Monday, November 23, 2015

HelloFresh gave me my nights back!

I tend to be an overly ambitious cook.  I'll find some recipe somewhere (usually Pinterest) and decide I simply must make it from scratch.  TONIGHT.  But sometimes my ambition is greater than my skill (a common dilemma) and when all is said and done, I've spent upwards of 2 hours (sometimes more, I'm sorry to admit) crafting this masterpiece and dirtying every pan, utensil, counter, and pot in the process.  Yes, I love to cook.  And I have an obsession with cookbooks.  But I tend to take over in the kitchen -- and not in a good way.

I used to have this dream about the BF and I cooking dinner together, like in a romantic comedy.  Well a while ago I sort of squashed that when I told him he was cutting the strawberries wrong and he's (mostly) left the kitchen to me ever since.  (Do you blame him?)  Well I'm turning over a new leaf these days and trying to relinquish control, expectation, and the need for things to be just so, but it's hard.  (And it's not just with cooking.) I tell you all of this because last week the BF and I were lucky to get a free trial of the meal delivery service HelloFresh and for the first time ever we cooked an entire meal together.  (And had fun doing it!)

(Oh hey, that's my kitchen!)

Here's how it works:

You select your recipes the week before.  That next week they send you all the ingredients you need, plus detailed recipe cards.  You cook it up at your leisure and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Our recipes for the week:

Teriyaki-Glazed Meatballs with Crunchy Cabbage Slaw and Basmati Rice:

Maple-Balsamic Glazed Cod with Butternut Mash & Roasted Brussels Sprouts:

Ras el Hanout-Spiced Chicken Thighs with Freekeh Salad, Butternut, and Lemony Yogurt Sauce:
 (Note: I subbed in chickpeas for the butternuts and added cucumber to the yogurt sauce.)

So here it is, in no particular order, the Top 5 Reasons Why I Love HelloFresh:

1. The meals are yummy and challenged us to cook something we wouldn't normally.  It's so easy to get stuck in a cooking rut.  I loved that there were fish and steak options on the menu -- two things I don't usually cook at home but love to eat! (There are also veggie boxes for those so inclined.)  Plus, one of the recipes featured spices we've never had before, so it was a whole new taste profile and not the same old that I usually lean on.  Which leads me to...

2. The food is fresh and the meals are nutritious.  The neighborhood we live in doesn't have the greatest selection at our local supermarkets and it rarely has fish.  We try to eat healthy, but sometimes eating healthy takes a lot of work.  The BF is a teacher and I have a one-hour commute home from Manhattan at the end of the day. It was so nice to feel like we could eat healthy without a ton of effort.

3. The BF said he loved doing HelloFresh because it took the guesswork out of his least favorite part of cooking -- the measuring/portioning.  (Who knew?)  And that it was really easy.  "I would totally do this again," were his exact words.

4. More from the BF:  He has this theory that most decisions in life can be boiled down (pun intended) to a simple question of which is more valuable to you: your time or your money.  So if your money is more important, then you'll sacrifice the time by doing everything yourself, making a meal plan, researching recipes, etc.  But if your time is more important, you don't mind spending a little bit of money so that you can hang onto that precious time.  That's where takeout usually comes in.  The BF would much rather we spend a little extra cash on takeout so that we can hang together rather than having one of us (me) cooped up in the kitchen.  The great thing about HelloFresh is that it's really the best of both worlds.  You get to choose your meals the week before, so you can plan, plus the recipes are so easy to follow that you don't spend all night sweating over a stove and trying to time everything just so.

5.  The recipes make cooking the meals so easy, plus it takes the guesswork out of timing everything yourself (a major flaw to my usual cooking.)  Friday night after I came home from the gym, I asked the BF what we should do for dinner and he goes, "We still have that third HelloFresh meal."  Oh yeah!  It was so great to not have to think about what to whip up -- it was already figured out for me but was still way healthier than ordering takeout, which is what we would usually do in a situation like that.

I'm so thrilled to be able to cook something delicious and nutritious but without all the work it takes to actually think about what to make.  So excited to get my nights back -- more gym time, TV snuggles, and room for extracurricular pursuits!

BONUS!  HelloFresh has been kind enough to share this coupon code with scarlet&sterling readers.  Use the code SCARLET30 to get 30% off your first box!  This code will be good until November 23, 2016.  Happy eating!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Homemade cheese crackers (just like Goldfish!)

