Easy Steak Dinner {With Mustard-Shallot Sauce}

Serves 4
Hands-On Time: 15m
Total Time: 25m
Ingredients:
1 1/2 pound sirloin steak (1 inch thick)
kosher salt and black pepper 2 teaspoons
olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 shallot, chopped
1 pound green beans

Directions:
1.  Season the steak with ¾ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, 3 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest 5 minutes, then slice against the grain.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, and shallot.
3. Meanwhile, steam the green beans until tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
4. Top the steak with the mustard sauce and serve with the green beans. {GENTLY BORROWED  FROM REALSIMPLE.COM; REPOSTED WITH LOVE}

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Coconut Macaroons

Makes 16 cookies
Hands-On Time:10m
Total Time: 35m
Ingredients
3 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 14-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut (about 5 cups)

Directions
1. Heat oven to 325° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
2. Vigorously whisk together the egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until glossy, foamy, and the sugar is mostly almost dissolved. Fold in the coconut, stirring until evenly combined.
3. Using a small ice cream scoop, drop the batter in mounds (about 2 tablespoons each) 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes; let cool completely. The macaroons will keep for up to 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container.  {GENTLY BORROWED  FROM REALSIMPLE.COM; REPOSTED WITH LOVE}

8 Sophisticated Italian Pasta Recipes | RealSimple.com

http://www.realsimple.com/m/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/italian-pasta-recipes-00100000097167/index.html?xid=dailyrecnews-03-22-2013

Think Outside the Studio: Guide to Starting a Home Yoga Practice

I borrowed this post from an article that has some EXCELLENT information. Enjoy! – Ami

How to do yoga at home and get results:

Fighting traffic to make it to class in time, remembering to bring your yoga gear, carving out a space for your mat amid the after-work studio crowds …. Yoga can sometimes be a less than Zen-like experience.

Starting a home yoga practice can ultimately save time, energy and money —plus, no one will be checking out your rear view as you Downward Dog from the comfort of your own living room. Twenty minutes of yoga at home is often more beneficial than driving, parking and paying to practice for an hour at a studio.

While most yoga teachers will advise you to learn the fundamentals of asana (yoga poses) in a live class before getting on the mat at home, “Nothing replaces the home practice,” says 25-year yoga veteran Rodney Yee. “Listening is the practice of yoga; it’s so important to go into your own body and ask it to be your teacher. It is a time when you can find your own rhythm. It is where the genuine knowledge arises.

“Going to classes has many benefits, of course,” he acknowledges, “but I have observed time and time again that it is when people start to practice at home that the real insights occur.”

Beyond the reasons to start a home yoga practice, today there are new ways to start one — ways that blur the lines between showing up in a live yoga class and rolling out a mat in your living room to do yoga at home.

Virtual yoga classes are more sophisticated than ever

Besides the many yoga DVDs and books on the market, online yoga classes and digital downloads are bringing home more of the benefits of a live class. While an instructor isn’t physically there to observe your alignment and adjust your limbs hands-on, multimedia is the next best thing … and for some it may be even better.

With GaiamTV.com, Gaiam’s streaming video site, you can watch hundreds of yoga and fitness videos each month for less than you’d pay for a single DVD. You can filter yoga videos by level (basic, beginner or intermediate), style of yoga (Ashtanga, Restorative, etc.), teachers (Rodney Yee, Kathryn Budig, Seane Corn, Shiva Rea and more), length of the practice (from less than 15 mintues to more than an hour), or browse special collections such as prenatal yoga or yoga for weight loss.

Yee’s online yoga studio, Gaiam Yoga Studio, gives you access to many hours of detailed how-to video demonstrating and explaining more than 75 yoga poses — plus a daily yoga practice guided via downloadable audio podcasts. Plunk those on your iPod and you’ve got the best of both worlds — an instructor’s voice in your ear (let’s face it, half the time you can’t see her over all the other bodies anyway, or your face is covered by your hair or pressed onto your mat …), plus the freedom to tailor your practice to your individual needs and pace, as Yee recommends below.

What you need to get started with yoga at home

The best reason to start a home yoga practice is that you don’t need much to begin:

Choose or create a quiet, uncluttered space in your home for your practice, and stock it with the essential basic yoga props — mat, strap, blocks, blanket, bolster, etc. The space doesn’t have to be large, but it should be quiet, clean, open and sacred. Set realistic goals, starting out with small pockets of time (10-15 minutes). Begin with basic beginner’s yoga sequences and expand your practice as your skills improve.

That said, it’s your yoga practice — so build it to best meet your individual needs.

