Tag: Tips

Money-Saving Travel Tips for Your Next UK Vacation

The United Kingdom—made of up England, Scotland, Northern Island, and Wales—is rich with cultural history (including several Unesco World Heritage sites), multiple bustling capital cities, beautiful country views, and diverse local food, art, shopping, music, and nightlife scenes. With so much to explore, it’s important to get the most out of your trip by planning in advance.

But before you get to work booking accommodations, planning dinners and museum visits, and building out your itinerary, there are a lot of big picture things to consider. Whether you’re a seasoned Anglophile with a well-stamped passport or a newbie about to make your first hop across the pond, here are three things to keep in mind before booking your next trip.

1. There’s not really a bad time to visit the UK

If your vacation schedule isn’t determined by when you can cash in that PTO, consider planning the timing of your trip by what you’re most interested in doing while you’re there. Outdoor adventuring a must? Take advantage of the UK’s many scenic walking and hiking trails and book a spring, summer, or autumn trip. If you’re interested in castles, historic homes, and manicured gardens, plan your trip for the late spring or early summer, when everything will be in full bloom. (Just remember that summer is considered high season, so while you’ll have warmer weather—and the opportunity to make the most of British beach towns—you may have to deal with more tourists at iconic destinations like Stonehenge.)

In winter, the weather will be chillier, but the cozy, holiday vibes are endlessly charming. Plus, there’s plenty to explore indoors in cities and small towns alike, from museums to local pubs. No matter when you end up going, remember that weather on the British Isles can change on a dime, so definitely pack a raincoat and umbrella (or pick up a classic British-style trench coat while you’re there).

2. Decide what you want to splurge on, and where you can save

Whether your budget is large or small, it’s still smart to prioritize how you spend it based on what’s most important to you. Will you be wrecked for days if you take an economy red-eye? Maybe it’s worth splurging for the business-class seat and booking an AirBnB instead of that five-star hotel.

Similarly, if you can’t miss Instagramming at several fine-dining restaurants without having to do mental math the whole time, budget more money for food and skip the Harry Potter tour or the souvenir shopping.

A few more smart ways to save:

  • Book in advance. According to Marketwatch, you can score the cheapest European plane tickets if you book at least 50 days in advance, and ideally, 160 days. (Another hot tip: June and July tend to be more expensive, while March is one of the cheapest times to visit.)
  • Consider a budget airline service, such as Norwegian Air’s London shuttle. Flights from New York can be as cheap as $149.
  • Look into package hotel-flights deals from international air carriers; in some cases you’ll wind up spending less than you might on just a flight.
  • Consider a homestay. Instead of booking a hotel, use a home or apartment vacation rental service like AirBnb or HomeAway (or just seek out a hotel farther away from the city center).
  • Rely on cheap eats. In lieu of fine dining, focus on pubs, street food, and other local budget-friendly bites—you’ll still be plenty satisfied.
  • Try public transportation. Opt to use the UK’s relatively reliable public transportation options instead of renting a car (or relying on Ubers).
  • The best things in life are free—sometimes literally. In plenty of UK cities, there are free museums and walking tours, not to mention cheese tastings, public parks, self-guided walking tours, and window shopping.
  • Be a bit more last-minute. You can nab steeply discounted last-minute theater tickets if you leave a few nights open on your itinerary.

3. London is awesome, but it’s not the only place worth exploring

While London is the obvious choice for a lot of travelers—and especially first-time visitors—it’s only the tip of the iceberg. If you’ll be visiting for a week or less, plan on exploring London (or another great home-base city, like Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, or York), plus a few day trips outside of the city. The Cotswolds make a great day trip for folks who like quaint villages and rolling hills; Hampton Court or Oxford would be interesting destinations for architecture buffs; and Cornwall is a lovely seaside option.

If you’ve got a few weeks to spare, you can easily explore multiple destinations, especially if you make use of Great Britain’s excellent railway system.

Are you planning a trip to the UK? Share your itinerary with us in the comments below!

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Kitchen Bugs & Pantry Pests Prevention Tips

Welcome to Pantry Goals, your destination for all the practical tips and need-to-know tricks to get your space in tip-top shape (and keep it that way).

A few months ago, one of my dearest friends lived every baker’s nightmare. She opened up a bag of flour, intending to make cookies, only to be greeted by a swarm of creepy, crawly bugs. Flour mites had broken into her pantry, and she swears there were hundreds crawling around in the bag of flour—it sounds like the making of a cooking horror movie!

Unfortunately, this is a fairly common occurrence, as there are a whole group of bugs that absolutely love to snack on pantry essentials—rice, flour, cereal, beans, and the like. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to keep your pantry pest-free. Just use these easy tips to bug-proof your kitchen.

Embrace Airtight Everything

If you’ve been looking for a reason to invest in new containers for your pantry, this is a good one. The best way to keep pests like flour mites, grain weevils, and pantry moths out of your essentials is to store the ingredients in airtight containers.

Most of these bugs can burrow through paper bags and mesh, so you need a hard material like plastic or glass to keep them at bay. Luckily, there’s no shortage of good-looking, functional, airtight pantry containers to choose from.

Buy in Bulk—Only When It Makes Sense

A sale on your favorite brand of flour may seem too good to pass up, but it’s actually not a great idea to buy certain pantry essentials in bulk.

