Heather has picked out some great items for your Secret Santa, and they’re all under $30!
For more Secret Santa gifts, visit Heather’s collection.
Heather has picked out some great items for your Secret Santa, and they’re all under $30!
For more Secret Santa gifts, visit Heather’s collection.
I hate waste. I’m really OCD about it. Disposable shopping bags, takeout containers, and water bottles really bug me. And yet, I do shop, eat on the go, and need H2O. Thus was born my quest for the perfect personal food transport equipment.
Our Flip & Tumble Reusable Shopping Bags are light and small and hold a lot. Sounds promising. Our BentGO Lunch Box is good looking. Most of its lunch-toting brethren are decidedly not. It’s also a good size, and except for the lids, microwaveable (for warming up, not cooking), and dishwasher safe. Also promising. Our Wine and Beverage Tote, with its tough canvas outer skin, seems a lot sturdier than fold-up plastic bottles I’ve used before.
Step 1: Shopping.
This was mostly accomplished at the Park Slope Food Coop, of which I am an enthused member. A sustainability-minded organization since forever, the coop doesn’t give out shopping bags. Flip & Tumbles are perfect for shopping there. They weigh virtually nothing, open up in a jiffy (faster and easier than any shopping bag I’ve ever used), hold a lot, and are strong and sturdy. The even have a non-slip patch on the inside top of the shoulder strap.
Here’s how they look full of groceries.
Here are most of the ingredients, spread out. (The bags actually held a lot more than this.)
Step 2: Cooking.
I bought a spaetzle maker no less than 6 years ago, and until now, had never used it. Sound familiar, gadget lovers? I saw this recipe in the New York Times, and knew this was what would make spaetzle happen in my kitchen.
I put the sweet potatoes in a casserole dish and stuck them in the preheated 350 degree oven.
I then sliced the leeks and cabbage (separately) very thinly in the food processor. I melted a bunch of butter in a big frying pan and sauteed the leeks. But I forgot to take photos of all that, so you’ll have to use your imagination.
The savoy cabbage, sauteeing on top of the already-sauteed leeks.
Above is the mixed white all-purpose, whole wheat, and whole rye flour (yes, I ground it from the berries, here’s why), to which I added an egg and whole milk. It’s supposed to end up like cake batter, not bread dough, so you keep adding milk until it feels right. Because I used whole wheat flour, which the recipe doesn’t call for, I used more milk than recommended, because whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid.
My spaetzle maker in action, at long last. You pour the batter gradually into the white hopper which you then slide along the holey stainless steel part that’s straddling the pot of boiling, salted water. The dough slips through randomly, drops into the pot, and cooks very quickly, rising to the top.
It’s pasta…it’s dumplings….it’s spaetzle!
The recipe calls for thyme, which I conveniently have growing in one of my kitchen windowboxes.
Now it’s time for it to be topped with grated Gruyere cheese, put in a casserole dish, and baked. But wait–where’s that dish?!
Oh yeah, it was baking these. When I took them out, I didn’t bother cleaning it, because sugary, gooey sweet potato ooze can only improve a dish. I did mix it in, though, so it wouldn’t just burn on the bottom.
The casserole in a state of baking readiness.
The sweet potatoes, mashed with a fork and mingling with their new BFFs: butter, fresh lime juice, and honey.
20 minutes after being put into the 425 degree oven: Done.
Now for the broiled grapefruit. Easiest thing ever: cut in half, top with brown sugar (or not), turn broiler on, pop in citrus.
~An interlude, during which I eat this delicious dinner, and sleep. A new day dawns.~
The true and ultimate destiny of this food, of course, was being consumed as leftovers. I added some homemade kefir I put into a can that I’d fished out from the recycling and washed (see above re: “OCD about waste;” also, it was the perfect size), because I thought it would go well with both the casserole and the grapefruit.
Stick a fork in it–it’s done.
Step 3: A) Eating and B) Drinking
A) The spaetzle dish, like most casseroles, was even better the next day. It nuked up beautifully in its spiffy BentGO container. I ate it in about two minutes flat. No, I will not show you what that looked like. My mother might be reading this, and it would make her cry to see that all those years of table manners lessons were wasted on me.
