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The 12 Best Splurges That Made Our Kitchens More Joyful and Functional During This Very Terrible Year

This past year has been so hard for so many of us, filled with immeasurable loss and sadness. I myself have had days when it felt like this pandemic would never end (heck, I still have them). When I’m sad, I do a few things (I call them my happy things) to lift me up: I cook, clean, and organize. They just help me feel a little bit better. Many of us here at Kitchn operate the same way and have found ourselves spending accordingly — on gadgets and gear that can help us do more of those things.

While a lot our best buys have been fairly reasonably priced, some of us have also splurged on bigger-ticket items. We’ve saved up and spent on stuff that can really help us — things we contemplated buying for a while, and items that needed to be replaced now that we’re all home 24/7.

Here are 12 of the best splurges Kitchn editors have made during the last year.

Friday Faves and Matsuhisa Cucumber Martini Recipe

Ah, nothing like topping off a week of work like a hard, HARD, HARD-shaken cocktail.

Back in the day when I was the Creative Director for a publishing company in Los Angeles, I made plenty o’ trips trans-US—to NYC for photo shoots—that were a total perk of the jobbie job because my husband usually tagged along and we’d make a vacation of it after all of the hard work was done.

On one of our first forays to the Big Apple we both knew we had to experience the best sushi in the City. We had our assignment thanks to our well-heeled L.A./NYC friendlies, who advised there was no place better than Nobu—the crown jewel of everything sushi of the moment—as our destination.

But there was a slight problem: No reservation = no service.

If there’s anything about me and my man that you should know right now, it’s that we don’t always play by the rules. The parking lot is for VIP passes only? We tip the guy to let us in. The line to the bathroom is up the wazoo? We enter through the exit door. Those awesome seats right up front that we didn’t pay $250 for? Well, let’s just say we’ll give it the old college try. It’s just the way we roll, and we usually end up in the winner’s circle and nobody gets hurt in the process.

So what? We wanted to experience the number one-rated sushi restaurant in New York City and we didn’t have a reservation? Let’s just see what happens.

What ended up happening was us stepping out of our cab, being whisked right into the restaurant, seated at a primo table and asked what we’d like to drink.

“Well, our kind waiter, we were waiters once a-time too. We know the drill and we know that you know what’s best. Just set us up for the night with whatever you and the Chef recommend.”

And this my friends, was the best meal of the first 15 years of our marriage (we’ve been married nearly 20, so there must be another one in there’s somewhere.)

And it all started off with the martini.

This cocktail has become our go-to drink—summer or winter—hands down. The fact that we have such fond memories of savoring the most delectable hamachi, yellow tail sashimi and the most perfect uni while rubbing elbows and swapping stories with A-list celebs as the line outside grew longer and longer doesn’t hurt much either.

Barbara prompted the re-creation of this drink and our fond memories and it is happily included in celebrating Creative Culinary‘s Friday Cocktail posts with an amazing round-up of 30 blogger recipes made just for this celebration. Clink, clinks! Oh, did I mention there’s an awesome giveaway? Check it people. And here’s to you.

2. A welcoming room with warm finishes

Love the idea of a bathroom that’s a million miles from clinical wash space? Then you’ll join the fans of this spa bathroom, which came in at number two on our most-pinned bathrooms list. The owner of this room gave up a bedroom to create this welcoming space which replaces the old downstairs bathroom.

To create the relaxed vibe wall tiles are limited to the basin splashback, and the porcelain floor tiles have the look of wood. If you’ve got the space, be inspired by this room’s twin basins and avoid the morning squabbles. The vanity unit has a warm organic finish, and wicker baskets on the shelf below add to the room’s appealing range of textures.

3. Focus on health and fitness

Health, wellness and fitness is at the heart of many jaw-dropping homes, whether it's in the form of a gym, indoor swimming pool or luxurious sauna. Sotheby's found that, unsurprisingly, many luxurious properties are shifting their focus to create spaces for meditation, outdoor gardens and massage rooms where they can find a sense of calm.

Best Fruit: Clausthaler Grapefruit NA Beer

Since 1979, Germany’s Clausthaler has created highly flavorful non-alcoholic beers using a patented brewing process that develops a minimal amount of alcohol. Last year, the brewery released this 50/50 blend of its original lager and grapefruit juice, resulting in a brightly citrusy beverage that you can sip by the bottle or slip into a Champagne flute for a bubbly brunch drink. It’s suited for Sunday mornings or sunny afternoons by a pool.

