Kitchen Sink Protein Bites

If you have a pulse, then you've baked chocolate chip cookies by now. Social distancing has turned us all into bakers. My neighbor can't find flour on store shelves, and my friend in New York City had to buy her yeast online. I've seen more home-baked treats on Instagram in the past two weeks than I ever have, and it all looks delectable. I'm proud of us!

Since we're all trying to limit exposure, going to the grocery store is now on an as-needed basis. Times like these are an opportunity for us to improvise, hone our cooking instincts and use what we have. Hence, the "kitchen sink' recipe, where you throw in "everything but the kitchen sink." 

Easter Basket Kit - Entertainer's Delight

A week ago, I realized that I can only eat so many cinnamon buns before wondering if my jeans will fit after this Yoga Pants Era (TM). Yes I just informally trademarked that. My kitchen sink baking skills needed some adulting, so I made protein bites.

I know that I'm not big on measurements and am prone to say things like "season to taste" (unlike Sarah the pro chef, and thank goodness for her). But with kitchen sink recipes, we wing it with what we have. It's fun to pay with measurements.  Protein bites are easy, and here are the basics:

A base: Oatmeal, granola or cereal

A binding agent: Eggs. If you are vegan, go for mashed bananas, peanut butter or both

A protein: chopped almonds, flax seeds, chopped peanuts, walnut pieces, chia seeds or nut butters

A sweetener: Semi-sweet chocolate chips are best. Shredded coconut is heaven. But you can do butterscotch chips or a little brown sugar.

Salt: Just a dash or two, depending on how much batter you're making

Baking Powder: A teaspoon or two, depending on the amount of batter

Extra credit: A fine flour helps to smooth out the batter and keep it together. Low-carb options such as coconut flour or almond flour are best.

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl until the texture resembles cookie batter and you can roll it into balls. And don't kill me, but...season to taste. Only tiny samples, as the batter contains raw eggs. Plop jumbo marshmallow-sized balls onto a pan greased with melted butter or coconut oil. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, but make sure they pass the toothpick test. Remove from the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and enjoy. 

For kitchen sink beginners, feel free to bake a test protein bite in case you need to tweak the recipe. After a little while, it will feel second nature. And like me, you'll relish the challenge!

The Quarantined Gourmand

Hey everyone! How is it going out there? Hopefully you're making the best of these unusual circumstances, but I know that for many, it can be difficult to drown out the anxiety.

One of the positive outcomes from the coronavirus is seeing all the delicious food being made at home. The internet has been a portal to kitchens around the world. L&L shopper Mary Caton Lingold made drool-worthy onion cream biscuits, and put her son Henrik (pictured above) to work in the kitchen too! My relatives and I are pulling out time-consuming recipes from the Middle East - favorites that we don't normally have time for. I stuffed grape leaves last night, and it's no joke. 

The bottom line is this: These may be trying times, but we've got to eat. Why not make the most of it?

Sarah Nicholas of Ladles and Linens has reserved her own sunny spot on the Internet, showcasing new inventory that gets me buzzing about spring! Honey jars, gardening kits and vibrant melamine plates. And while the store is closed to the public, you can shop by appointment, online or request curbside service. 

Not one to let these circumstances get in the way of a great meal, she hosted a Facebook Live class about eggs on the Ladles and Linens Cooking School page. It's available for replay. And while social distancing will undoubtedly put a damper on parties and Easter egg hunts, you can certainly show the love with customized Easter baskets, bringing smiles to the loved ones you may be separated from. 

So keep that kitchen humming. Lick the spoon, toss scraps to the pup, make giant batches so you can freeze leftovers for a busier time. And if you have children at home, order a kid's apron from Ladles and get them to work too! They will thank you twice. Once when they taste the fruits of their labor, and a second time as adults, when they will think back on this special time, and the kitchen fundamentals they've learned. 

 

 

Health Hacks for the Coronavirus

These are strange times. As I write this, the U.S. is declaring the Coronavirus a national emergency. For the first time in history, a global pandemic has given cause for us to close our schools and cancel public events. 

Many families are hunkering down at home, but anyone who has lived through school breaks with young children knows that it can be... a lot. Venturing out, especially on these unseasonably warm days, is exhilarating. Playgrounds are germy but nature walks? Heaven. If it's freezing out, go to an indoor pool. The chlorinated water blasts every germ into smithereens. Exercise is a great boost for your immune system, and in times like these, every bit helps. 

