Pasta-kini .. aka Zoodles!

My daughter, Kora, has shown so much interest in the kitchen! Nothing makes my heart happier. Not only does she eat like an adult (and as much as an adult), she really listens and learns when I explain what I am doing. Yesterday, I taught her all about zoodles. She calls them pasta-kini which I thought was so adorable!

After using my pampered chef spiralizer , we spread out the zucchini noodles on a dry paper towel. Taking another few dry paper towels, we patted down firmly on the zoodles. This will release and dry up a lot of the water the zucchini holds. Before sauteing them, you want to make sure they are really dry. The zucchini will release more water while cooking which helps steam them - very quickly! When sauteing, they really only need to be thrown in for 2 minutes before they become too soggy.

I took one shallot and gave it a small dice. Using a large pan on medium heat, I sauteed the shallots in 1/2 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs butter. Adding oil with the butter will prevent the butter from burning. Once the shallots are tender, about 3-4 minutes, you can add in the zoodles, tossing them around. Salt, pepper and 1-2 tbs of parmesan cheese were added at this point. After 2 minutes, remove the zoodle mixture from the pan.

This zoodle recipe can be used as a great base to a lot of dishes. Pictured, the zoodles were topped with hoisin chicken and cashews that I fried up in a wok, then lastly garnished with sliced scallions. We all absolutely loved this meal, and Kora even asked for seconds!


4th Annual Blind Wine Tasting 2019

Hi all! We had tons of questions and feedback after our latest blind wine tasting party! I am here to share all the details with you. This year we changed things up a bit... instead of my husband pouring each bottle into our guests glasses one at time, we purchased 24 flight boards. Each flight board allowed 4 tastings at a time, and our guests were able to drink at their own pace. A lot of guests enjoyed this more than the past years. We try to keep the parties between 16-22 guests... Once you have more than 8-10 bottles to taste, it becomes a little dragged out and people get a little loopy to still be rating! 8 bottles is really ideal (1 bottle per couple)!

Here is the schedule of the party in short:
1. Guests hide bottle in bags upon arrival (bag link below)
2. Introductions of people, and food.
3. Host pours glasses and guests fill their flight boards (flight board link below).
4. Each tasting is rated, and sheets collected by host once all bottles are tasted
5. Dinner served & open bar
6. Dessert

(1) To start, guests arrived at 6:30pm and placed their choice of wine into numbered bags I provided on the porch. We asked that white and rose wine are brought cold, and reds room temperature. When they walked into the house with their bag, no one was able to see which wine was brought. The bags were lined up in the kitchen near the area we were going to be pouring. My husband, Kevin, switched up the bags so that no one could rate their own wine high on purpose. This is important to us, since Kevin and I provide a $50-$70 gift basket to the winners of the highest rated wine and want it to be fair.

(2) My motivation to make an epic cheeseboard was in high gear! I studied pinterest, blogger posts, and even followed the cheeseboard hashtag on instagram. Between Costco, my local grocery store and my local specialty cheese shop, I was able to get all that I needed. I did an array of cheeses, trail mixes, nuts, toblerone chocolate bars, cucumbers, fruits, honey, olives, pickled veggies, and dried apricots. The colors (especially from the port wine cheese) add such beauty to a board, and making sure there are no empty spaces on the wooden board give it a beautiful dimension of fullness! It looked rich, and delicious, and was 90% wiped out by the end of the night! Some of the cheeses included creamy brie, bleu filled cheddar, spicy cheddar, pecorino tartufo (truffle), sundried tomato goat, port wine, bella merlot, rosey goat, manchego and more!

(3/4) After guests arrived and grazed a bit on the cheeseboard, we soon began out tastings. We lined up 18 cups and started pourings labeled wines #1-4. Using a rating sheet, guests wrote down which number wine they were tasting, descriptions, and a rating of 1 to 5 (5 being the best). After about 8-10 minutes, we began out second flight, and continued until each bottle was tasted (we had 10 bottles total).

(5) Once the tastings were over, penne alla vodka and chicken marsala were catered and served to our guests. We had an ice bin filled with white wine and sparkling wine, and a variety of red wine, vodka and mixers for everyone to enjoy. Thankfully with the nice weather, some of us got to hang on the outside deck under our string lights, checking out cheese related cookbooks I had on the table, as well as genuine conversation with new friends.

