Monthly Archives: December 2013

I’m Heather and This is My Kitchen

This post is part of my “I’m __ and this is my kitchen” series of posts, in which fabulous home cooks dish a little about their cooking lives and their kitchens.  The goal is to get inspiration, ideas and insights from other regular people about shopping, planning, cooking and kitchen organization.  See more here.

Name Heather Sidwell

Age 29

Location Farmington, MO

Occupation/Pasttimes? I am a stay at home mom and wife. I like to read, go geocaching with my family, and search for new music/bands to listen to.

Do you follow a specific diet or food philosophy? No specific diet. Even though I am not a great cook, I still make sure that my family has home cooked meals, made from healthy ingredients.

How do you plan for meals? I’m not a very creative cook, so I have to follow a recipe exactly to a T. I look on Pinterest for new recipes, and I use Cozi as a meal planner.

How many people do you cook for? Six

Does your family cook with you?  If so, who does what? I have four boys! The three that are old enough to help, love to! They all gather the ingredients for me. My eight year old measures out the ingredients, my five year and three year old takes turns putting the ingredients into the bowl and then they mix it. If no mixing is required, there is an assembly line in my kitchen. Like if we make tacos, my three year old will put the tortillas on a plate, then my five year old adds the meat, my eight year old adds the cheese, then I add the sour cream and wrap it!

How often and where do you get your food? I go grocery shopping every other Friday with my mom when she comes to visit! I live in a small town, so I try to shop locally. There is a small store that sells fresh fruits and vegetables at amazing prices!

Describe your kitchen.  What’s your favorite thing about it? Right now, we are temporarily renting a small house. We just sold our house in August and we are at our current home until spring. My kitchen is very small. I only have my essentials here, most is in my storage unit! My favorite thing about it, is my decor! It is decorated with cupcakes! I’m obsessed with all things cupcakes. I love that my husband is fine with my pink, girly kitchen!

How do you organize your kitchen? Organize? What is that? Seriously, with the lack of space, it’s hard to stay organized. I only have two cabinets designated for spices and dry goods. That’s ok with me, since we buy mostly fresh foods.

If you could change one thing about your kitchen, what would it be? I want more space! I  can deal with it for now, because when we move, I am making sure I have all the space I need!

What ingredients do you always have on hand? Chicken broth, dry kidney and black beans, pasta, white oats, tortillas, canned chickpeas, and hot sauce!

What ingredient is in your pantry that you’re not sure how long has been there? Everything is actually pretty new. When we moved in August, I gave my old neighbor pretty much everything that I had in my freezer and pantry.

Favorite dish to make? Pizza! I love the endless possibilities! Cheese, macaroni and cheese, bbq chicken, and you can even make desert pizzas!

If you could instantly master any dish on earth, what would it be? Authentic Pad Thai with tofu!

What’s your biggest struggle in the kitchen? My biggest struggle is that I’m not that creative. It’s hard for me to tweak a recipe to fit my own taste.

Favorite tips? I’m a total klutz, and I have broken so much glass! I found that you can use a piece of bread to clean up broken glass! Peroxide and baking soda is a great kitchen cleaner (make a paste out of the two.) You can clean pretty much anything and make it look new again.

Name 3 absolutely necessary pieces of kitchen equipment – Magic Bullet,  Kitchenaid mixer, and my griddle!

Do you listen to music while you cook and if so, what’s usually on the playlist? Yes! If my boys are in the kitchen with me, we usually listen to a pop station. If it’s just me, I prefer listen to metal and hardcore music. Arsonists Get All the Girls, Slayer, Otep, Horse the Band, and Terror are usually on my playlist.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Chocolate Orange Pecan Shortbread

I mentioned in the last post that I was excited about three things this week.  One of those is tonight’s Live Organize Your Kitchen with Evernote hangout with fellow Ambassador and food blogger, Brandie Kajino.  The other was cookie swaps.


Specifically, the annual Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  I do enjoy participating in it every year.  If you haven’t heard about it, it’s organized by Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen.  Food bloggers all over the country sign up and donate their sign-up fee to Cookies for Kids Cancer.  We get matched with three other food bloggers and we have to make a new-to-us cookie recipe and send a dozen of them to our matches.  In return, we receive three different batches of cookies to enjoy.  It’s a lot of fun, because who doesn’t like to get cookies in the mail?  If you want to join the cookie swap next year, go here to sign up on the mailing list.

This year, I got a delightful selection of truly diverse and delicious cookies.