Think about it: If you buy multiple bags of flour, rice, or dried beans, they’re probably going to sit in your pantry for a few months before getting used. The longer you leave them there, the greater the chance of bugs finding them. And if pests do get into the bags of extra supplies, you might not find them for a while, giving them a chance to spread.

For this reason, it’s better to wait until you’re nearly out of flour, rice, and other pantry staples to restock. This will also give you the chance to completely clean and dry out your airtight containers before refilling them again.

Give Groceries the Third Degree

On a similar note, take a few seconds to inspect groceries before you buy them. Sneaky bugs may be hiding in damaged boxes or bags, and you don’t want to inadvertently invite them into your home.

Honor Expiration Dates

You’ll also want to pay attention to the expiration dates on your food supplies. Even items considered “non-perishable” can go bad, and if they do, they’re more likely to attract pests, according to Modern Pest Services. Bottom line? It might be time to toss that corn meal that’s been sitting in there for years.

Practice Pantry Hygiene

I learned the hard way that ants really like when you leave crumbs on the counter, and I don’t recommend experimenting this theory in your pantry. A runaway bean once may not seem like a big deal, but do you really want to test your luck?

Taking little steps to keep your pantry clean can save you a lot of hassle in the long run. If you spill something, take the time to clean it up properly. It’s also a good idea to deep clean periodically—as an added bonus, this will help you keep the space neat and organized. Win-win.

Bugs Already Moved In? Purge that Pantry!

Spotted a weevil, mite, or moth? Unfortunately, you’re going to have to purge and deep clean your pantry. Toss out any ingredients that have bugs, and any nearby items that could potentially be infested or otherwise compromised.

Once you’ve gotten rid of bug-infested ingredients, take everything else out of your pantry and vacuum it thoroughly. Scrub down the shelves with soap and warm water—Environmental Pest Control says not to use any pesticides, as this can affect your food.

Let everything dry, then do one final scan for bugs before you restock your pantry. And don’t forget those airtight containers this time!

How do you keep your pantry protected from creepy-crawlies? Share your tips with us below!

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Tips & Excerpt from Root, Nature, Grow

During the busy holiday rush not too long ago, two of my co-workers surprised our team with the neatest gifts. Your mind might immediately go to a pan of Super Fudgy Brownies or a stack of Chocolate Chunk Cookies, but not this time (though we’d certainly never say no to those types of treats either).

My dear teammates brought in a smattering of plants—yes, plants! More specifically, cuttings from Pothos and lipstick plants, as well as some succulents. These “pups” or “babies,” as they’re known in green parlance, are usually pulled (gently!) or neatly cut off from the stem of an existing plant. With care, these offshoots can regrow, or propagate, into lively and lovely plants of their own. It is a fun, inexpensive, and feel-good way to add more greenery into your lives—especially for all of us city dwellers, whose small quarters and lack of outdoor space have us craving nature in any form.

“We know there is something innate about our longing to live amongst plant life,” Caro Langton and Rose Ray tell me. They run Ro Co, a “green interior” company in London that gives advice on how to bring more green into urban spaces. “A bit of greenery transforms a space like magic. Because so many people, particularly younger urbanites, can’t afford their own home (and often don’t have any outside space), we think that indoor plants offer an affordable and nurturing way to enhance their living spaces.”

We couldn’t relate to this statement more. Read on for information and tips for propagating success, excerpted from their latest book, Root, Nurture, Grow. You’ll also find below my continued conversation with Caro and Rose about the best types of plants to propagate from, and the biggest misconception of plant care.

About a year ago, Rose rescued a damaged—but particularly pretty—succulent from a local gardening fair. The scrawled writing on its tag simply read: “mother of thousands.” Huddled neatly around the fringe of every leaf were row upon row of plantlets, each a tiny replica of the parent plant, many of which, on closer inspection, had happily flung themselves onto the surrounding compost. Long story short, we now own a lot of mother of thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) plants.

Propagation is the way in which plants reproduce, and there are two types: sexual or asexual—the latter is also sometimes called vegetative propagation.

Sexual propagation in plants involves seeds. It starts with pollination and, later, germination. It requires the meeting of two different sets of genetic information (the pollen from the “male” plant and the reproductive organs of the “female” plant) and results in a brand new, genetically unique offspring. It’s a bit like human reproduction, but with more bees and squirrels involved.

For the casual indoor gardener, the specific conditions—and very long wait times—required can make experimenting with seeds seem a little bit daunting. What most people ideally want is to be able to propagate their plants without too great a risk of failure.

Plants are magical because they contain cells that can easily grow into other parts; for example, the stem of a plant can produce roots, while a tiny portion of leaf or root can create stems. This is what asexual propagation—and this handbook—is all about: easy, inexpensive and generally faster techniques for expanding your plant family.

Asexual methods of propagation are also wonderful for their spontaneity; there is nothing better than being able to bring a little piece of a plant home, whether taking a cutting from a foreign plant discovered while traveling (with the permission of the owner, of course), or being gifted a precious offshoot from a relative, friend or neighbor.

