There’s a lot to look forward to during springtime – the change in weather, local produce (yay!), and graduations. This edition of Favorite Things honors all of these springtime themes with favorite recipes, kitchen gadgets, and gifts for adults and kids alike!
👩🏼🍳 Favorite Kitchen Gadgets (x2!)
Mason Jar Shredders
When a recipe calls for something to be grated – for example, cheese, zest, garlic, or ginger – we reach for our grater or microplane and hope all of our hard work lands gracefully in the intended spot. But, sometimes this task can be messy.
That’s why we love this Mason jar shredder. The lid is the grater, and the shredded item falls directly into the jar. It’s perfect for making salad dressings and sauces where you may be shredding Parmesan cheese or an onion – everything goes right into the jar! Swap out the lid, and it can be stored in the fridge. The grater is dishwasher safe and won’t rust. $12.99 for 3 tops (enough to share).
Alternatively, this microplane cube mini box grater is pricier (21.99) but it also functions as a measuring cup (up to 1½ cups). It will double as a container to mix small amounts of other ingredients with less mess.
Sharp knives make kitchen prep so much easier and, perhaps counterintuitively, we are more likely to cut ourselves with a dull knife. Ann has long used this brand and finds it to be quick, effective, and long lasting. She gave it as a birthday gift last fall, and when the thrilled recipient traveled home for the holidays, he took it with him so he could sharpen his dad’s knives. We thought that was the best endorsement!
Amazon currently lists this electric knife sharpener for $199.95, so while it isn’t cheap, people who cook regularly may find it a worthwhile purchase—or something to add to a holiday wish list.
With sharp knives, and new in-season produce, be inspired to Roast Any Vegetable, or thinly slice fresh scallions for the Broiled Salmon with Scallion Salsa. They may also be helpful for the next favorite thing as well…
🥘 Favorite Food Gift Box
Emily’s family friends have owned and managed the Taste Of Texas restaurant in Houston, TX since 1977. They have since branched out to offer steak gift boxes that provide the same quality of meat to customers all over the country.
Steak cuts are perfectly aged Certified Angus Beef®. Heritage Angus cattle are carefully selected from family ranches, and these producers are dedicated to bringing the very best beef to your family’s table.
Emily has made these steaks at home for a few special occasions. The meat is so juicy and delicious, and turned out fantastic now matter how she cooked it. The company offers a variety of boxes, which include various cuts of meat, optional seasonings, and sauces or sides. For a simple but elegant meal, grill steak with Asiago Asparagus, or Easiest Steamed Artichokes and Perfectly Baked Potatoes will do the trick.
🦆 Favorite New Cooking Oil
We have been familiar with the EPIC’s unique line of jerkeys for some time but had not yet tried their cooking oils.
When doing recipe development for our new Matzo Ball Soup recipe (coming soon!), we could not find schmaltz (chicken fat) at the local grocery store. In a pinch we picked up EPIC Duck Fat and realized the matzo balls taste even better with the substitution!
🐣 Favorite Easter Desserts
There are few better pairings in this world than chocolate and peanut butter. As such, we cannot bypass Easter celebrations without Ann’s grandmother’s recipe for homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs. If you’re looking for more, check out this Easter Candy Roundup for all your Easter candy needs. (And here’s a direct link for the many Coconut Cream Egg fans!)
Don’t feel like making your own? We’ve got you covered. One of our favorite candy companies, See’s, makes beautifully designed chocolate eggs with a wide range of fillings, chocolate bunnies of all shapes and sizes, and Emily’s all time favorite–the Dark Scotchmallow® (with caramel and marshmallow inside!). The company ships all over the country and internationally.
🧽 Favorite Cleaner
Spring cleaning anyone? Ann stumbled upon Branch Basics several years ago when one of the company founders made her Carrot Cake for Easter and posted the recipe on her Instagram page. The concept of adding water to a strong concentrate for virtually every cleaning need was appealing–so many fewer plastic bottles to throw away. The products are also free of harmful chemicals. But would they work? (And as is the norm here, we do not accept payment of any sort for these reviews–we just tell you what we like!)
The premium starter kit retails for $69 and comes with a big bottle of The Concentrate and labeled but empty bottles (like the ones shown below and others including laundry detergent, foaming hand wash, bathroom cleaner, etc.) as well as a product similar to OxiClean called Oxygen Boost. You add a small but different amount of the concentrate to each bottle, which are clearly marked on the side, and then fill with water. That’s it.
🎨 Favorite Stickers for Kids
Looking for an activity to keep kids quiet, busy, and engaged? This is it. Emily’s son (age 5) can spend hours with these Paint by Number Sticker Books from Workman. Just like the more traditional paint-by-numbers, each sticker corresponds with a number, and the pictures can go well past 80 stickers. Great for travel, rainy days, or any other time a quiet activity is in order.
🎓 Favorite Graduation Gift
Save your t-shirts…or those of your children and grandchildren! Ann first heard of a t-shirt quilt when her older son was in pre-school. She loved the idea and started saving shirts from various sports teams and family vacation spots. Her plan was to have a quilt made for each son as a high school graduation gift, thinking it would be perfect to take to college and elicit lots of good memories.
As they outgrew quilt-worthy shirts, she’d stow them in a bag in the basement. Problem was, by the time they graduated, she had amassed too many shirts! Given the choices, she figured the boys might like to choose their favorites. So, she wrapped up the whole stack. They loved going through the old shirts, and the memories and stories they brought back were so much fun.
Ann use Project Repat to assemble the blankets. Several sizes and various colors of fleece backings are available. Prices vary based on size but start at $75. The instructions on the site are easy to follow and Ann and her sons were thrilled with how they turned out.
📚 Favorite Book This Month
We would likely have overlooked Let’s Get Physical (the book—not the Olivia Newton John song) by Danielle Friedman if it weren’t for a glowing endorsement from one of Ann’s friends, whose recommendations never disappoint.
Friedman’s unique blend of reporting and personal narrative chronicles the birth of the modern exercise industry, from the days when women were warned against exerting themselves because their uterus could fall out through modern day. The smart, well-researched book is a page turner that’s equal parts biographical, pop culture history, and a serious look at how something that empowers women has turned into a multibillion-dollar industry with its fair share of downsides.
The fact-packed read reminds us of fads we’ve long forgotten while aptly addressing how sexism and racism have been endemic to the industry. This book is likely to please those who lean towards non-fiction as well as those who prefer an easy beach read—and everyone in between.
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