Archive for May, 2009

Dead: One Credit Card

May 27, 2009

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The budget works.  I’ve been on the budget for ten months and I’ve finally killed off one credit card.  I’m ecstatic.  I feel like I’ve gone from a size 22 to a size 4, the weight of my financial burden reduced by a diet of good spending habits and restraint.

My only disappointment is seeing the total difference in balances from August to May, about $5000.  That doesn’t seem like a lot for all the penny pinching that I’ve done.  The sad reality is that much of that money is finance charges.  Stupid tax that gets tagged on every month, keeping the balances up, because there certainly aren’t any new purchases.  In my elation, I briefly considered easing up on the debt in order to have more of a weekly allowance, but I realize that the sooner I pay off the balances, the less stupid tax I’ll have to pay.  The payments will also go much faster with the dwindling balances.  I should be able to kill off another card by the end of the summer, leaving one to die a slow death by 2010.

Enter the New

May 26, 2009

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I found the right rug for the kitchen at the Brooklyn Flea.  It’s the woven plastic Indian rug that I’ve been looking for in an eye-popping red and blue.  Made of recycled plastic, it’s the right size at 2″ x 4″, instead of the standard 3″ x 5″.  I like how spring-y it is, making for a more comfortable stand, much like those chef mats, but much cuter.  Being as light as its, it does move out of place, which irks me, since I like things just so.  An improvement over uneven wood and tile.

Nest 6

May 22, 2009

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When I oohed and aahed over the Nest 8, one of my reservations was that I didn’t need a large bowl and a strainer.  I have versions of both and space is a premium in The Littlest Kitchen.  It seems that Joseph Joseph have read my mind, and there is now the Nest 6, which do not have the two biggest concentric bowls.  Nest 6 is also almost half the price, making the dream a little more feasible.

Having a Ball

May 21, 2009

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A melon baller seems so old-fashioned and formal, like who really needs to make their cantaloupes into teeny tiny balls?  I certainly don’t, but I use it for coring apples and pears.  In one fell scoop, the melon baller can take out the seeded middle, so much easier than navigating around it with a knife.  It’s a simple design without any complex parts, so it’s easy to clean and compact to store.  I used to have one in my possession at my old place, now I miss it.  Hopefully not for long.

The Good China

May 20, 2009

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I absolutely love Lorena Barrezueta’s porcelain dishes fashioned after disposable containers.  Witty and well-done with all the intricate details of a real aluminum or cardboard receptacle but in a precious medium, it redefines “fine china”.  I am particularly enamored of the “classic” white pieces rimmed in gold, to push the chichi factor further.  The fantasy is to have a set for company, but the reality is the lack of room in The Littlest Kitchen to store such fineries.  Even to store the cute sectional TV dinner-like plate is a problem in tight quarters.  I’m better off with a mini container to serve as a catch-all and to show off every day.  But if I ever get a china cabinet…

A Rug in the Kitchen

May 19, 2009

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I never would have wanted a rug in the kitchen.  Now, I’m having a change of heart.  Specifically, the tile junction to my wood floor bums me out.  I want to cover it.

I originally thought that I wanted a woven plastic Indian style rug, but I can’t quite find the size that I need, or for that matter, its official name to do a Google search.  Knowing that the rug will bear a fair share of abuse, I didn’t want anything precious or expensive.  I looked towards Urban Outfitters for something cute and cheap.

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Another plastic option, is this “rag” rug made from plastic bags.  I love the patterning and how it shimmers.  To clean it requires hosing it off with water, but would it be a haven for bugs with all the nooks and crannies?  A catchall for crumbs and cat hair?

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Maybe this kilim rug makes more sense, being a flat tight cloth weave.  Its thinness lends to an easy run in the washing machine, more my style of cleaning.  At less then $25 each, I can actually afford to try both.