“When I teach classes, I can tell just by watching who is practicing at home and who is not,” says Yee. “People who are not practicing at home simply try to fit their bodies into my instructions as if they were following orders …. They are concerned mainly with whether they are doing it ‘right.’ But people who are practicing at home are inquisitive about instructions and test them out in their own bodies, asking themselves, ‘How does this feel?'”

Which yoga poses should you do?

Some styles of yoga follow a set sequence of specific poses, but many instructors, including Yee, recommend a more open-ended approach, especially when you’re doing yoga at home.

“At home,” he says, “you learn to listen to what your body needs that day, move at your own pace, and develop intuition about what sequences or kinds of yoga poses you want and need to do most on any given day.”

If you are fatigued, you may want to do a more restorative yoga sequence. If you’re feeling energetic, a more flowing, fast-paced or rigorous set of yoga poses may feel more satisfying or help you channel that energy. Many like to do an energizing yoga practice in the morning and a calming restorative practice in the evenings.

But listening to what you need is more than a physical thing.

“As you practice your first poses on your own, try to cultivate an attitude of playfulness and acceptance,” says Yee. “Being present during your practice means allowing yourself to be aware of whatever physical sensations, emotions and thoughts are currently arising. Be creative and spontaneous. If you approach your practice with a sense of curiosity, rather than self-judgment or competitiveness, you will find it easier to motivate yourself to practice —and you’ll be more present when you do practice.”

Sun salutations are a time-efficient way of practicing yoga because they thread together poses that involve different parts of the body. Sun salutes are also commonly practiced as a warm-up, followed by standing poses such as Warrior I, II and II — and ending with forward bends, twists and restorative poses.

As you advance, you may want to move into more challenging intermediate and advanced yoga poses such as arm balances, inversions and backbends.

How to stay motivated to do keep doing yoga regularly

Setting up a home yoga practice is only half the battle — now you have to roll out your mat and do it.

“The best advice I can give you,” says Yee, “is to make your yoga part of your morning ritual. This means getting to bed 15 minutes earlier so your yoga practice does not cut into your sleep time. The second piece of advice is to sit down with your weekly calendar and begin to cross out any activity that is not serving you anymore (this takes being brutally honest).

But in this interview clip from the intro to his A.M. Yoga for Your Week DVD, Yee says the real key to staying motivated to keep doing yoga at home gets back to listening to yourself and exploring what you need with a sense of curiosity and creativity.

“Another significant way to support your home practice,” Yee adds, “is to practice with a member of your family or a friend. Being held accountable by others can get you to the mat on the dreariest of days. Once you get to the mat, the magic often takes over after a couple of minutes, and you find yourself vibrating with the music of yoga.”

Month by Month Guide to vegetable Gardening

When to Plant As the saying goes, timing is everything—and that’s never more true than when it comes to vegetable gardening. Determining the right time to start seeds and to plant outdoors is essential, which is why following a month-by-month to-do list can mean the difference between a happy harvest and a heartbreaking one. One important note: Since the USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 separate zones—each zone is 10°F warmer (or colder) during an average winter than the adjacent zone—the correct start dates vary for different parts of the country. (The timeline featured here is roughly based on the timing for Zone 8.) The best way to determine the exact timing for your garden is to ask the county cooperative extension in your area for a localized calendar. (Contact info is available at extension.org.) Now, get growing! 

  February The bottom line: While it’s too early to actually start planting most vegetables, there are tasks you can take on inside and outside. Preparation Finish up your seed orders. When the seeds arrive, read the instructions on the packets and make a chart of what date to start each variety, working backward from the last frost date for your area. Germination rates—how long it takes a plant to go from seed to the first sign of leaves—vary, and in order to have the little guys ready to plant, you must start them at the right time. To keep your information straight, write down your ideal planting day for each one on a Post-It, stick it to the individual packets, and organize the seeds in chronological order in a card file.

To prep for seed starting, hit the stores and stock up on enough of the right growing mix, seed trays, and peat pots (or whatever other method you plan to use).

Make sure you have the necessary tools; fill in any gaps in your collection and clean and sharpen the tools you already own. The essentials: a round-headed shovel, a garden spade and fork, a scuffle hoe, a dirt rake, a bypass pruner, a trowel, a garden thermometer, and a wheelbarrow. Gloves and—c’mon, you know you love ’em—garden shoes complete the list.

Planting Outside: If the ground is workable, plant bare root perennial vegetables like asparagus, artichoke, horseradish, and rhubarb.

Inside: Start seeds for cool-season vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, lettuce, spinach, and onions.

March The bottom line: Since this month tends to be unpredictable weather-wise, have row covers at the ready for any late-season frosts or freezes that might damage perennials.

