Kitchens with charm

When it comes to the kitchen I'm definitely all about rustic charm, so I thought I'd share a few darling pictures I found of kitchens with this rustic charm I speak of.  Enjoy!

Did you know the importance of leaving skin on?

Did you know... that a large percentage of the nutrients in produce (fruits and vegetables) is located in the skin, the outermost layer of the fruit and vegetable? While you may not been keen on eating citrus rinds or squash skins there are plenty of other fruits and vegetables that are just as tasty (if not more tasty) eaten with the skin on, to name a few: potatoes, cucumbers, apples and pears!

Of course you must keep in mind that eating your produce with the skin on would only be safe if eating organic produce, non-organic produce which can (and most likely do) contain pesticides and other harmful sprays is a no-no to your health, therefore, if you are buying non-organic produce DO DO DO make sure to peel the skin.

Trader Joe's g* Organic Corn Chip Dippers

Maybe it's the gluten-free (g*) part that I love so much, I have my doubts on this though. I decided to try Trader Joe's brand Organic Corn Chip Dippers, at this point it was most definitely the g* that was stamped right on the front of the bag that got me, but I was to later realize that there's much more to love about this bag of corn chips than just the g*.

I went home opened a container of pico de gallo and the corn dippers, I tried the corn dippers alone and then I tried them with the pico de gallo. Fantastic! The Organic gluten-free corn chip dippers have the perfect crunch, each dipper is large and scooped shaped (as seen in the below picture) ideal for scooping and thick enough to hold pretty much any kind of dip not just watery pico de gallo but a large scoop of 7-layer dip as well (I tried this too). The crunch, the slight saltiness (not over saltiness which I find most chips to be) results in the perfect corn chip dipper perfect for eating alone too!

Now, week's later I've bought my 3rd bag of TJ's Organic g* corn chip dippers. Is it worth a try? Yes, totally.

Cooking At Home: 7-Layer Mexican Pie Dip

One thing that I've learned from being pregnant so far (so far meaning the last two & half months) is that, when you can't figure out what it is that you want to eat (and during pregnancy this can be quite aggravating) the trick is to eat things with multiple main ingredients in it... hence today's 7-Layer Mexican Pie Dip. I suppose the pie plate just makes it more beautiful not more delicious, which was all quite by accident, I've got a dishwasher loaded with dirty dishes and the pie plate was my only choice, and what a pretty accident it turned out to be- a perfect presentation for a party!

One of the great things about the 7-layer dip is that it is fairly simple to make, all one really needs to do is to put it all together, no actual cooking required, and in this way it makes a great bachelor dish (sorry boys for the reference!)

Here goes...


  • 1 can of black beans (or refried beans if you prefer the traditional way)
  • Guacamole (homemade or simply buy the pre-made from Trader Joe's- equally as good)
  • Sour cream (low fat or non-fat if your concerned for your health)
  • Shredded cheese of your choice (even crumbled feta might be nice for a little twist)
  • 1/2 a small red onion diced (you can knix the onions if you no likey)
  • Diced tomatoes with the seeds scraped out (you don't want a watery dip!)
  • Small can of sliced black olives

Simply layer all the ingredients one by one in a dish of your choice, a dish with at least 1" sides should do the trick.

First start with the beans, then....
Sour cream
Onions (if you are using)
Tomatoes, and then...
lastly Olives

Cooking At Home: The trick to a delicious fruit salad

Fruit salads are one of my favorite things to make, maybe my love for fruit makes me biased or perhaps (and most likely it is this) that you can make so many different kinds of fruit salads. Mix and match the fruit that's in season, it really doesn't matter- it always turns out great... and it's a good for you!

There are a couple of fruits on my "boring fruit" list, grapes and bananas, these fruits I pretty much never use in my fruit salads- but of course that shouldn't deter you from doing so.

The trick to making a delicious fruit salad every single time?  Lime juice. Yes, lime juice, simple as that.  Squeeze a quarter or even better yet a half or whole lime right into your fruit mix, it'll keep the colors fresh and give it that sweet zing.