There are so many reasons to learn about propagation: more (free) plants; plants with a backstory, and therefore more personality; and, perhaps most importantly, a way to connect with the natural world. For many, the emotion bestowed upon these organic forms as they grow, thrive and flourish often goes much deeper than a superficial need for something beautiful in your home, however valid or appreciated that might be. Plants and flowers embody progress, optimism and even our urge to celebrate a simple love of life.

Whatever the plant you’d like to propagate, our detailed propagation table should help you determine which method of propagation is best-suited to its needs. It lists many of the houseplants we have come to know and that we’ve found people love best, together with the most successful propagation methods for each plant.

1. Choose plants that are healthy and pest-free, unless as a last resort.

2. Propagate during a plant’s active growing period (this is usually spring or summer), and before midday if possible.

3. Fertilize the plant several months before you intend to start propagating.

4. Water the plant to be propagated a day or so beforehand; this is particularly important for succulents.

5. Ideally collect rainwater or use distilled water to quench your plants. Let it come to room temperature before watering.

6. Take more cuttings than you need, as some (sadly) may not flourish.

7. Keep cuttings at a suitable temperature—consider providing bottom heat during colder seasons by using a heated propagator or heat mat.

8. Reuse old materials, such as glass jars, plastic bottles, and takeaway boxes, which make brilliant drainage trays.

9. Always make sure tools and equipment are clean, from your cutting knife to your container.

HANA ASBRINK: How did you first get into plant care, design, and (re)growing houseplants?

CARO LANGTON AND ROSE RAY: We met and studied fashion design at university together; afterwards, Rose went on to work in set design and I was a textile print designer. Years later, we were both feeling dissatisfied with our careers and began to experiment with designing miniature gardens to sell on Broadway Market in East London.

At this point we were living in Highgate in North London. We were able to use my grandparents’ old conservatory as a home base to create all kinds of products and plant arrangements, research horticulture, and generally cover ourselves in compost. We naturally learned a lot about the care each species of plant required, and wanted to help others find confidence to do the same.

Each week, we took our creations to our Broadway Market stall, and the response we received from the very first Saturday made us realize that people were, like us, beginning to see indoor plants as a way to reconnect with the natural world, and combat some of the limitations of living in an urban landscape.

This led to us writing our first book, House of Plants, and designing much larger-scale indoor gardens in collaboration with architects and interior designers. At the same time, we realized that indoor plant enthusiasts were asking “what’s next?” with their plants, and so we wrote Root, Nurture, Grow to help teach people how to multiply and share their favorites.

HA: What are your thoughts on the rising interest in plants and plant care in recent years?

CL & RR: The ever-increasing diversity of plants on offer now is extremely exciting. We know from our plant suppliers in the Netherlands that, once there is enough demand for a particular plant, they will try and cultivate it. Therefore their ranges are continuously developing with new trends. There’s no end in sight for the boom in indoor gardening, which makes us extremely happy!

HA: What are the best types of plants beginners should consider cutting and propagating from, and why?

CL & RR: Generally, the faster a plant grows, the quicker it will root. Therefore, begin by taking cuttings from those that are quick growers, such as vines and other tropical climbers and trailers, such as Scindapsus, Philodendrons, and Epiphyllum. Species from the Coleus and Begonia genera are also super resilient, and quick to root.

Division is also a great technique to try, because you can instantly multiply a plant (including its roots, stems, and leaves) and not have to wait for ages to see new growth. It’s so satisfying and easy, and a great way to share a plant with a loved one.

HA: What is the biggest misconception of plant care?

CL & RR: With cacti and succulents, it’s that they don’t need water. It’s sad to see a succulent clinging on to life, desperate for a good drink, especially in the summer when they should be sprouting, flowering, and generally grabbing the attention of the room.

Make sure to give cacti and other succulents a generous watering (always with good drainage) whenever the plant’s soil is dry throughout; normally this is about once a fortnight in the spring and summer, and much less frequently in the autumn and winter.

That said, there is also the common misconception that a wilting houseplant is thirsty, and must be watered immediately. Droopy, lifeless stems and leaves are more likely to be caused by root damage from overwatering, so make sure to check the moisture level of a suffering plant’s soil with your finger before reaching for your watering can. If you feel any dampness, hold off watering a drooping plant until its soil is completely dry.

We are so excited to be a part of the green revolution, and we love to encourage others to share their plant queries and successes with us on via Instagram. You can follow us, and get in touch @studio.roco.

Caro Langton and Rose Ray are the founders of the successful ‘green interior’ company RO CO, and authors of the new book Root, Nurture, Grow: The Essential Guide to Propagating and Sharing Houseplants, published by Quadrille October 2018.

How green is your thumb? Share your love for plantlife down below!