Preparation Outside: Most vegetables prefer a slightly acidic soil (6.0 to 6.8 pH); pick up a pH test kit at a garden center to make sure yours is in the right range. No such luck? Make adjustments as recommended on the package, using organic matter to increase or decrease the soil’s acidity. Even if your test is good, you should amend the soil—i.e., add conditioners, such as compost, peat moss, or coir (coconut fiber), that improve its texture—yearly, and give perennial vegetables a boost by “side dressing” it with organic compost or aged manure. (Scatter the fertilizer along the sides of a row of plants; turn it into the existing soil with a spading fork and rake it smooth.) If you’re stuck with soil that’s beyond saving, consider building raised beds instead and filling them with good soil.

Inside: Start seeds of warm season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, pumpkin, snap beans, squash, and sweet corn.

Planting Use a garden thermometer to determine if the soil temperature is at or above 40ºF. When it gets there, start planting (or “setting out,” in garden lingo) the seeds you’ve started for cool-season crops: kale, lettuce, spinach, and onions.

At the end of the month, plant peas. If the ground is wet and muddy, hold off so you don’t destroy the soil by working in it too soon.

April The bottom line: The weather can still work against you—keep those row covers handy in case of a nighttime cold snap—but otherwise you should be getting into full swing.

Preparation Check soil temperature regularly with your thermometer. When it consistently registers at 60ºF or above, you have the go-ahead to plant some warm-season crops.

If you didn’t start your own seeds, buy transplants and seedlings of early-season crops like radishes, spinach, onions, leeks, lettuce, cabbage, beets, peas, Brussels sprouts, and carrots.

Planting Begin setting out your early-season crops. Try to pick an overcast day to minimize transplant shock —the stress that occurs when plants are moved from a cushy greenhouse environment to the harsh real world. Be sure to water well at planting time. When finished, add a two- to three-inch layer of mulch to suppress weeds and keep in moisture.

For greens, sow seeds directly in the garden where they’ll grow. Plant them in succession, every few weeks, for a continuous harvest through the season.

Maintenance Until newly transplanted seedlings develop root systems, make sure they don’t dry out or you’ll lose them. And stay on top of weeds, catching them before they begin to spread

May The bottom line: Take advantage of warm temps, longer days, and moist soil to do the bulk of your remaining plantings. But resist the temptation to plant more than you can reasonably take care of as the season advances.

Preparation Check soil temperatures for readings consistently above 70ºF to know when to plant heat-loving crops like tomatoes and peppers. Confirm that you have the gear you need to water the garden: As temperatures warm, consistent moisture will be of the utmost importance.

Planting You can continue (or start) planting any early-season crops, plus tomatoes, squash, melons, eggplant, peppers, sweet corn, cucumbers, potatoes, and herbs. Water and mulch any new transplants with care.

If choosing to sow directly in the garden, start your carrots, beets, and radishes. Don’t mulch these areas until seedlings are up several inches and have been thinned (you’ve sorted out the small, deformed, or overcrowded seedlings).

Maintenance Follow packet instructions for proper spacing of the crops that were direct sown and thin the seedlings accordingly.

Watch for insect damage on leaves (missing notches, holes, pits, or stripped stems). When you spy signs of trouble, control the situation by removing the affected leaves, employing a row cover to create a barrier, or spraying or dusting with an organic pesticide. Consult a garden center or extension service for a recommendation of the best action.

Harvest Cool-season plants like asparagus, peas, and spring greens will be getting ready for harvest. (P.S. The more you harvest, the more they produce!)

June The bottom line: Full speed ahead! Through the next few months, your focus will be on maintenance and harvest.

Planting Early in the month, finish getting any warm-season vegetables into the ground. Direct sow the warm-season crops you plan to grow in place. Continue to thin seedlings of direct-sown crops that were planted earlier.

Maintenance As your plants shoot up, be prepared with staking materials; you’ll need plenty of bamboo stakes in different heights to keep your crops from succumbing to gravity.

About one month after planting, side dress crops with organic compost. If you didn’t use mulch, get out there with a scuffle hoe and attack the weeds.

Harvest Harvest during the cooler times of day—early morning or evening—when plants are least stressed. Continue to pick greens, peas, beans, and herbs. Stop harvesting asparagus and rhubarb, which need to rebuild their food reserves in order to produce a good crop again next year.

July The bottom line: You can’t slack off completely, but get ready for the big payoff.

Planting Extend the season with a late harvest of beans, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, and other cold-season crops. Where you have room, cultivate and amend the soil with compost before direct sowing seeds or planting seedlings.

