My Favorite Tools in the Kitchen.

It's no secret that I love to cook. I am on a personal name basis with half of the ladies who work at my local Williams Sonoma, and I can often be found peppering them with questions about competing products and how they do meal prep. I've even squeezed a few amazing recipes out of them, which are the days when I really count myself lucky. Over the past 8 years or so, I have goofed off in my kitchen, experimenting with different recipes and foods and techniques, all in the name of learning. Stevie has been there for the not-so-great dishes and some of the most spectacular surprises. I'm grateful for him, my professional taste-tester. And I am so grateful that I enjoy my time in the kitchen, because we have to eat either way! Might as well enjoy the process! But truly, making a delicious meal is kind of like art to me - it's peaceful, it's therapeutic, it's spontaneous, it's exhilarating, and it's most definitely creative. And I am totally the creeper that likes to watch people as they bite into something I made - the satisfaction of knowing that I concocted something that someone else can consume and enjoy is so very gratifying. I know. Creeper in the kitchen.

I wanted to share a few items in my kitchen that are the workhorses of the bunch. The almost daily-used tools and machines that are in heavy rotation in and out of my hands while I cook. I couldn't possibly be as efficient without these few amazing tools in my arsenal. I am grateful for the years of Christmas gifts (which most of these have been!), because my kitchen is shaping up rather nicely these days. Though I have an ever-growing list of items that I am constantly on the hunt for, especially if I can find a deal on them. If you're interested in investing in a few stellar cook's gadgets and utensils, here is a personal recommendation for my favorite tools in the kitchen.

Dutch Oven.
This was an enormous game-changer when I received this rad dutch oven for Christmas a few years ago. My Le Creuset Dutch Oven, in the classy shade of Marseille, is my first choice as an investment for the kitchen. This particular pot does it all. You can cook anything on the stove in it, including pan-frying chicken, sauteing vegetables, cooking a stew - anything! And then it transfers to the oven like a dream, thanks to the heat-safe enameled cast-iron. This is where you can braise lamb or slow-cook a roast. This particular item introduced me to "big girl cooking" beyond what I was capable of doing in a regular Pyrex glass dish. And the most amazing thing about this particular dutch oven is that I will have it forever and will it on to family. That's how long Le Creuset holds up - forever! It's quite an investment but completely worth it when you think about how much it will be used over the course of a lifetime of cooking (and eating!) in the kitchen.

Wooden Cutting/Pastry Board.
I discovered this solid wooden Boos Block cutting board a few years ago, when I baked cookies with Mary the Cookie Lady. Some of you might remember that particular post, a time that still lives on in my mind in a hushed reverence of pastry enlightenment. Mary taught me a world of good when it comes to all things sugary and bake-able. And we spent that one special day hard at work on her infamous maple-wooden pastry board. Her particular pastry board was passed down to her from her mother, and I was envious of such a meaningful (and incredibly useful!) item that was ingrained, literally, with such significance to Mary. Every time she cuts on that board or rolls out a fresh batch of cookie dough, she thinks of her mother. And you know what? My darling Aunt Shirley sent me this Boos Block Pastry Board as a housewarming gift a few months ago, when we moved into our new digs. When I say that we use this an overwhelming amount, I mean it. This pastry board stays on my counter top, proudly looking down at all the other flimsy plastic sheets that claim to call themselves cutting boards. This cutting board has upped my chopping skills and when this Whole30 situation is over, I will be kneading some mean Valentines treats on it, as well.

Chef's Knife.
Any great cook will credit their Chef's Knife as a significant player in their daily cooking practice. I received my 8-year old J. Henkels 8-inch Chef's Knife as a wedding gift, and it has certainly done the trick for all these years. I use it everyday to chop and dice 90% of everything you see here in my recipes on the blog. However, I do dream of upgrading to this Wustof Classic Ikon masterpiece sometime in the future.

Cast Iron Skillet.
This Staub Cast-Iron 10-inch Skillet in sapphire blue has me swooning big over it's incredible stove top-to-oven durability. I've been making a frittata almost every single day in this skillet, and it behaves like a non-stick pan, even though that's not one of the main claims of this item's quality. It's pre-seasoned, heats food ridiculously evenly and has that richly-colored enamel coat that just has me dreaming of when i can invest in another!

High-Powered Blender.
Vitamix = Love. LOVE I SAY. My particular model of the Vitamix is the 5200 package from Costco (which is totally the way to buy it, if you ask me - such a deal compared to the regular retail price!) We make EVERYTHING in this thing. Soups, dressings, sauces, smoothies, juices, BABY FOOD, bread mixes of all kinds, desserts, and seriously, the list goes on. It has completely replaced my food processor and we use this thing every day.

