Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Barkeeper's Friend

Last week I was talking with a friend about my amazing All-Clad find, and she mentioned that not only had she never heard of Barkeeper's Friend, but that it sounded like something containing alcohol (totally understandable given the name).

Friends, let me share the love.

My Dad first introduced me to the wonder that is BF.  And if my Dad knows something about something, it is cleaning.  

As seen on the label, BF is an abrasive cleanser & polish ala the old school Comet cans.... but SO. MUCH. MORE.  It's been around since 1882.  It can be used on all sorts of surfaces, but I most commonly use it on cookware and my sink.  You wet the item, sprinkle on the BF, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  I use a regular kitchen sponge to scrub & the results are AMAZING.  It worked wonders on my All-Clad, shines up my sink, and even brings my glass cooktop back to life.  I've found it at my local grocery as well as Wal-Mart, and it usually retails for under $2.00/ can.

Here's a review by Apartment Therapy - they love it, too!

Try It, You'll Like It!  

Friday, April 22, 2011

No Spending Progress, Week 3!

Day 16: Saturday!  It was cold & rainy again, so we had a slow morning & then went to the Y to swim for a bit.  We didn’t know they were also having an Open House, but it was a bonus for us, because we left with balloon animals & mini smoothies!  After we cleaned up, I made a Target run to buy Easter Goodies.  I know – this was a test of want vs. need, but I think I did OK.  I bought easter grass & eggs, plus sidewalk chalk and bubble gum at the Dollar Tree, then walked to Target and bought jelly beans & chocolate eggs, a $3 movie, and a few other surprises.  Our Easter baskets are never huge, but it was really hard to search out inexpensive items that I knew they would be excited about vs. buying a bunch of ‘stuff” to just fill up the baskets. Easter was part of our plan, so I don’t consider this Unplanned Spending.  I also used a gift card, so it didn’t even come out of our regular budget.  Total spent: $0

Day 17: Great day.  After church Big Sis had to clean her room.  It took her 2 hours, but she did a decent job.  Then we made her watch an episode of Hoarders to help her understand why it wasn’t critical to keep every scrap of paper or bit of ribbon that comes her way.  Total spent: $0

Day 18: MONDAY! Grocery shopping again.  No spending means our grocery bill has gotten far steeper.  Big Daddy is also on a new rotation where he is able to eat breakfast at home, and I pack a lunch for him each day.  I’m buying twice as much milk each week & am making twice as much bread.  Still, FAR less expensive than eating out!  Total spent: $0

Day 19:  I stopped by the thrift store to look for 2 small jars for the jellybean guess at Saturday’s Easter Activity (this was OK, as I will be reimbursed for the purchase).  And then, I caved.  I found a box of All-Clad cookware for $24.95, and it was too good to pass up.  $800+ in cookware for less than the cost of a family meal at a restaurant?  Yes, please.   After another Costco run (I forgot to buy a ham for Easter dinner), I spent the afternoon cleaning up my new pots & pans.  The day got even better when a friend stopped by with a Cherry Limeade and Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (2 of my favorite things in the world).  It was so unexpected and so thoughtful!  I think I teared up a little bit because I was so tickled.  Total spent: $26.45 (includes tax)

Day 20: One of the unexpected benefits of this experiment has been a huge reduction in the “I Wants” coupled with an increased satisfaction with what I have.   I never reflected on how much ‘window shopping’ contributes to the “Keeping Up with the Jones’” syndrome.  I know I can’t spend, so I don’t even bother killing time by browsing in TJ Maxx/ Target/ the mall/ online.  Not having all that ‘Stuff’ dangling in front of me is making me appreciate how blessed I am and refocus on incomplete projects and prepping for our move.  Total spent: $0

Day 21: I was a slow starter this morning, so I used a coupon for a free hot chocolate to kick start my morning.  Spent lots of time on etsy bookmarking items to decorate a home we don’t have yet.  Not terribly constructive, but highly entertaining.  Total spent: $0

Day 22: Earth Day brought me another free hot chocolate this morning.  Thank goodness because the cold, grey morning brought a big frown to my day.  So ready for windows open weather.  Both kids were off school, so we hit the library for Playgroup.  I really enjoyed talking with the other Moms - it is like free therapy!  Not spending is starting to feel normal.  I still 'want', but it's more like wishful thinking than anything else.  Total spent: $0

Week 1: $0
Week 2: $8.09
Week 3: $26.45

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Failing with Style

Well, if I am going to fail this No-Spending Experiment, 
I'm going to fail it in spectacular fashion.  

Tell me what you see below:

And if you answer (as my husband did) "A box of crap", then you are wrong. 