My latest Winter Fruit Salad included, half pint of blueberries, a whole red apple, a yellow pear, 3/4 of a pomegranate and the juice of 1/2 a lime

Another TIP... lime juice goes awfully well with pomegranates!  So if you've got pomegranates in your fruit salad you can bet that the lime juice is only going to make it better... and vice versa!

The Perfect Gift For Your Foodie Friend

For your foodie friend or friends try a cute little gift of a vintage Ball Jar Coffee Mill, you can bet that no one else he or she knows will have one- making it a rare gift that will most definitely bring out some "ooohs" and "ahhhhs". Go a step further for your foodie friend and wrap the gift in dessert themed wrapping paper! How cute is that!

Ball Jar Coffee Mill

Made with cast iron hopper and adjustable grinder with a walnut wood handle. The mill which measured 9" in height and 6" in diameter can hold up to 500 ml ground beans which is about 4-5 cups of drip coffee.

Cavallini Sweet Treats Wrapping Paper

$3.95 for 20" x 28" the Sweet Treats wrapping paper is print on Italian acid free paper.

Cooking At Home: Apple Blueberry Crumble a la Mode

I contribute my recent renewed enthusiasm to baking to being six-weeks pregnant (with my first child! Yay!) The next nine months should be quite fun, pickle pie? Anchovy cookies anyone? Just kidding - for now.

Last night in order to fulfill my dessert and baking needs I hit the web for some tasty recipes and when I couldn't find one on the web that seemed delicious enough I hit the many books on my Cooking bookshelf, and there in one of Ina Garten's cookbooks I found inspiration.

In Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home Cookbook I looked over her recipe for her Peach & Blueberry Crumble dessert, and however great it would have been to make this exact recipe there were two problems: the first, I really had set my heart on an apple dessert (and you can't mess with a pregnant lady's dessert) and second, it's not peach season- so no peaches to be found... anywhere!  And that's how I came to make the Apple Blueberry Crumble a la Mode instead.

With a scoop of cold vanilla bean ice cream the crumble is absolutely delicious! The fruit is not too sweet (thank goodness for this) because the crumble (which is heavenly) is sweet enough, the french vanilla ice cream gives it that creamy texture as well as a freshness to the entire dish (as all al mode dishes seem to be) but most importantly the french vanilla ice cream simply rounds out the whole dish, adding a little bit of sweetness to the fruit and taking a little bit of sweetness from the crumble- all in the best way possible.


For the fruit
1).  Small green apples (Granny Smith) peeled, cored and sliced into wedges - make sure you have enough apples to fill your pie-plate or other bakeware. I mounded my apples slightly but this is optional.
2).  1/2 pint of blueberries
3).  French Vanilla Ice Cream (you can go crazy and do homemade but I found that Trader Joe's Vanilla ice-cream totally does the trick)
4).  1/2 -1 tsp Cinnamon 
5).  Zest of 1/2 lemon
6).  Juice of 3/4 of a lemon
7).  1/4 - 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
8).  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
9).  Pinch of nutmeg

For the Crumble
1).  1 cup all-purpose flour
2).  1/3 cup granulated sugar
3).  1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
4).  1/2 tsp kosher salt
5).  1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
6).  1/4 pound (1 stick) gold unsalted butter, diced


1).  In a large bowl toss the apples with cinnamon, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, flour and nutmeg.
2).  Then carefully fold in the blueberries.
3).  Allow the fruit mixture to sit for 5 minutes (I begin to preheat my oven to 350 degrees at this time, and also prepare my crumble which takes more than 5 minutes but that doesn't seem to really matter).

4).  For the crumble, combine in large bowl the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter. If you have an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment you may want to bust it out at this time and mix the flour mixture on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. If you do not have an electric mixer, like me, grab a wooden spoon and start mixing.
5).  Once the butter is the size of small peas, rub the mixture with your fingers, big crumbles will begin to form (or in my case, not so much, there were more little crumbs than big crumbles. I simple took a bit in my hands and squeezed it together to form clumps of crumbles- this is something you can do too if you're having a hard time with forming large crumbles by rubbing with your fingertips).