Who doesn't love their slow cooker? I'll admit, mine isn't anywhere near fancy, but it doesn't need to be! This 4-Quart Crock-Pot has been our winter go-to for years and years. I love throwing random veggies, meat and stock in the crock-pot and letting it do it's thing for 6-8 hours. Low and slow. That's the way I like to go :)

And that's it! Those are my everyday kitchen favorites. Of course, those aren't all my favorites, but those are the items that I use absolutely every day. Do any of these match up with your everyday used kitchen items? I would love to hear about your favorite cooking utensils!

Roasted Tomato Soup

I went to an afternoon class at Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago with my dear friend Liz. We were learning how to use our high-powered blenders to make some autumn recipes. Side note - did you know that Williams-Sonoma offers free technique classes every Sunday at 1pm? I am overjoyed! You know where I will be on Sundays from now on. That store is my happy place. My Christmas list is already brimming with kitchen must-haves. Okay, enough crushing on WS. The point is, at the class I learned how to make a roasted tomato soup. Then I went home and played around with the recipe a bit. And I'm not going to say I'm happy - I'm thrilled. This soup is divine. Skip your way over to the grocery store and snatch up these ingredients. You are going to want to make this tonight.

- 3 lb. Roma tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp. minced garlic
- 5 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 1 bunch of fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 bunch of fresh parsley, chopped
- salt & pepper to taste
- fresh grated Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Slice the tomatoes in half and place in a large glass baking dish, insides facing up.
3. In a small bowl, combine 3 tbsp. olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, fresh thyme, salt and pepper and whisk together until well mixed.
4. Carefully drizzle the glaze over the open-faced tomatoes.
5. Place tomatoes in the oven and roast for 1 hour.

6. Heat a dutch oven on the stove over medium heat. Add remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
7. Add the onion, saute for 3-4 minutes. Keep stirring so the onion doesn't burn.
8. Add 1 cup of the white wine and bring to a simmer.
9. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock to the dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
10. In batches, puree the mixture until smooth. I used a Vitamix, but you can use any high-powered blender.
11. Return the pureed soup back to the dutch oven, heating over low. Add the parsley, making sure to mix well.
12. Ladle into bowls, top with a bit more parsley and Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve immediately.

Seriously, this soupppppp. It's just so incredible and autumnal and just what the doctor ordered. And if you want to get fancy, this would be simply perfect if served with a side salad, grilled cheese or toast points. Bon Appetit, friends!

Happy Valentines Day Gift Picks

Happy Valentines Day Gift Guide

Happy Valentines Day Gift Guide by oykristen // 1. Freshly Picked Carryall // 2. Kate Spade for Keds Linen Champions // 3. Terrain Locket // 4. Terrain Hydrangea Earrings // 5. Anthropologie Butterfly Potholders // 6. Sonnet James Isabel Dress // 1. Sundance Billiard Bottle Stopper // 2. The Drunken Botanist // 3. Jeni's Berries + Chocolate Collection // 4. Mast Brothers Chocolate Bar // 5. Michael Kors Tie // 6. Williams-Sonoma Copper Mug //

Happy Valentines Day Gift Picks.

The conversation in our household about Valentines Day went a little something like this:

Me: "If I bought you a cuff, would you wear it?"

Him: "A cuff?"

Me: "Yeah, a cuff. Like a bracelet... but like, a man's bracelet. Leather and such. A man cuff."

Him: (After a long pause) "Probably not."

Just so you know, I was was referring to something woodsy and awesome, much like this or this (but obviously, something a fraction of the price), but clearly, such a gnarly item would not have been appreciated by my uninterested husband.

Instead, here are a few gifts that probably would work. Both for him and for her :)

For Her:

1. Freshly Picked Carryall

This brand has pretty much stabbed my wallet in the heart. Everything is SO GORGEOUS. Just take all my money. And my pride. But give me this leathery salt water taffy goodness.

2. Kate Spade for Keds Linen Champions

Keds are the best everyday sneaker. I've been living in mine, although this collaboration with Kate Spade is making me want, nay, need another pair.

3. Terrain Locket

Ooh la la. The enamel is a mod twist on the traditional locket, and I like it.  

4. Terrain Hydrangea Earrings

How gorgeous are these? This is such a very delicate and beautiful gift, perfect for your sweetheart!

5. Anthropologie Butterfly Potholders

Some women take offense to kitchen-related gifts. I am not one of those women. But manfolk, make sure your woman is one of those women who also loves kitchen play before you purchase these for her. And maybe throw in a jaunty little spatula while you're at it. For the spanking. I'M JUST KIDDING.