What you see above is a box of All-Clad cookware I bought at my local thrift store.

For $24.95. 

ALL-CLAD : $24.95

I very nearly had a heart attack when I realized what lay before me. 

And almost had another one as I hoofed it out the doors 
& back home to grab some money from my secret cash stash. 

I was sweaty and giddy when I handed over my precious dollars to the slightly puzzled clerk. 

Even typing this, I am a little light-headed.

Can you feel it?  

If you like to cook, and you're not familiar with All-Clad, you need to educate yourself. 
All-Clad is to Cooking as Ferrari is to Driving. 
Sure, a Yugo will still get you there, but the ride won't be nearly as quick, smooth, or enjoyable.   

I know - it's not pretty, but in this case it really is what's on the inside that counts. 

The box contained: 2 saucepans, 3 pots, 2 lids, and a steamer insert.  
All but the steamer appears to have an anodized exterior (similar to what is now the LTD2 line).  

These were clearly used, but not at all loved.  
I think that the previous owner didn't know how to take care of them.  If I had to guess, I'd say they were put in the dishwasher and the soap and heat discolored the outside.  

The insides all looked like this. 

But a little Barkeeper's Friend fixed them right up!

They are still not purty, but man, are they amazing to cook with!

Here is a breakdown of what I bought, with approximate retail pricing:

1.5 Qt. saucepan  $149.95
 3 Qt.  saucepan  $234.95
2.5 Qt. casserole  $110*
3 Qt. casserole  $130*
 4 Qt. casserole  $156*
8” Stainless steel steamer insert  $105
 Retail total:  $884.90!

*These prices are for comparable products in the Stainless line.  There are no LTD2 pots in this size right now, but if there were, they would likely be about 30% higher than these prices. 

Although I felt awful at breaking down during No Spend month, it was totally worth it.  It was serendipity, I swear it was.  If I have one actual hobby that I enjoy doing, it is cooking.  And cooking is soooooo much more enjoyable if you have tools that work well.

Friday, April 15, 2011

No Spending Progress, Week 2

15 days down = halfway there!

Day 8:  Finally Friday!  A cold, wet Spring Break is stretching me to my limits.  We are so very bored.  I did stock up at the grocery store, but did great.  I stuck to the list & didn’t even stop to ride the penny pony when we were done (I just didn’t want to wait behind the family of 7).  Total spent: $0 

Day 9: Another cold day.  Woke up late, and after breakfast, workout, and clean up, we headed to Lowe’s where we bought…. Spray paint!  We decided to makeover Big Sis’ old bike for Big J, and we needed more paint to complete the look.  Of course, he requested orange.  Also noted that I still have more than ½ a tank of gas.  Total spent: $7.59

Day 10: Listed a few more items on Craigslist.  Sunny and H-O-T (so glad that the last day of Spring Break was actually nice!), so we spent time outside bike riding, sidewalk chalking, and bubble blowing.  An unanticipated bonus of no shopping: my purse is no longer cluttered with receipts, lists, and random slips of paper.  Total spent: $0

Day 11: The first day back into our normal routine was heaven sent.  I got lots accomplished around the house, and didn’t drive anywhere.  Total spent: $0

Day12:  Sold another item on craigslist, so I was happy to pocket $50 today.  It was also Free Scoop Day at Ben & Jerry’s!  My plan was to take the kids for an afterschool treat, but once I realized that the shop was in downtown Detroit, we decided to have an early dinner and make it dessert.  I thought the lines would be really long, so maybe going after rush hour would be better.  We had no problems finding it.  I avoided the parking garages & instead spent 50 cents to park at a meter.  Surprisingly, there were no lines!  We grabbed our free scoops, then walked a few blocks to gawk at Tiger Stadium.  We spent enough time walking and eating ice cream that there was no traffic on the way home.  We stopped at Target near home, but only bought exactly what we came for: cereal, body wash, toothpaste, and medicine.  Total spent: $0.50

Day13:  This was my first day with errands to do.  It’s getting easier and easier to check things off my list without wanting to throw in a few “extras” that we don’t really need.  It helps tremendously that it’s been nice weather so we can get outside a bit.  It also helps that I have been focusing on organizing, Spring Cleaning, and exercising at home.  Most of my eBay auctions sold, and it was really satisfying to see that money add up in my Paypal account.  I’m going to let it sit until at least May, so I have plenty of time to think about what I want to do with it (new camera lens?).  Total spent: $0

