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Lord & Taylor just opened a new home department in their flagship store in Manhattan (39th and 5th).  I stopped in at their grand opening this week and snapped a few shots.  Furniture and furnishings are by Ralph Lauren.

Blue-and-white dinnerware complement a plaid-patterned tablecloth and chairs. Designer: Philip Gorrivan

A trio of wolves stalk a well-laden table under a canopy of green. Designer: Brad Ford.

Fall colors dominant with leafy branches,tall branchy candle stands and fringed table cloth with window-pane check. Designer: Garrow Kedigian.

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Want to compare your kitchen design to professionally-designed ones? See how your kitchen scores…

1.  Out of 10 points, deduct 1 point for every foot your work triangle is above 22 feet (your work triangle is the number of feet you walk from your fridge to your stove to your sink and back to your fridge). Deduct 1 point for every foot your work triangle is less than 10 feet.
TOTAL SCORE: _____

2.  Out of 10 points, deduct 2 points each if you have less than 12″ of counter space the left side of the sink, the right side of the sink, the left side of the stove and the right side of the stove. Deduct 2 points if you have less than 15″ of counter space on the handle-side of your fridge.
TOTAL SCORE: _____

3.  Out of 10 points, deduct 5 points if one side of your sink is within 8″ of a wall. Deduct another 5 points if your stove is within 8″ of a wall.
TOTAL SCORE: _____

4.  Out of 10 points, deduct 6 points if your dishwasher is located more 1 step away the sink. Deduct another 2 points each if your dishes, glasses or cutlery are stored more than 5 feet away from the dishwasher.
TOTAL SCORE: _____

5.  Out of 10 points, deduct 3 points for every inch your sink is shallower than 9″.
TOTAL SCORE: _____

6.  Out of 10 points, deduct 1 point for every item stored on your counter that isn’t used at least 3 times a week. Deduct 1 point for every small electrical appliance that’s stored between your hip and eye-level (behind cupboards or out in the open) that’s not used regularly.
TOTAL SCORE: _____

7.  Out of 10 points, deduct 1 point for every 10% of your counter that’s not free. (Example, if nothing is stored on your counters, score 10 points. If 50% of your countertop is regularly filled with objects, score 5 points. If 60% is covered and only 40% free, score 4 points, etc.)
TOTAL SCORE: _____

8.  Out of 10 points, deduct 2 points for every item stored within your work triangle that doesn’t relate to food preparation. (Examples: mail, magazines, office supplies, bills, electronics, TVs).
TOTAL SCORE: _____

9.  Out of 10 points, deduct 2 points for every drawer, cupboard, rack or utensil canister that’s over-capacity, making items difficult to retrieve or return, or any cupboard that requires you to move some items to get to other items.
TOTAL SCORE: _____

10.  Out of 10 points, Deduct another 2 points for every cabinet (or shelf) where you store food, dishes or non-kitchen items together. Deduct 2 points if you’ve never taken time to plan and organize your fridge.
TOTAL SCORE: _____

 Add extra points for:

  • a knife rack that mounts on the wall (+2 points)
  • a hanging pot rack (+3 points)
  • a spice rack that mounts on the wall (+2 points)
  • at least 4 kitchen drawers (+5 points)
  • full-extension drawers (+5 points)
  • each drawer with drawer dividers (+ 2 points)
  • an under-sink organization system of any kind (+3 points)
  • each lazy susan (+3 points)
  • a food pantry cabinet (+5 points)
  • clip-on lights, under-cabinet lights or other task lighting (+4 points)

Deduct points for:

  • less than 11″ of knee space depth under a counter or table (-5 points)
  • corner sink (-7 points)
  • no windows or view outdoors or to another room (-5 points)
  • less than 6 linear feet of counter space (-10 points)

How did you score?
85 – 100 points. Congratulations! Unless your kitchen is really too small, you’re in good shape.

70 – 85 points. A few small changes will increase your kitchen design’s efficiency and comfort.

50-70 points. You probably already know your kitchen design isn’t quite right, but may not be sure what to do. Check out our kitchen planning tips for some ideas.

50 points or less. You’ve got two choices… renovate or eat out more! Or check out our kitchen planning tips to see which organizational changes you could make without renovating.

Click here for kitchen planning ideas. Or take another quiz to rate the design of other rooms in your home.

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It started with finding cream-style corn on sale at the grocery store. I love the stuff, so stocked up. Then one fateful night, when I realized my faithful supply of Campbell’s chunky chicken corn chowder (also a favorite) had run out, I was left with no choice but to make my own.

This recipe is super easy, fast and good!

CHICKEN CORN CHOWDER

2 chicken boullion cubes / 4 cups water
4- 10-oz cans or frozen boxes of creamed corn
1- 12-oz can of chicken (add a second can if you like more chicken)
3 carrots, diced
2 potatoes, diced

Boil water with boullion cubes. Add creamed corn, chicken (with liquid), carrots and potatoes. Salt to taste. Add croutons or oyster crackers to serve.

Makes 8 servings. Enjoy!