6).  Pour the fruit mixture and it's juices into your bakeware.
7).  Top the fruit with the crumble (I tried to get as much on there because I always love the bready parts of pies, the crumble is really fantastic so you'll want to put as much on there- just fyi).
8).  Bake in the preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, if after 45 minutes you don't see juices bubbling then keep your pie in the oven for another 5-10 minutes (basically, you want to see juices bubbling, I found that if you take the pie out before juices are bubbling the apples although very hard may still be semi hard, so in order to insure softer apples wait until you see juices bubbling before you take the pie out, plus, your crumble should be golden brown- so if those two things haven't happened in 45 minutes than your pie can cook a little longer).

Serve with a large scoop of Vanilla ice-cream and get ready to say, "OMG, that totally hits the spot!"

Vintage Recipe Cards from IceMilk Aprons

I'm a huge lover of pretty much anything vintage so when I saw these vintage cards available at IceMilk Aprons the first word that popped into my head was "darling!"  You can probably easily make these vintage cards yourself but if you lack the time and the motivation now you know where to find them.  They would make a great gift for your fellow foodie friends, and Christmas is right around the corner.

Le Pain Quotidien: Chicken Tortilla Soup perfect for a gloomy day

On a chilly weekend morning Mr. Borscht and I found ourselves sitting out on the back patio of Le Pain Quotidien, once again. The cold air made it a terrible day for my usual bowl of cold Gazpacho, so I maneuvered myself into a Chicken Tortilla Soup mood which wasn't hard in the least bit given the gloomy weather. Chicken Tortilla Soup that is tomatoey and loaded with vegetables as well as pieces of chicken, all afloat in a chicken broth full of flavor. With just the right amount of flavors and spice, and hearty (yet not overly hearty) the Chicken Tortilla Soup is something to be had... especially on a chilly day, it's the type of soup that can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The Damage:  $7.50 +/-
1 Chicken Tortilla Soup, bowl size

Le Pain Quotidien
113 N. Larchmont
LA CA 90004
(323) 461.7701

The Battle of The Dumplings

It's the battle of the dumplings! A fight to the death! < okay, that was a little over-kill, but I can't help but imagine little dumplings with eyeballs, armed with swords dueling it out.

Last month I went ahead and did a product review on Trader Joe's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers (which is actually very tasty), this gave me the idea to put Trader Joe's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers to the ultimate test: how does TJ's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers do against an Asian brand of frozen potstickers.  So here it is, the battle of the dumplings: TJ's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers VS CJ Vegetable & Meat Dumplings. CJ's, by the way, is a Korean brand for those of you who are unaware.

Nutritional Value of: Trader Joe's Chicken Gyoza Dumplings / CJ Veg & Meat Dumpling
TJ's (left) / CJ's (right)

Let's begin with the nutrition comparisons of the two brands, this is a comparison of the calories, calories from fat, saturated fat, sodium, total carbohydrate and sugars from total carbohydrates with the serving size in mind. Trader Joe's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers nutritional facts is based upon a larger serving size (TJ's serving size 7 potstickers while CJ's serving size is 5 pieces), while even having a higher serving size Trader Joe's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers still has less calories, way less calories from fat and way less total fat. However cholesterol is higher with TJ's and also is way higher in the amount of sodium used. So there is a balancing act that needs to be done here when deciding whether or not to go for TJ's or CJ's based upon nutritional facts, one must consider one's own priorities regarding health: more fat and calories for less sodium and cholesterol? Or vice-versa.

Trader Joe's
Chicken Gyoza Potstickers

The Chicken Gyoza Potstickers by and from Trader Joe's are easy to make and delicious. The meat is sweet, flavorful and juicy while the dumpling skins have the perfect texture and thickness. These potstickers can be added to soups, fried and steamed, but fried seems to be the best way to cook them and eat them (I have tried all three ways and found that these dumplings can't hold very well in broth and just don't taste as good steamed).

CJ  (Korean brand)
Vegetable & Meat Dumpling

The Korean brand, CJ's Vegetable & meat dumplings which I was able to buy at my local Korean Market blew me away. The flavor reminded me of true Korean dumplings, the glass noodles, meat and spices just reminded me the tastes of authentic Asian dumplings.