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Tips for Cooking Pasta Like the Italians

Tips for Cooking Pasta Like the Italians

We all think we know how to cook pasta but it never turns out like the restaurants. This video gives you the tips on how the pros make pasta taste flavorful and rich with very little fuss. Recipe below:

Brown butter & lemon spaghetti {serves 2}
Spaghetti / linguine – 1/4 lb.
Olive oil – 1 tbs.
Butter – 2 tbs.
Garlic cloves, minced – 2
Shallots, minced – 1 tbs.
Lemon, juiced – 1/2
Parmesan cheese – 1 tbs.
Parsley / basil, chopped – a few sprigs

Cook pasta: Bring about ~2 quarts of water to boil. Salt the water so that it almost tastes like the ocean, which will give the pasta a lot of flavor when it’s cooked in it. Add pasta and cook until al dente (check package for timing)

Make brown butter: When the pasta is about 4 minutes from being finished, heat a saute / frying pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Swirl the pan every so often and let the butter turn an amber color (~2 to 3 minutes). You’ll also be able to smell a delicious, nutty flavor. When butter is amber, add garlic and shallots. At this point, hopefully your pasta is also done. If not, remove pan from heat so that the garlic and shallots don’t burn

Finish pasta: When the pasta is about done, move the pot next to your pan. Use tongs to transfer the cooked pasta over to your brown butter sauce (be careful of splatter) and add a ladle (~1/2 cup) of pasta water to the pan. The flavor and starchiness of the water will form a luscious sauce. Toss pasta in sauce until all the water has been absorbed. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Finish with lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Add herbs and serve piping hot

How to Clean & Organize Your Pantry in 10 Minutes Tips

Welcome to Pantry Goals, your destination for all the practical tips and need-to-know tricks to get your space in tip-top shape (and keep it that way).

If I had to choose a VIP in my kitchen I’d have to go with my pantry. Humble and unsung, the pantry has saved me on bare, lonely nights when I have nothing in the fridge but shouldn’t splurge on takeout. It has provided me with countless pasta dishes, slapped-together salads, and slow-cooked, warming bowls of soup.

But it’s also sometimes really gross and annoying. The other day I stood on my tiptoes and blindly tried to grab for the cumin off the top shelf of my pantry where I keep my spices (why???) and ended up sticking my hand smack-dab into an opened container of honeycomb. Very unpleasant.

Thankfully, it’s easy to do a quick pantry revamp without investing a whole day or hiring professionals (yes, professional pantry organizers exist). In fact, you can do a pretty good refresh in just 10 minutes. Or during a few consecutive TV commercial breaks. For real. Here’s how:

Toss out the old & unused

It is distinctly possible that some enthusiastic relative gifted you a few bougie condiments and/or spices for the holidays. (Or maybe you, like me, gifted yourself.) To make room for these new shiny condiments/spices, old ones must leave. Sorry, it’s the circle of life. Go Marie Kondo on it and toss things that don’t bring you joy. Or finally wave goodbye to that bottle of vinegar with only the teensiest tiniest drop left (make a vinaigrette right now!).

Go through and check expiration dates of everything, from flour to olive oil to spices. (Yes, all three of those things actually have expiration dates). If it’s super past its prime, plan some cooking projects over the next few weeks to use it up. Maybe chicken paprikash for that that lingering jar of paprika, or a loaf of sturdy Swedish bread to take advantage of that half-bag of rye flour.

Combine like with like

Did you find out you accidentally have two bags of half-empty quinoa? And three opened vanilla extracts, since you kept forgetting you actually had some hidden way in the back? Combine ‘em!

Give your worst, messiest shelf a refresh

First, take everything out. Yes, everything. Every spice container and cracker sleeve and bag of beans. Every bit or bob you shoved in there because it had no other place to go. Then wipe everything down. This part is gross but can also be very satisfying. Grab a spray bottle of cleaning solution (or make your own!) and a towel and give everything a good wipe down.

Bonus level: Invest in jars & labeling

This is next-level and might put you over the 10-minute mark, but if you really want to feel like a winner, invest in a dozen sealable glass jars from IKEA or Goodwill (or, you know, the Food52 shop), to store your dry goods. They’re perfect for things like flour, rice, beans, and brown sugar. Bonus: Since they look so fancy in the jars, you can store these ingredients outside the pantry on your counter, thus freeing up new pantry space.

Want to really take things to the next level? Label! Because sometimes you might forget which jar is farro and which is barley. You can use a dry-erase marker or grease pencil, but you could also put your new label maker (you got that for Christmas, right?) to use and be really snazzy.

Give Yourself a pat on the back

You did it! Way to go―I knew you had it in ya. Now move on to your fridge.

How do you tackle a quick pantry cleanup? Let us know below!

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5 Tips for Eating More Plant-Based Recipes

While I’m not a fan of ‘let’s change something major at the first of the year’ mentality, I do believe there is benefit in setting a few small intentions for the upcoming months. When I talk to people about this, something around food always comes up, usually with an emphasis on eating more vegetables. Given that only about 10% of adults in the United States eat the recommended serving of vegetables (according to the CDC), it’s a good emphasis to have.

And so, to start this new year, I thought I’d share five tips to get you on the path to eating more plants (and plant-based recipes). It’s definitely a shift and not every member of your family may be onboard right away. I still get my fair-share of ‘that looks disgusting’ from my toddler. The most important part is trying. If you don’t like something, that’s cool- try something else. If you’re on the fence, try it again but maybe in a different way.

It took me some time to grow to love many of the vegetables you see all over this site. It was a lot of trial and error but there’s definitely items on my suspect list (I’m lookin’ at you, mushrooms). So, without further preamble, my five tips to help you eat a bit more plant-based.

Somewhere around the house I have a print-out of a cookbook proposal all about the pantry. That should tell you how important I believe having a solid pantry is. It’s the foundation for everything I do and it’s the reason I’m able to cook without planning most of the time.