Winning couple Krystal & Adam

(6) After dinner we added up each tasting sheet and came up with the winning bottle, which accumulated 60 points total. The winner was Pindar's winter white, a very popular and tasty local wine from Long Island. A prize was given to the couple who brought the Pindar wine - it was a merlot candle, beautiful cheese platter, wine theme house decor, and olive oil & balsamic from the Crushed Olive. For dessert, we served a platter of the most creative and delicious cookies from LIV Creativity, a local baker to suffolk county. We had a cake and cupcakes, too.

At the end of the night I asked for a couple suggestions from our close friends who attended... we were given some good advice. Guests preferred mixing up the flights , some red/some white if applicable. Tasting four reds in a row tend to start tasting the same unless you provide a palate cleanser. We also will take the advice to make the cheeseboard table accessible from all sides..instead of having the table against a wall. It will allow more people to gather and taste the foods available.

Some of the wines brought for the tasting event.


PSA: Do NOT use the Home Depot for Kitchen Reface/Renovations

Our nightmare Home Depot Kitchen Renovation:

We moved into our small ranch in May of 2015. Our kitchen had medium color oak cabinets, an ivory formica counter top, a 30" electric coil stove, no hardware on the cabinets, and a small stainless steal sink. Over the first 18 months, we purchased a new refrigerator and dishwasher. We held off on buying a new stove because we knew our goal was to switch to gas, and my husband and I also wanted something bigger than 30" because 4 burners was not enough for me!
I went out on a whim and painted the cabinets myself using Annie Sloan's chalk paint, in Paris Gray. You can read about that here. I loved getting rid of that old cabinet look, and loved the fresh look the chalk paint gave, but once you repaint cabinets it has a domino effect. You'll want a new counter, then a new sink, then a new everything else! We went to Home Depot to look at counter tops and instead left with an appointment for someone to come over and quote redoing the whole kitchen. This was not in our budget and not something we had much interest in - all we wanted was a new counter!
In June, we made the decision to go with it - reface all of the cabinets (a portion of the cabinets being built new), new counter, farm sink, and a dream stove that I could never imagine having. Home Depot quoted us 3 to 5 days and started the job on July 1, 2019. Two local subcontracted gentleman came over and started the job.

Here is how it all went down:
  • We received the wrong style knobs with half of them being the wrong color. We were unable to find the correct knobs in the color we wanted, and ended up having to go to Lowes to buy all brand new knobs and handles. We are still waiting for a refund on this.

  • After the job was "complete," my husband and a friend went to install the range ventilation hood and the space was not wide enough. The installers had to come back and shave down a portion of the cabinet to meet spec.
  • In doing so (shaving down one side of the cabinet), they cracked the reface material... I have to also mention it looked awful.. the way it was shaved on one side and not the other.

  • Once the hood was installed, I walked up to it and it was literally below my face. Home Depot did not take the specs I sent into consideration (since we purchased a commercial style stove, we had a commercial style hood that stuck out further than a standard hood) - so we had to have the installers back to rip out the brand new glass door cabinets, and raise the hood 13". 
  • The counter top was installed at this time, and because of the way home depot built the farm sink cabinet, we were unable to put the faucet close enough to the sink, as well as the soap dispenser. The soap dispenser does not reach to the point of hanging over into the sink, and washing out hands is difficult because the flow of water is close to the back of the counter top, causing water to splash and fill up on the back. An employee at HD told us to "have them redo that because it is 100% incorrect" - unfortunately we were unable to have it redone because the back splash.

  • We waited two weeks for material to come in to reface the entire wall (the wall where it was cracked). They finally came, the hood was raised 13" and the entire wall was refaced in the WRONG color. We did not know this until the evening (after they left) because the daylight caused shadows making it hard to tell. It was a much lighter gray.

