Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Kwanzika and a Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas (eve)! I hope everyone has a lovely holiday however they celebrate it, be it with family, friends, or greasy Chinese food.

Eatmywords will be taking a holiday hiatus until the new year, so I wanted to wish you all a happy (and especially healthy) 2009 while I could. May next year be even sweeter, tastier, and more financially stable than wonderful 2008.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Link of the Day

All this talk about Channukah has me really craving some latkes...

...but in the meantime, TastingTable put up this quirky little guide to Channukah food around the city. Basically, it seems, anything fried and delicious would count!

Click here to check it out.

And why do we eat fried foods on Channukah, you ask? Clearly, because back in the day, the Macabees made one day's oil last eight! What does this teach us? Use oil to fry up some latkes, then re-use it for more tomorrow! And again tomorrow! Or something like that...

Monday, December 22, 2008

DIY Madness--Shot Glass Menorah!

As I was gearing up for the onset of Chanukkah, I realized that I was lacking something very important... a menorah! I have tons and tons of candle-holding vessels around the apartment--at least 15 different votive holders, 2 pairs of very tall sculptural candle holders, Shabbat candle holders, you name it. But a menorah? That I was seriously lacking.

Committed to scrounging something up using a combination of the aforementioned vessels, I started counting up like kinds and figuring out what things I had eight of. With only six of any one kind at most, I knew I'd have to look elsewhere, when my gaze shifted to my tall shot glass collection (which, I swear, gets used mostly for egg cups. This reminds me that I need to buy egg cups). Eight votives in tow, I knew I had a solid foundation. A large inverted glass would serve as my shamash--the basics were covered.

But something seemed a little un-kosher about using shot glasses for religious purposes. Even though most Jewish holidays require some form of drinking or another, I set out to disguise my oh-so-college-appropriate contraption and make it, well, a little more grown up. Some scraps of wrapping paper, tape, and a piece of ribbon later, this is what came out.

The color choice could be tweaked for much cuter results--next year maybe I'll get double-sided wrap in dual tones! Ohhh, the possibilities...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Simple Homemade Gifts: Wrapping Ideas

We've reached the end of the week, so it's time for some wrapping ideas to make those gorgeous baked goods look extra special. Here's what I did for my raspberry truffles and pistachio fudge:

With two metallic boxes from the Container Store, some ribbon, and a wintery gift tag, this pretty package came out to about $6. The nice boxes fit the chocolates perfectly, so much so that many people who saw them questioned whether they were homemade or purchased from a fancy store. I think the effect justified the cost, but here are some more cost-efficient ideas.

If you're really on a budget, try this origami version that I found at Design*Sponge a few months ago. It's incredible simple and, with some nice paper, looks very special.

Container Store's paper take-out cartons are also super cute, and at less than a buck a piece, they cut out both the expense and the effort. I think layering those marshmallows (with parchment paper in between, of course) in some of these would be absolutely adorable.

And, to make sure your loved ones know just how much effort went in to your gift, be sure to enclose the recipes you've used! That way, your gift can keep giving over and over and over...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Simple Homemade Gifts: Homemade Marshmallows

Last year I had the wonderful chance to experience a meal at Dovetail, a fabulous New American restaurant on the UWS that had recently received three stars in the New York Times. The meal was unforgettable from start to end, but of all the wonderful things they did, one detail stuck out in my mind: instead of culminating with a mint or petit four, the check came with three individual take-home containers of hot chocolate mix. I opened the container to find it came with a single homemade rose-infused marshmallow, and from then on I've been obsessed. Homemade marshmallows, rose-flavored or not, are heavenly.

This recipe from Gourmet yeilds tons and tons of marshmallowy treats, and they're fantastically delicious. The recipe has more steps than most of my others, but don't let that deceive you. They're very easy to make.

Toasted Coconut Marshmallow Squares

What You'll Need...
  • 2 cups unsweetened dried coconut
  • 3 (1/4-oz) envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (optional)
What You Do...

Toast coconut in a shallow baking pan in a conventional oven at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7 to 10 minutes. A toaster oven works fine for this step too.

Oil a 9-inch baking pan, then sprinkle the bottom with 1/2 cup toasted coconut. Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup water in bowl of mixer and let soften. Meanwhile, heat the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

Bring to a boil over medium heat, without stirring. Put thermometer into syrup and continue boiling, without stirring, until it registers 240°F (soft-ball stage). Remove from heat and let stand until bubbles dissipate. Temperature is really important here, so the candy thermometer is a must. Fancy as this sounds, it's all really simple.