I mean, how cute are these?  And let me tell you: they are delicious and really, truly easy to make.  It's essentially a simple pie crust recipe, plus cheese.  Roll out, cut out, bake for 15 minutes.  Try not to gobble them all up.

A couple notes:  I like to buy a block of cheese and shred it myself, because I find pre-shredded options to be a little too dry and waxy.  Also, rather than cube the butter like most recipes suggest, I use that same cheese grater to shred the butter too, the same way I do when I make homemade pie crusts. I don't own a food processor, which I imagine would make this slightly easier, so I just used my Ninja blender to pulse everything and then did the water step by hand.  As for the cookie cutters, which in my opinion need to be super small so that you can eat a handful of crackers in one bite, I used a teeny tiny heart, and a small circle.  Then I used the pointy end of the heart to make Pac-Man.  Adorable, right?  There are also some how-tos on making cookie cutters out of soda cans, but I'm too lazy for that.


  • 8 ounces, cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 tablespoons butter, shredded
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ teaspoons salt
  • 2.5 tablespoons cold water


Pulse everything (except water) together in the food processor until the dough resembles coarse sand.

Pulse in water, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Or, if using a blender like me, transfer to a glass bowl and mix with a spoon before giving in and just using your hands.)

Remove dough from the processor (or bowl) and knead on a lightly floured surface for no more than 2 minutes.

Wrap dough in plastic and chill for 20 minutes.

Roll out the dough and cut into desired shapes. Place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes, or until crispy.

Makes approximately 7 dozen crackers.

(Adapted from here.)

But don't just stop there!  Why not explore some funky adaptations and flavor combos?  Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Favorite find at Brimfield this summer

wooden crate from Brimfield seller Vintage Retriever, $40

I scooped up this awesome wooden whiskey box at Brimfield in September, but it almost wasn't mine! Here's the story. So I'm combing through the booths as I always do, with mom about 10 steps ahead because she's antique-obsessed, when I came across the cutest little display by the folks at Vintage Retriever. I knew I wanted to buy a wooden crate at some point, but it didn't need to happen unless I found one I really loved.

Up on a shelf, sitting atop a luxe leather valise, was this amazing wooden crate used to ship whiskey -- Teacher's Highland Cream, to be exact.  (Fun fact: in the US and Ireland, it's spelled "whiskey," while the rest of the world drops out the "e.") I saw it and immediately thought of the BF, who is both a high school teacher and whiskey aficionado, so I made them an offer. Alas, my offer was too low, and it was a little too early in the day to part with half my cash. So I went on my way, sans crate.

My mother and I have a rule at Brimfield: if you see something you love, you better buy it right then because it will be impossible to find it later. Well I went through the whole day and kept thinking about that darn box. By 5pm I decided I would leave it up to fate.  If I could find my way back to the booth, and if the box was still there, then it was meant to be and I would buy it. Lo and behold, there it was, and I happily handed over the cash.

I'm planning to decorate with it in the apartment somehow, though I'm still trying to figure that out. I love the look of it on top of a bookcase, with a plant spilling out.  Or perhaps as storage atop a shelf.  Any pointers on decorating with crates? Leave me a comment below!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Welcome to Brooklyn

Sources: bar cart: Target; tablecloth: Kate Spade; chair: Target (similar one here); pillow: I forget where I got this, but you can get it on Amazon; painting & phrenology skull: Brimfield (more on eBay)

You know when you go through all these big life changes (moving, new job, new city, etc) all at once and you're just like go, go, go, get it all done, hustle, hustle, hustle until one day you wake up and realize that the time is just flying by?  And it's been almost a year of living in this new, crazy place that once seemed so foreign but now you call home?  Yeah, that.

I'm back people.  And with a new apartment to decorate.  The first completed area is our little reading nook above.  (Ignore the wrinkles in that tablecloth, please.  Real life has wrinkles, okay?) After the culture shock and months-long adjustment to this new life, I'm finally settling in and really loving living in New York City.  And I'm ready to share lots of fabulous decor photos, tips, and inspiration with all of you as I navigate this new locale. There's so much to see, do, and explore -- I can't wait to show you everything.

Here's what you can look forward to coming up on scarlet & sterling:
-a wallpaper-tastic bathroom redo
-demystifying the gallery wall (so THAT'S how you do it)
-guide to Brooklyn flea markets
-urban gardening (as always)
-recipes and cooking tips
-and lots and lots of style shots from the new place!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A bevy of beautiful buildings in my new locale

Bricks and hand-lettered signage in Brooklyn.