Serving a buffet-style dinner this Super Bowl Sunday?  What seems like an easy dinner party idea can be quite an excercise in logic and organization! Buffet–style serving, especially to a large crowd, can put you at risk of buffet gridlock or other food-serving chaos. So here’s a compilation of the best tips I could find to keep the buffet line moving… and guests coming back for more next year!

1. For a buffet party over eight people, lay food out on both sides of the table, rather than along a one-sided sideboard. For a buffet party over 18 people, repeat the same food dishes on both sides of the table. Remove the chairs around the buffet table so traffic flows easily.

2. Serve drinks in a separate area – a cart, separate table or sideboard will keep drink traffic out of the food lanes. Group bottles of soda or cocktails together with glasses, an ice bucket, small napkins and a bowl of lemons or limes.

3. Better yet, allocate or hire someone to serve drinks. It could be a child or a neighborhood friend. People will have to get up less often and it’s really rather hospitable! Your party will be talked about for weeks!

4. Serve drinks, or make them available, right when guests arrive. It’ll put less pressure on guests to balance plates and glasses in the buffet line.

5. Use large plates and oversized napkins. Avoid flimsy paper plates unless they’re hefty, hearty and able to withstand weight and moisture, at the same time. A large napkin that completely covers the lap (when open) will be appreciated.

6. Avoid serving food that requires a knife; buffet food should really be spoon-friendly or fork-friendly only. Even if you’re not weak at the knees, It can be precarious to balance a plate on them while performing food feats with a dangerous weapon.

7. Place clean plates and cold items at the beginning of the line, hot entries last. Place silverware and napkins at the end of the buffet, rather than at the beginning.

8. Roll a napkin around a fork and spoon, so they’re one item to carry.

9. Use a hot plate or warming tray to keep hot things hot. Buffet-warmers have become a hot item, meaning they’re also more affordable than ever. They also have a polished, restaurant quality!

10. Avoid food that requires time or talent to get from serving dish to plate. A block of cheese can be a thing of beauty, but cutting off a piece with one hand is quite a feat. If using cheese blocks, pre-cut part of the block. And pre-cutting smaller branches of grapes will avoid guests walking off with half of them, without wanting to!

11. Poke a toothpick into items that are tough to pick up, or to pick up without touching everything around them. Or invest in a few small tongs for biscuits or hand-picked items. In an age of killer flus, everyone will thank you.  

13. Label food or ingredients that aren’t easily recognizable, including food with nuts or a choice of sauces or dressings. Better yet, label everything with a folding card or a flag. It’s restaurant-like and helpful. Plus, there’s nothing worse then when people have to smell something to see if they want to eat it. Except, maybe, a guest being rushed to the hospital at halftime on account of a food allergy you didn’t know about.

14. Serve desert, tea and coffee on a tray or rolling cart you can bring to your guests. Once guests are settled in place, sometimes it’s an effort for them to get up again (… and risk losing their prime seat location!).

15. Create an abundant-looking table.  Avoid unforutnate gaps by taking the leaf out of the table, grouping food at one end, drinks at the other, or placing a large floral or food display arrangement at the center or end of the table. Also, vary the height of items on the table. Add a large centerpiece, or place some serving plates higher than others. (An easy way to do this is to pile books under select plates, then cover the entire table with a tablecloth).

A few final ideas…

Lay out out the serving table plan ahead of time, even the night before. Place post-it notes where things will go; it’ll be one less thing to think about on the day of the party… and help out those who want to help you in the mad rush right before dinner is served.

If, or when, you’re in the market for new dining room furniture, consider a buffet or sideboard rather than a china cabinet. They’re versatile if you like buffet-style eating and make a great place to serve drinks. Also, look for one with a marble top; they’re plentiful these days and perfect for buffet parties – they can handle heat and are easy  to clean!

 

Pilsner glass, by Ritzenhoff, with art-decorated theme

Seems drinking beer out of a can or bottle is becoming practically medieval.

But wait a minute… didn’t all those medieval taverns in Europe serve beer in a mug?

Yes, Americans are being influenced by long-standing European trends to pour beer into a glass or mug. But not just any vessel will do… the right glass is starting to matter, at least to some. The thinking goes that the shape of  the glass enhances specific aromas or characteristics of the beer, just like specific stemware shapes enhance specific varieties of grapes. 

A number of glassware companies got on board with this trend about 2 years ago. But the news here is that sales are

Mikasa's Brewmasters Collection, a set of four glasses for Pilsner, Wheat, Stout and Ale beers. Sales from 2008 to 2009 more than tripled.

brisk and growing, even in a slow economy… including multi-packs that include up to four different types of beer glasses. For those of you with a hard-to-buy-for male in your life or a bridal gift dilemma in your future, beer glasses may be just the thing. 

So how did this happen, some beer drinkers might be asking. And why?

More people entertaining at home. Seems no one can afford to eat out and save for retirement.

Pressure on beer drinkers by newly educated wine drinkers to belly up, or come to the party, so to speak, with a little more sophistication. Savvy wine folks are clearly embarrassed setting their carefully-selected wine glass down next to a beer can.