Best of all, you don’t need an overabundance of items on hand. I like to keep my favorite things stocked at all times and then each week, pick one to two items that aren’t staples/just for fun. For starters, I typically keep on hand:

Fats: Olive Oil, Ghee, Avocado Oil
Vinegar: Champagne, Balsamic, Apple Cider
Grains: Brown Rice, Quinoa, Millet, Einkorn, Farro
Legumes: Chickpeas, Pinto, Black Beans, Green Lentils
Nuts/Seeds: Pepitas, Pecans, Sunflower, Cashews
Canned Tomatoes (crushed and tomato paste)
Spices: Smoked Paprika, Coriander, Cumin, Cinnamon, Cloves
Extras: Masa Harina (or tortillas, stashed in the freezer), Polenta, Pasta, Dried Chili Peppers, Tahini

I also count items like onions, garlic, shallots, celery, and ginger as ‘pantry’ items meaning, I always keep them on hand.

I realize the word component is the least hip word I could choose for this section. However, it really encompasses exactly how I use these recipes. They become blocks that come together for a full meal. Master how to cook a solid pot of any variety of bean, make a creamy vegan sauce, and know your way around a simple way to spruce of greens and veg. The recipes below are the foundation for most meals during the week.

Perfect Pot of Beans

When it comes to plant-based recipes in our house, there is nothing as seemingly as important as a solid pot of beans. Sure, it’s a bit more involved than buying a can at the grocery store. However, it’s easier to manipulate the flavors to your liking. Of course, if you don’t have time, buying cans of beans can be just as useful.

Uses for a perfect pot of beans:

Cashew/Sunflower Cream Sauce

Cashew cream is one of those recipes that seemingly got a ton of hype in the vegan world but is amazingly useful across any kind of recipe. Over the years, I’ve started making sunflower cream a bit more, primarily because it’s cheaper. These cream sauces work well as sauces and dips. Add herbs, garlic, harissa, romesco, chimichurri, smoked alliums- there are hundreds of ways to work with this simple recipe.

Uses for nut/seed creams:

Garlicky Greens

Greens are some of the best bang for your buck at the stores and markets. During the cooler months, it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed with what to do with all the incoming chard and kale. Having a simple recipe, like these garlicky greens, can save you the sadness of having to throw those old droopy greens away. Best of all, I love this easy combination with chard, kale, spinach, collards, and some varieties of Asian greens.

Uses for Garlicky Greens

Multigrain Pilaf

When it comes to grains, you can easily cook whatever grain you have on hand but something magical happens when you start combining them. Different flavors and textures come together in one pot, making the perfect base for grain bowls, salads, or curries. This is also a great way to use up small bits of grains you might have leftover.

Uses for Grain Pilaf

Roasted Vegetables

Finally, the all-encompassing roasted vegetable. When it doubt, cut any vegetable into bite-sized pieces, toss with a bit of oil and salt, then roast at 425˚F until tender and starting to brown. It’s really hard to go wrong and the best part, most vegetables don’t even need to be peeled (except for a few winter squash/celeriac). Serve roasted vegetables as a side or add to grain bowls, tacos, frittatas, etc.

Uses for Grain Pilaf


Root to Tip and Everything In Between

Chile Roasted Broccoli | Cooking Component | Naturally Ella

Have you ever bought a few stalks of broccoli only to be sad that you ended up throwing away half of what you paid for because it was mostly stalks? What about buying the most lovely carrots with their greens still attached, only to throw away the greens? It doesn’t have to be that way. And the more you work with the entire vegetable, the more comfortable you become knowing how to treat each part.

The Whole Vegetable, together

Broccoli: Broccoli stalks are down right delicious, however, if you treat the stalks as you would the florets, you will end up really disappointed. For the stalks, you need to trim the tough ends, peel the tough exterior, and plan to cook the stalks a bit longer than you would the florets. I like to steam the stems and make fritters. Another option is to parboil the stems then roasted along-side the florets. Or, cook in a broccoli soup and puree with the florets.

Cauliflower: One of my recent favorite discoveries was smoking wedges of cauliflower (leaves/greens still attached). All parts of the cauliflower are edible and can easily be roasted or grilled along with the florets. There’s no major taste difference and it creates a beautiful presentation.

The Vegetable, in parts

Beets (and turnips): One beet can easily provide two different meals. The root is what we’re most familiar with but the greens are edible. They can be a bit bitter sometimes, but I’ve had my best luck adding them to stews or cooking with other hearty greens like kale or chard.

Carrots: I like to put carrot tops in the same category as herbs. If parsley can do it, most likely carrot tops will fit right in. Similar to the beets, they can be a bit bitter. And so, I like to pair them with other herbs and stronger flavors. Think pesto, chimichurri, or a lovely gremolata.

Finally, it pays to save. Save all those vegetable scraps and make stock. I keep a bag in the freezer that I constantly add scraps to. Eventually, when I get enough, I’m able to make a delicious, homemade vegetable stock.


Jump into flavors

Coriander | Spices- Stock a Pantry | Naturally Ella

When it comes to plant-based recipes, I find people shy away from bold flavors. You can season a piece of meat, so why can’t you flavor a piece of cauliflower or sweet potato? In some ways, I think you have more options, more ways to play. Each vegetable is different. Some things work, some things don’t.

