Spring cleaning: kitchen edition

IMG_7465For many of us, the kitchen is the hub of daily life. It’s where we make that first cup of coffee, prepare the foods that nourish our families and pour that glass of wine to celebrate the end of the day. Reviving the kitchen with a good spring cleaning will contribute to not just your home’s aesthetic, but to its overall function, too. It might seem like a big job at first, but it’s easy to tackle over the weekend if you break it down into 15- to 20-minute chunks. Here’s Artizone’s guide to getting clean.

Start with a quick-and-dirty cleanup. First, clean up your kitchen like you would on any normal day. Slap on your housekeeping gloves and fill up the sink with hot, soapy water. Scrape any dirty dishes into the disposal or the trash, then put them into the water for a good soak. Put the most heavily soiled dishes in the bottom. Large items such as pots and pans can be filled with water and put on the counter to soak.

While the dishwater is working its magic, take a minute to run through the kitchen and clear trash from the floor, countertops and cupboards. Next, gather up items that don’t belong in the kitchen and place them in a basket. Don’t worry about putting them in their proper place elsewhere in the house; hand them off to a helper and keep your eyes on the prize: a clean kitchen.

Put away misplaced kitchen items, but don’t worry about reorganizing the cabinets and drawers just yet. Load and run the dishwasher and then hand-wash anything that remains. Wipe down the countertops, appliances and the sink and you’re good… for now.

The great dust-up. Ready to tackle the next set of tasks? Good. Now it’s time to sweep and mop or vacuum the kitchen and take out the trash. Use the hose attachment of your vacuum cleaner to dust the ceiling and wall corners. You might need to wash or spot-clean the walls, especially if you have children or pets. Wipe down air vents, doorknobs, doors, switch plates and light fixtures. Pay special attention to places that tend to fall victim to goopy hands, like the microwave, fridge and hand mixer. While you’re at it, you might take a microfiber cloth and dust any artwork or photos you have hanging in the kitchen.

IMG_7466Tackle those appliances. This next step involves some heavy cleaners, so you’ll want to start by opening the windows for ventilation. Following the instructions on the back, spray oven cleaner into the oven. While the cleaner eats away at the oven grime, move over to the fridge and take everything out, tossing anything past its expiration date. Wipe down the shelves and drawers and return what you’re keeping to its rightful place. Then, wipe down the toaster, blender and other small appliances. For stubborn microwave spills, bring a glass filled with water to a boil in the microwave; the steam should help loosen the gunk.

Let there be light. Sorry, but if you’ve got ‘em, then you’re in no position to say “I don’t do windows.” Don’t worry, though; they’re not really that hard. First, use your vacuum cleaner’s hose attachment to clean out windowsills and corners. Next, wash the insides and outsides of the windows with glass cleaner. Take out the screens and rinse them off or replace them, if necessary. There—you’re done. Was that really so bad?

Get organized. Now is the time to clean out the kitchen cabinets. Take everything out and wipe down the shelves, replacing the liners if necessary. As you put everything back, match up containers and lids and toss anything that’s missing a mate. Next, clean out and wipe down the drawers and put flatware back into the appropriate dividers.

Finishing touches. After you’ve emptied the dishwasher, toss in a cup of white vinegar and run it empty. Wash out the sink, pouring baking soda and warm water or a lemon peel down the disposal to freshen the drain.

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April Artisan of the Month: Rich Rogers of Scardello

Scardello Newsletter GraphicIf you set out to sample one cheese from Scardello’s selection every week, it would take you about three years to try to each one. Sure, the huge selection available from Scardello’s cheese shop includes familiar cheddar, mozzarella and Swiss varieties—but there are also plenty of rare cheeses, handmade in small batches with flavors and textures that run the gamut.

We’re proud to list Scardello among Artizone’s shops. Cheesemonger Rich Rogers is an expert with an infectious enthusiasm for handcrafted cheese, and because April is all about cheese here at Artizone, Rich Rogers is our artisan of the month.

Named for Rogers’ grandfather, Pete Scardello, the shop reflects the devotion to food that Rogers’ grandparents passed along to him.

“My grandfather taught me a love of food and cooking and the Italian ideal that food is more than something you eat; it’s something you share with friends and family. Cheese is a great expression of that ideal,” Rogers says.