Day 14:  I made a trip to the beloved/ dreaded Costco.  All was well until checkout - when Big J asked for lunch.  My stomach was rumbling, and although the air was perfumed with the fragrance of fresh churros, we walked on by.  It also helped that I was still thinking about a quote my husband rambled off last night (possibly attributed to Richard Simmons), “Put down the donut.  You know what it tastes like.”  Total spent: $0

Day 15: I woke up cranky.  I wanted a hot chocolate, and a treat.  This was a perfect illustration of wants vs. needs.  I had hot chocolate at home, and lots of yummy food to choose from.  There was no NEED to go out, but I WANTED to.  {sigh}.  I also desperately wanted a treat after dinner tonight, but once again, my ego kept my id in check.  I did have to fill up the car today – first time in 2 weeks!  Total spent: $0

Week One - Total Spent: $0.00
Week Two - Total Spent: $8.09

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Magnetic Bar

I've long been a fan of the magnetic knife holder. 
I have no idea where I saw this idea, but when we lived in Des Moines I insisted we hang one in our apartment kitchen.  

The tired knife block was immediately put out to pasture in favor of this sleek update. 

And why, oh why, did I never think of using it to hold my recipes, too?? 

Our next kitchen may end up with the entire backsplash accented with magnetic bars.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hainanese Chicken is spelled like this: Y-U-M

What could be more apropos than having my 500th blog post be about food?

Really, nothing.

So here goes....

I am always on the lookout for new, simple recipes.  In the midst of a grey, cold, rainy Spring Break week, I came across a recipe for Hainanese Chicken with Rice on the Kitchn.

An excerpt of the author's description of the recipe: "And finally you have this scrumptious rice — slippery with oil, and fragrant with shallots and garlic."

I was smitten.

Here is the original recipe (courtesy of my secret boyfriend, Mark Bittman).

But, if you're too lazy to click through, here it is (with my shortcuts, of course):

(the picture is from thekitchn.com)

Hainanese Chicken With Rice

Yield: 4-8 servings

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 whole (3- to 4-pound) chicken, trimmed of excess fat
  • Several cloves smashed garlic, plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Several slices fresh ginger, plus 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil, or neutral oil, like corn or canola
    • I used canola
  • 3 shallots, roughly chopped, or a small onion
    • I used about 1/4 of an onion
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions
  • Chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add chicken to pot along with smashed garlic and sliced ginger. Bird should be completely submerged, but only just. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let bird remain in water for 45 minutes to an hour, covered, or until it is cooked through.

  • I know, this doesn't seem like enough time or heat to cook the chicken.  But I swear, it worked like a charm. 

2. Remove chicken from pot, reserve stock, and let bird cool to room temperature. Put half the peanut oil in a skillet over medium heat; you may add trimmed chicken fat to this also. When oil is hot, add remaining garlic, along with shallots; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, until glossy. Add 4 cups reserved chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover; cook for about 20 minutes, until rice has absorbed all liquid. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

3. Make a dipping sauce of remaining oil, ginger, half the scallions and a large pinch of salt.

4. Shred or chop chicken, discarding skin. Put rice on a large platter and mound chicken on top of it; decorate platter with remaining scallions and cilantro. Sprinkle sesame oil over all and serve with dipping sauce.

  • Without the add-ons, this is really nothing more than some tender chicken and white rice.  With the toppings, it's like tiny fairies waved their wands and turned it into a sensory journey to an exotic Asian land.   I made the "dipping sauce", but just sort of scooped it into the middle of the individual portions.  Don't omit the drizzle of sesame oil!  I also dripped Sriracha over it.  It was AMAZING.  
I would have included a picture of my own, but I have been too busy gobbling down the leftovers. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

It's the Little Things

I so frequently feel that products are all hype with little substance to back them up.  So I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction in using tools that work well. Functional, sturdy, pleasing to look upon.  And if they are reasonable in price, my pleasure is doubled.

My latest love is this little scraper from Sur la Table.

At one point I bought it because I had a recipe that called for cutting a sticky dough, and this tool seemed to fit the bill.  The fact that it could be used to scrape out a bowl was like an added bonus.   

Side note: I've always called these "scrapers". 
 I thought a spatula referred to the tool used to flip pancakes.  
Yet, my favorite sites for cooking tools call both items "spatula". 
Do you see my confusion?  
What do you call these two?

I digress.....

I love my little red scraper.  It gets every bit from the bowl and divides dough with ease.  Dough doesn't cling like it will on a knife.  And it's small enough to fit snugly in my tool drawer.  


Monday, April 11, 2011

Product Review: John Frieda Foam Haircolor

As explained before, I am both vain about my hair and not an early adopter of new products.  But one of those clearly swayed the other, and I recently convinced myself to try something NEW. 

