The wonderful world of Pinterest

I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who has a love affair with Pinterest.

Pinterest it great. I could spend hours going through the pages and pages of pins. Clothing. Home decor. Puppies in tea cups. I love it all. When I first got on Pinterest, I was engaged, so of course I used it for bookmarking a lot of wedding ideas. Now that we’re married and I’m “nesting” (home nesting…not like pre-baby nesting) I on a big home decor kick on Pinterest. But my hands down favorite thing about Pinterest is using it for recipe bookmarking.

I am a recipe stockpiler. I used to have folders full of tear outs from cooking magazines (more on that later). I collect cookbooks. I like to have a wide variety of potential recipes to choose from. Prior to Pinterest, I was using One Tsp to organize all my recipes from the web. It was a great site, but you had to input all your recipes individually and couldn’t upload pics easily. Pinterest makes it so much easier — and prettier.

My recipe pinboards
My recipe pinboards

Not pictured: My boards for ice cream, non-baking treats and libations. I may have a problem.

I started off with just one massive Cooking board. But it became such a hassle to scroll through it looking for a specific recipe. So one tedious day, I went through and created separate boards for separate categories. When I’m having people over and need a good appetizer, I go to that board. Going to a potluck brunch? There’s a board for that. It has made it so much easier being able to pinpoint exactly where I should be looking. I have contemplated about breaking it down even further to include boards dedicated solely to poultry, beef and seafood, but for now, I’m avoiding that bout of OCD. I have found this organizing method works wonders for me when I am menu planning for the week.

If you do some quick math, you’ll see I have more than 500 recipes bookmarked on Pinterest. And there are just the ones I haven’t tried. I have a whole board dedicated to recipes I’ve made and deemed successful enough to make again. And I have deleted recipe pins that were deemed “meh.”

When using Pinterest, find what works best for you. I just wanted to share how I do it in case anyone was looking for some organization tips.

How do you organize your Pinterest boards?

P.S. Follow me on Pinterest.

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Grillin’ and chillin’

Summertime and grilling go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Despite Atlanta’s recent streak of cool and rainy weather, I’ve still been craving grilled food. Until recently this was an issue as we did not own a grill. I would have to rely on going to a friend’s house or my parent’s to enjoy grilled delicacies. But not anymore. We recently just procured our first grill.

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Ain’t it cute? When we lived in DC, we shared a small one-bedroom apartment with zero outdoor space for any type of grill. Now in Atlanta, we have a little bit of a “patio” as I call is, so we took the plunge and got this little guy at Walmart. It isn’t the biggest of grills, but the price was right and it is just the perfect size for the two of us.

This is where I talk about how I used to be scared to grill. I just never felt comfortable manning the grill. Maybe it was the propane gas or the flames, but I just never could get the hang of it. One place where I lived in DC had community grills for residents to use, and my roommate would go and grill out all the time. I would just watch her in amazement as she knew just where to put the meats and veggies to get the right cook. She never had to cut open a chicken breast to see if it was done — she just knew. She tried to teach me her ways, but nothing really stuck.

The turning point this year was Father’s Day. I was over at my mom and dad’s house making brats and I had to ask my mom a million questions about if they were done, how hot should I make the grill, etc. So when Eric saw this grill at Walmart and said we should get it, I enthusiastically said YES.  Now I am on my way to becoming a grill master. So far we’ve tried grilling steak, chicken, fish, hot dogs and sausage. Most things have been successful, others have not, but I’m sure we’ll get the hang of it eventually.

Grill master at work.
Grill master at work.

Last night my parents and brother came over for a cookout to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We made burgers, something simple enough for a newbie. My mom (who is the one taking this picture) was a great teacher. She taught me to turn the grill up high and let it flame up so the burgers char a bit on each side. She showed me how to move the burgers around to take advantage of hot spots on the grill. She also gave me a tip for cleaning the grill (Next time you turn it on, set it to high and close the lid. This way all the stuff just burns off the grate). Overall, it was a great learning experience with delicious results.

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The finished product: burgers with cheddar and pepper jack.

I’m not going to be participating in any grilling competitions anytime soon, but I am looking forward to continuing my grilling journey.

What are your favorite things to grill?