 Side-by-side clapboard cuties in Cobble Hill.

On top of the tracks in Bushwick.

This brick and cobblestone stunner in SoHo.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

52 Scoops: Documenting a year of making ice cream (Week 1 - Mint Chocolate Chip)

For Christmas, the BF gave me something I've had my eye on for quite some time: an ice cream maker! Full disclosure: we eat a lot of ice cream.  Back when we lived in Massachusetts, my apartment was only a few minutes away from JP Licks -- an awesome, locally-owned ice cream chain.  But now that we're in Brooklyn, our choices for good ice cream have shrunk down to the frostbitten Ben and Jerry's in the deep freeze at the bodega. Enter: the ice cream maker.

You guys, it is so easy to use and makes the most delicious ice cream.  It's only been about a week and I've already made three different kids.  In honor of New Year's Resolutions (seriously, I love resolutions) I thought it might be fun to fill up the whole year with ice cream!  And thus, 52 Scoops was born.  I'll give you a flavor a week with photos and recipe to boot.

Make sure to follow me on Instagram (ncammorata) for more behind-the-scenes photos of the ice cream making process (and more!)

And now.... onto Week One!

This is a pretty basic vanilla recipe with some Summerdown Mint Chocolate Peppermint Crisps mixed in.  The UK-based company has a really cool story about how they resurrected an old cultivation called Black Mitcham Peppermint.  (See packaging below.)  Their crisps combine the bitterness of dark chocolate with the cool, refreshing flavor of mint. Sugar granules give crunch and a bit of sweetness.  When added to the ice cream, the result is a bright, invigorating flavor of mint mixed with the sweet vanilla and chocolate.

From the package:


1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 Summerdown Mint Chocolate Crisps (chopped up)

1. In a bowl, mix milk, sugar, and salt until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.
2. Turn on mixer and pour mixture into the frozen bowl, letting it churn for about 20 minutes.
3. Use a knife to chop of chocolate crisps into about 1cm cubes.  
4. Once ice cream has thickened to a soft, creamy texture, add in chopped mint chocolates.
5. Transfer to airtight container and put in freezer for at least an hour.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The secret to a perfect pastry crust

Want to know the secret to a delicious, buttery, flaky pie crust? Of course you do. I'll let you in on something: it's way easier than you think.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5-6 teaspoons ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl before adding the butter (this will help ensure that the salt gets evenly distributed).  A lot of recipes tell you to use a food processor, pastry cutter, or even two knives to cut the butter into the flour.  I'm here to tell you that this is all nonsense.  The hands down, absolute best (trust me, I've tried everything) way to get that perfectly flaky, buttery crust is to use a cheese grater.

pastry crust recipe tips
I stole this cheese grater from my mom -- it's about 25 years old!

Yes, it really is that simple! The wonderful thing about using a cheese grater is that you get a uniform-sized sliver of butter with minimal softening.  A great crust recipe requires cold butter, cold water, and a cold surface.  I've found that cutting the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives makes it warm up too much.  The cheese grater helps solve this.

I like to grate 1/4 of the butter, stir it into the flour, and then go back to grating.  I repeat this until the stick is gone. When you stir everything together, it should look very course and lumpy.  Lumpy is good!  This is what will create that amazing flaky consistency.

pastry crust recipe tips
Lumps are good!

After you get that great lumpy consistency, stir in the water a little at a time until you can just start to hold it together.  Be frugal with that water, but don't panic if you add too much. You can always mix in a little more flour to even things out.

pie crust recipe
A great crust doesn't have to come from a package!

Here's my next insider tip when it comes to great dough, and this is pretty well-known: use a chilled surface to roll out your dough.  In my case, I stuck a cookie sheet in the freezer for a few minutes and it worked perfectly.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface with the heel of your hand, but do NOT overwork it.  The moment it comes together, STOP.

pastry and pie crust recipe tips
Don't overwork the dough!

Use a floured rolling pin, or in my case, a floured glass (I should really buy a rolling pin) to roll everything out. 

pastry and pie crust recipe tips
If you don't have a rolling pin, a glass or wine bottle works just fine!

Voila!  This will be the best pie crust you've ever had and it takes all of maybe 10 minutes.  It is seriously so easy.  Never buy a pre-made crust again!