Promising review: "I can't believe I am writing a review of coffee mugs, but these mugs are such a pleasure to drink from. They are not too heavy, just the right size and are like velvet on your lips (I know, crazy!). I love the color inside the cup and the pattern. I have bought the dishes, bakeware, measuring tools and bowls. I love the whole line, but these coffee mugs are the best I've ever had, and I'm 63 years old!"

Nojito Recipe

Treat yourself to a nojito- a non-alcoholic mojito! Use agave or make this sugar-free as well. Nojitos are a great alternative to lemonade in the summer and perfect for pregnant or nursing moms too. It&rsquos always a good idea to have a quality mocktail on hand.

If you follow along with In Katrina&rsquos Kitchen on Instagram you saw that I had the chance to go on a 7 day Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Regal Princess. It was a wonderfully relaxing press trip and I cannot wait to tell you more about it. I tried not to Instagram ALL THE THINGS but man, everything is so so gorgeous down there!

My husband and I enjoyed a nojito (or three!) every afternoon so I knew I wanted to recreate them at home. Personally I love virgin cocktails so I can save calories for a delicious glass of wine (or three!) with dinner. With lots of fresh mint, lemon, and lime you&rsquoll never miss the rum. Good seltzer water and a splash of agave (or sugar) takes these right over the top.

Try swapping out lemonade for nojitos this summer when your mint crop is abundant. I know my husband and I will be sipping on these and day dreaming about our time in the Caribbean! That is, until I get hit in the face with a soccer ball or when my little guy hands me a jar full of bugs.


  • Author: Sneh
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 hours
  • Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1 x
  • Category: Dessert, Summer
  • Cuisine: Gluten Free, Nut Free


  • 300 ml water
  • 1 tablespoon gelatine powder
  • ½ cup ( 120g ) caster sugar
  • 6 cherries, pitted and crushed
  • 2 -star anise pods
  • 300 ml sparkling water
  • 4 fresh cherries, to serve
  • chocolate sauce, to serve


Place 100ml tepid water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatine powder over the water. Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.

Place remaining water, caster sugar, pitted cherries and star anise pods in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the gelatine mix. Stir well to ensure that sugar has melted.

Strain into a 1 litre capacity jug. Add sparkling water to the strained mixture.

Pour jelly mix in 4 X 200ml capacity glasses/clear dessert bowls.

Place a cherry in each glass. Lift it so it is half outside the jelly and half suspended in it. Tape the cherry stalk to the side of the bowl white masking tape to hold it in place.

Chill the jelly cups in the fridge for at least 4-5 hours.

Serve chilled with chocolate sauce drizzled on top.


Make It Vegan – Use agar agar to set the jelly instead of gelatine.

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Note – This post is sponsored by Sodastream. The recipe and video were specially created for Sodastream’s Spirit machines. It is a brand/product that I love and have been using for almost a decade. I believe that using Sodastream is not only fun but helps reduce plastic bottle usage and waste. All opinions and musings are my own.

Recipe Tips

Non-Dairy Milk: You can really use any non-dairy milk you prefer in this shake. We have made it with coconut milk and soy milk but really any milk will do great, cashew milk and oat milk spring to mind as great options.

Green Food Coloring: We used a 1/4 teaspoon of green food coloring to get the luscious color, but if you prefer not to use food coloring, you could use a little spirulina, some fresh mint leaves or a handful of spinach or kale to get the green color. These may change the flavor a tiny bit but not significantly.

Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream: You can use a store-bought brand or make your own homemade vegan ice cream. We have two recipes for ice cream that will work great in this, our vegan vanilla ice cream and our best vegan ice cream recipe.

Vegan Whipped Cream: The whipped cream topping is entirely optional. It does make this very rich. So if you prefer to leave it off that’s also totally fine. It’s wonderful as is. But if you’d like to use a whipped cream topping then use any vegan whipped cream or make your own vegan whipped coconut cream.

Green Sanding Sugar: It’s really easy to make your own sanding sugar to decorate the top of the vegan whipped cream. Just add a quarter cup of white granulated sugar to a jar with a lid. Add a couple of drops of green food coloring to the jar, put on the lid and then shake it up until all the sugar is green. Then sprinkle it over the top of your shakes.

Watch the video: Happiness is all in your mind: Gen Kelsang Nyema at TEDxGreenville 2014 (October 2021).