kitchen essentials: the perfect chef’s knife

if you have to have a bare-bones kitchen for whatever reason, there are few things you truly need – a baking sheet, a sautee pan, a sauce pot, a non-wood cutting board and a good knife. read: you don’t necessarily need a set of knives, but just one really good one that becomes your best friend. as your chef-like abilities grow, you’ll add fancier things, like grating planes and marble cutting boards and a whole slew of knives; one thing will always remain – your trusty chef knife.

forget those knives that claim to cut through pennies – i mean, who is really cutting through pennies anyway?

this chef’s knife from victorinox (our friends who make the classic swiss army knife, just in case you don’t know) is the only knife you’ll ever need, and the one that will be by your side from your first day in the kitchen with your basic recipes through that piece de resistance.

one of the most beautiful things about this knife? it’s price point. $38 for this bad boy!

so if you don’t believe me, you can check out this chart from cook’s illustrated & pick up your own copy for a great review about chef’s knives and their 2 month test to find the best bargain buy chef’s knife. i was just SO excited to see MY favorite knife there i had to tell you guys to go out and get one for yourself.

cooks illustrated, best chefs knives, swiss army knife, victorinox knife

note – this knife has the highest ratings possible for blade design, handle, kitchen tasks, and edge retention.

hooray for may!

happy may day, dolls! it’s finally starting to warm up and stay warm on a more consistent basis here, which means we can finally start dining outside again! time to sweep up the patio and do a little refresh on my outdoor dining dinnerware.

to do the same you’ll need some basics – my suggestion is to keep things bright and fun! seriously, don’t take it too seriously. it should be fun and lively when you dine outside. pick bold colors and have fun playing with patterns.

dining al fresco

1. start with your dishes – they can be melamine (target has a great selection this time of year) if you are concerned about breakage, or traditional ceramic/porcelain, etc. highly recommend keeping your fine china indoors though. pick a bold pattern and color.

2. grab some place-mats – they have a way of finishing off a table even with melamine plates and paper napkins and plastic utensils and cups. here’s the key: if you have a dish with a big pattern, then make your place-mat a tight pattern. if your dish has a tight pattern like the one above, then pick a place-mat with a big pattern.

3. napkins – pick a complementing color in a tight pattern. here, i love that pop of red/coral against the blue and yellow. you can use cloth napkins, which i like for fancier affairs, or paper napkins – which, by the way, can be perfect for fancier affairs now that they make such awesome paper napkins.

4. juice glasses. i love the size of juice glasses for water, iced tea and wine. it’s casual and relaxed and to me that’s what dining al fresco should be all about. of course you can stack water glasses, wine glasses, etc. at your place settings the fancier the event.

5. utensils. plastic. silverware. whatever pleases you. i do love that plastic flatware that looks like silver…


that’s all you need!  share pictures of your dining al fresco adventures – i’d love to see!

entertaining al fresco

i love this time of year when the pool cover comes off, the flowers come out and the grill is fired up. i love, and i mean love dining outside. the food is lighter and more casual; the colors are vibrant; the noise, the breeze, the sun – i could go on and on.

in thinking about several occasions where i’ll be entertaining outside this spring and summer, i thought i’d share some of the things i’ve been pinning and some tips as you think about entertaining al fresco this year.

1. plan a menu. choose foods that are light, easy to put together and made in larger quantities. pick up a few pretty bowls for the summer – i like colored bowls versus clear for things like salad because once the contents get all over the side that glass doesn’t look so pretty anymore.

2. save that clear glass for beverages and vases. when it comes to drinking glasses, have a variety of heights – it will make your table glitter. for example, if you are serving brunch, have short juice glasses and tall champagne flutes. for vases, mix and match your glass and choose translucent colors in the palette you’ve selected. this is a good place to see through the glass, drinks and flowers. the stems of the flowers add texture to your table.

3. choose a runner in your palette or that complements. if you can’t fit a runner or table cloth because you are like me and have a round table with an umbrella that goes right through the middle, use placemats that give the same effect (in your palette or complements). also, keep your flowers low so you can have conversation without having to duck around an obstruction.

4. string large bulb lights for ambiance. go for the large bulbs, this is key, so it doesn’t look like christmas in july in your backyard. tealights in low vases or small cups on your table also adds to your ambiance.

most of all, have fun! stay tuned all spring and summer for lots more al fresco tips!

how to: make mini cannoli cups

i’m not sure if cannolis are a thing beyond the reach of NJ, but in this NYC metro area they are a thing. if you’ve never had one, they’re just wonderful. the shell is typically fried and filled with a pastry cream that’s sweet, but not too sweet. the other day i stumbled on a recipe for mini cannoli cups and knew i just had to attempt these at home. i must say, not too shabby!

mini cannoli cup recipe

i followed two recipes, but ultimately if you want to make these i recommend gimme some oven’s recipe. don’t let the cornstarch freak you out. for me it made me a little nervous because it made it feel like there were so many more steps. there aren’t. just try it!

i used cooking with sugar’s recipe for the crust portion of my attempt. just note that if you follow cooking with sugar’s recipe, unless you make the crust very thin you will get a lot of crust flavor in your cannoli. this, you should know if you’ve never had a cannoli, is not what a cannoli tastes like. but, if you are a crust lover as i am, then definitely go this route. i think the won tons (a la gimme some oven) will give the filling the spotlight in every bite.


it’s amazing when your filling suddenly stiffens up on you – it will turn a pudding like consistency.

mini cannoli cup recipe

roll out pie crust with sugar and cinnamon (or use gimme some oven’s recipe and rock out your wontons – i think i would go with this version next time)

mini cannoli cups

pop those bad boys in the oven

cannoli cup recipe

fill your cups up and dress with chocolate chips. dust with powdered sugar if you like.