With your stand mixer at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin in a thin stream down side of bowl. Increase speed to high and beat until very thick, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and coconut extracts and beat 1 minute more. Again, the stand mixer is key here. I have an electric hand mixer but I highly doubt it would have done the job. Tip: use the whisk attachment for the stand mixer. If you have a mixer, you have a whisk attachment :)

Spoon marshmallow over toasted coconut in baking pan and press evenly with dampened fingertips to smooth top (it will be very sticky), then evenly sprinkle top with 1/2 cup toasted coconut. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours. This is a no bake treat!

Run a sharp knife around edge of marshmallow and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 3/4-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip into 3/4-inch squares. Put the remaining coconut flakes into a small bowl and roll each marshmallow square in them to coat.

Note: If you take out the coconut extract and flakes, these are plain vanilla marshmallows. If you add other things, like cocoa powder, orange zest, or rosewater, you'll get lovely variations on the recipe!

Link of the Day

Channukah starts this Sunday, and even after all these years I still haven't quite decided how to spell it. However, Brooklyn designer Cheryl Berkowitz spells it almost exactly the opposite way as I do: Hanukkah. It's a real to-may-toe/to-mah-toe kind of thing, but it doesn't stop me from loving her super cool subway-inspired holiday cards.

The only thing I would change (other than the spelling)? I don't live in Brooklyn! Happy Channukah from Manhattan would be just perfect, though!

Cheryl's cards are available here for $18/set of 6.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Budget Finds: 2009 Plantable Eco-Calendar

As I was handling a few phone calls in the office yesterday, I realized that my planner was running thin. It's the end of 2008, and that's definitely a realization I've come to slowly, but the fact that I'll need a new planner makes me just a little excited. Yes, I'm geeky that way.

I haven't made any big decisions planner-wise, but with 2009 calendars popping up left and right, I could ignore these cuties:

They're plantable eco-calendars by Botanical Paperworks, and the idea is that each month is printed on a page of seed paper that can later be planted to "leave nothing behind but flowers." Sweet thought, huh?

The little thing rings in at $24.50, just under the Budget Finds budget. Even still, it's a whole year of fun!

....sigh. I know you're rolling your eyes at me now.

Simple Homemade Gifts: Gourmet's Finest

This month, Gourmet put together a collection of their all-time favorite cookie recipes over on their website. All in all, there are 67 recipes, one for each year that the magazine has been in publication, dating back to 1941. That's a whole lot of cookie recipes to go through, so I've culled my favorites for you to choose from.

1953: Coconut Bars
1968: Chocolate Orange Florentines
1979: Linzer Bars
1987: Mocha Toffee Bars
1990: Chocolate Mocha Cookies
1994: Basler Brunsli
2002: Stained Glass Teardrops

They all look so beautiful--how can you resist? Make some for a friend, and then keep some for yourself!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kefi: An early review

Last week, famed restaurateur Donatella Arpaia (of Donatella and David Burke) and James Beard Rising Chef of the Year Michael Psilakis opened the second iteration of their UWS taverna, Kefi. What seems like years ago, I'd sent a writer to review the original space--her review was filled with raves that made me regret passing on the free meal. So when the opportunity came to try out the new spot, and in its opening week, I jumped at it.

I'll put this out there: this isn't the most positive review. So why I am bothering to make you read it? Because inevitably, you'll hear something, you'll read something, you'll see some pictures, and your curiosity will perk. So do yourself a favor and get the full disclosure.

Kefi is one of the first Modern Greek restaurants in NYC to receive the kind of praise that it did, and accordingly, Executive Chef Psilakis has garnered a bit of attention for bringing awareness to a less explored cuisine. Combined with Donatella's front-of-house and managerial experience, it's been a much-hyped recipe for success. That's why I was shocked to have to wait 15 minutes for a waiter to even say hello, much less bring me some water.

Alas, appetizers (or meze) came and went, and most of them without much to remark about. Meatballs, our neighboring diners told us, were not to be missed, but they proved uninspired, albiet with a lovely, soft texture. A warm feta cheese sounded delightful, but the quality was poor--far too salty and overwhelming for a Greek restaurant that claims such prowess. But not all of them fell flat. My dining companions raved about the octopus (which was tasty, but generally not my thing) while I found the mussels, tossed in white wine, olives, and feta, to be a refreshing variation on an otherwise standard dish (even if they were a bit small).

A middle course of sheep's milk ravioli with brown butter and sage seemed difficult to mess up, as anything with brown butter and sage is bound to be pretty delicious. As expected, they were perfectly fine, but again, nothing to write home about. They were missing POW! and KAZAAM! and all the wonderful things you're meant to find in the cuisine of a James Beard award winner.