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Ladles and Linens is here to help with cabin fever. We are open and doing best practices with hygiene. We're stocked with immune-boosting teas to keep you ahead of the curve. If you'd rather not venture out, we can ship, hold merchandise and even deliver curbside. We value our customers, who continue to support small business and buy local. 

Speaking of buying local, I went from store to store and there was no hand sanitizer to be found. But no worries. If you have an aloe vera plant, or a bottle of aloe in your first aid kit (sunburns), you can mix it with rubbing alcohol and voila! You have hand sanitizer.  Vinegar is a great cleanser, but not strong enough to kill the germs on your counter. Neither is vodka, regardless of what you've heard. In that case, it's best to scrub with good old-fashioned soap and water. Bleach and hydrogen peroxide kill the germs, but be mindful that they can be too harsh for certain surfaces. 

The good news is that Covid-19 is one of the easiest types of viruses to kill, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. It has an envelope around it that allows it to merge with other cells to infect them. You can disrupt that coating with the simple act of scrubbing your hands with soap and water. 

In addition to keeping clean and social distancing, keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Stay hydrated, keep exercising and make sure you are getting enough sleep. Almonds, papayas, broccoli and garlic are powerful immune system boosters. You're spending a lot more time at home, so take a few minutes to research recipes that incorporate these foods and create new family memories in...where else? The kitchen! And if you need help, Ladles and Linens is here. Stay safe!

Office Stash: 4 Healthy & Homemade Must-Haves

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There's nothing natural about riding a desk all day, but most of us do it. Adding insult to injury are the snack offerings, like vending machines filled with Cheez-Its. This is no knock against Cheez-Its. I love them...a little too much. And snacks without protein and other nutrients always leave us hungrier in the end. 

Stash these satisfying and easy-to-make options in your snack drawer. They have a longer shelf life and are packed with flavor. Just make sure your co-workers don't get a peek!

 

Roasted Chick Peas

These crunchy, salty treats are perfect for when you're craving potato chips. Preheat your oven to 350, drain a can of chick peas, toss with oil and seasoning in a bowl and bake for 45 minutes. While the flavor combinations are endless, a real crowd-pleaser is: salt, cumin, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and chili powder.

Beef Jerky

This go-to snack really packs the protein, and will satisfy you until dinner. No dehydrator needed - you can make these in the oven. From Korean BBQ to buffalo, tips and flavor combinations can be found here.

 

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Almond Crackers

Gluten-free and with only two ingredients, you can make these batches in bulk, alternating the spice combinations. All you need is one egg and two cups of almond flour. Mix well, add whatever spices you'd like, then roll and press onto a greased baking sheet until thin and even. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes until the edges brown.  Have fun with the seasonings! Rosemary sea salt or cumin and chili powder - the possibilities are endless.

Popcorn

As you can tell, I love to play with flavor combinations. Popcorn is no exception, and rich in fiber. An addictive recipe can be found here. But for a semi-homemade treat, pop a bag of organic popcorn in the microwave, throw in peanuts, chia seeds and flax seeds, drizzle in some caramel syrup and shake the bag like crazy. Fun tip? Use chopsticks and keep your fingers keyboard-ready!

 

Look at me, so blown away by flavor I look like I stood in front of a wind machine. Maybe also have a hairbrush at your desk. 

Tips for Hosting a Self-Care Spectacular!

These days, self-care is a religion. And I'm here for it! Deep tissue massages and mugs of chai tea? You don't have to ask twice.

My friends and I are busy these days. Between kids, careers and side hustles, taking time for oneself can be guilt-inducing. But it must be done, because our own happiness is of great value to ourselves, and those close to us. That's why I hosted a night of pampering at my place.

In the old days, this type of party would've been a sleepover. Nowadays, everyone wants to sleep in their own beds. Whether it's morning traffic or the need for your own memory foam pillow, good sleep just matters more to adults. But before they retreat for their beds, help them unwind in luxury.

Here are some tips for a Self-Care Spectacular!

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Chocolate

To women everywhere, this is a vitamin supplement. To a woman under stress, it's practically a defibrillator. Have chocolate in some sort, whether a batch of buttercream cupcakes or chocolate chip cookies.

Pajamas

One of the first things women do when they get home is unhook from all their anti-gravitational devices. The biggest offenders? Bras and high heels. Let friends arrive unbound in their pajamas. 