B) The Wine and Beverage Tote, alas, was filled only with water, because I was at work. (You think I can write all juiced up? No. I leave that to pros.) For purely scientific purposes, I did fill it with wine the night before. Miraculously, it holds an entire, normal-sized bottle, though you have to make sure the bag is poufed out all the way while (carefully) pouring. I recommend red wine, because the Tote isn’t insulated, so the wine will be at room temperature before long.
I really appreciated its sturdy canvas exterior, because it freed me from the nagging worry that something sharp in my bag might gouge it. If there’d been red wine inside, I would have appreciated it even more–no, not because of the alcohol; because of the potential for mess. (OK, the alcohol, too.) Note that I swapped out the original petite black carabiner with a larger one of my own, partly–but ONLY partly, I swear–because mine is pink.
New York Times: Rye spaetzle gratin with savoy cabbage, leeks and caraway
Saveur: Mashed sweet potatoes with lime and honey
TheKitchn: Sweet and smoky broiled grapefruit
I love a good grilled cheese. The gooey goodness inside reminds me of childhood meals, always paired with a tomato soup, of course. I first saw the Toaster Grilled Cheese Bags and thought it would be a fun, and super easy, way to make that delicious, buttery comfort food. I’d never heard of such a product before. How simple – just put it in a toaster! I’m, however, familiar with the iron-grilled cheese approach…enough said. In comparison, that ironing approach is quite barbaric.
Given my experience with toast and grilled cheese, I suspect that the sandwiches will be nice and melt-y. However, the warm buttery flavor (that is signature to anything cooked with butter on a frying pan) will be missing.
Step 1: Checking out the goods
The Toaster Grilled Cheese Bags are very different than I expected. They’re a silky-papery material. Very tough and pliable. So far, I’m impressed. Three bags are included in the package (wish it was four for those 4 slotted toasters). The grilled cheese in the picture looks really delicious – nice and golden.
The Ooma Bowl
I love the clean and colorful look. It’s meant to easily fit into the hand for holding. Overall, the style gets two thumbs up from me. The bowl may also serve as a nice pet food dish? Food on the left, water on the right.
Step 2: Assemble the ingredients
For my experiment I’m making 2 recipes.
First: The Classic. Simple and to the point; white bread, sharp cheddar.
Second: Italian Craving–Featuring the Ooma Bowl. Yummy take on the classic done Italian style. My plan is to cut the finished sandwiches into sticks and use to use the Ooma Bowl for easy dipping. Using mozzarella, pesto spread, fresh basil, and sundried tomatoes. For the dipping sauce I’m using my favorite marinara Rao’s Homemade (it’s the best; I highly recommend trying it).
Step 3: Get’m grilled
Attempt Number One:
The Classic. It was pretty simple to get them into the bags. It needed a little maneuvering, but nothing difficult. I have a nice toaster that accommodates bagels. After getting them bagged I put them in, I set the toaster to level 4 and set it into motion.
The end result was not what I was hoping for. Setting 4 didn’t cut it. The cheese didn’t melt, and the bread was not toasted enough. Compared to the picture on the packaging, my sandwich was a total fail. Try again…
Attempt Number Two:
OK, the setting was too low; I overcompensated by upping the game to a level six setting. Also, I was thinking I would try to add some butter to the bread in hopes of obtaining that nice golden buttery glow. I melted 2 tablespoons and brushed the outsides of the bread with a pastry brush. Drum roll please…
I got the taste spot on and beautiful melted cheese. However, I ended up with burnt bread. It didn’t taste bad, but charred is no good either. Also, the butter made the bags all greasy.
Attempt Number Three:
I completed my attempts with the Classic recipe and moved onto the Italian Craving. First things first, I washed the bags. They got greasy from the butter and the melted cheese. Washing was incredibly easy. I used a simple sponge with handle and hot water. I hand dried, but noticed that the bags held moisture. I didn’t have time to let them air dry, so I continued on with the sandwich making.