New feature: Friday Five

I love routine. I have followed the same steps to get ready for bed for years. I love having things planned out. Hence why I am introducing a new weekly feature for Kitchen Casual: Friday Five.

A few of the blogs I regularly follow wrap up the week with a post about the things they did for the week, what they are loving at the moment etc. It is just good to have a standing post one day of the week that is easy peasy. So this will be mine. Every week, I’ll write up a post featuring five things about food. It could be a recipe I want to try, a book I am reading — anything as long as it relates to food. I saw that now, but before you know it, it is going to evolve in to a random mess. But let’s start off on the right foot.

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1) Trader Joe’s is this magical land. You enter and discover all sorts of treats. The Inner Peas snap pea crisps are my new obsession. Seriously. I have three bags of them in our pantry right now. They are the perfect balance of salty and crunchy and are low if calories and fat so they are a great guilt-free snack. I’ve seen different flavors of these carried at Whole Foods and I think Publix (for you Southerners), but the original is just perfection.

2) I will occasionally talk about a kitchen gadget I want. I love added fun new tools to our cooking collection, and I sometimes might want advice of if you have a favorite. Right now, I’m jonesing for a mandolin.

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Funny story actually. We got a mandolin as a wedding present. And I was all psyched to use it. Bring on the matchstick potatoes! But the first two times I used it, I cut myself so badly I thought I would need to seek medical attention. Yes, this was probably due to error on my fault, but I became so frightened of the mandolin, I trashed it. Well now, I am ready to conquer my fear. The above one is from Oxo and I’ve seen it talked about on other blogs. It looks a bit sturdier than the other one we had, so maybe my fingers will survive. I already know the first thing I’ll make when I get it — Sauteed Julienned Summer Vegetables from Skinny Taste.

3) Let’s talk about “Masterchef.” My mom and brother got me in to this show. I had never watched it until the current season. This week’s episode was a little over the top though, I will admit. They had all these live birds running around the kitchen and you kinda just maybe thought they were going to make the contestants kill the birds right there, but they didn’t. Phew. That aside, I love hearing Gordon Ramsay say “stunning” a million times an episode. My money is on Georgia girl Jessie to win.

4) I pinned this recipe for Creamy Caprese Quinoa Bake from Half Baked Harvest awhile back and keep wanting to try it out. It looks absolutely amazing. I mean, my mouth is watering as I type this. Might be added to next week’s menu planning…

5) Currently feeling the need to bake a pie. Specifically a blackberry one. This recipe from Saveur looks good. Anyone have another suggestion?

And that is the first edition of Friday Five! What have been your favorites this week?

My partner in crime

As I mentioned in my introduction post, my husband Eric shares my love of food. I’ll be mentioning him a lot throughout this blog so I figured it would be good for me to tell you a bit about him.

Here's a picture of us at dinner on our honeymoon in Jamaica.
Here’s a picture of us at dinner on our honeymoon in Jamaica.

Eric and I met in 2008 but didn’t officially begin dating until September 2009. The week of our first date, I remember him posting an album on Facebook full of food pictures from a trip to San Francisco. This guy showed promise. We’ve been together ever since.

Eric is a great guy in many ways (obviously, I married him), but especially when it comes to our love of all things food. He is just as adventurous as I am when it comes to trying new things, sometimes even more than me. He’s open to trying new things that I cook (kale and quinoa for example), and his list of dislikes is pretty small (rare steak, onions, cooked mushrooms). Plus he’s a good cook too (and baker).

He also understands my desire to photograph everything we eat, whether it is at home or a restaurant. It’s a small thing, but it would be annoying if every time I pulled out my phone to snap a pic, he let out a big sigh. Ain’t nobody got time for that. In fact, I sometimes think he is more excited about photographing food than I am. We had more pictures from our honeymoon of the food we ate than of the two of us probably.

Together we like to explore new restaurants and try new things. We just relocated to Atlanta from DC in February and have since been working our way through Atlanta Magazine’s list of best barbecue in the city. In the four years we’ve been together, we’ve both developed a love of learning about wine. We got engaged while on a trip to wine country in California. Eric works part-time at a winery tasting room in Georgia (he also did it when we lived in Virginia). We got a wine fridge as a wedding present. We even hosted a wine festival at our house for a bunch of friends. I wouldn’t call us snobs, but we definitely enjoy a tasty bottle of vino every now and again.