Finger Foods

To further create a feeling of ease, ditch all snacks that require flatware. Finger foods for the win, so friends can graze as they paint their nails and let their face masks dry. Make a platter of smoked salmon canapes with capers and lemon, or, if you'd like to go low-key, a big bowl of popcorn

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Drinks

To fight the winter blues, I like to treat guests to an ice-blended taste of summer! At the end of summer, I buy ripe watermelon, cube them and stick bags of them in the deep freezer. For this party, I mixed 3 cups of cubed watermelon, one can of lime seltzer, an undetermined amount of vodka and Royal Rose Three Chiles Simple Syrup (it's spicy, sweet and available at Ladles and Linens). It was a hit!

Beauty

People love options. Buy different types of face masks, from retinol to charcoal. Guests will need to clean their faces first, so lay out cleansers and exfoliants by the sink and give everyone their own towel. I added multiple moisturizing options, from organic coconut oil to a collagen face mist. Not only did I lay out nail polish, but I offered to paint toes! You are the host after all. 

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Balance

With all the chocolate and boozing, your guests will want to round out the self-care session with foods that nourish their bodies. You don't have to sacrifice flavor; it's all about balance! Serve some broccoli and cheese tater tots, a charcuterie board or slice up some fresh fruit.  

We had such a good time that my movie picks (below) never got airtime. We spent the night luxuriating in the products, the food and most importantly, the company. You deserve the same, so gather your friends for a great night in. 

 

Makes your snacks POP!

These winter nights are getting colder, and Netflix will be getting a lot more air time. Popcorn is a go-to snack, and for good reason. Not only is it tasty, but it's rich in fiber and polyphenols, which detoxify the body and fight inflammation.

Delicious is it is, popcorn is also a bit of a blank slate, where you can go beyond butter and salt. Ladles and Linens features a whole line of Dell Cove popcorn toppings, some of which are featured below. As you can see, it was impossible to pick just one!

Our family is really big on having movie nights, and lately we've become obsessed with Parmesan Rosemary Popcorn. It's almost like a brittle, and so addictive, the bowl is empty every time. The recipe is almost too easy!

Here's what you need:

  • 12 cups of cooked popcorn
  • 4 tablespoons of melted salted butter
  • 2 cups of grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary
  • extra salt and pepper to taste

Toss the popcorn, butter and spices in a bowl until well-coated. Then lay flat on a baking sheet, cover with parmesan and pop into an oven that's been preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the parmesan is a light toasted brown. Remove, let cool, then break apart into pieces. 

A true act of love is handing someone a chunk of popcorn held together by crunchy parmesan. That is, if you can give it up. Now grab that weighted blanket, sink into the couch and enjoy!

 

Homemade Valentines for the Family

One of the best things about being a parent is re-living your youth through the eyes of your children. Christmas and Halloween haven't been this fun since I was a kid myself. Bring on the paper snowflakes and fridge art!

Right now, boxes of pre-printed Valentines line the shelves at grocery stores. You know the type; perforated tear sheets featuring Minions or those ubiquitous Frozen characters. My son loves this time of the year, as he can re-stock his candy stash now that his Halloween leftovers have been reduced to Smarties.  I lay awake at night wondering who these neighbors are, and how their life experiences have prohibited them from knowing that no one. Likes. Smarties.

But I digress. Valentine's Day, for me, is a chance to show I care in a personal way. But keep it simple; the holiday only lasts a day and usually lands on a weeknight!

Ideas:

Grab a sheet pan, stack tortillas in a heart shape, and pile on nacho toppings. It's a fun nacho night for the family! Or you can do a tongue-in-cheek nacho gift for your loved ones, using scoop-shaped tortilla chips (pictured above).

Roll out a ball of pizza dough, shape it into a heart and load on your family's favorite toppings. Imagine their surprise when you pull it out of the oven!

Bake a tray of brownies, and use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to pop out heart-shaped bites.

Use that same cookie cutter to punch out pieces of a grilled cheese sandwich or garlic bread, to serve with warming tomato soup. I'd be more than happy to gobble up the leftover edges.

For older kids, you can always let them know how much you care with a funny towel. Or this one. Or this one. They'll use it on the daily, and think of you every time they're in the kitchen - the best place in the house.

Here's to a simple and delicious Valentine's Day!

 

Rainy Day Fun: Making Pierogies

If there's one thing more comforting than carbs, it's carbs stuffed with carbs. And if that weren't comforting enough, you top it off with sour cream. Pierogies do for your soul what chicken soup claims to do.

Perhaps it's because each pierogi is made by hand with care. If you gather a small group of friends to make them together, the whole experience, from creation to consumption, is special. 

