Monday, April 26, 2010

This is why we can't have nice things.

If our ceramics could talk, they would have called dinnerware protective services long ago to report rough treatment, neglect, and general abuse on our part. When I was a budding bride, I, in my naivety, chose our dinnerware from Anthropologie. At that time, I didn't realize 2 things: 1) How badly we would mistreat our dishes and 2) Anthropologie merchandise cannot be replaced 6 years down the road.

I gave up on nice glasses a long time ago. We break them so often that every few months when our collection is waning I just go buy more of the 99 cent glasses from Ikea (come to think of it, I think it's time for a trip there for more).

Our plates and bowls last at least a little bit longer. However, recently as I was looking at our sad little collection of cracked and chipped pieces- of which about 2/3 of the originals are even left- I realized that the time has come to perhaps find us a real live dinnerware set of matching plates, bowls, and maybe even serving dishes (did I mention that our dinner plates don't match our salad plates, and neither match our bowls?). My hope is to find some sort of set that shows that we are real, working grownups now. This isn't as easy as it sounds.

My criteria is specific, and the first and most important thing for me to remember is how much of what we buy will get ruined at some point ("Know thyself"...) In other words, we can never buy $50 a plate sets, because I think every time one broke I would sit on the floor and cry. Second, you all remember the whole "lead might be in my dinnerware incident" of a few months ago. This significantly lowers my options of brands to choose from, which in a way is a good thing because my choices are less overwhelming.

I've narrowed it down to a couple of very neutral sets that would hopefully stand the test of time, and my very fickle taste.

These two sets are about as neutral and inexpensive as you can get. They're both from Ikea (it's all lead free, can you believe it?), and not that bad if someone is looking for a cheap set. I'm not sure about Ikea's stock availability and if I would be able to replenish my collection years from now.

"Fiesta" doesn't usually describe my decorating style, but I have to hand it to Fiestaware. They have made themselves a classic name, and I know they'll be around until Armageddon. Most of the colors are entirely too bright and wouldn't work unless I made Mexican food for dinner every night, but I've always like this turquoise color. It's pretty well priced and durable, also.

Most of the Pfaltzgraff patterns I saw should not appear in the kitchens of anyone not registered in the AARP (or lovers of Peter Rabbit), but the company does make quality products. I love the variety of sizes they have for plates and bowls. This pattern is "cappuccino," and it's doable, but it's not....
Heath dinnerware. Which, of course, is my favorite and, of course, the most expensive by far. (Is anyone surprised at this?) If I wanted to justify myself I could say that it was a STEAL considering that each piece is hand thrown. I still worry, though, about our lack of care when handling breakables. If we invested in these and then broke them all, I think I would then just give up and go all Carrie Bradshaw and just buy random plates from thrift stores. Everyone wants to be her anyway, right??

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My garden haiku

By: Annika

Tho' in Seattle...

Plants can grow with no effort...

I still feel so cool.

Last year I didn't plant until late June, so some of my efforts didn't turn out too well (a few did). Needless to say, I am so proud of myself that I was on the gardening ball this year. I never realized how powerful gardening could make me feel. I stuck to mostly herbs to be economical, but also planted sugar snap peas because they grow well and strawberries just for fun.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

My least favorite things

As a follow up to all of my favorite foods, I thought I'd list my least favorite foods to eat. I'm not saying these foods are not good, just that they don't sizzle my bacon, if you will. They are not my cup of tea. They don't toast my cookies, you know? This list is much shorter than the list of what I love. Here they are:

Any candy that's not at least partly chocolate, walnuts, dark bitter greens, radishes, oatmeal, almond/soy/rice or any other non dairy milk, gravy, pretzels, big pieces of steak, and extremely pungent blue cheese. Also, I haaaate shelling and deveining shrimp. Even though it's not as fresh, I usually by my shrimp with this already done.

Lastly, I do not like scary movies. So let's change them to happy movies, shall we?

Friday, April 23, 2010

And speaking of cookies...

These coconut macaroons from the Barefoot Contessa are so easy and so delicious. You should make them this weekend.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The cookie problem (and solution)

Believe it or not, too much cookie dough can be a problem. (I know, I know...whaaat?? But yes, it can!) Often when I make a full batch of cookies, my husband and I sound eerily similar to the classic Frog and Toad story:

Toad baked some cookies. “These cookies smell very good,” said Toad. He ate one. “And they taste even better,” he said.