Main courses proved to be a bit more successful. A dish of baked shrimp with orzo and feta was flavorful and came nicely presented; lamb (after being sent back for being far overcooked) came out tender and nicely seasoned. Neither was incredibly memorable, but both were good dishes especially considering the low cost--nothing on the menu is more than $16. Though I didn't taste it, my companion's chicken souvlaki seemed to be the best dish of the night, oozing with juices and topped with grilled veggies and spices. I might have to return to try it.

At one point, the service became a comical disaster. 5--no, 6!--waiters brought the wrong dishes to our tables, having goofed on table numbers and poorly communicated with the kitchen. We placed bets on how many more would make the same gaff, but then caught Donatella to give her a fair chance to make right. She did, and our hopes for Kefi's future brightened.

The folks at Kefi have a beautiful space, humbly decorated with Grecian blue window shutters and traditional blue-and-white dishes on the walls (too pretty to be thrown around and broken like in an authentic taverna). This is modern Greek, and the decor sure says it, but the food has a long way to come.

I visited Kefi on day 3 of service and fully accept that they will need time to grow into their new skin. But please, do yourselves a favor, and wait at least a few weeks before following the trend here--if I find myself in the neighborhood in a few months time, I'll definitely give it another shot in hopes of finding that the kitchen has picked up with more daring, and, dare I say it, a completely new waitstaff to boot.

photo via

Simple Homemade Gifts: Pistachio Fudge Bark

This recipe has a bit of an identity crisis. Is it fudge? It is bark? Truth be told, it's something in between, but there's something I'm damn sure of--it's tasty as hell. Today's recipe is just as easy--and just as fancy--as yesterday's, and with just the same dose healthy consciousness. This one's adapted from Ms. Nigella Lawson.

Pistachio Fudge Bark

What You'll Need:

  • 12 oz. quality chocolate (70% cacao recommended)
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk
  • unsalted pistachios (1 container or about 5 oz.)
  • 1 oz. butter
  • optional -- a sprinkling of high quality salt, such as Murray River Salt or Fleur de Sel

What to do:

Melt chocolate over a double boiler and add condensed milk and butter. Fold in pistachios and remove from heat. The mixture will be doughy rather than liquid-y.

Line a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet with wax paper (about 9x9 would be ideal, but I used 9x11 and was fine).

Transfer mixture to baking dish. Top with another layer of wax paper and roll it out to desired thickness with a rolling pin. About 1/4 inch worked really nicely for me. If you're using salt, this is the point at which you sprinkle the bark lightly with your favorite kind. My Murray River salt (very coarse and a strong sea taste) worked beautifully.

Toss it in the fridge until set, which doesn't take more than an hour or two. Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Simple Homemade Gifts: Raspberry Truffles

Last week, I promised you something special. Something in the form of baked goods and recipes and a gift guide. Well, each day this week, I'll be blogging a particular recipe that makes for a great gift--and that packages nicely, too. Many of them will even be health conscious, seeing as that my bosses highly restrict their intake of white flour, butter, or sugar (which means I had to find recipes to accommodate their uber-healthy parameters). Of those, I don't think anyone would object to Chocolate Covered Raspberry Truffles. The recipe, closely adapted from Gourmet, follows.

Chocolate Covered Raspberry Truffles

What You Need:

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (about 70% cacao is ideal)
  • 6 oz fresh raspberries (1 package, buy organic to save time washing and drying)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

What To Do:

If your raspberries aren't organic, wash them and allow them to dry completely. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Once it's there, remove it from the heat all together and add in your chocolate. The smaller the pieces, the better, because it'll melt in the residual heat. Stir until smooth.

About 6 at a time, fold in your raspberries. Be really gentle with them so that they stay whole. Use two forks to remove each raspberry from the chocolate, passing them from fork to fork to drip off the excess chocolate (this better preserves the shape of the truffle, too). Place them on a tray lined with aluminum foil, parchment paper, or wax paper, whatever is available.

After you've covered all of the raspberries (there are about 40 to a container, and there's enough chocolate for all of them), let them cool in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours. Put the cocoa powder in a plastic ziplock bag, add the berries in, and shake! Out come your truffles, perfectly dusted and almost too pretty to eat.