That, however, is the beautiful part of cooking. And so, I urge you to dig into your spice cabinet. Experiment with chili peppers. Use more herbs than you’ve ever used before (this is also a good push to start a small herb garden- they work so well even in pots!)

Herbs (and herb sauces)

Herbs are your friend. Use them as toppings, blend them into delicious sauces, or add them to cooked vegetables. I’m not talking about a tablespoon or two, either. I’m talking about handfuls. Herbs can help make or break a dish. Try your hand at an herb-based sauce or a heavily-herbed recipe:

Spices/Spice Blends

So many cultures don’t shy away from bold spice flavors and yet, for many vegetarian/vegan dishes in the United States, they can be so bland. Pull out that coriander, use cinnamon in a savory dish, or try your hand at making homemade spice blends, perfectly suited for roasted vegetables.

Chili Peppers

Finally, get to know dried peppers. It doesn’t always have to be heat-driven. Many delicious varieties of dried chili peppers are low on the heat scale. However, they provide just enough zing to complete the meal. Plus, dried chili peppers last quite some time, making them a perfect addition to your pantry.


Don’t Over-Complicate

Overhead shot of cauliflower on a sheet tray, tossed and roasted with mole sauce.

Finally, my parting advice. You’re not a restaurant seeking fame and fortune. Keep your meals and plant-based recipes simple. I’ll often make a main dish and pair it with a simple salad and some roasted vegetables. My goal each evening is to be very vegetable heavy and pair it with something solid on protein. Actual dinners I’ve served include:

  • Whole grain risotto (like this butternut squash one) served with a simple side salad that consists of greens, chickpeas, toasted seeds, and a simple lemon vinaigrette. Occasionally I’ll add other roasted vegetables, like Brussels spouts or asparagus as a side.
  • Quinoa cakes, usually with spinach and a simple dipping sauce served with a simple roasted vegetable like sweet potatoes, squash, or turnips and a small side of in-season fruit. A very toddler-friendly meal!
  • For a summer take, this summer squash paella served with a side of these garlicky green beans and some fresh tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt.
  • Any kind of bean/grain bowls, like this curried chickpea bowl, paired with a side salad and roasted vegetables. I’ve also been known to serve this as a soup/grain-bowl combination as well.
  • Halloumi Tacos served with a side of roasted vegetables and some spiced beans/rice. The roasted vegetables could be simple or you could easily jazz up the vegetables with some spice, like in this chipotle red kuri squash.


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Food.com Our Best Recipes: Creamy Cajun Pasta

Food.com Our Best Recipes: Creamy Cajun Pasta

Actually Useful Cheese Board Tips, According to Our Favorite Certified Cheese Professional

If you’re hosting any get-together between now and 2019, you probably have a to-do list, and that to-do list is probably long: Plan the menu. Grocery shop. Make the latkes. Bake the chocolate cake. Find those cloth napkins in the attic. Ooh, and the tablecloth too. Buy holiday gifts. Buy flowers. Buy candles. Tell someone to clean his room…

What’s one reliable thing to take off your plate? A cheese plate. This we-have-it-at-every-event appetizer is a Food52 favorite because it basically makes itself. Oh, and everyone loves cheese. That helps.

So the cheese plate idea is a definite no-brainer, but what about the actual cheeses? Which ones do you get? Does the type of milk matter? What about firmness? And how many? And what do I serve with them? All of this can be intimidating if you’re more familiar with eating cheese than studying it (read: almost all of us).

Which is why on this week’s Dear Test Kitchen—our Hotline-inspired video series—Food52’s test kitchen director Josh Cohen called in an extra-special guest: his wife, Elena Santogade, who also happens to be a certified cheese expert. (Lucky us! Lucky him!)

Elena answered all our questions and then some—and I am now ready to build the best cheese board of my life (yep, my life!) this holiday season. Just follow her pro tips and you will be, too.

Pick 3–4 cheeses, based on texture and milk type.

You don’t need to buy 84 cheeses to impress your guests. Just diversify each type so every person can find one (or more!) they love. Elena’s picks:

  1. Soft, goat’s milk
  2. Semi-firm, cow’s milk, washed rind
  3. Firm, sheep’s milk, aged
  4. Cream-added blue

Maybe you’re thinking, But I don’t like goat cheese! Or, I hate blue cheese! That’s cool. Just swap out Cheese #1 for a creamy, also-soft Brie. And drop Cheese #4 altogether. So long as you avoid repetition, you’re golden.

Add some nibbles to serve alongside.

“Think about accompaniments as little bites that people can enjoy between tasting the cheeses.” In other words: palate cleansers. Maybe it’s something sweet after eating a salty, funky cheese. Or, texturally, a crunchy nibble after eating a buttery, creamy cheese. Here’s Elena’s lineup:

  1. Cashews
  2. Dried apricots
  3. Tomato relish
  4. Seeded crackers
  5. Olives

Another plus of these: They’re pretty. Cheese’s color scheme can be pretty monotonous. Bonus ingredients are an opportunity for a pop of orange or red. Of course, they’re also an opportunity to have fun. Cashews can be substituted with any other nut, even a roasted mix. Dried apricots could be replaced with prunes, figs, or mango. Instead of tomato relish, try any other preserves—from pepper jelly to apple butter. You get the idea.