Rogue-River-Blue-Cheese-with-Oregon-Pears-and-HazelnutsScardello is a cut-to-order shop, which means that customers can taste before they buy, and Scardello will cut as little or as much as you need, fresh off of the wheel. Whether you’re looking for a French Banon style cheese such as Rogue River Blue, a nutty Dutch L’Amuse Gouda or a fresh Texas cheese, such as Fig and Honey Chevre, Scardello not only has you covered, but can also steer you in the direction of dozens of other selections you’ll enjoy just as much.

Parmigiano Reggiano from Bonati is our most popular cheese,” Rogers says. “Hands down the best Parm I’ve tasted. Cabot Clothbound is our most popular cheddar because it is grassy, sharp and sweet all in the same bite.”

Describing the qualities of each cheese in enticing detail is one of Roger’s gifts. For example, consider his tantalizing summary of the Vermont-made Coupole: “It has a mild, sweet rind that grows more intriguingly yeasty as the cheese ages. Coupole’s paste is clean and citrusy, which contrasts with the stronger flavor of the rind.” If you read closely, you’ll begin to taste the cheese from Rogers’ description alone.

And Scardello lists everything you’d want to know about your selection, including milk type, pasteurization, rennet source and the originating country and state. Rogers’ listings also help with estimating the portion size and serving suggestions.

For Rogers, building one of Dallas’ most respected cheese shops has simply been a matter of sharing what he loves with others.

“I have one of the best jobs in the world: cheesemonger,” he says. “There is nothing like finding just the right cheese for someone on the other side of the case.”

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Why you should be cooking at home more often

At Artizone, we are firm believers in the value of a home-cooked meal. Why? Just consider the following points:

Chef Steph SalmonCooking at home makes it easier to eat healthfully. 
The chef at your favorite restaurant isn’t cooking with your daily recommended allowances in mind; he’s cooking to impress. It’s said that fat is flavor, so restaurant chefs are generous with butter and oil. Salt also is a major player in restaurant cooking. At home, however, you can control the amounts of these ingredients and experiment with lightened-up versions of favorite recipes.

And it could be that you don’t have to put that much thought into it. According to a recent study from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Research, people who cook most of their meals at home consume fewer calories and less carbohydrates, fat and sugar than those who cook rarely or not at all, regardless of whether they’re actively trying to lose weight.

Cooking at home allows you to exercise better portion control. 
Restaurant portions, as you know, are seriously out of control. A typical dinner entree might equal three servings, and that’s not even taking into consideration the appetizer, salad and dessert the waiter will tempt you with. But when you dine at home, it’s considerably easier to eat exactly what you want and not a bite more.

IMG_5449Cooking at home fosters family togetherness. 
Study after study has shown that children and teens who regularly eat at the dinner table with their parents do better in school and have fewer disciplinary issues. And before that meal even gets to the table, cooking together is a fantastic bonding activity. You can teach your children to understand and appreciate the nutritional and cultural importance of food while also helping them develop the skills to prepare healthful meals for themselves later in life.

Cooking at home eliminates waste. 
We’ve all been there: You open the fridge to find it crammed with take-out containers, and yet there’s nothing to eat. But when you cook at home regularly, you learn to employ strategies that help avoid this issue. Yesterday’s chili can be today’s baked potato topper. Those steamed veggies from tonight’s dinner can go into an omelet for tomorrow’s breakfast. Tomorrow, you can cook an extra chicken breast and then have chicken salad for lunch the next day. 

Cooking at home makes eating well more affordable. 
At first glance, primo ingredients such as organic produce and locally farmed meat might seem expensive. But if you compare the cost of feeding a family of four, say, pasture-raised beef hamburgers, salads made from the very freshest vegetables and beverages—regional craft beer for the grown-ups, hormone-free milk for the kids—with the cost of taking that same family through the drive-thru or ordering pizzas from a chain down the street, you won’t see much difference. Now, which would you rather have? That’s what we thought.

Of course, we realize that life moves quickly. And for some, cooking at home is just one more thing to add to an already busy day. But at Artizone, we take a lot of the work out of it. You can shop our artisans’ storefronts for the best in gourmet, locally produced foods, set up regular delivery of the foods your family eats most and check out our recipe section for fresh inspiration.

Happy cooking!

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Recipe of the month: The Blanchard grilled cheese

brie_ham_sandwichSoft or hard, sharp or mild, sweet or salty, there’s a perfect cheese for every meal. Cheese is versatile, delicious and indulgent—and it’s Artizone’s theme for April. So we thought it would be a great idea to bring you a recipe of the month made all the more special by the cheese it features.

