil, where is the value in buying in bulk? None whatsoever. That is why it is important to know how to store pantry food for maximum shelf life.

Waste in the average North American kitchen is at an all-time high. The numbers are shocking. Too much food is being thrown away. Is it coming from your kitchen? If so, you may be eating well, but you are certainly not spending less.

In the theme of our continuing Eat Well, Spend Less series (spearheaded by the whip-smart Jessica) I thought we’d take a look at keeping all those groceries fresh and properly stored, and thus, keep more cash in our pockets.

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The One in Which I’ve Lost My Groove

Written by Katie of GoodLife Eats.

I’m going to tell you a little secret. When I saw that this month’s Simple Bites theme was organization and productivity in the kitchen I kind of cringed a little. Because I’m so not feeling organized in my kitchen or productive right now.

I procrastinated and procrastinated submitting my post topic until Aimee and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Aimee: Just a quick reminder…I kinda need a topic from you for your next SB post!

Katie: I’m sorry! I have been trying to think of something….I’ll let you know tomorrow. I am just not feeling very organized or productive in the kitchen at the moment.

Aimee: So write about it. No, for real. How are you coping? Pushing through?

Katie: More like feeling sorry for myself.

Aimee: Hey we’ve all been there. And I think this end-of-winter, cusp of spring really triggers it.

[lightbulb moment happens and I think “oh. duh.”]

The last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling like I’ve totally lost my groove in the kitchen. But instead of doing something about it I’ve been doing nothing.

It’s been a busy month. We had spring break and that was….fun. Or not. My kids don’t quite appreciate being off from school for a week yet. Eric was out of town for work. Then really sick two weekends in a row.

Ever since then things have been a little off here. The weather is nasty. Crazy windy. Bad allergies which make me feel like I’m half asleep all day long. A couple of failed recipes. Yes, failed recipes and that never does much for self confidence.

Instead of doing nothing, I should be following my own advice.

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