A microbrewery trend, including a host of independent American brewers making their own beers and an infusion of European beers and Belgian ales.

Some seriously savvy marketing by European beer makers, including giving away specifically shaped glassware with their logos on them, along with how-to-pour information on the back of the bottle.

Pilsner glass, Crate and Barrel

Beer education sites such as www.beeradvocates.com and www.beertaptv.com, and beer-centric magazines such as Cheers.

If you’re not up for spending the money on… or allocating an entire shelf to a complete varietal collection of beer glasses, opt for a Pilsner glass. It’s the top seller and a good all-round choice.

I didn’t see the Dec 15 /2009 episode of The View, but caught it on a re-run today. How fun are these cupcake hats that Snoop Dog gave the hosts! (…fast forward if you like –  it’s about 50 seconds into the video).

Pistoulet, from Pfalzgraff

It’s no surprise that 2010 will see more of us eating at home rather than going out. And it seems the tableware folks are coming to the table, so to speak, with new patterns and colors in dinner dishes to make it all a little more exciting.

Here are a few 2010 tableware trends to look out for…

More ‘wow’ pieces. Gone are matching place settings where dinner dishes vary only in size. We’re starting to see more variety within a place setting, with each piece making a design statement on its own. A 5-piece tableware setting might include variations in shape and a different pattern on each piece.

More personal statements. With dinner dishes, bowls and mugs within a place setting each being unique, there’s more freedom to mix things up a little and pull together the table in our own way. With a wider variety of patterns, we’re also able to pick patterns that say something about ourselves as a person. Call it eclectic or eccentric… it’s all about creating options, or doing things our own way.

Casual looks. A less disposable generation is driving a desire for beautiful dinner dishes they can be used every day… and simpler flatware with less decorated looks (cleaned up a little rather than outright contemporary). Metallic finishes are also being toned down from bright silver to burnished, brushed and hammered finishes.

Folk influences, especially from Europe. From Provence to Uzbekistan, western and eastern Europe are inspiring everything from flowers and fleur-de-lys patterns to embroidery-like stiches and densely packed swirls. Less-known locations around the world are inspiring new decorative ideas that are proving quite Bohemian.

Redefined formality. A more casual lifestyle is entrenched today, but there are traces of a growing desire for a little more formality.  The trend is less about ornate patterns on dinner dishes and more about a growing appreciation for quality and interest in the right way to serve and eat food. For example, we’re spending more time and money finding the right glass for the right wine or beer, the right serving platter… and wine decanters are becoming a must-have for a growing generation of educated wine drinkers.

Meat buns make a great choice for lunches, snacks and Super Bowl parties. They’re also a favorite in our family (especially among the guys!) during Christmas holidays.

Given everyone’s busy schedule this year, we took a shortcut and made them with refrigerated dough found at the grocery store. We also got representatives of each of the three generations in our family together and made a fun afternoon of it. This is a very quick recipe to make – making the meat buns took less les than an hour (…making the video below took a little longer!)

 

Meat Buns (80 buns)

1.5 – 2.0 lbs lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 can mushroom soup
1 package onion soup mix
2 tbsp dried parsley
3/4 cup dried bread crumbs

8 cans (80 biscuits) of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1 egg

Mix together the first 5 ingredients. Open the refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (Pillsbury dough is always good, but a generic store brand works just as well and costs less) and place them on an oiled cookie sheet. Flatten them with the palm of your hand so they spread to 2.5 – 3″ in diameter. Spoon a generous teaspoon of the meat mixture into the center of each biscuit. Pull the sides together, form together in an oblong shape and turn the biscuit over so the seams face the pan. Place the buns about 2″ apart on the cookie sheet and coat each with a mixture of 1 beaten egg with a tablespoon of water.

Bake for 13-15 minutes at 400 degrees… and enjoy!

Here’s the step-by-step video, complete with a few bloopers and mishaps…

This was just one of the amazing trays of Christmas squares and cookies at our family gatherings this year.

From left to right…. Christmas fruit cake… date squares (a.k.a. matrimonial cake)… coconut with glace fruit and nut cookie (grandpa’s favorite)… Russian tea cakes… Ghirradelli chocolate brownies… shortbread with rhubarb jam centers.

It was tough to know what to eat first! Thanks to my mom and sisters for another great Christmas slaving over the hot stove so the family could eat non-stop for 3 days in a row.  (I just blew in from out-of-town to enjoy their superb menus and recipes!)

Hard to believe, but this Norman-Rockwell style Christmas village is a display on my sister-in-law’s dining room buffet table. I coudn’t resist snapping a few photos this year.

Connie collected each of the village buildings over the years, enough to fill the entire length of her buffet cabinet. The skating rink with skaters on the far right (below) can be switched on to rotate and play Christmas carols!

She uses a white table cloth to simulate the snow (it really works!). Set against the dark taupe wall  in her dining room, it’s quite dramatic.

Enjoy a few more photos!