THE WINNER: CJ's Vegetable & Meat Dumplings

The cooking directions for CJ's Vegetable & Meat dumplings are exactly the same as the cooking directions for TJ's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers: Oil the pan, brown the dumplings, add a little bit of water to the pan, cover the pan with a lid and allow the dumplings to steam for a few minutes - pretty simple.

The first thing I noticed when cooking CJ's dumplings was that a couple of the dumpling skins were falling apart (which I totally hate), I was already beginning to make up my mind that TJ's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers was the dumpling for me. However, when I took a bite into the first CJ's dumplings a rush of nostalgia ran over me from head-to-toe, I was a bit hesitant to simply be overtaken so easily but there was no doubt about it, when it comes to dumplings CJ's totally wins. The flavor of CJ's dumplings are truer to that of the real thing, perhaps it is the glass noodles and/or asian spices that are used, whatever it is it brought me closer to home than TJ's dumplings was able to, and that was the real test.

*Extra side note
Even though I really dislike that the dumpling skins on a couple of the CJ's dumplings didn't hold very well during cooking time I have to admit that the crunch created on the CJ's dumplings opposed to TJ's dumplings were better, this may be due to the thicker skins on the CJ's dumplings.

Did you know that you can peel garlic in 2-steps?

I love garlic, I think garlic makes everything taste better save for the few things such as fruit, garlic and fruit together? Ick. As much as I love garlic it was hard for me to want to cook with the darn little things, peeling them with such a B*!tc#, if you ever cooked with garlic and peeled them by hand you know what I mean. Then I found this amazing way to peel garlic and it really only takes 2 simple steps.  Here's how...

1. You will need a big knife

2. Use the fat end of your knife and your fist to smash the garlic. 

Do this by taking your clove of garlic and laying it sideway, take your knife with the sharp side away from you, align and gently lay the fatter end of the knife (closer to the handle) ontop of the garlic, then take your fist and smash the other side of the knife, the knife will squash the garlic on the other side of the knife (as seen below).

3. Peel

The skin of the garlic clove should come off in one piece!

Not Your Ordinary Kitchen Artwork

by Elle Moss, available at Etsy

In my personal opinion if you love to eat you also love to cook, and if you love to cook then you must love your kitchen. And part of loving your kitchen is being in love with the way it surrounds you, I'm not just talking about your oven and your utensils but loving your walls, the color, the ambience... everything. I've lived in some pretty stale apartments in my time, stale apartments with equally stale kitchens- it's hard to want to cook in a space like that, I think I ate out for most of that time and had the weight gain to prove it.  So do you love your kitchen or do you hate it?

An easy way to improve anyone's surroundings is to hang a few images, images that you love and moves you of course, speaking of which, I found some lovely food-related photographs by Elle Moss and just thought how beautiful it would make my kitchen if I could buy a couple or even just one to frame and put in my kitchen. I especially love the tea cup full of macarons (pictured above). The red apple (pictured below) would be great too, I can see it framed and hung above a basket of apples!

by Elle Moss, available at Etsy

DID YOU KNOW that you can freeze pre-cooked rice?

Back in the day before I knew a thing or two about life I hated cooking rice for myself.  For one person cooking rice seemed like such a big deal and then when I began to cook for two there was always leftover rice.

Then one day Mother told me "you can freeze rice. Just pack it in a container after it fully cools down and then you can microwave it for 5 minutes and you've got your rice!" I was, of course, pretty excited when I heard this.  You can freeze most anything- I knew this, and yet freezing pre-cooked rice never even occurred to me. The tip would be a great help in my years to come especially on days when my schedule was fully packed.  Now whenever I cook rice I make sure to make more than I need, I cool - pack - and freeze the rest. *sigh, sometimes it's the little things in life.

Cooking At Home: Two Favorite Ways To Devour Leftover Kimchi

When there is leftover kimchi, and there always seems to be leftover kimchi, I make Kimchi Fried Rice and/or Kimchi Chigae (stew). Unlike a majority of the Korean population I love my kimchi fresh, I won't eat any other kind, traditionally kimchi is well marinated; cabbage smothered with spicy seasoning and salt sits to pickle before being served. I never really liked the traditional kimchi, instead I love the freshly made kimchi, which means that I always have leftover kimchi. Fresh kimchi becomes traditional kimchi in not too long, so when I buy a batch of freshly made kimchi I have days to eat it before I won't touch it, so when the kimchi goes traditional which it almost always does when I buy a batch, I make either Kimchi Fried Rice or Kimchi Chigae with the leftovers... and both if I'm lucky!