I'm an at-home hair colorer, and have been very happy with my preferred product (Clairol Perfect 10).  But I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about Foam Haircolor.  I read several items online, then a compelling article in one of my favorite fashion magazines.  Everything touted foam as being the next big thing in at-home hair color.  Buzzwords of full coverage, no drips, and ease of application all joined forces to pull me towards the haircare aisle of my local carries-it-all store.  
Much of what I read about centered on the John Frieda brand.  

$11.25 later, I came home with this: 

I liked the packaging, and I liked what was inside.  The gloves (inside the ziploc bag) were very thick & longer than usual, and the instructions (yes, I read them in full) were clear.  

I added one to the other, and then gently TILTED the bottle 5x as suggested.  
Unlike my usual at-home colorant, no vigorous shaking is required.  

Despite the pump-like attachment, the foam is created by squeezing the bottle gently - 
about 4 times for each handful produced. 

I applied and applied and applied.  I definitely noticed that this product smells much better than any other at-home color I've ever used.  As this was my first time with this color, I used the all-over method of application.  I ended up looking much like the model in the picture: 
with a headful of whitish foam hair piled on top of my head.
I waited the requisite 30 minutes, then rinsed & conditioned.  

Results: I liked it the first few days, but once I washed my hair (I waited 3 days), I feel like my roots were immediately peeking out.  With each wash (again, I only wash my hair 2x a week), I feel as though my roots are getting brighter.  Roots aside, I like the color, the coverage seems even, and my hair feels healthy.  

Final thought: The application process was easy and thorough.  The smell was not unpleasant.  The price was at the high end of most at-home color products, but I think it would be worth it if your results are pleasing & even.  I'm glad I tried it, but due to the poor grey coverage, I would not buy it again.  Until my kids catch the leprechaun or my lottery numbers come up, I will have to stick with what I know works for me.   

Note: My hair is naturally dark brown, with about 10% grey.  

Friday, April 8, 2011

No Spending Progress

Day 1: After 4 days of the stomach flu, I woke up feeling better.  Coupled with sunshine and day 2 of Spring Break, I decided it was time for family fun.  I knew my membership was up soon so I made the executive decision, and we packed up to head out to the Detroit Zoo.  I did stop at the grocery and bought snacks to tide us over.  I also topped off the gas in my car – all allowed under the ‘rules’ for April.  I found myself thinking about hot chocolate and cherry limeades from Sonic.  But I was strong, and made it through the day.  Dinner at home, and all was well.   Total spent: $0

Day 2:  A very lazy Saturday at home.  No errands, just chores and reading and games.  Total spent: $0

Day 3:  Big Daddy suggested we go to IKEA, and who am I turn down a voluntary family trip to my favorite furniture megastore?  We made the trip and although I wrote imaginary checks as we meandered through sofas, kitchens, and storage, we spent no actual $$.  The day turned rainy, and we spent the rest of the afternoon movie surfing, reading, and playing dress-up.  Total spent: $0

Day 4: It was a rainy day, so we huddled down inside.  I caught up on the household chores, and we only left the comfort of our home to stretch our legs at the library.  Although I gazed longingly at the Sonic drive-through (half price Cherry Limeades!), I sped by and stayed strong.  I did go to the pharmacy to pick up an Rx, but avoided the Easter candy and nail polish aisles.  Total spent: $0

Day 5: Another cold, overcast day.  Took the kids out for a walk & it was SNOWING.  I am so over winter.  I had a new book to read (from the library), so I was fairly distracted.  Ran to the grocery store for a few things, but was not tempted by anything ‘extra’.  Total spent: $0

Day 6:  I think this is feeling more difficult because the kids have been home for Spring Break (school starts again on Monday!).  I want to do fun things with them, but I am not finding anything that is free and local.  Must schedule playdates soon.  Occupied most of my day with creating listings on eBay.  My version of Spring Cleaning, I guess.  Total spent: $0

Day 7: No luck scheduling playdates.  Sold an item on Craigslist & found it enormously satisfying.  Also cleaned out bits of the basement, garage, and back yard.  Did not leave the house.  Am wondering if I am becoming agoraphobic.  Am also realizing how many email lists I am on – they always seem to arrive touting some new discount or deal.  Difficult on my resolve, but I am staying strong.  It is feeling a little less like punishment & more like ‘the new normal’.  Total spent: $0

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mini Lasagna

Mmmmmm... mini lasagna!

I used my usual recipe, but cut the noodles 
& made them in a muffin tin!

Note to self: Reduce cooking time to 10-12 minutes.  
Note to self, part 2: Yes, improvising with jumbo shells when you run out of lasagna noodles works just fine.