Pssst... For wrapping ideas, check back on Friday!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Food Porn: Peanut Butter Fudge Treats

Since this week has admittedly been a bit design-heavy, I figured I'd close out the week with a little food porn. It wasn't too difficult a decision, especially considering that a friend sent me this a few days ago:

Needless to say, I needed some excuse to share this with the world (or the little slice of it that visits me every so often). I'm not normally a big fan of peanut butter--I only eat it when it's paired with chocolate. But my, these Peanut Butter Fudge Treats fulfill my needs and then some! Dear readers, should I try this one at home, please pray for my arteries.

Thank you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Take a Bao and Ethnic Fast Food in NYC

Fast food is taking all sorts of new shapes and forms, especially after the great success that has been Chipotle. With Qdoba following short thereafter, it was evident that ethnic fast food would be a trend in the making.

Then there was New York Hot Dog and Coffee, a Korean-styled hot dog joint that opened up in the West Village to unanimously rave reviews, opening the doors to fast Asian food! And while I haven't yet mustered up the courage to try their bulgogi dog, a hot dog with traditional Korean beef as a topping, I'm really excited about the next iteration of NYC's ethnic fast food trend: Take a Bao.

Let's face it. Steamed buns (or bao) are a gift from the gods. I've written about them before, but I only ever eat them in roast pork varieties. Take a Bao will change that for me, whenever it finally makes its splash on the NYC dining scene. With fillings like pomegranate steak and spicy sesame citrus chicken, these aren't your average buns. And at $4.50 a bun, it's not terribly pricy either. At least I'll selectively ignore that Fay Da sells the best roast pork buns in the city for $0.95 a pop.

Regardless, this is one chain that I'm keeping my eye on.

Take a Bao, currently in LA at 10250 Santa Monica Blvd.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Budget Finds: The Cutest Salt and Pepper Sets Ever!

I'll be the first one to say it: I looooove Anthropologie. I love their clothing. And their home goods. And their paper goods. And their decorations. And basically everything about the place. That a store could be so perfectly perfect confuses me... but then I remember I can't usually afford anything there.

To be fair, they have great sales. Their clothing can get down to $10 for a nice top (take my word for it!) but their housewares can be even less expensive. These precious little salt and pepper shakers are both far under $10, and they'd make fabulous gifts for people that warrant just a little something. Like Phoebe says in an episode of Friends, they'll make sure that your life will always be filled with flavor!

Little owl and bird shakers, $3.95 and $7.95 at Anthropologie. For more of Anthropologie's fabulous home sale, click here!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Link of the Day/FREE finds!

I know that today isn't budget finds day, but does a free find count as a budget find, necessarily? I think this falls into its own category... and lo and behold, there's already an existing label for "free stuff" here at eatmywords!

Let's not stall any longer... apartment therapy has discovered something that none of you should miss! Unless, of course, you don't like modern interpretations of nature-y designs. I realize that may be a decently sized chunk of you (male readers, perhaps? I don't mean to constantly isolate you boys), but I'm certain that anyone looking for free gifting ideas could make use of this.

Mibo, a really cool design company that does lots of nature-inspired accessories, came out with this cool 2009 calendar--the colors are gorgeous, and it's all online and FREE. There's really no reason not to print yourself out a copy and hang it in the office, the kitchen, or above the desk.

And since all "free" things have some kind of catch, I'll let you know what this one is--all you have to do is sign up for their mailing list. For those of you who hate spam, keep in mind that spam filters are always wonderful for this sort of reason (not that I'm advocating that you exploit the nice little company that gives out free pretty calendars.)

Anyway, enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Link of the Day

I'm about to head out of the office but I just stumbled upon this awesome tidbit by Luis Luna that combines both food and decor, my two biggest loves. It reminds me a bit of a design Nathan came up with on Top Design this season, a paper plate chandelier that was too cool for words. But really, I might even like the utensils one even better! Might have to try a DIY version...

More info over here...

Monday Morning Blues, I (Don't) Like You

Wow, that was far too short a weekend! Seeing as that I have the Monday Morning schlumps, I'm really looking for something to fill me with my usual energy.

Whats that, Amy Sedaris? You say you have a book for me? And it'll solve all of my entertaining quandries and fill me with lighthearted jokes and wit? Well, at least the second part might get me out of the Monday Morning Blues.

Jokes aside (or not) I flipped through some e-pages of this book to find some amazing tips, like the steps needed to prepare for a smooth party:

• hiding all exposed cords
• hiding the blank tv
• keeping the stereo in a subtle place
• making sure the phone is on silent
• letting her bunny hop around

So should you be looking for the perfect gift for that special someone, this could be it! And if not, just wait until next week--I'll be devoting the whole week to DIY baked goods and packaging ideas for budget-friendly, kitchen-approved gifting.