I made a total of 4 sandwiches; all of which came out a little darker than I expected. I’m not sure what’s to blame. My toaster setting, the moist bags, the butter; I really am not sure. What I do know is that the sandwiches were tasty. (The chef has to taste their food before it leaves the kitchen).
Step 4: Plate and Taste
Time to eat, drink, and be merry. As planned, I cut the grilled cheese into long strips and placed them into the Ooma Bowl. I heated the sauce and added that to the smaller section. Et voila! A culinary masterpiece. (At least for moi, a simple cook.)
The bowl was easy to hold. Modeled by my fiancé (thank you for your help). Recommended for couch activities such as Sunday sports and Netflix. A delicious end to a full day of ingredient shopping and toaster cooking.
Did these match up to the classic grilled cheese? Not completely; however, they were 1. Easy to make and 2. Melt-y and tasty.
1. Don’t apply butter before toasting! It may be good to apply after? Question for thought.
2. The bags need to thoroughly dry before the next use. I later washed, hand dried, and placed on the handle of a frying pan to dry.
3. Toaster settings are key; you need to find the right one. (I have yet to find the right one for my toaster.)
Photo Credit: Moi! Anna Moreno
Model: My fiancé Noah Perkins
Have a Backyard Party
When it comes to summer entertaining, there’s no better venue than your backyard. With just a few items you can create a fun, laid-back outdoor celebration.
01. Gray Stoneware. Just because you’re eating outside doesn’t mean you have to use paper plates! This stoneware is the perfect combination of rustic and elegant.
02. Stoneware Growler. I love the idea of using beer growlers as an alternative to individual bottles. Set out a few growlers and mugs? Perfect. You’ll save so much room in your fridge, too…
03. Footed Bowl. The cutest bowl ever, right? Fill it with cherries or guacamole. Your guests are going to love it. Definitely a conversation starter.
04. Reclaimed Slate Cheese Board. I’ll be honest, I need a cheese lesson… but until then, there’s this. Thank you, cheese board.
05. Neon Crocodile Planter. Using unexpected items as decor is one of my favorite things about party planning. This little guy would make a great outdoor table or bar accessory.
06. Baguette Slicing Board. This reclaimed cutting board would make the perfect outdoor serving tray.
07. 3D Garden Pinwheels. These sleek and modern pinwheels would make your backyard instantly party-ready.
08. Wine Barrel Serving Tray. Trays and other shallow dishes are the best way to keep a table of food and drinks organized. Use it for appetizers or a place to lay out napkins and utensils.
09. Star Spangled Spatula. So classic! If you’re having an outdoor BBQ this summer, you have to use this spatula.
10. Galapagos Pillows. Use throw pillows on your outdoor furniture to create an even more relaxing party space.
Happy summer entertaining!
Warm sun, waves crashing on the shore, that coconut-y smell of sunscreen. Is there anything better than a day at the beach? Nope. Nothing.
I can’t wait for a few relaxing beach days this summer. Here are a few things on my beach wish list this year…
01. Beach Ball Roundy Towel. Guys, this over-sized towel is made to carry! It has a sturdy strap that allows you to pick it up and swing it over your shoulder. Think of all the free space you’ll have in your tote bag now… and a lot less sand.
02. Upcycled Mail Sack iPad Case. Admit it. You totally bring your iPad to the beach. No? Just me? Well maybe you would if you had this awesome case, think about it.
03. Custom Map Tote Bag. Tote bags are a beach must-have. This one has a ton of pockets and space, plus I absolutely love the authentic nautical chart.
04. Custom Beach Stacking Rings. I always want to wear jewelry at the beach, but none of my day-to-day accessories quite fit. These rings are perfect. They feature granules gathered from over 1,000 shorelines around the world. Wow, love.
05. Beach Sounds Portable Speaker. A day at the beach just isn’t complete without the right soundtrack. Plug in your iPhone, strap it safely inside, and you’re ready for a beach dance party.
06. Bamboo Sunglasses. I’m all about the bamboo sunglasses this summer. They’re so lightweight and durable. Perfect for the beach.
