I’m a big fan of Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products, which are all-natural and smell great (I especially love the geranium-scented countertop spray). Unlike many other household cleaning products, they are chemical-free and won’t leave you with a headache once you’re done using them. They are also safe to use around children and pets. I recently found out that they also make a candle–it comes in geranium, lavender, and lemon verbena. The candles are made from vegatable wax and come in a cute jelly jar that you can reuse as a juice glass. Light them while you’re cleaning or just hanging out. I know which one I’ll be ordering! $9,99; mrsmeyers.com.
If you’re looking to spruce up your kitchen, an easy way can be updating your refrigerator door décor. I’ve seen everything from using chalkboard paint to create an interactive writing surface for kids, to using flowery contact paper for a vintage look. But the simplest solution is often just some funky magnets. I love these super strong zipper magnets by Amalia Versaci Design. They come in sets of six in shades of blue, green, orange, and purple. They’d also make a great gift, as the designer ships them in a cute box with wrapped in a vintage zipper tape ribbon. $18; etsy.com.
I’ve always admired this line of modern wire baskets available only at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), and now the online shop is currently having a 50% off sale. The basket is made by Alessi and comes in a red (in a square shape), or yellow (in a round shape). It’s perfect for fruit. You could also use it as a bread basket, or even line it with a towel and fill it with tortilla chips. It would be a bright, sophisticated touch to any kitchen counter top. $39.95 (the usual price is $85) at moma.org.
I usually use my microwave to keep track of cooking times, but there’s something much more satisfying about using an actual kitchen timer. Maybe it’s that the ring is less jarring than the mechanical beep of the microwave. Not long ago a friend of mine bought this old-fashioned vintage timer, and not only is it a funky kitchen gadget that looks great on the fridge (it’s magnetic), but it has a nice ring to it, too! It comes in four colors: light blue, red, black, and yellow. $10.95 at wrapables.com.
I became addicted to roasted broccoli a few years ago, and since then roasting is my favorite way to prepare it (and many other vegetables). Normally, I roast it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper at 400-450 degrees for twenty minutes or so (with the broccoli cut into large florets) until it turns slightly golden brown and crispy. But recently I saw this recipe in the New York Times that turns what is usually a side dish into an entire meal: roasted broccoli with shrimp. After seeing it got nice reviews on several food blogs, including The Wednesday Chef, I decided to try it out. It combines roasted broccoli with shrimp and a handful of spices including chili powder and cumin, as well as a showering of freshly grated lemon zest. The result is a recipe that’s easy to prepare and so delicious. Also, for an even quicker version, keep some frozen, peeled shrimp on hand in your freezer so that the only ingredient you need to pick up at the grocery story is the broccoli (assuming you have all the spices and a lemon on hand). This meal is one more keeper I’ll be adding to my list of old reliables! The exact recipe is here.
In honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d tout these gorgeous and eco-friendly lacquerware bowls. Handmade in Vietnam, they’re created from 100% organically-grown bamboo, non-toxic water-based adhesive, and natural lacquer derived from cashew nut trees. In other words, they’re all-natural. Not only that, but they come in a collection of vibrant colors that will just make you feel happy while you eat. I think they’re perfect for cereal, but of course they can be used for anything from ice cream to pasta to soup. The only catch is that it’s best not to put them in the dishwasher or microwave–though perhaps that’s a good thing, as it’s one more way to better the environment. The bowls are $17 each and available at branch.com.
I love the idea of livening up your dining table with some whimsical napkins. These polka dot napkins from World Market come in four different colors–black, orange, yellow, and pink–and can easily be paired with solid color place mats. You can also mix and match the napkins themselves so each plate setting gets a different color. They’re on sale starting at $8.88 for a set of six at worldmarket.com.
I only ever used to eat miso soup when I went out to dinner. There was something mysterious about it that made me think I could never make it at home. Something that had to with the fact that I had no idea what exactly miso was. Looking it up online didn’t help. According to Wikipedia, it’s made by fermenting rice, barley and soybeans with salt and a special kind of fungus. Definitely not something I can imagine doing in my kitchen. But that was before I realized you could buy miso paste at the grocery store. I’m now in love with making miso soup myself—and, unlike in a restaurant, at home you can be creative and tweak the soup to your liking. So far I’ve only gotten as far as making this recipe from the website, 101 Cookbooks, and if it’s the only miso soup I ever get again, I’ll be happy. It’s really more than just miso soup—it’s loaded with hearty, nutty soba noodles, tofu, and fresh spinach, cilantro, and sliced scallions. The result is a meal that’s fresh tasting and totally satisfying. The exact recipe is here.
Even though we’re all online these days, I like to believe the printed word will never go out of style—and that includes recipe cards. There’s something sentimental about a recipe card, written in the hand of someone passing down one of their favorite dishes to you. That’s why I was happy to discover that Cosa Verde has a recipe card that you can download for $5 and print as many copies as you like of. Use them for yourself, for friends and family, as hostess gifts, etc. The 4×6 inch cards have space for the recipe ingredients and instructions on one side, while the reverse side features a lovely illustration of whisks in gray and robin’s egg blue. The card design is sent as a PDF file via e-mail, and comes with printing instructions and paper recommendations. $5; cosaverde.com.
Table runners are a quick way to give your dining room a makeover without spending a lot of money—especially when said runner is on sale, like the one pictured here. Created by Scandinavian artist Lotta Anderson, this contemporary yet earthy aqua design would work well in any season. I love that the fabric is linen, which gives it a natural feel (it’s also machine washable). Anderson is based in Brooklyn (she has a store in Boerum Hill) and, if you’re design-savvy yourself and live in NYC, she’s holding a workshop on surface printing on March 21. On sale for $35 (marked down from $69) at jansdotter.com.