Maintenance Remove suckers—the growth between the main stem and the leaf—on tomato plants and pull out any finished early-season crops. Continue staking tomatoes and other plants as necessary.

Water in the early morning, the best time to reduce evaporation. Try to water the soil, not the leaves, to reduce fungal disease. Be sure to maintain consistent moisture so fruit develops successfully. (Drought-stressed plants are more susceptible to fungi and insect trouble.) Check mulch, topping off areas that have thinned. And weed away! Weeds rob plants of water and nutrients.

Harvest Harvest daily. If there’s too much of a good thing, share your bounty. Use an old plastic laundry basket to collect produce that is ready to be picked, and hose off the contents outside—it’ll act as a giant colander.

August The bottom line: It’s the dog days of summer, and both you and the garden need a break. Kick back and enjoy.

Preparation Make some notes about your successes and failures. (You may not remember those ravishing radishes or sickly heirloom tomatoes come January when you start to plan next year’s garden.) 

Planting If you haven’t planted for the fall harvest yet (see July), it’s not too late to start now.

Maintenance Monitor moisture, insects, and disease; if there’s an issue, deal with it right away. Pick up and discard fallen or decaying fruit—leaving it encourages diseases and insects.

Harvest Keep picking! Cut fresh herbs for freezing or drying to use over the winter.

September The bottom line: With the weather getting less predictable, job one is to protect tender plants such as tomatoes from frost with sheets or covers to keep them ripening on the vine as long as possible.

Planning As the weather cools, this is a good time to dig and prepare new beds for the spring or build additional raised beds and fill with amended soil.

Planting Pot up selections of your favorite, healthiest herbs in planters to bring inside for the winter. Continue planting cool-season vegetables for winter harvest.

Maintenance Keep pulling up finished plants and discarding fallen or rotten fruit to discourage overwintering of insect larvae (meaning they stay alive underground through the cold months ahead). Check that the mulch is layered thick enough on cold-season crops.

Harvest Some plants will keep producing even through light frosts. Others will continue only if protected overnight with covers. Green tomatoes can be picked and wrapped individually in newspaper and stored in a cool spot (55º to 60ºF) to ripen. If frost is predicted nightly and your tomato plants are covered with unripe fruit, you can pull the whole plant up by the roots and hang it upside down in a protected place like a garage, where fruit will continue ripen on the vine. Promptly remove any tomatoes that go bad.

October The bottom line: Mother Nature will dictate what you can accomplish. If the weather holds, then by all means, plug away. But if winter-like weather is upon you, prioritize and do what you can.

Planting Continue planting cool-season crops like beets, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, chives, celery, onions, parsley, parsnips, peas, radishes, spinach, lettuce, turnips, and Swiss chard.

Maintenance Protect new seedlings and winter crops from weather extremes with floating row covers, which are made of lightweight polyester that “floats” on plants. Pull out and rake off garden debris; rake leaves out of beds and add to compost pile. Compost anything that is not diseased or infested with insects. Store garden supplies and potions in a dry place. Remove, dismantle, and store stakes and cages that were erected for plant support.

Harvest Dig up potatoes and store in a dark place with low humidity, and pick winter squashes and pumpkins before a hard freeze. Keep harvesting fall crops like beets, cabbage, chard, and leeks.

November The bottom line: Weather permitting, you may still get in some garden time. The more you do now, the easier it all becomes in the spring.

Planning Order seed catalogs for January planning.

Maintenance Continue watering cool-season vegetable plants if rainfall alone isn’t enough. Every two weeks, feed vegetable plants with a water-soluble organic fertilizer (like fish emulsion).

Cut asparagus plants to the ground as soon as the foliage has turned yellow or brown. Spread a few inches of aged manure or organic compost over the bed.

Harvest Harvest greens and other cool-season vegetables that are producing.

December The bottom line: If you planted a winter garden, keep harvesting, weeding and watering as needed. If you didn’t, enjoy the holidays!  -Ami

Beautifully Organized: Pantry Areas

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An organized pantry is a great benefit, whether it’s shelving, a cabinet, a closet, or an entire room. It makes cooking easier, helps keep track of foods on hand, and well, it just looks nice. A few helpful items — jars, labels,

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baskets, and smart stacking — all help keep things nice and tidy. These awesome pantries have more great ideas and inspiration.

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MORE PANTRY POSTS ON APARTMENT THERAPY: • 10 Inspiring Small-Space Pantries • 6 Ways To Tidy Your Pantry In 10 Minutes • Kitchen Storage Between the Studs: 5 Examples of Smart Recessed Cabinets • Best Pantry Organizers: Space Savers & Food Storage