Now what you do with the crust from here is up to you.  In my case, I used the glass to cut rounds out of the dough and made some mini quiches in a muffin tin.  Check it out:

quich made from hoemade pastry dough
Mmmm.  Quiche.

Have you tried this method? Do you have any secret crust techniques you'd like to share? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pumpkin and squash soup recipe (dairy free!)

Pumpkin and squash soup recipe

The pumpkin is having a bit of a moment right now.  From lattes to cakes to cookies and about a million other variations: there's pumpkin everywhere.  It's the ultimate icon of fall.  Don't believe me?  Stop reading and go for a walk outside.  I'll wait.  I guarantee you see at lease one pumpkin within one minute.

Okay you're back.  I was right, wasn't I?  Pumpkins. Are. Everywhere.  For years I've been more of a pumpkin decorator than a pumpkin eater.  But after a day of helping my friend Erik dig potatoes on his farm, I was gifted a glorious sugar pumpkin for my efforts.

"You are not allowed to carve this into a Jack-O-Lantern," he said.  "It's the biggest one we grew this year.  You must eat it."  Okay.  Challenge accepted.

I give you:  Pumpkin and Squash Soup

I love this soup because it's super filling and super healthy.  (The pumpkin and squash is chocked full of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and beta-carotene.)  The curry powder gives it a bit of a kick, sure to warm you up on a chilly day.  I try to keep a lot of my recipes dairy free because of some family food allergies, but you could add half and half and a couple tablespoons of butter to take it to the next level.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1chopped yellow onion
1 roasted sugar pumpkin
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash
3 cups vegetable stock (I use the low sodium stuff)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup roasted and salted pepitas


Roast pumpkins and squash for 45 mins. (Great directions here.)  Set aside to cool.  Heat the oil in a heavy - bottomed stockpot, add the onions, and cook over medium - low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Scoop pumpkin and squash into a blender and blend until smooth.  Add the pumpkin  and squash puree, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and curry powder. Cover and simmer over medium - low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup needs more flavor, add another teaspoon of salt. Serve hot with crusty bread.  Garnish with pepitas.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

DIY: Homemade stamps using food

Been scouring the Internet for ideas on how to make simple, easy stamps.  These are just downright adorable.  Check it out:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Find: The Ultimate Father's Day Gift

SOLKOA Survival Kit for Best Made Company, $170
For the dad who never quite outgrew Boy Scouts, speak to his “Be Prepared” mindset.  Inside the aircraft grade aluminum box (which you can dig with or cook in if needed), you’ll find two dozen items deemed to be the most-needed in a survival situation.  From a fishing kit, water purification tablets, and emergency blankets, to medical supplies, waterproof matches, a hacksaw blade, and just about everything in between, it’s the one gift you hope dad will never have to use.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Biking accessories for the fashion conscious

Check out my story in this week's Globe:  Bike with style

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The rise of the kitchen garden

potager (noun) a kitchen garden
mid 17th century, from French jardin potager "garden providing vegetables for the pot"

There is something so satisfying about growing your own food.  Maybe because it's such a rarity for us these days.  When our grandparents were young, practically everyone had a "victory garden," with some tomatoes, beans, and peppers growing in the backyard.  But what's old becomes new again.  Like so many other fads, we're on the upswing with gardening.  Which means there are a plethora of photos featuring gorgeous kitchen gardens -- potagers, as they're called.  Check out some of my favorites.

[Photo by Marsha Arnold]

[Stacey Van Berkel-Haines for Canadian Gardening]

[Source Unknown]

[Image via 99 Roots]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What is it about a beach house?


What is it about you, dear beach house?  You are nearly 100 years old, sitting on a narrow stretch of beach above the sea in Wells, Maine.  Your floors creak.  The porch groans.  The wind whips through your attic windows.  There's history here:  of sandy feet, late-night card games around the kitchen table, and sunburned kids tossing in their beds.  Of laughter and arguments and love.

You can hear the water from anywhere in the house.  You whisper to it like a long-lost love.  "I'm still here," you say.  "Come and get me."

A beach house is a fragile thing, weathering a beating from late summer hurricanes and winter storms.  Each spring we wonder:  will it still be there?  A beach house makes you remember that time is precious.  That it could all be swept out to sea at any moment.  So linger on the porch.  Play one more game of cards.  Dig your feet deeper into the sand.  You never know if this day will be your last.

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