07. Beach Chess and Checkers. Playing checkers on the beach sounds so relaxing after a long day of swimming, don’t you think?
08. Sprocket Rocket Camera. I take photos everywhere I go… with my iPhone. I’d love to take this camera to the beach to capture some photos the old fashioned way.
Are you planning on spending some time at the beach this summer? What’s on your beach wish list?
This time of year is all about relaxing, having fun, and enjoying the little things. Summer officially begins June 21st. Are you ready? My summer wish list is FULL of items to maximize my summer fun. I just can’t begin this delightful season without these (arguably) crucial items…
Here are my top 10 picks for summertime:
01. Bamboo Sunglasses. Eco-friendly, teal, and super cute? Sold.
02. Succulent Wall Planter Kit. Succulents are huge this summer. Create a display indoors or out with this planter kit. P.S. you can use it as a gorgeous centerpiece OR hang it on the wall. LOVE.
03. Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Press. Enough said, right? How cute are these mini ice cream sandwiches?!
04. Diana Camera. Create soft and dreamy photos of your summer adventures. My #1 summer pick for sure.
05. Perfect Pops. This book has 50 party-ready recipes, from banana malted milkshake to prosecco rose petal pops. I might need to make all of them…
06. The American Cocktail. This is the ultimate guide to American cocktails, featuring over 50 classic and contemporary drink recipes from across the U.S. Check out this free recipe for a southern cocktail that’s sure to please in the summertime!
07. Twiddle White Pitcher. You know, for all those cocktails… or lemonade. This pitcher would also make a gorgeous vase for your favorite long-stemmed flowers.
08. Bicycle Glasses. These little guys just say summer, don’t you think?
09. Love at First Swing Hammock. This hammock is hand-woven from 3.2 miles of soft, vibrant, and weather-resistant cord, which basically means it’s unbelievably comfortable. Let the summer relaxing begin!
10. Magpie Hopscotch. Hopscotch stones for your garden! Genius.
What are some of your must-haves this summer?
You made last year’s Wedding Week so exciting and gosh darn fun we had to do it again! We asked our favorite wedding blog, The Knot, and new magazine Southern Weddings to put together collections of their favorite wedding gifts. We also pulled together some great wedding-themed blog posts to get you excited this wedding season.
Home Accessories buyer Katie gives some tips for creating your wedding registry. And she should know, she just got engaged!
Meet Tavia, one of our newest artists who takes a truly uncommon approach to a traditional wedding band.
You have all these great new place settings but what now? Take some tips from a Martha Stewart-wannabe on what to do and what not to do while setting your next dinner party.
UncommonGoods Tabletop Buyer and newlywed (and self-proclaimed kitchen rookie) Candace shares her top 10 favorite kitchen gadgets.
Still want more? Our copywriter Nathan demystifies wedding traditions in our Uncommon Knowledge series.
Not to sound overly girlie or cliché, but getting engaged was absolutely one of the happiest, most blissful moments (weekends) of my life. And sure, now five months later I am entirely wrapped up in comparing caterers and photographers and yes trying on many, many white dresses and making many, many decisions (who knew there were so many decisions to make?). It’s been a total blast. As it turns out, I love planning! Now, that’s not to say I haven’t had my moments – total emotional breakdowns/spazz moments … I am somewhat comforted to know that I have found this to be a shared experience among just about all my engaged/married friends. (This is a highly emotional time, people!) but I am getting better at thinking big picture and turning any moments of stress into excitement. I think by the time our wedding date rolls around, I’ll have this down to a science. Until then: lots of deep breaths, long runs and on certain nights: copious amounts of wine.