The Handoline

May 18, 2009

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The Littlest Kitchen has been somewhat erratic with the day job, out of town guests, and the season finale of Lost.  There hasn’t been much cooking, although plenty of eating as my waistline will attest.  Being out of the kitchen has provided an opportunity to see what’s out there and be open to new things.  It’s time for another edition of Things That I Think I Want, a way to rationalize my impulse to buy.

I like to keep my kitchen gadgets to a minimum, so I am surprised to find myself wanting a mandoline.  I’ve always been turned off by all the moving parts, such a bitch to clean for the sake of paper thin vegetables.  A knife will do for cardboard box width and less dishes.   But one night at a friend’s for dinner, she effortlessly wielded her OXO handheld mandoline, or “handoline”, a device that is barely more trouble than a grater.     Could I have my cake and eat it too?  Quick thin slices and a quick clean up?  She spoke highly of it, and if there was more prep to do, I would have have taken it for a test drive, but she was done in a blink of an eye.

Kimchi and butter

May 13, 2009

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I like kimchi and I like butter, but I would never have thought to put the two together in a compound butter.  By nature of oil and water, wouldn’t they separate, or cause some acid to base chemical reaction?  But like all things Momofuku, it takes you by surprise, and reels you in.  It’s a flavor that is as full and tangy as cheese.  And I mean it in the most flattering way when I say that the decaying stench of kimchi fully complements the smoothness of butter, giving it a funk, an edge. Sold at Momofuku Milk Bar, the fetching little jar of orange sherbert colored butter hides discreetly in the case of cakes and pies.  Beneath the cute lucky peach sticker lies crack in a jar.

The Curious Case of Tan Tan Noodles

May 12, 2009

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In my previous attempt to make Tan Tan Noodles, I was sorely disappointed at the results of soup-y, not-so peanut-y noodles.  So much so that I made them into what I wanted them to be – cold sesame noodles.  The two are not the same, even thought I’ve held it in my mind for so many years.  It’s not the dish that needed the adjustment, it’s my lack of knowledge.

I made Tan Tan Noodles again, following the same recipe in Ken Hom’s Asian Vegetarian Feast to a tee.  Embracing the broth-like sauce of briny, crunchy preserved Sichuan vegetables, fresh ginger and garlic, spicy chili bean sauce and rich peanut butter, it hit all the right notes, but I still didn’t like it that much.  The fresh egg noodles absorbed the broth like a sponge, and the preserved Sichuan vegetables didn’t meld with the noodles as they slid off with every bite.  It also needed something else.  Maybe a sprinkling of fresh peanuts?  But they too slid off.  The sauce was good but the noodles were not the right venue.

In the meantime, I had Dan Dan noodles at Szechuan Gourmet, whose version had fresh wheat noodles, leaf-y preserved vegetables, and ground pork.  Not a stitch of peanut butter or sesame paste, it was driven by chile oil in a light broth, almost like a bolognese.  The real deal, as I would discover in Fuschia Dunlop’s book of Sichuan cooking, Land of Plenty.  So what did I just make?

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Inspired by my out of town guest, who lost in the fridge, served up the spicy sauce on top of rice.  He thought it was a complete meal, but I realized tofu would be the perfect companion for the sauce.  Almost curry-like, the tofu took on the flavor of the sauce and was relatively easy to scoop up with the crunchy vegetables and rice.  Ignorance is one thing, making the most of a situation is another.

Free!

May 11, 2009

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After the revelries of my out of town guest, I found myself broker than usual by the weekend.  With only $8 left by Saturday, it was time to get resourceful.  I became a card carrying member of the Brooklyn Public Library.  The library is the best place to try out cookbooks.  A no money down, no commitment effort, it allows you to see if you jibe with the writer’s taste and point of view.  After a few trials, I’ve bought cookbooks, and I’ve passed on many as well.  It opens up a whole new world.  And unlike the internet’s repository of random recipes, it’s nice to read a cohesive body of work.  I’ll be putting my card to good use.