From the category archives:

Do I Really Need A…

kitchen tables at DesignMom.com

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Gorgeous DIY farmhouse table from iheartnaptime.  

When we moved into our current house, I struggled with where to put our dining table… and our kitchen table. This house has an open floor plan, and we have two wonderful tables. Both are pretty, old wood — a formal mahogany dining table, and a massive vintage oak table my husband convinced me would be perfect in its already-heavily-loved state. “You need some place to do all your projects,” he reasoned, “and someplace where I’m not worried about putting down something hot. And we need someplace where the kiddo can do his homework while we cook dinner. We’re kitchen people. We need a good kitchen table.”

We are kitchen people. We really, really are. In our current kitchen, we have a small sofa, a ghost chair, a really comfortable club chair that’s actually this chair from Ikea with a good upholstery job. We spend easily nine tenths of our time at home in the kitchen (if not more). We love the kitchen. It’s our favorite room in the house. Like I said, we are Kitchen People.

But we’re also Formal Dining Room People. We love the whole show of it. The candles, the pretty china, the routine of celebration and feeling like this meal is something special. But all meals are really something special, even if only in their everyday regularity, and more importantly, we couldn’t fit both tables in our small, open floor plan space. So the conundrum became: Which table do we keep?

Which table won out? Keep reading.

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Do I Really Need... A Rice Cooker?

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image from the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board, which works to eliminate micronutrient deficiencies worldwide.

There is little in this world I need like a rice cooker. Sunshine, barbecue, some sparkle, a good book… And a rice cooker. Preferably this little cheapie red one, because loyal little kitchen starlet that it is, I’ve been relying on it for going on twelve years. And I can’t imagine my kitchen without it.

It’s light. It’s long lasting. And lo, does it make magic happen.

Maybe because I was a lazy single woman who hated heating up a whole pot of water to make one poached egg for going on a decade, or maybe because I’m a very inventive small-apartment-kitchen genius* channeling the culinary ingenuity of Clementine and Laurie Colwin, for years I relied heavily on this little rice cooker for zillions of meals.

And it always got the job done.

Keep reading for 13 things I’ve cooked in the rice cooker in the last year alone.

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By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got more spices than you know what to do with. At last count, we had 117 spices on hand in our kitchen. It was probably more like 130, if you count all the rubs we had hidden in the back corners of the spice cabinet and the eight different kinds of salts I maintain are necessary for our attempted cooking genius. On the day of the Great Spice Count, our kitchen was chock full of vanilla beans, saffron threads that were so expensive I’m actually afraid to use them, eight different kinds of curry powder, cardamom pods, ground cardamom seeds, you name it.

Spices are my culinary passport. They let me cross East and West in one sitting. With a few flicks of the wrist, I can travel from Thailand at lunch to the Greek Isles for dinner, all from the comforts of my own kitchen. They add depth, complexity, aroma, color, and flavor to everything I make. They make me feel adventurous, even when I’m only making a simple pasta sauce. And some of them are even rumored to increase brain health.

So clearly, keeping all these spices around was the smart thing to do, I told my husband when we packed up the house for our last big move. He laughed, and continued to help me pack the spices. But when they took up over two boxes and more cabinet space than we had to give them in our new kitchen, we realized we might have a problem. And maybe not enough shelving.

So how many spices do you really need?

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By Raleigh-Elizabeth.

There are few things in this world I need as much as I need my arms and legs. Air, of course. Butter. Sunshine, a good book, and my best friend. My best friend, the stand mixer.

You might think it strange to proclaim an inanimate object a best friend. In fact, my actual best friend might agree with you, but I have a feeling she could be swayed into understanding by the love and absolute devotion she feels for her own stand mixer. And if you have one too, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Maybe it’s a slight exaggeration, but when it comes to arms and legs in my actual kitchen, my stand mixer is doing at least half the work all the time. And that’s because your stand mixer isn’t just another kitchen appliance. It’s your other half. You rely on it for all manner of household miracles, kitchen spectaculars, and dull daily chores that you quite honestly don’t have the time (or inclination) to do without it.

Things I honestly cannot do without my stand mixer, straight ahead!

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By Raleigh-Elizabeth.

They’re everywhere. On the counter. On the bookshelf. In that empty space between the top of the kitchen cupboard and the ceiling. Some have found their way to the nightstand. There may even be a few in the powder room. At last count, there were 137 cookbooks in my house, and that sounds like something that could land me my own episode on Hoarders. Hoarders: She Really Likes Food. The worst part? I haven’t even opened many of them in years.

Holidays always make it worse. Do I need this incredibly well photographed and plated book of Thanksgiving suppers? Of course! Will mine look anything like that? Absolutely not. What about a cake pop cookbook with over 40 different, beautiful, absolutely delightful bits of cake on a stick? Will I ever have the time to mold fondant into mini snowmen cake pops for a cookie exchange? I’m sorry, children. Unless a friend is bringing some as a present, you are not getting cake pops meticulously decorated as miniature bags of popcorn for your next slumber party. I will, however, call for pizza and give you some baby carrots. If you want, you can put those on a stick.

And there’s the rub: how many of us have a dozen cookbooks we never even open anymore? With the help of my stepmother, one of my favorite foodies and the best cook I know, I’ve pared my over-the-top library down to the five essential cookbooks you absolutely need… and the ones you’ll really cook with every day.

Think you know what’s on Raleigh’s list? Click to find out!

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By Raleigh-Elizabeth.

Fall always seems to signal that annual flood of crock pot recipes, right? Seemingly mouth-watering, amazing displays of 12 unattentive hours that lead you straight to the land of the culinary gourmand. Your family will praise you! Your guests will hail you for your cooking genius for years to come! You are a domestic goddess! And all thanks to your handy-dandy electric slow cooker.

It helps you make hot dogs for a crowd! A delicious bread pudding! A whole chicken! Wait. Ten hours to cook a chicken?

I have a crock pot. I’ve long thought I absolutely had to have it. I would haul the space-hogging monster out of the cupboard every Fall to make chili, a fairly debased coq au vin, all manner of casseroley items, and a vast array of soups. If you’re like me, you like dishes that are extremely tasty. You really like dishes that are extremely tasty without being extremely time consuming. And you adore anything that helps you make those dishes and also fits in your kitchen, which is most likely tight on space already because of all the other kitchen electrics you’ve been told you absolutely have to have.

Secret: Your crock pot isn’t one of them.

So what do you really need? Click to find out!

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