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Essential Tools for Chopping, Stirring, and Mixing


There are too many great things to mention in one post so we may dig in deeper later on, but here are my key tools for chopping, stirring, and mixing up kitchen creations.


  • A great cutting board – a heavy one with grippers on the bottom. You’ll think, when at the store, that it will be awesome to purchase a cutting board that you can just flip over when dirty and cut on both sides. And sure, maybe that’s a benefit sometimes. But if you’re only going to purchase one, be sure to purchase one that can handle whatever you throw at it.
  • One big knife for chopping stuff.
  • One small knife (called a paring knife but I have no idea why!).
  • One cerated knife for chopping tomatoes and slicing bread – but sometimes I just use a cheap steak knife. It does okay too.

Stirring and Mixing:

  • A plastic spatula – my favorite one is a Giada special from Target, but as long as the plastic is pretty sturdy, it will be fine.
  • Wooden spoons – I like the 3-piece set from Pampered Chef.
  • NOT a whisk – I HATE whisks and I try to never use them. I’ll grab one and start using it, then get all kinds of weird lumps inside and I just really don’t enjoy them. I have one but do almost everything that calls for a whisk with a regular old fork.

Getting Hard-core

  • My Kitchen-Aid stand mixer is the greatest item I own, hands-down. I love it. I have the cherry red one and I received it as a gift from my bridesmaids at my wedding. It can do anything. You don’t need one if you’re just learning to cook, and they are expensive, but they are SO worth the money.

On the Fence

  • Blender – I would love a Vitamix but I have a $24 special from Target. The blender is great for smoothies and beverages, but also does a fantastic job with pancake batters. It’s a useful thing to have in the cabinet but it does take up a lot of space, so I’m not sure if I’d call it an essential or not.
  • My Kitchen-Aid food processor is wonderful. When you are ready, the food processor will help you grate, slice, and chop faster and more consistently. It makes great almond flour from raw almonds and pie crust comes together in a flash. However, a lot of things the food processor does can be done in the stand mixer too, so I’m not sure if I would consider it an essential. However, I use mine all the time and am so happy to have it.

What’s missing?  Are you a whisk-user or a whisk-hater? 

This post is number 9 of my #write31days project 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen.  You can read yesterday’s post here, and follow along with the series each day in October.  An archive of posts is available here, or just click on that big button on the right sidebar. 


Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 8.23.2014

Five Things New

It’s been a long time, my friends.  I have SO MANY links that I’ve saved to share here, but let’s start with five.  Because that’s the way this works, right?  Right.

  1. Justice for Michael Brown Rests Almost Entirely in the Hands of One Man, by Professor Angela J. Davis for The New Republic.  Also, Greg Howard with America is Not for Black People; Men without a Country: Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, My Father and Me, by Arthur Chu; Austin Channing in Black Bodies White Souls.   (Okay, so clearly we are going to have more than five links.)
  2. How to Be a Good Dinner Guest, at Dinner: A Love Story.
  3. We Need to Talk More about Melinda Gates, at Penelope Trunk Blog.
  4. Carpe the Hell out of your Diem, by Caris Adel.  Also, Nish Wieseth in Thoughts on Depression, Suicide, and Being a Christian.
  5. 45 Ways to Avoid Using the Word “Very”, from Amanda Patterson at Writers Write.



New Blog Host!

This past weekend transferred to a new host.  There is absolutely no difference for you as a reader, and honestly I don’t think you should even see this page if everything moved over properly.  If you did end up here somehow, you’ll probably need to update your blog reader and/or type the blog address into your address bar:

Long-term, I think this will be a huge win for this space and help us to have more flexibility and better quality pages and posts.  For a few weeks, however, there may be glitches here and there.  If you have any trouble, if photos are misplaced or links do not work, be sure to leave a comment or reach out by email, twitter message, facebook message, etc. so I can find and fix any bugs in the transfer.

Thanks for growing and changing with me.

Much love,





It’s Already/Only Thursday?

This week has been much too slow and much too fast. I thought that yesterday (Wednesday) was Friday, and was none too pleased to discover the truth. But somehow minutes are also flying by so quickly! I can barely keep up.

This weekend I did some of the things that make my weeks awesome — I put together a rockin’ meal plan (blog post coming soon!) did laundry and cleaned my room. I didn’t pick outfits, so I’m basically wearing different colored versions of dress-cardigan-tights-boots every day, but that’s okay. We can’t win every battle.

(This is today’s lunch. I wasn’t kidding about our food being awesome this week. Curry chicken on quinoa with broccoli.)

My family is driving up today for a last-minute weekend in the city, and while surprises are typically not my jam I’m really excited! The weather is looking great for mid-March (although it did snow for one hour this morning), and since I’m starting to really love this city I’m happy to have them see it too.

So, I’m putting together a new Choose-Your-Own-Adventure plan for the weekend. It’s one of my favorite things to make! I had already put fajitas on the menu, but today Deb at the Smitten Kitchen has a recipe up too. Clearly this weekend is made for fajitas. We’ll try to get seated at Little Goat and might stop by a jazz club.