Check out Lynn and Katie at:
Blonde Ambition

The cookies I decided to make were chocolate shortbread, based off a recipe I got from The View from the Great Island.  I decided to go double chocolate, though not dark, and add in a bright citrusy flavor with a bit of Grand Marnier and orange zest.  And then, while I was at it, why not a bit of crunch with some chopped pecans?  I love orange and pecan together.

So here’s my revised recipe.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Orange Pecan Shortbread


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier
  • the zest of one orange


  1. Pulse the flour, sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor until well-mixed. Add in the butter, Grand Marnier and orange zest until the dough just comes together. Add in the chocolate chips and pecans and pulse a few more times until they are incorporated.
  2. Dump the dough out onto a piece of cling wrap. Shape it into a log, wrap it securely and refrigerate it for at least an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 325F. Take the dough out of the fridge, unwrap it, and slice it into half inch slices with a sharp knife.
  4. Put the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes. They'll still be a bit soft at the end.
  5. Let them cool and then enjoy!

Organize Your Kitchen With Evernote [LIVE Event]

You know what I’m excited about this week?  Goat cheese, for one, because I am always excited about goat cheese.  Also, cookie swaps, the Psych musical episode, and particularly, this coming Wednesday, on which I will be having an awesome live Hangout event with the utterly delightful Brandie Kajino, a fellow Evernote Ambassador (for Organization!) and food blogger.

We’re going to be talking about tips for using Evernote to organize your kitchen, a particularly useful topic during the hectic mess that is the holiday season.  You’ll get tips, you’ll get questions answered, you’ll get as witty banter as we can muster mid-week, and world peace will abound.  Maybe not that last part, but we’ll do our best.


You can participate by going to Brandie’s blog, Spoon and Saucer (and if you haven’t been there before, immediately bookmark and/or subscribe, you won’t regret it) and hanging out with us there Wednesday night.  Those of you that can’t make it, don’t despair–it’ll be recorded and available after.

If you have a question (and I hope you do!), you can post them in advance on Brandie’s blog post about the event, or on this one.

The details are:

What: “Organize Your Kitchen With Evernote”
Date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Time: 5:30pm Pacific / 8:30pm Eastern
Where: Spoon and Saucer blog
Who: Me + Brandie Kajino

Oh, and since it’ll be a Wednesday, I think we should make it extra special and celebrate Champagne Wednesday at the same time with one of my favorite champagne cocktails: the Horn of Plenty.

I said,’s cold in here…

I’m resisting the urge to embed videos of Bring It On into this post.  It’s difficult for me, because you know how I feel about pop culture references.  I love them so much.

And also, it really is cold here.  Those of you in warm climates just don’t know my pain.  For the rest of you, I’m just gonna put this here…

And for bonus dipping action!

And the winner of the Mushroom Madness gift card give away is…


Heather Dawn!!

Heather is the randomly selected winner of our gift-card giveaway.  She’s the lucky recipient of a $75 Whole Foods Gift Card.  Heather loves to eat mushrooms on pizza and she’ll be able to buy a lot of mushrooms with her prize.  Congratulations, Heather!

Thank you to everyone that participated in the giveaway.  Hopefully there will be more coming in the near future.  It was great for me personally to see how many people love mushrooms and what they like to do with them.  Some of my favorite ideas from readers are below:



Pizza, mmm

Savory soups

And more

I’m Dawn Casey-Rowe and this is my kitchen

This post is part of my “I’m __ and this is my kitchen” series of posts, in which fabulous home cooks dish a little about their cooking lives and their kitchens.  The goal is to get inspiration, ideas and insights from other regular people about shopping, planning, cooking and kitchen organization.  See more here.

I don’t even know how to properly introduce this week’s featured home cook.  Teacher? Ed tech guru? Sustainable, natural living aficionado?  Awesome as all hell?  That starts to scratch the surface.  Dawn Casey-Rowe is one of those people you find yourself asking, “How does she do it?”  Well, below are a few answers to some of those questions…in regards to cooking at home, that is.

Dawn Casey-Rowe


Scituate, Rhode Island

I teach high school social studies and have fun working for Learnist. I also co-own two locations of with my husband, Rusty. My hobbies include running, yoga, photography, blogging, sustainability, DIY, and gardening for food production.

Do you follow a specific diet or food philosophy?
I’ve been a vegetarian since middle school. I will cook meat for others, however. I do the best I can to source food locally, or grow it myself. I often go to the local farms, where I get produce, eggs, honey, and maple when possible. I also get as much meat as possible for my family at the farm down the street. We moved from an urban area into the woods, so this makes a lot more of this possible. Before, I’d go to farmer’s markets or local ethnic stores, and take trips out to the farm.

How do you plan for meals?
I see what fresh foods are on hand, and make things out of that. I also do a great deal of recycling of food–leftover generation so I can make them into new dishes for the next night. 