Take out the cheese at the right time.

What’s the wrong time? A few minutes before your guests come over. As Elena puts it, “The cheese needs to relax.” In other words: come to room temperature, so all its flavors come through. Exactly how long the cheese needs to sit out will depend on how chilly or warm the room is. Figure at least 30 minutes.

Don’t let the guests cut the cheese themselves.

Well, don’t let them cut all the cheese themselves. Elena recommends pre-cutting at least half the cheese, so guests have an example of how each one should be sliced. This way, you avoid a certain someone who scoops out all the creamy center of the Brie and leaves a sad shell behind.

  1. For a super-soft cheese, put out a spreader so guests can, well, spread the cheese on crackers.
  2. For a semi-soft variety, you want each person to get “an equal part of the rind and the cheese paste.” (Cheese paste is cheese speak for the interior.) So, for a square cheese, halve it on the diagonal, then cut that triangle into baby triangles. For a round one, cut it in half, then cut wedges radiating out from the center. (If a wedge is too big, just halve it.)
  3. For a firm variety, you probably have a wedge. Lay it on its side, cut off the left or right rind, then slice triangles.
  4. For a big hunk of blue, “chunk it out,” as Elena says. This is as simple as nudging the cheese with the tip of your knife and breaking the cheese into bite-sized nuggets. If the cheese is too soft or messy to pick up by hand, put out some toothpicks.

What are your go-to picks and tricks for a cheese plate? Tell us in the comments!

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Tips for Staying Relaxed and Stress-Free During Holiday Travel

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—so bring on the comfort & joy, we say. In The Art of Chill Holidays, we’ll show you how we keep celebrations low-key, with festive decor tricks, clever time-saving tips, and scrumptious spreads of snacks (always snacks!).

As someone who lives 30 minutes away from her family, my holiday travel is usually short and sweet. However, many people are in a different boat. I have friends all around the country—from Oregon to Texas to Florida—who trek back to good ol’ New England to spend the holidays with family, and they all know one thing to be true: Traveling during December is hectic and stressful.

You don’t have to be a travel expert to feel calm, cool, and collected as you make your holiday journey, though. It’s really just about taking small steps to make yourself comfortable. To give you a little guidance on creating a stress-free travel experience, we asked friends and family (OK, and a few experts) to share their go-to tips and tricks for traveling during the holiday season.

Pack Light

The last thing you need when rushing to catch a plane is to have an insanely heavy suitcase in tow. Do your best to pack light when traveling for the holiday—it will save you a lot of stress.

“I once saw a hiking documentary where someone said that we carry all of our fears in our luggage,” flight attendant Bianca DiValerio told Mental Floss. “What if I need this? What if this goes wrong? But what if it rains? Whatever it is, handle it when it happens. That is part of the joy of travel!”

Give Yourself a Two-Hour Buffer

The holiday travel season is not the time to be cutting it close when traveling. If you’re the type of person who leaves for the airport at the last possible minute or jumps in the car with just enough time to make it to dinner, you’ll want to squash that habit during December.

According to the travel pros, two hours seems to be the ideal “buffer,” no matter if you’re driving or flying. “I always budget two additional hours over ETA to account for traffic,” says Rachel Priore, who drives from Washington, D.C. to Connecticut during the holidays.

People who fly echoed the same sentiment: “I show up to the airport at least two hours early for holiday flights—the airport is a madhouse in December,” says Kate Tully, who travels from Boston back home to Nashville each year.

Happy Body = Happy Mind

Another tip that came up again and again is to take care of your body! This means plenty of sleep, lots of water, and healthy snacks.

“My skin becomes a nightmare when I travel,” explains Elena Martinez, who treks from Oregon to New Hampshire to visit her family. “I always pack a 1-liter water bottle and makeup wipes in my carry-on to keep my skin hydrated and clean.” “Get a good night’s sleep,” recommends Elizabeth Alexander, who drives from New York back to Massachusetts. “Also pack plenty of healthy snacks for the drive so you’re not tempted by junk food.”

If you’re not treating your body right as you travel, you’re more susceptible to all those travel germs and more likely to feel sluggish, tired, and stressed.

Don’t Rely on Your Memory

Holiday travel is hectic and so are the preparations. Because your brain will probably be going in 100 different directions, there’s a pretty high chance you’ll forget something if you rely on memory alone.

Make your life a little easier by writing things down. Psychology Today recommends making a packing list, as well as a list of things to do before you leave the house—turn off the air conditioning, lock the back door, etc. Put these lists somewhere visible and check them often. It’s also a good idea to have your flight numbers and other airport information handwritten down somewhere, just in case.

Follow the $10 Rule

Another awesome tip we came across is what author and travel writer Chris Guillebeau calls his “$10 Rule.” Essentially, he says if something costs less than $10 and will help relieve your travel stress, just do it.

For instance, if you can grab a cab for a few bucks instead of walking, you should do it. If having in-flight WiFi will help you worry less about work, do it. These little expenses are well worth the price of mental well-being.

Come Equipped with Stress-Relieving Tools

There are lots of little tools that can help alleviate your stress, and if you know you’re prone to anxiety while traveling, don’t hesitate to pack your go-to items.