I’m pretty lucky to have Eric alongside me in foodie adventures.

Who is your favorite person to talk food with?

Risotto: The easy way out

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Mine was excellent and involved a lot of eating. That’s always a good thing. But I wanted to start off the week sharing one of my favorite recipes — which is also one of my favorite kitchen cheats.

If I go to a restaurant and see risotto as a side option, chances are I am probably ordering it. Cheesy carbs are the way to my heart.

I’d always been afraid to try risotto at home. Something about the stirring and the ladling intimidated me. But then I found a cheat, an easy way to make risotto where you can just set it and forget it.

Baked risotto. IN THE OVEN.

It’s all the same ingredients. It still takes about the same amount of time as a traditional risotto. But maybe a third of the effort.

I’ve tried a few different recipes, but the one from Kitchen Simplicity is by far my favorite. And it is very easily adaptable depending on what you want to make. Throw some mushrooms in there. Goat cheese? Why not. Eric liked it when I mixed in some shredded carrots. Do whatever you desire. It pairs well with many things. I’ve done it with red wine short ribs and scallops.

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Kitchen Simplicity baked risotto, served alongside crock pot braised red wine short ribs. Mother’s Day 2013.

Do you have any favorite kitchen cheats?

Simple Baked Risotto from Kitchen Simplicity

1.5 cups arborio rice
4.5 cups chicken stock (I use chicken bouillon since I always have it on hand)
1 cup finely grated parmesan
2 tablespoons butter (You can add margarine or another substitute)
salt and pepper, to taste

Stir together the stock and rice in a 10 cup baking dish, cover tightly with foil. Bake at 355ºF for 40 minutes or until rice is al dente and most of the stock has been absorbed (it will still be quite loose and wet). Stir in parmesan and butter until creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Let me introduce myself

Why hello there. I’m Katy. Welcome to my new blogging endeavor, Kitchen Casual.

Let’s start off with a little background. I’ve always loved blogging. I had a Xanga in high school, a LiveJournal in college and wrote a fashion blog called Thrifty Threads with some of my friends up until recently. I love having an outlet where I can go and write whatever I want whether people are going to read it or not. Once Thrifty Threads ended, I realized I was missing blogging in my life, so I decided to finally take the plunge and start a blog about food.

Anyone who knows me in real life can tell you that I’m a foodie through and through. Both my husband, Eric, and I are. We are the people you see at restaurants taking pictures of every dishes. We’re the ones talking about dinner while we are eating lunch. We both love to cook, love to eat and love to experience everything about food. Food is my most fervent passion in life, so it made sense for me to start a blog centered around it. I wanted to start an outlet where I could share recipes, tips and tricks, restaurant reviews and a bunch of other random things surrounding food. Have you ever spent an hour watching Whole Foods hauls on YouTube? No? That’s just me. Well, fair warning: I’ll probably be sharing food hauls on here. I love reading them and watching them. They give me ideas of new things to try. And that’s what food is all about — trying new things.

I want this to be a pretty casual blog, for me to keep up and for readers to follow, hence the title. I’m by no means a professional cook, but I do like to share what I produce in the kitchen. Most of the pictures I share will probably be via my iPhone and Instagram. I don’t have a fancy DSLR or anything. I document food the way a lot of people do: point and click on a cell phone.

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This is the one picture of me in the kitchen I could find on Facebook. Helping out with Thanksgiving dinner.

My cooking philosophy is pretty simple. I love to cook delicious food that is easy to make and doesn’t take a long time. I love being in the kitchen, but I don’t want to be chained to the stove on any given day. I work a full-time job, so when the day is done, I like to throw some things together and have something on the table in about half an hour. You won’t see a lot of slow-braised, long-simmering posts here — unless they involved a crock pot. (Seriously, the crock pot is one of the best cooking tools around.) I can’t chop a perfect dice or create beautiful julienne veggies without the help of a mandolin. But I do try to make my food look nice. I have a graphic design background — I can’t help it that I like things to look good.

I guess I will wrap this up. Bear with me as I work through the design and flow of this site. I hope to have it ironed out soon. But I have found blogging is an organic experience and things change constantly. So let’s see what happens.

P.S. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter if you desire. I might post pics of our cat or tweet about Georgia football just so you are aware.