Gadgets galore

Every year for Christmas, one side of Grant’s family tends to shower me with culinary-related gizmos and gadgets. (His other side showers me with beauty gifts! All in all, I’m a lucky girl.) This year’s haul included a few notably different items, so it seemed an injustice to fail to mention them here.

The most bizarre-looking treat was the fusionbrands iceorb, a vertical ice cube tray/chiller/ice bucket all in one. The thing, as you can see, looks a bit like an alien space ship. Looking forward to testing it out, though — and it seems like these cubes would be released from the silicone a bit easier than more detailed silicone ice molds, which I always find trying.

And my very favorite kitchen item, pictured below, was a stack of personalized baked goody bags. Kind of an awesome way to (sorta) subtly get credit where it’s due, like when I bring cookies or muffins in to the office, heh heh. RECOGNIZE MY BAKING PROWESS! (And give me a raise!)

The rest of the haul included a cookie dough dropper, a champagne cork puller-outer, a powdered sugar sifter for decorating, a few soda can savers with little plastic caps to contain the carbonation, a jar of Penzey natural wasabi, a test-tube-encased vanilla bean, a set of holiday-themed molded sugar frosting toppers, a big snowflake cookie cutter, two strawberry-shaped Jell-O molds, a special little wooden tool to open our awkward oven door, a set of recipe cards, a Colts insulated cup (OK, that’s really Grant‘s, as are the soda things), and various themed wine stoppers and openers (namely, Christmas and LOVE with mega heart action).

Whole Foods hypocrisy

Whole Foods officially discontinued their awesomely durable, heavy-duty plastic bags as of Earth Day this year.

So what are they offering instead? Paper. Yep, tree-harvested, not-so-sustainable paper. Sure, I know paper bags biodegrade, but they also disintegrate in the rain and require us to chop down and process trees.*

I kept hoping they’d replace their plastic bags with alternatives like bamboo or corn, which are sustainable and biodegradable, but feel like plastic. These bags are also super-durable and don’t fall apart when wet — a major concern of mine here in Seattle, since I sometimes try to walk to the grocery store instead of driving, and I can’t always plan ahead in order to carry my canvas bags.

But the word from Whole Foods is that those alternatives are too high of a price point for Whole Foods. I could understand this in theory for a smaller organization, but Whole Foods has plenty of money with which to be more responsible. They should a) suck it up and do it anyway, since it’s not like they’re losing money in their business; and/or b) start charging customers for the bags. So friggin’ simple.

And the real kicker? The Whole Foods delis switched from paper containers to plastic shortly after the bag changeover. Yeah, take a minute to let that sink in. Now I not only can’t walk home in the rain with my groceries, but I also can’t microwave my deli dinner in its container. How’s that for green logic?

Continue reading “Whole Foods hypocrisy”

New uses for old cognac bottles

Another good DIY trick! I sometimes use Courvoisier to spike sangria, mulled wine and whipping cream, and I almost always buy the mini-bottles since they’re so cheap and I don’t use much. These are one of the few mini-bottled alcohols that still come in glass instead of cheap crappy plastic, and I’ve been compulsively hanging onto my empties for a few months without really knowing why.

Courvoisier minis -- about $6 USDBut I got a great idea — they’re perfect for small batches of fresh salad dressing. (I love making my own dressing at home, but it doesn’t have much of a shelf life so I prefer to make tiny quantities.) I don’t love sticking it in an unslightly Tupperware, because it doesn’t pour smoothly. And I don’t like having my Pyrex measuring cups occupied by dressing, in case I need them for cooking.

VoilĂ  la solution! Mini Courvoisier bottles are tiny and pourable and cute on the table, and I get to re-use something that would otherwise be junk. And now I finally have a reason for having hoarded all the little bottles like some kind of glass-loving treasure freak.

This would be kind of a cheap post without a recipe, though, wouldn’t it? Normally I’m terrible about writing such things down, and this is no exception, so all quantities are completely and totally invented on the spot, but I’m pretty sure they’re not far off. Enjoy!

Honey Mustard Dressing

1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp dry white wine
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp milk, kefir or yogurt (depending on how thick you want your dressing to be)
2 tsp honey
splash soy sauce — about 1/2 tsp — optional
1 tsp nutritional/brewer’s yeast — optional
salt, pepper and garlic to taste — optional

Combine, shake vigorously, and enjoy!