How many people do you cook for?
On a regular basis, I cook for myself, my husband, and the six-year old who eats very little. 

Does your family cook with you?  If so, who does what?
For the most part, I do the cooking. Once in a while we cook together. I’d like to start doing this more. Declan, who’s 6, likes to cut mushrooms and stir things. He makes his “masterpiece lumpy pancakes.” 

 How often and where do you get your food?
I try to stock up so that shopping is an option–at any given time, I can cook several meals out of my pantry. I go once a month or so, but I’ll stop locally for produce when necessary. I shop at a great many ethnic stores for things like spices and specific ethnic ingredients. By knowing where to source ingredients, I save a lot of money. Spices are a big one–in the grocery store, they’re very expensive. I can buy the same spices at the Indian, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, or Japanese store for very little. Knowing which cultures use which ingredients is key to diversifying cooking techniques and sourcing ingredients better.  

Describe your kitchen.  What’s your favorite thing about it?
My kitchen is nearly a chef’s kitchen, and I’m grateful. We moved from a raised ranch with no kitchen storage a little over a year ago to this house in rural Rhode Island. The former owner had just redesigned the kitchen, and I couldn’t love her more. There’s a double-propane oven, a stainless steel French-door refrigerator, and pull out cabinets which are critical for me in organizing my ingredients. In my old house, I had to go up and downstairs for most ingredients, because only the very basics fit upstairs. This meant I even had to go downstairs for things like Crock Pots, and small appliances. Now, the things I use most can be upstairs.  Since the center island is in the middle and the stovetop behind, it reminds me of the line in a restaurant kitchen. It’s very efficient, and makes cooking a pleasure. 

How do you organize your kitchen?
Because I have so many specific ingredients for different styles of cuisine, I have a lot of stuff going on.  I’m a big fan of the Mason jar, and a series of inexpensive rectangle snap-shut containers that my local overstock store carries. I fill them with ingredients and label and stack them. I often shop in bulk so I put the leftovers downstairs in dry storage. The previous owner worked in retail, and had a bunch of store-quality shelves he left me, which gave me more room than I could ever imagine for stocking up dry goods and canning. 

If you could change one thing about your kitchen, what would it be?
My kitchen has sit-at island, but is not a full eat-in kitchen. I like eat-in kitchens. My house is a ranch with an expansion, so what was the original parlor now serves as a dining room, and since it abuts the kitchen, it serves the purpose that an eat-in kitchen would. 

What ingredients do you always have on hand?
I worked my way through college in restaurants. This means I have a stock-up and rotate mindset. I don’t often run out of things. I keep so many types of things on hand that I can make most recipes that come up at any time without having to go to the store for ingredients, including ones with less frequently found ingredients. I have ingredients I can’t even translate and have labeled in their original language, like kalonji, amchur, hind, nori fumi furikake, and garam masala. 

What ingredient is in your pantry that you’re not sure how long has been there?
I just tossed a couple types of coffee I didn’t like but felt wasteful tossing before. Somehow, if something sits in the fridge or cabinet for a long time it seems less evil to waste. I know I’m joking, but I do try hard to limit waste–the average American household wastes 25% of our food, which I think is a truly awful thing. 

Favorite dish to make?
I don’t have a favorite dish to make. I cook many different cuisines, many ethnic. I’m a vegetarian, so I’m always looking for ways to convert important national dishes into a legitimate vegetarian version that doesn’t taste like someone forgot the main ingredient. 

If you could instantly master any dish on earth, what would it be?
I’m working on improving my Indian and Korean cuisine. I go back and forth into different areas of culinary interest. 

What’s your biggest struggle in the kitchen?
I am not very neat. I try to be neat when I cook and it doesn’t always work. Then, after working all day, I’m not usually in the mood to make it sparkle after enjoying my dinner. I drive my husband crazy. He’s really neat and efficient. I’m the opposite. 

Favorite tips?
Buy spices at the store representing the ethnicity that uses them most. Buy teas at the MIddle Eastern or Asian stores. Learn to read the names of the ingredients in their languages, so that you can shop with confidence at many stores. Make whatever you can from scratch–it’s usually simple once you practice. Never buy spice blends. You can make them with the big jars of spices you get at the various ethnic stores you’re visiting.  Get foods in season and learn to preserve them. It takes discipline, but the quality of the food is much better. I have a laundry list of things that I think people should never buy in the store–things that are simple. Why waste the packaging in the environment and load yourself up with preservatives? 