For me, the Headspace app is a must-have any time I fly. Once I get through security and find my gate, I take five minutes to go through a guided meditation. It helps me let go of all my pre-travel worries and rushed thoughts, and get back in the moment.

Other helpful items may include:

If it fits in your carry-on and will bring you a few moments of chill time, we say bring it!

Plan For Your Return Trip

Many people focus on getting to their holiday destination, forgetting to plan for their trip back. Don’t neglect finding a ride back to the airport and/or planning present transport.

“Bring an extra duffel bag or suitcase,” says Christie Gianetti, who travels home to Massachusetts from Texas during the holidays. “You never know what you’re going to need to bring back with you.” I can attest my brother forgets to do this pretty much every year, and we end up having to ship his Christmas presents to him. Don’t be like him (just kidding, love you)—think about your return trip in advance.

What are your tips for keeping your cool during this busy traveling season? Let us know below!

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How to Make Gnocchetti (Mini Gnocchi) From Scratch: Recipe & Tips

We’re partnering with Lagostina to celebrate the Italian Sunday dinner with stories, recipes, and videos about this special family tradition. Here, cookbook author and friend of Food52 Emiko Davies shares her take on casual gnocchetti.

Sunday meals at my Tuscan in-laws have always been a well-planned affair. This is partly for practical reasons—supermarkets in small towns aren’t open on Sundays so you need to be prepared. It’s also partly for traditional reasons. Those classic Sunday dishes are usually something special that requires time and effort, dishes that are coaxed out of their shell with long, slow cooking and time that helps flavors settle or mingle.

But at my house, it goes down a little different. My husband Marco works in fine dining as a sommelier, so he has a scattered schedule that features very late nights and changes every single week, often last minute. I work from home, usually juggling cookbook writing or recipe testing with our two daughters who are five years and three months old. So when we are at home and cooking for our friends or family the key words are simple and unfussy; something that doesn’t need a long list of ingredients or days of advanced preparation (except when that is actually helpful to ease up cooking on the day).

Make this homemade gnocchetti, prepared using Lagostina cookware, your next delicious weekend project.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

For us, a “Sunday dinner”—which actually is more likely to be a Wednesday lunch, as weekends off are rare for Marco—means a moment when we can sit down as a family, cook and eat a relaxed meal together, and not be rushing off anywhere. The food needs to be equally easy going.

Living in Italy, one of our favourite go-to meals is pasta with a quick, satisfying, zingy, creamy lemon sauce, which can be made in the same amount of time it takes for the pasta to boil. But lately we have been making it with gnocchetti, or topini, as they’re called in Florence—little round gnocchi, the size of a marble.

You can buy gnochetti already made at the markets and even the supermarket here in Florence but I like to make this at home—it is also a fun one to get the kids (or anyone else around) involved in making. This is a recipe that has evolved over the years in our household to what I think is the simplest, most effective way to make pillowy, fluffy gnocchi (and because it uses potato starch—this just makes sense to me—instead of wheat flour, it is also a handy gluten free recipe). It is also a low maintenance recipe as the oven does all the work, leaving you free to have a glass of wine while getting the other elements of the meal ready.

Speaking of those other elements, we are huge fans of anchovies in any which way—fresh, marinated, salted, you name it. We put them on anything, given the chance. I pick up marinated white anchovies from the local deli where they sit shining in a pool of olive oil. Put them on a plate along with a few olives and some delicious bread and you have an instant antipasto, but I particularly like them tossed with some thinly sliced fennel or celery for crunch with lemon juice and olive oil. If we have them, then pine nuts, thinly sliced green apple, or fresh herbs are nice additions too. We are still trying to convince our five year old that anchovies are edible, but she’s usually happy to nibble on the olives and pine nuts.

Dessert is always left up to me because I’m actually the only one in the house who ever wants it. I never make as much effort for myself as I do when I know I’m cooking for other people, so it’s usually something simple; perhaps some jammy, ripe figs (or even dried if ripe ones aren’t around, you simply need more liquid to poach them in) cooked down with a splash of water (or wine) and eaten, cooled, over some very fresh farmhouse ricotta or thick, plain yogurt with some toasted almonds.

Here are some tips for pulling the meal together:

  • Roast the potatoes whole in the oven over salt so that the potatoes absorb less water, and therefore don’t need as much starch. Likewise, peel and mash the potatoes while hot so that steam escapes, giving the potato mash a drier, fluffier texture for perfect gnocchi.
  • While the potatoes are roasting, use this time to set the table, poach the figs, and get the sauce preparation ready.
  • Have the antipasto ready early. We often like to cook with a glass of wine in hand, and this is a nice time to have something to nibble on too!
  • Get everyone involved in the cooking. Rolling gnocchi can be tedious (or meditative, depending on your personality!) on your own but when it is a team effort not only does it go very quickly but it’s a fun way to get young children involved in cooking.

In partnership with Lagostina, the premium Italian cookware brand that values high-quality materials and time-honored craftsmanship, we’re highlighting the #LagostinaSundayDinner with a new series all about the Italian tradition. Every Sunday, we’ll share go-to Sunday recipes from some of our favorite chefs and cookbook authors.

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