The Blanchard is, at its core, a grilled cheese sandwich. But unlike the retro sandwich made with processed American singles and two slices of white bread, this grilled cheese is all grown up and ready to please more discriminating tastes. It’s a sandwich that you’ll want to add to your weekend lunch lineup, midnight snack routine or evening dinner plans.

This recipe calls for Black Forest Ham; Hirsch’s Specialty Meats has you covered there with a selection of filler-free, grain-fed pork that’s a must for a sandwich of this caliber. Little Texas Gifts Hot Pepper Melody Jam kicks up the experience with spicy jalapeños and sweet bell peppers. For the bread, try Village Baking Company’s Multi Grain Boule with its flavorful blend of grains, sunflower seeds and flax seeds.

As for the cheeses, Scardello’s Parmesan Reggiano Bonati adds flavorful hints of butter, mushrooms and toasted nuts. Finally, four pieces of Brillat Savarin melt together with the ham, resulting in a gourmet sandwich that’s much more than the grilled cheeses of your childhood.

THE BLANCHARD
Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients

To caramelize onion, heat large sauté pan over medium high heat, add olive oil and butter and then sliced onions. Stir to coat and cook without stirring for 2-3 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and lower heat to medium and cook until golden brown, about 8-19 minutes. Transfer onions to bowl and set aside.

Heat ½ tablespoon vegetable oil in cast iron pan over medium flame and cook ham until slightly crispy. In a small bowl, mix butter, mayonnaise and parmesan. Spread butter mixture on 1 side of each slice of bread. Evenly cover opposite sides with 1 tablespoon each of hot pepper jam. Place bread slices in skillet over medium-low flame, buttered-side-down.

Place ¼ of sliced brie on top of each bread slice in skillet. Do not allow slices to touch. Place crisped ham and sprinkle fresh thyme. Place onions over pork. Add spring mix and carefully flip the sandwich over. Press firmly with spatula until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, about 2-3 minutes.

Cut sandwiches in half and serve.

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Build the perfect cheese platter with Artizone’s gourmet cheese selection

SONY DSCFrom Albanian sirene to Indian paneer, cheese exists in one form or another almost anywhere you might travel. And there’s no food made from a common ingredient—milk—that has such a range of flavors and textures as cheese. Fortunately for anyone attempting to navigate the complex world of cheese, Artizone has its own stellar cheese experts to lend a guiding hand.

Scardello
With more than 150 varieties of cheese offered through his shop, Scardello, Rich Rogers is a true cheese aficionado. Scardello breaks down all its cheese offerings into eight broad categories and then guides customers to the right selection. Take a look at the listing Rogue River Blue Cheese, for example, and you’ll see all the pertinent facts: milk type, rennet, originating country and state and a few interesting notes about the cheese. Rogers also provides helpful serving suggestions to help customers select cheese for any event.

Product Photography 072Of special note is Scardello’s Bonne Bouche, a hand-ladled goat cheese with floral, citrus and nutty hints. Or try the Hoch Ybring, an imported cheese from Switzerland that resembles Gruyere but is washed in white wine. Even if you tried a new cheese every week, it would take years to get through the whole selection that Scardello offers—better get started now!

Hirsch’s Specialty Meats
Though it’s primarily a meat shop, Hirsch’s Specialty Meats also offers a selection of 12 deli cheeses, of which the all American Cheese shines as a classic for burgers and sandwiches. Their spicy Pepper Jack Cheese is the perfect thing to take your next sandwich up a notch. There’s also the Baby Swiss and Big Eye Swiss, both nutty and a little sweet, but with a pronounced difference in flavor that you must experience to appreciate.

Making a Cheese Platter
With so many fine cheeses available through Artizone, assembling a cheese platter is as easy as selecting your cheeses and prepping them once they arrive at your door. To start your selection off, just follow a few tips:

  • Select a few cheeses with varying textures, flavors, colors and ages (choose up to four—five varieties of cheese is pushing it).
  • Serve at least one cheese that will be familiar to your guests.
  • Include a variety of breads, such as baguettes, bread sticks and crackers.
  • Cured meats, such as prosciutto and salami, are another good accompaniment to cheese. You can also include a few dates, apple slices or local honey.
  • Remove the cheese from the fridge about an hour before the platter is to be served.
  • Slice your cheese before plating it. For soft or crumbly cheeses, a wire works better than a knife.
  • Label each cheese to take out the guesswork for your guests.
  • Enjoy!
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