Our Ukrainian friend Kristy guided a small group of us through her family recipe, with a filling of goat cheese, potatoes and farmer's cheese. It's heaven. But you can get inventive with fillings. My husband had made sloppy joes from scratch, and I smashed them with baked potatoes for a hearty, meaty filling. We spent hours laughing, storytelling and eating our way through a ridiculous amount of food. 

Here are some ways to make it, as my friends say, "a whole vibe":

  • This is a rainy day activity. If it's warm and sunny out, especially in winter months, soak it up while you can. Pierogi-making is for when you want to avoid blustery weather and hunker down in comfort.
  • If you're going to make pierogies, do it in bulk. It's such a labor-intensive recipe, it's best to roll up your sleeves, hit your stride and make them en masse. They freeze beautifully.  

  • Invite three to four friends so it's intimate, but still a little factory-like, so you can belt out the goods. Play music in the background, light candles, and serve a wintry cocktail. Since you will undoubtedly be snacking on pierogies all day, put out a spread out with different types of food, like crudite and hummus and a charcuterie board
  • Make sure you are fully-stocked with rollings pins, trays, a stock pot and a comfortable outfit that you don't mind having covered in flour.

There's something therapeutic about working with your hands. Therapy has never been so delicious. 

5 Ways to Hygge Your Home

So the holiday decorations have been put away, and your home feels bare. On the bright side, you decluttered. Consider your living space to be a blank slate, a fresh start before bringing on the hygge. 

What exactly is hygge? This buzzword, pronounced "hyu-gah," exploded into pop culture in 2016, and has been named Word of the Year by both Oxford and Collins dictionaries. Simply put, hygge is "a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture)."

Denmark and Norway practice hygge as a culture year-round, but especially in winter. The Northern hemisphere experiences limited sunlight and bitter cold, and their way of celebrating comfort is an art.

Below are 5 ways you can practice hygge this winter. 

Gather

To beat the isolation that can occur in winter, Danes often invite friends and family over for intimate gatherings. Sometimes it involves a nature walk to soak up  vitamin D in that sliver of time the sun is out. Per the below photo, my friends and I enjoyed an outdoor walk, then warmed up by a fire pit, drinking craft beer.  Regardless, it ends with everyone indoors for a cozy get-together. And what is a winter gathering without comfort food? Bake something to share.

Get Lit

Stack some wood in the fireplace and settle in. Cut off the harsh overhead lights and light candles to give your room a warm glow. Danes burn through more candle wax than any other European country - about 13 lbs per person per year!

Warm and Fuzzy

Weighted blankets, faux fur comforters and soft throw pillows, there are all things that will make you feel safely cocooned, as you Netflix and chill.

Hot Stuff

If it's warm, drink up. Comforting beverages like hot cocoa and whipped cream, or peppermint tea and honey are the way to go. Extra points if you put down the phone and pick up a book.

Bundle Up

Wool socks and cashmere sweaters feel as good as they look, but nothing's better than an old pair of sweatpants. Hyggebukser is an actual term for a worn pair of pants you would never wear in public, but secretly treasure. 

Though Los Angeles is generally warmer, desert climate calls for chilly evenings, even during the summer. On cold winter nights (there was frost guys), friends would gather around the fire at our cabin, drink spiced mulled wine and because every gathering has one, some guy would inevitably pull out a guitar.

Year after year, Scandinavians are voted the happiest people in the world. While it's true that employers and the government promote an incredible work/life balance, part of the picture is their focus on comfort, and living well. And during these winter months, we need all the hygge we can get!

 

...And Mom and Dad Can Hardly Wait for School to Start Again

From us here at Ladles and Linens, we hope you're having the happiest of holidays. We also know this time of year can be fraught with stress and over-packed schedules. It can be a struggle staying mindful about slowing down and being in the moment. 

It could be little things, like treating a cousin to a peppermint mocha. Or everyone agreeing to put down their tablets to take in It's a Wonderful Life, which serves a strong reminder to be more grateful. Board games, caroling (even as a joke flash mob - trust me, it's amazing), preparing a great meal; these are all things that can bring us together.

Some say that the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is the longest week of the year. ...and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again. It can feel especially long if you encounter political arguments, spoiled children or cannot find a decent hiding space. Try to reframe this added time as a gift. I make jewelry or bake chocolate chip cookies.  If the kids are running circles around the house, take them out sledding and help them burn off steam. If everyone's buried in their phones, pull out a game of Apples to Apples, and up the ante by giving the winner a gift card.

In short, you deserve the kind of holiday they sing songs about. Give it your best shot. Happy holidays!