Recipe from Gimme Some Oven:

Makes approximately 30 servings:

  • 1 package (16 oz.) wonton wrappers (***or use pie crusts; roll out with sugar and cinnamon pressed into the dough; everything else is exactly the same, even the precooking the crusts before filling)
  • 1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • powdered sugar (for dusting)

In a bowl, slowly whisk 1 cup of the milk into the cornstarch until smooth. Let sit about 20 minutes.

Transfer mixture into a sauce pan, and then add in the remaining milk and sugar. Heat on medium-low, stirring constantly until it is very thick and smooth (about 7-10 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in the almond and vanilla extracts. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the filling to avoid “skin”, and let cool until the mixture reaches room temperature.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Then press 30-35 wonton wrappers (you can do this in multiple batches) into a mini baking cup pan to form the “cups”. (Be sure that the corners do not fold in after the pan sits for a minute!) Bake the cups for 10-15 minutes, or until the wrappers are golden brown. Remove and let cool.

After the milk mixture has reached room temperature, whisk in the ricotta and cinnamon until smooth. (You can also do this with an electric mixer on low.) Use a pastry bag to pipe the mixture into the baked wonton cups, or use a spoon to scoop it in. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, then dust with powdered sugar. Refrigerate, or serve immediately.

5 things to make this weekend

by make i mean cook. yes, you, even if you hate to cook i say have at it this weekend. try it. try something new. i find it so relaxing to take a recipe and build something with my hands from scratch – especially when it doesn’t involve glue or nails or a hammer. plus, it can be so rewarding when you get to nourish your loved ones.

when i started herlongwayhome, it was always with the intention of taking the long way to do things. take the long way – get this – home. you see things you’ve never seen before, you relax, you enjoy life, you hear great music that you would’ve missed if you were already home. take the long way with a recipe and make things from scratch. above all else, enjoy the ride home – wherever that is and whatever it means to you and whatever it looks like. savor every moment of your life.

so here are 5 recipes i’m loving and want to try. pick one and share your pictures with me! pop onto my instagram account to keep up with all my cooking adventures this weekend and i’ll be sure to follow you and keep up with yours!


english muffins, via here

roasted chickpeas for a quick snack

pressed veggie sandwiches

baked brie bites (add a dash of honey – omg!)

and finally, no bake oatmeal squares

love notes (the cookie recipe kind)

valentine’s day is one of those “holidays” that i have never really been into. but this year, we thought it would be fun to celebrate with our friends – to celebrate how we’re all like a big family that truly loves each other and cares for one another. what is better than that?! i wanted to bring everyone something a little extra special so i went with “dressed up” thumbprint cookies. these hugs (instead of kisses) looked like tuxedos to me, so i had to run with it.

for these thumbprint cookies, i grabbed a bag of hershey’s valentine’s day special hugs – they have a little raspberry swirl in them that gives them an extra punch. popped them onto a sugar cookie, added a love note, and ta da! happy valentine’s day, it is! i also used this martha stewart recipe, but you can definitely use break and bakes or sliceable pre-made dough.

what are your plans for valentine’s day? will you do something special for your other half?

valentines day cookie thumbprint cookie line on baking sheet

thumbprint cookies are quite simple once you have the dough prepared. preheat to 325-350 depending on your oven. bake your dough 8-11 minutes depending on the thickness; let the cookies cool and then place your kiss (or in this case, hug) onto your cookie. let cool another 5 before handling and then you’re done!

thumbprint cookies valentines day cookies hersheys hugs kisses close up

thumprint cookies valentines day cookies

upclose valentines day cookie thumbprint cookie

valentines day cookie thumbprint cookie love note

he liked them!

eating valentines day thumbrint cookies

i plated the cookies on a gold square plate and dressed up with the special valentine’s day edition hershey’s hugs. hopefully all our friends enjoy them for our valentine’s day gathering!

thumbprint cookies valentines day cookies plate

butternut squash & apple soup

so here we are – finally – at my very first food post. when i set out with this blog it was always something i wanted to include. i cook all the time and yesterday picked up my phone to snap some pictures and share a recipe for the most delicious squash soup i’ve ever had.

pardon the pictures – maybe some day i’ll get around to sharing some in higher quality.

let’s get to it (after the jump)!

happy food – why you should buy grass-fed beef

so, i used to be vegan. i was vegan for a year for several reasons that i won’t get into here – another time, promise. it was a fantastic lifestyle for me but one that i felt restricted my cooking and i truly love to cook, so i slowly weaned myself back onto a diet that included more meat and dairy. i do still have slight vegan tendencies, and if you’re vegan, hey more power to ya! maybe someday i’ll join you again.

so i was reading an eat this, not that newsletter today and stumbled across grass-fed beef. this one slide reads:

Animals raised on grass pastures boast much higher levels of healthy conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA), a “happy” fat that combats stress hormones and blasts belly fat. Grass-fed beef also has a lower overall fat count and contains higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids compared to grain-feed beef. Another great grass-fed option: lamb. It’s packed with iron, a nutrient vital for a stable mood (the areas of the brain related to mood and memory contain the highest iron concentrations).

i could go on and on about why i purchase grass-fed anything – for starters our bodies don’t digest corn well and many cows in the industrial farming industry are fed corn – they too cannot process corn well. and then it gets into this whole animal abuse thing that’s pretty gross. and the actual farming process that is pretty gross.

but i digress.

grass-fed beef tastes so much better – i swear (as well as grass-fed cow’s milk). it’s a more natural farming process. the cows are happier (which means you aren’t eating their stress or anxiety or adrenaline). you are happier. and it’s an overall healthier choice than the meats pumped full of steroids, antibiotics and grains and/or corn.

just do it 🙂