6. Sonnet James Isabel Dress

This brand is a new obsession of mine. "Playful dresses for playful moms", and they are so adorable! Breastfeeding-friendly, easy to clean and suuuuuuper cute. I mean, look at all that color-blocking. The days of mom jeans are over (praise report!) This little number is high on my list for sure. I'm a sucker for some strong marketing.

For Him:

1. Sundance Billiard Bottle Stopper

This is a rad toy for a rad boy.

 2. The Drunken Botanist

This is why we should all be gardeners. 

3. Jeni's Berries + Chocolate Collection

This is a seriously great gift. My hubby loves ice cream. He would DIG THIS.

4. Mast Brothers Chocolate Bar

The trendiest chocolate. Russell Stover is for SUCKERS.

5. Michael Kors Tie

For the dapper laddie in your life. Some men gotta suit up, might as well help them dress the part.

6. Williams-Sonoma Copper Mug

Don't you like to imagine that your dream man is sipping his morning coffee out of this? Like, atop a mountain? In a rugged flannel shirt? Yep. Yep yep yep.

I hope you have a happy time shopping for your love!

Noel: Gift Guide For the Dapper Lad

Christmas Gift Guide: For the Dapper Light

Christmas Gift Guide: For the Dapper Light by knhale // 1. Allen Edmonds Shaker Heights Plain-toe Butcher Lace-up Men's Dress Boot // 2. Leatherman Juice C2 Tool // 3. Terrain Buffalo Plaid Trapper Hat // 4. Sundance Sojourner Socks // 5. Sundance Magnetic BBQ Tool Light // 6. Banana Republic Slim-Fit Checkered Luxe-brushed Twill Shirt // 7. Stanley Flask // 8. Terrain Boulder Mug // 9. Steinbeck Centennial Boxed Set  // 10. Williams Sonoma Agate Rimmed Coasters // 11. Terrain Popcorn Popper //

For the Dapper Lad.

He's your guy. And you want to get him something spectacular, but... he's a guy. Which means you can hardly read his mind and you're sure that he cannot read yours. So how to surprise him with something truly wonderful?

In my experience, gift shopping for men at Christmastime is the greatest challenge. Inheriting about a zillion brothers made me acutely aware of how little I actually know about the hobbies of the opposite sex. Over the years, I've learned a bit of bro talk (okay, not really), and had a bit more insight into the dude world. It's extremely different from the fluffy feminine gifts I like to buy. However, I've come to love gift shopping for my dad(s), brothers, and of course my husband. The above items could outfit and impress a range of different kinds of men, and I know that they would be a smashing success. How? Trial and error, my friends. Trial and error. So go ahead, reap from the benefits of some tried-and-true surefire GRAND Christmas gifts that your strong, funny, manly man will absolutely love.

Happy Gifting!

November Delights List

November List

November List by knhale // 1. Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven // 2. Anthropologie Tea and Toast Butter Dish // 3. Williams Sonoma Holiday Toile Apron // 4. Scoutmob Walnut Bread Cutting Board // 5.  Anthropologie Avian Canopy Dinnerware // 6. Anthropologie Twinkle Lights Potholders // 7. Anthropologie Laguiole Cheese Knife Set // 8. Williams Sonoma Apple Spices Turkey Brine // 9. Williams Sonoma Le Creuset Silicone Cooking Tools Set // 10. Sorel Tremblant Moc // 11. Anthropologie Colorblock Cardi // 12. Anthropologie A Beautiful Mess Dishtowel // 13. Apothic Red Wine // 14. Anthropologie Made With Love Cookie Stamp // 15. Anthropologie Sorrento Platter //

Northern November.

This weather makes brings out all sorts of maternal instincts that I didn't really know I had. All I want to do is cozy up in my softest clothes and get to work in my kitchen, cooking savory stews and baking succulent treats. My oven has been working over time on all sorts of recipes, both experimental and age-old favorites. This list is a bit of what I have and a bit of what I WANT, to keep doing what I do! All of the above would make that Thanksgiving Day prep a lot more vibrant and memorable :)

When I get busy in the kitchen, I tend to hang out in my home clothes (my husband's hilarious term for comfy clothes), which includes something like the Sorel Tremblant Moc and an oversized sweater like this dreamy Anthropologie Colorblock Cardi, or anything that can be easily shed when the temperatures begin rising! And if I'm in dinner-time mode, there's always a good reason for popping open a bottle of your favorite table wine to smooth out the baking anxieties. I got a particular kick out of this dishtowel; I wonder if the gals over at A Beautiful Mess know that Anthro has a crush on them. Pretty legit. That's when you know your blog has ARRIVED. If I could be whipping up some of my Georgian recipes in anything Le Creuset, I would simply die and go to Heaven. We'll see if Santa is feeling particularly French this year.