  • The Home Depot ordered new reface material which was promised to be ordered overnight. They had issues getting the material from Canada so it took another week to come in. When it arrived, Home Depot asked me to come in to do it on a Saturday. Normally that would be fine but this was my son's first birthday and we were expecting 40 people over. 
  • The Home Depot pushed me out another two weeks because I denied them doing the job on that Saturday. They told me it was my fault that the job was still incomplete (among other things that should NEVER be said to a customer) .. Because we were so fed up, we picked apart every shitty area (pictured below) and made them redo it all at the time of refacing the correct material. We also had them level the hood which was installed crooked. They added molding to hide uneven spaces under the counter top and redid areas where the cabinets met the wall to cover spaces. They also had to redo the rollout drawers which were all installed incorrectly (on the bottom of the cabinets instead of in the center). When one rollout drawer broke after a one time use, they came back to fix it again.

  • The job was finally completed 48 days after it started. I missed many days of work, and my husband had to be docked from his new job to be there on days I couldn't.
  • We continue to wait for a call back from the home depot (I attempted calling corporate 3 different times with not one call back), and continue waiting for the project manager to call back to discuss refunds. 
  • We also just got the error fixed on our home depot credit card account which was supposed to give us 24 months interest free, yet they put it thru for 6 months only. 

Am I happy with our kitchen AFTER all of the fixes the last month and a half? Yes.. we picked out all of the colors and decor together. I am thrilled with our gorgeous Bluestar range, and the fact we have gas now! I am in love with the back splash, that my talented husband Kevin installed. We are obsessed with the silestone counter top color that we picked out 5 years ago when we bought our house. 

Am I satisfied with the quality of work that was given by Home Depot? No.. What about their customer service? I am actually truly disgusted with the customer service we received from a project manager named Peter. To tell a customer "turn the news on, there are worse things going on than your kitchen cabinets" really deserves someone to be fired in my opinion. That is NOT someone that should be working with the public in customer service, especially for a multi billion dollar company. It is a very poor reflection on the Home Depot. This whole experience was NOT worth the money we spent and the stress we've been put through. While I await for refunds and corporate to listen to my complaints, I will continue sharing my experience to everyone I know and urge them to use a different outfit to do their kitchen renovations.

Ombré Pancakes

Good morning! After seeing an awesome post from Lisa @ Pink Salt food blog, I knew I had to try these ombre pancakes for my daughter, Kora. I used stonewall kitchen pancake and waffle mix, and added a dash of food coloring (purple, pink, and burgundy) to each bowl of batter. Using a small fry pan, coated with butter, we cooked one pancake at a time to ensure being around the same size. After piling them on a plate, Kora drizzled on some syrup and dug in! Even baby brother got to try some for the first time! We had so much fun making these, and look forward to more colored pancakes for holiday traditions.


Picnic Theme Birthday Party

How in the world is my son 1 year old already? My once 34 week preemie, is now so big and beautiful! Everett has been such a joy this past year, crying less than I can count on my hands. He also sleeps 10-12 hours straight since he was just six weeks old. When it came time to celebrate his first birthday, I wanted to do something fun and easy. It was the summertime, unlike my daughter who is born in the snowy month of February. I figured the easiest thing would be a BBQ so I started researching and came across the picnic theme. On etsy I found a red gingham tie with ants crawling on it and that was it for me! I ordered plastic ants to walk along our table settings, plastic ants to walk along the cake we ordered, and red gingham everything! A local baker and artist made the incredible cookies (she always amazes me), and friend Lisa made the most delicious white chocolate mousse cheesecake. Not one piece left!!

Food: BBQ staples - burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, mac and cheese, salad, corn on the cob, corn bread, rice & beans and bagged ridge potato chips. Appetizers included sliced seedless cucumbers topped with goat cheese and raspberry champagne jam, tator tot skewers (kids went CRAZY for these), shrimp cocktail, guacamole, jalapeno dip and chips with salsa. We had about 35 people.

Below are some ideas from the party that I will pin over on pinterest.

yes, these are cookies! Made by Liv Creativity

Absolutely love the way this cake came out. Lisa adding the lights added such a special touch!

Outfit and tie from Etsy shop CuddleSleepDream

I like to display the food options by the plates and utensils so people can prepare themselves!

Custom felt boards are the best way to announce and celebrate occasions!

Big sister Kora's dress was from Etsy as well - shop EllaBellaBoutique49

The skewer holder was from Amazon and I will be using it again and again for appetizers! So easy to grab and go.