Happy Monday!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Design Porn

As if yesterday's H&M madness weren't enough, here's a little more design porn to round out the week. This isn't quite so budget friendly, but oh! the novelty! The asian-meets-modern-meets-ultra-chic of it! And I can't help thinking it looks like a chihuahua. Even still, I may be in love.

Plus, I've always wanted a nice glass teapot to show off my gorgeous tea flowers...

But perhaps $250 is a bit much to spend on a teapot, no? Alas, it goes in the dream pile.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Link of the Day

This site may not be in a language I speak, but the message is quite clear: H&M is scheduled to introduce a line of home goods early 2009! It looks like there will be four separate design themes in the collection, and some who have been able to translate the site claim that H&M home will hit e-stores this February! Hard to believe that February 2009 is only two months away...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Budget Finds: From the Kitchen Of...

Now that Thanksgiving has officially come and gone, it's impossible to avoid thinking about the holidays that are fast approaching. Budget Finds has always been about ways to make your life more economically sound (without compromising your chic sensibility, of course), and holiday gifts will be no exception! With an $15 investment in this little guy, you can turn home baked goods into something really special. The wonderful folks at sweetpaperie's etsy shop will customize each wooden stamp with your name and choice of icon, be it a whisk (my favorite), utensil set, pear, or holiday greeting. The potential for creative giftwrapping is endless--and with such a cute tool to last through many holiday seasons to come, I'm sure the $15 will quickly pay for themselves. And if you don't bake, imagine how cute it would be to stamp some round stickers to label jars of homemade jam or confiture...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Totally Chic or Totally Geek?

In this installment of Totally Chic of Totally Geek, we analyze the relative coolness of the latest geektastic gadget--a lemon-powered clock!

I'm loving the design on Anna Gram's citric timepiece, but the very practicality of it raises a bit of a question mark for me. And how long does a lemon battery last, anyway? Does it make the house smell at all? How well can you see the time from necessary perspectives? Sigh, if only I could let the thing just be pretty.

What do you think?

Free Food Alert! And Chipotle, Too!

I had a different post planned for this morning, but the budget-consciousness in me had to intervene! You see, a last minute deal came up--something you need to read about, especially if you (like me) happen to work in Midtown Manhattan.

But what could be more important than the post you were so eager to share, Red?

Ahhh, good question. Rarely does Red think about dinner before noon, but today is a special day. Chipotle, everyone's favorite fast-food indulgence, will be giving away burritos from 5-7 at their new location on west 45th between 5th and 6th!

And the best part? It's happening for three weeks! On Tuesdays only, of course, but still!

Happy Burrito!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Good Enough to Eat... Again! -- Thai Chicken Dumplings

It's always at this time of year that I begin craving foods that need to be blown on a whole lot before they're edible. I'm talking about temperature--when it's freezing outside I love the sensation of seeing steam burst out of what I'm about to eat, ensuring that my belly will become warm and happy within moments. And the smells emerging along with the steam... it's pure comfort. That's why on my last trip to Boston, I was insistent that TWB and I make these wonderful Thai Chicken Dumplings. The flavor comes largely from the red curry, but it's far sweeter and milder, with the tang of plum sauce giving it a complexity that's nothing if not addicting. It was only as we were making them that I realized how perfect they are for Good Enough to Eat... Again! Instead of tossing your leftovers in the fridge, simply freeze what you don't think you'll eat at they'll hold until the next blistery cold night you're craving them.

Thai Chicken Dumplings
makes at least 4 servings

What You Need:

1 lb. ground chicken.................................................. $ 4.00
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro....................... $ 0.50
2-3 tbsp chopped scallions (optional)....................... $ 0.50
1-2 tbsp honey............................................................ $ 3.00 (for a jar)
2 heaping tbsp. red curry paste................................. $ 2.50
1 package of wonton wrappers
(available at any asian market)................................ $ 1.50
plum sauce (for dipping)........................................... $ 2.50
oil for frying................................................................ $ 4.00

Total Cost.................................................... $ 18.50
Total Cost Per Serving................................. $ 4.62

(keep in mind many ingredients are priced by the whole jar and there will be leftovers!)

What You Do:

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine chicken, cilantro, scallions, honey, and red curry paste.

2. Wrap dumplings into the wonton wrappers by putting about 1 tbsp. of the mixture into each skin, moistening the edges with a bit of water, and sealing them shut in any shape or form you find attractive! Make sure they're well sealed so that they don't explode while frying.

3. Heat oil in a large saucepan and fry dumplings in batches, until puffy and golden, setting aside the finished ones to strain.

4. Serve with plum sauce and enjoy!