Name 3 absolutely necessary pieces of kitchen equipment
I could not live without my KitchenAid mixer–a couple years ago, I upgraded to the Professional model and gave my smaller one to my sister. I love my Cuisinart food processor, and my knives. Finally, I have Braun emersion blender that I nearly gave away years ago, but turned out to be the mainstay of my existence. It does so many things with its little gadgets. I almost always use my food dehydrator, as well. I need to process and preserve food when it’s in season, but it also does things like make fruit rollups, fruit and nut bars, and dried fruit snacks and my favorite kale chips. And I can’t forget about my yogurt maker, either. I know you said three. That’s five. 

Do you listen to music while you cook and if so, what’s usually on the playlist?
I do listen to music while I cook, and do many other things. Lately, it’s a range of female vocalists, but it changes from time to time. Sometimes I try to catch up on my TEDx talks and podcasts, too. Usually, just my favorite overused R’dio playlist that I throw songs on from time to time. 

Anything else you’d like to share?
There are so many foods you can make yourself better that stores would love to charge you a million dollars for–I make jams, my daily loaf of bread, yogurts, soft cheeses, hummus, taboleh, cheesecake, all kinds of soups, salsas. I also like to think of the best places to source food. I used to coupon shop for ingredients, but since I started farm shopping, getting things locally, and going to ethnic stores exclusively, I rarely have to go into the big store, except for  things like the bread flour and things. It’s a nice feeling. My family eats better, I rarely go to restaurants because I feel like my food is better–and if I do, I save up for one where a chef makes me think about the food.

I think getting back to our food roots is important. My students rarely know the genesis of most foods. One time, in response to their questions about my freakish looking lunch, I brought them apple butter, home-baked bread, and some cheese I made, and they thought they had witnessed a miracle. Another time, I planted seeds with them in Dixie cups and offered them 10 points on their final if they kept them alive–keep in mind these aren’t kindergartners planting beans in milk cartons, these are high school kids. The buzz about this activity was humbling. It made me realize how important the food movement is to all our families, schools, and the world, really. I’m a big fan of organizations like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson’s Food Tank. Food justice is important. I try by limiting waste and processed foods, and educating my students about these things, too.

Mushroom Mac & Cheese with Portobello “Bacon” and French Bread Crumbles

Mac & cheese is one of the happiest dishes there is.  I know what you’re thinking: “That’s just like…your opinion, man.”  Well, it is.  And I love it when I’m right.

Chanterelle Mac and Cheese with Portobello Bacon and French Brea

This one is particularly good because it’s full of mushroomy deliciousness.  I found chanterelles on sale and used those, but you could use any mushroom.  You’re probably better off with cremini or button mushrooms.  To heighten the flavor a bit, you might consider roasting the mushrooms first, or swapping the cheddar to something lighter like Doux de Montagne.

But especially great with this is the topping: a crumble of french bread, parsley, parmesan and chopped portobello “bacon.”  Which isn’t real bacon, obviously, and for meat-eaters, it won’t be the same.  It will, however, be delicious and an acceptable breakfast side for anyone, vegan or otherwise, as well as a great way to add some meaty, smoky elements into this dish while still keeping it vegetarian-friendly.  I got the idea for the portobello bacon from a friend, who introduced me to Libby Pratt’s blog.


Chanterelle Mac & Cheese with Portobello “Bacon” and French Bread Topping


    For the mac:
  • 1 pound large shells, cooked to al dente
  • 1/2lb mushrooms of your choice, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter plus 2 extra tbsps
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 4 cups milk
  • 5 cups shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • For the topping
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap, sliced and marinated in this marinade
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 3-4 pieces of french bread, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan


    Make the mac
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Melt the 2 tbsps butter in a large pot w/ the olive oil. Add in the mushrooms and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cooked down and soft. Add in the salt and pepper, the rest of the butter and the flour. Stir to get everything well incorporated and cook for a couple more minutes. Add in the parsley and dijon. Add in the first two cups of milk, stirring well, and then the next two, slowly. Let the milk warm up and then add in the cheeses, 1-2 cups at a time, stirring constantly to give it time to melt and smooth out.
  2. Add in the cooked pasta and then pour the entire mixture into a large oven-safe pan. Cook at 400F for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the topping
  4. Drain the portobello slices. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add in the canola oil. Fry the portobello slices until browned and slightly crispy on the edges, 3-5 minutes per side.
  5. Remove them from the pan and drain them on paper towels. Add the tablespoon of butter to the pan and melt it. Toss in the breadcrumbs and toast them until crispy. Chop the portobello slices and add them to the pan, along with the parsley. Fold everything together.
  6. Pull the baked macaroni out of the oven and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the top, and then the quarter cup of parmesan.