Kimchi chigae is a stew made with your leftover kimchi and all of its juices. Pork or a meat of your choice is added along with water to create more broth. The chigae recipe is literally that simple, simple boil then simmer all these ingredients together and serve it up with rice and other sides (if you so wish).

Kimchi Fried Rice is exactly what it sounds like, fried rice with kimchi. Add your choice of meat along with your leftover kimchi and all its juices AND your leftover day-old rice, talking about the ultimate leftover dish!

Trader Joe's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers

I'm not really a fan of frozen food but I can appreciate their convenience in spite of the weirdness; yes, frozen food is weird to me. But some days you just don't want to go out, you're not that hungry and you really don't feel like cooking- on these rare days I bust out potstickers!  

I grew up with homemade dumplings. I remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table with a very large mixing bowl full of ground meat mixed with green onions, garlic, tofu and stuff, and a stack of small round dumpling skins- I always tried to stay out of her site on these days for fear she might ask for help. Making twenty-five or even fifty is one thing, but hundreds! Come on! We would eat them for months of course, she'd freeze the pre-made dumplings and bust them out on cold days to make hot dumpling soup, awesome. While my mom could sit there content, slowly wrapping dumplings for a 1/3rd of the day I on the other hand, don't have the patience to sit around and prepare dumplings (call me young), naturally I just buy them. 

I stereotype frozen food, the stereotype is that they definitely don't taste as good and maybe even taste a little stale because of the whole frozen part, and that frozen food is definitely weird (and I don't mean this in a good way) because the food themselves can survive way past their natural due-date- I know, that's what frozen food is all about, but still... it weirds me out.

When I first decided to try out Trader Joe's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers, which was roughly 5 years ago, I was definitely preparing myself for the worst. But of course, as you probably already saw coming, I was pleasantly surprised< smiley face to that.  They're uber easy to make and actually, quite delicious. The meat is flavorful and my potstickers always come out wonderfully perfect, kind of crispy on the outside and moist and flavorful on the inside. I have yet to compare Trader Joe's potstickers with Korean-made or a Korean brand one- I suppose that'd be the real challenge (soon to come!).  Getting down to the point, these potstickers are practically as good as the real thing, honest!

I've been eating Trader Joe's frozen potstickers on and off for about 5 years now, and when I'm eating frozen potstickers I always get Trader Joe's Chicken Gyoza Potstickers. During those 5 years I've definitely made them a few different ways, steaming them, frying them, even adding them to soups.  But I've found that the best way to cook and eat the potstickers is simply to follow the cooking directions on the back of the package, if so... you'll find yourself looking at a plate full of just-crisp browned skinned dumpling with moist flavorful middles. 

If you're up for a fun challenge and would really like to try and make dumplings/gyozas from scratch try the recipe from Maangchi

The most amazing food site run-in


I'm not really sure how I ended up on this awesome site, Food52Shop, but it is truly awesome, heaven for all you food fanatics out there.  Food52Shop is like the Gilt site for food which is actually linked from (which is also uber great btw, more on this below).  Basically Food52shop is focused on everything food, selling items for only a limited time. 

From limited specialties such as the heirloom beans & mexican chocolate...

Not to mention things you've never dreamed of such as the fresh-packed Portuguese Sardines from Bela...

But also offers great cookbooks, not just any cookbook...

And yes, even table linen such as the new Heirloomed table linen collection by Icemilk Aprons...

And when you thought it couldn't get any better, they even offer workshops, classes and immersions, even at far away lands.  The one below is the Betty Fussell & Cocinar Mexicano for food writing and cooking at Posada del Tepoztlan!

If you love the Food52Shop your just going to die when you visit the Food52 site, which has tons of great articles on everything food, of course, and with beautiful pictures too!  Food52 is a must checkout site for all food lovers, your going to love it!

Check out Food52Shop for yourself or simply check out Food52 for a more general look & a read-through through their fabulous articles.


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