Toad ran to Frog’s house. “Frog, Frog,” cried Toad, “taste these cookies that I have made.”

Frog ate one of the cookies, “These are the best cookies I have ever eaten!” said Frog. Frog and Toad ate many cookies, one after another.

“You know, Toad,” said Frog, with his mouth full, “I think we should stop eating. We will soon be sick.”

“You are right,” said Toad. “Let us eat one last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one last cookie. There were many cookies left in the bowl.

“Frog,” said Toad, “let us eat one very last cookie, and then we will stop.” Frog and Toad ate one very last cookie.

“We must stop eating!” cried Toad as he ate another.

“Yes,” said Frog, reaching for a cookie, “we need willpower.”

“What is willpower?” asked Toad.

“Willpower is trying hard not to do something you really want to do,” said Frog.

“You mean like trying hard not to eat all these cookies?” asked Toad.

“Right,” said Frog. Frog put the cookies in a box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog tied some string around the box. “There,” he said. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can cut the string and open the box.” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog got a ladder. He put the box up on a high shelf. “There,” said Frog. “Now we will not eat any more cookies.”

“But we can climb the ladder and take the box down from the shelf and cut the string and open the box,” said Toad.

“That is true,” said Frog. Frog climbed the ladder and took the box down from the shelf. He cut the string and opened the box. Frog took the box outside. He shouted in a loud voice. “Hey, birds, here are cookies!” Birds came from everywhere. They picked up all the cookies in their beaks and flew away.

“Now we have no more cookies to eat,” said Toad sadly. “Not even one.”

“Yes,” said Frog, “but we have lots and lots of willpower.”

“You may keep it all, Frog,” said Toad. “I am going home now to bake a cake.”

Another option is to figure out exactly what to do with all the extra cookies you have on hand. I looove frozen cookies, and that's easy enough. My boss prefers to have cookie dough on hand so that she can bake fresh cookies whenever she wants to. Either way, all recipes has a great little summary of how to freeze cookies and cookie dough properly, including which doughs are good to freeze and how long they stay good. I also like eHow's idea of scooping and then freezing the raw cookie dough in little, easy to bake balls. This is what we did quite a bit in pastry school.

Now you, too, have willpower! Lots and lots of it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A few of my favorite things....

Stone ground mustard, candied ginger, olive bars, cheese and bakery samples, jarred New Mexico green chilis, honeycomb, fresh Mozzarella balls, expensive crackers, smoked salmon, smoked salmon spread, Muscat grapes (in season!), fennel, garnet yams (I have yams at least every other day), crusty bakery fresh bread, duck, leeks, caramelized onions (you can't really buy those), San Marzano (sp?) canned tomatoes, good olive oil and balsamic vinegar, chevre, ezekiel bread (for breakfast), rooibos teas, english breakfast teas, jasmine green teas, almond butter, pink lady apples, clementines, bulk dried beans, high quality maple syrup and vanilla extracts, whole nutmeg, wedges of parmesan, jerusalem artichokes, and rhubarb compote.
And making non scary movies look scary.

Friday, April 02, 2010

My Thing

I wouldn't consider myself an environmentalist by far. Like most, though, I try to do my part by reusing and recycling. More importantly, our household has done quite a bit to reduce consumption and the amount of waste we produce. As a matter of fact, I have finally gotten into the habit of remembering reusable bags when I go to the grocery store.*

With that one is perfect, and everyone, no matter how eco friendly, needs their "thing." I have two: paper towels and zip lock bags. Yes, we plow through both, and no, I feel no personal shame or guilt. Both items extend far beyond the reaches of my kitchen, and make my life easier. Think about it- a paper towel can be a napkin, plate, sponge, rag, tissue, or toilet paper,** to name a few things. The organization help that zip lock baggies provide (especially the gallon sized ones) proves to be limitless. Especially for travel (you can thank the FAA for that one).

One must be prudent, though. I only buy the paper towels that come perforated into smaller sheets. Also, we do reuse the baggies as long as they're not soiled. I can't say we reuse paper towels. Does anyone, really? I mean, who actually does wring out a paper towel and then use it again.....anyone?

*Although, this habit was formed more out of sheer terror of the judgmental eyes that peered down at me during my shopping trips to health food stores. Healthy eaters, as a group, are usually also very environmentally conscious. It goes with the territory.

**You know you've all done it.