As for some of those details – while we are taking some liberties with certain “traditions”, building a registry was one of the most fun projects I have worked on during this flurry of planning – and we approached this in a somewhat traditional sense – all while infusing our personalities into it from bottom to top. I have been to enough weddings in the past 2-3 years to see several approaches to registries, and being in the retail business and overall a product-passionate person, I am at somewhat of an advantage as to knowing what is in the competitive landscape for products. Here are some tips of the trade and from my experience that might be useful for anyone who is just getting started in this:
(1.) SET UP MORE THAN ONE REGISTRY:
We tried a few different approaches, and in the end, we chose to register with four different sites. We wanted to make sure we gathered the best products from the best sources to match our taste and needs, rather than trying to retro-fit into one or two retailers who might not have exactly what we wanted. Not to mention, a lot of traditional retailers don’t carry the really unique, wow items to add personality into your home. I also really love when my friends register at a few different places, so that I can mix and match gifts and price points to give them what feels like a cohesive package of goodies.
The first place we registered with was the service Knack. We used this to pull in items from sites that did not have their own registry or if there were not enough items on the site to rationalize an entire registry. I had used Knack for friends’ registries and found it exciting to see items aggregated from funky, smaller stores. I liked that it opened up the market for registering outside of traditional retailers, but the checkout process was somewhat laborious to use. (E.g.: to purchase an item, you click into the item page from the main registry page, select “Buy Now” – which then takes you to the separate retailer site to purchase. Once you purchase it through the other retailer (and have to enter in all address information, etc), then you have to click back to Knack to tell the service you purchased it. Not the easiest, I did not check out correctly the first time I used it and I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy person! After imagining some of the less tech-savvy folks in our life trying to use this service, I decided to break out what I could onto separate, more traditional registry sites.
(2.) ASK FOR HELP!
After building out registries which solved for pots and pans, plates and cups, coffee makers and cookbooks, I thought I had thought of everything. Well, thankfully, I sent our registry links around to my mom, sister-in-law, and my fiancé’s mom. Definitely ask around, while there are tons of wedding planning books and websites, I found getting advice from the people who know us best to be the most helpful. They knew we didn’t need overly ornate plates or silver serving pieces, but they also jumped on the fact that I had missed sheets and towels and silverware.
(3.) MAKE SURE TO GET YOUR PARTNER’S SIGN OFF
Building the registry was something I decided to take on and consult with my partner after I was more or less finished. I built out the above described registries, added the links to our wedding website, and before I knew it our family and friends were jumping on items as engagement gifts. (What a lovely surprise!) Luckily, my fiancé and I definitely share a similar taste level and aesthetic so I was not too far off. However, once I saw people starting to buy items, I decided I ought to run the registries by my fiancé. The process of editing was funny, while I tried to pretty much stick to the essentials, I may have tried to slide in a few decorative accents that he quickly and swiftly gave the axe (a handmade bell, Katie, really??). So, make sure you are BOTH on the same page to avoid glares from your one and only after the wedding.
Overall, building a registry is a super fun project; I think this is because it allows you to start picturing what this next phase of our life might look like. Sure, we have lived together for going on 4 years now and have stocked cabinets, but our kitchen is largely a patchwork style collection of cast off odds and ends from our moms’ kitchens (happy to clean out their pantries), plates we picked up from the free shop at a oft-visited dump in New Hampshire, and–most notably–our collection of pots and pans from a particularly successful yard sale day. For two people who love to cook and entertain, curating a collection of items to use on a daily basis was an exciting foray into – dare I say – true adulthood. Because really, I think it’s when you own your first Cuisinart that you can call yourself an adult. But it was during the selection of goods that I realized we could hand pick the items that we would use not only to use to heat up soup on a typical Monday night of netflix-marathon watching, but to make our home with, to serve holiday dinners with our families, and in someway, to define who we are as a couple and how we want to make our home. That being said, I believe our kitchen, and our home will always be a patchwork of odds and ends, but at least now we might have matching tops to all our pots and a functioning coffee maker!
My biggest words of advice: Make it about who you are as a couple. If you never bake, don’t register for bake ware; if you aren’t the formal type, register for some high quality, but funkier versions of things – everyone needs plates to eat off of, you don’t need to go for the super expensive kind if they don’t suit your lifestyle. The rules have changed a lot, embrace the freedom to build your home together and have fun with it. When in doubt, consult your family and friends for help, they will love it!
Get your registry started at UncommonGoods!