Any big plans for you this weekend? I’ll still have a Five Things post tomorrow, but I’m excited to take a little break from the usual.

Date Night: Cooking Class

As part of our three-day Valentine’s Day extravaganza, H reserved us two spots in a weekend cooking class.  [Don’t make too many assumptions here.  We don’t really do that lovey-dovey holiday stuff, but it was a great excuse to try a few new places and do something fun.]

We headed over to The Wooden Spoon in Uptown Chicago for a class called Cook and Eat Like a Francophile.  I was expecting bistro sandwiches, things to pair with brie on a cheese platter,  or some kind of pastry since it was a lunch-time class, but I was really wowed by the menu.  We “made” shrimp bisque, fancy chicken with sauce, french-style bitter lentils, the most delicious green beans ever, and a weird pudding-berry-custard dessert.  Or, as the French would call it,

  • Shrimp Bisque;
  • French Lentils with Honey Cashews;
  • Green Bean Salad with Basil and Tomatoes;
  • Poulet Sauté Chasseur; and
  • Mixed Berries Gratin (not pictured).

Wooden Spoon Meal

Cooking classes are, overall, kind of weird but really fun.  We didn’t fully cook any one single thing, because about a dozen people were helping with different stages of preparation.  Everyday cooking would be so much easier if I had a half-dozen sous chefs to do all of my prep-work and measuring for me!  We were tasked with chopping a few things, stirring a few things, and draining the lentils — but, most importantly, we got to eat everything.  I would have perhaps liked a little more hands-on time than this class size provided, but we made some new friends and had a lovely time.

Sharing our love of food with strangers was comfortable and warm.  A few other couples, a few friend groups, and two adult sons with their dad on his 68th birthday chopped and sautéed and ate this beautiful meal with us.  (I remembered again how lucky I am to have such an awesome mom while watching a young woman search for help when asked to stir the pot, but not so often that the veggies wouldn’t brown.)  Even the vegetarian we were partnered with loved learning about each of the recipes and promised to cook the bisque again for her fiance if he would handle the shrimp-y parts.

It may sound unimpressive, but our favorite dish of the day was the green bean salad.  The green beans were blanched (well, more like double-blanched because they were almost done when they came out of the boiling water), chilled, and then tossed in a freshly made Dijon vinaigrette and served alongside sliced, salted tomatoes.  It was perfect spring/early summer picnic food, and all-in-all a pretty healthy dish.

The Wooden Spoon has a cooking tools shop (and provides knife sharpening for their customers for only $3) so we purchased a little salad dressing bottle to take home with us for storing our own homemade vinaigrettes in the future.  H has been mixing up balsamic and olive oil for our salads for the last few weeks and I’ve been food-dreaming about the vinaigrette recipe in Shauna Niequist’s book Bread and Wine, which is pretty close to what we made in class that day.  This weekend we’ll be purchasing some red wine vinegar and eating this dressing on everything in sight.

Would you ever go to a cooking class?  Have any favorite salad dressing recipes? 

Love Toes


Here’s a quick piece of trivia for you all — did you know that when you get a pedicure in the winter, you stuff your soft, polished feet into sandwich baggies to protect your nails before putting on your socks and boots? Well, if you didn’t, now you do. This is just one of many lessons I’ve learned while surviving my first winter in the Great White Midwest.

In other news, I attended my first non-couples social engagement of the winter, and it was lovely. It is so nice getting out on your own! I met a handful of women in the city and reconnected with someone I haven’t seen in literally years. Like, since 2006. Sometimes I forget just how long it has been since college. Tonight, I remembered it has been quite a long time!

This week’s toe nail color is Too Too Hot by Essie, which will be perfect for Valentine’s day. I’m seeing tons of great V-day beauty and fashion posts and am SO READY for some warmer, spring-ish weather. I’ll probably mix a little pink or red into my work wardrobe Friday, but I’m typically not really a V-day celebrater. Are you doing anything special to celebrate?

A decorating confession…

I had a lot planned for this past weekend and this work week. A serious cough and another polar vortex shut all of that down. I haven’t been outside my apartment since this past Friday, and I’ve been drinking orange juice, ginger ale, and water like nobody’s business.

Regular blog posts will resume shortly, but the schedule may be a little off for the rest of this week. I’m planning to go into the office for at least half a day tomorrow, and I may be too wiped out to keep up with the editorial calendar.

But then again, maybe tomorrow will be awesome. Let’s plan for that, and trust that it will come.

This afternoon I felt well enough to take down the Christmas tree. I wanted to leave it up until Epiphany, and then got busy and never took it down. I know, I know: it’s almost February. But, it’s not February yet.

Leo was very disappointed that the holiday jungle gym went back into the closet.


The lights on our balcony railings are still up, but we haven’t turned them on in weeks. It’s way too cold for me to take them down! They may just stay out there until Spring. No one can really see them, right?

So, tell me this and don’t sugar coat it: what’s the longest you’ve ever left up the holiday decorations?