Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Winter Coat Anxiety

Almost everyone I know, by which I mean three of my close friends, are suffering from coat anxiety. One ordered two coats online to her parents' house where her mom vetoed one of them for its close resemblance to a black bathrobe. I'm pretty sure another friend has a selfie reserve on her phone of her wearing coats in dressing rooms around the city, while the third had taken to asking strangers on the street where their coats were from before she evidently fell in love with a Burberry quilted number at Bloomingdales and started raising money from family and friends to fund it. I'm no stranger to coat anxiety either -- I'm this close to buying a fourth parka, this time from the J.Crew men's section.

It's like that study with jams. When faced with too many options, people end up not choosing anything. There are too many coats to choose from -- wool, quilted, waxed, fur, plaid, oversize, duffel, snorkel, do I need to continue? Also, prices run DEEP. In an ideal world, I would have an Isabel Marant parka, a Vince blanket coat, and a fuzzy Sandro pea coat, but I don't have the funds nor are there enough days in the winter to truly wear and love each one. I did buy this coat from the Gap last month and a lady, who I presume was suffering from bouts of coat anxiety herself, stopped me on the street to ask where I got it.

What's a gal to do? I haven't really solved my coat anxiety at all, I go each day thinking about a new winter coat I want, and when I do go to Bloomingdales in search of one, I feel simultaneously overwhelmed and discouraged and end up smelling perfumes and trying on sunglasses instead.

Below, some images to fuel your coat anxiety. All images via Pinterest.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Stovetop Cooking Challenge: Soup Edition

I haven't hit my stovetop as hard over the past couple of weeks as I did when I first moved into my oven-less apartment because of my economical culinary discovery in...(ince ince ince)...SOUP!

Furealz, soup is the bee's knees. I like soup for the same reason I like cereal, salad and frozen yogurt: a serving of each takes a long time to finish and there's variety in each bite. Will I get a noodle in this spoonful or just a piece of celery? (Poll: does celery contribute anything to soup?)

I've been trying to make a different soup every two weeks. They've gotten progressively better since the first episode because I cheated and started doing my cooking in my parents' kitchen. I haven't touched their oven though so the principle of the stovetop cooking challenge remains intact.

Here's what I've been cooking up:

Week 1 - way back in September (time flies when you're single and making soup in your spare time)

Still an amateur in the post-work grocery scene below 14th Street, I head to the Union Square Trader Joe's to buy soup makings: chicken broth, carrots, celery, and chickpeas. I could've easily found such basics at Key Food but I'm hungry for a free sample and Chelsea Market wasn't handing out the ravioli I usually stop for after work. I enter TJ's and do an initial scout for cute boys but there are none so I put my bitchy resting face on and nudge my way through the crowd. After I down a pumpkin-themed free sample, I get my veggies and scan the soup aisle for chicken stock. They're all out of chicken stock and I almost cry because I'm hangry. I settle on vegetable broth and get in line.

Two hours later, my soup looks pretty unappetizing. It lacks the jaundice of chicken stock and instead has a murkiness that can only be attributed to ... I don't even know what. It's exactly the type of soup I imagine to have been served at Soviet prisoner camps. In a Slavic spirit, I toast a slice of rye bread and use it to soak up my soup.

I add some steamed spinach the next night to give it some flavor, if not a bit of color. It resembles a bowel movement even more so than it did before.

Week 2 - October (time still flies when you're still single and making soup at night)

I've found the most cost-effective and time-saving place to grocery shop: my parents' kitchen. It even has a personal shopper service that lets you put in a request for say, almond butter a few days ahead of time, and it'll be waiting for you on the counter upon arrival. Huzzah.

I do what I always do right when I walk into my parents' apartment, which is scan the contents of the refrigerator. This time I have a mission other than snacking: to find soup ingredients. My mom has an offensive amount of kale taking over the vegetable drawer that's on the verge of going bad, so I resolve to use it in my recipe. She has more chicken stock in her pantry than Trader Joe's did (one carton), as well as cans of cannellini beans and crushed tomatoes. I combine it all with the vegetable equivalent of basic bitches, carrots and celery, in a pot and let it simmer. This soup tastes absolutely delicious compared to the first one, probably because I used a Whole Foods recipe and not one of my own imagination.

Next soups on the stovetop include curried lentil, chicken noodle, and butternut squash because who doesn't love to eat seasonal?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Opportunity Cost: Workout Clothes and Street Clothes

Image via Pinterest
I didn't come away from the three economics courses I took in college with anything except an embarrassing memory of the time Edith Piaf started playing from my phone at an ear-piercing volume during a lecture on command economies. I was really terrible at manipulating supply and demand graphs, and I once tried to dilute the economic content of a presentation with pictures of Steve Jobs and dizzying PowerPoint graphics. I did, however, grasp the notion of opportunity cost, a concept that can be applied to basically every decision you make. For instance, I gave up watching an episode of Mind of a Chef to write this blog post. And for the purpose of where this post is headed: I give up buying nice workout clothes for actual street clothes.

I never really took notice of how shitty my workout clothes were until I ran a half-marathon this weekend alongside Christy Turlington. Totally not kidding you guys. I ran the Hamptons Half-Marathon and maintained a two-stride distance from Mrs. Ed Burns for a solid two miles. While I look like Albert Einstein dying a thousand sweaty deaths when I workout, Christy Turlington looks...really pretty. Even supermodels sweat, but man, do they do it gracefully and in breathable fabric. While the rate at which my forehead shines isn't something I can change, I can buy nicer running clothes. I'm still operating in Nike shorts from 2001 and a J.Crew shirt of my mom's that she definitely had to order over the phone. It wasn't only Christy, but everyone else at the race, who was outfitted in elevated sportswear. I joked to my sister while waiting for the portapotties that given the state of my running apparel, no one would guess that I spend 95% of my disposable income on clothes.

I usually balk at the price of workout clothes, but if I'm going to run daily, I might as well do so in shirts not stained in toothpaste. Fully committed to the high ponytail-cool running girl cause, I went to the Nike store after work today. I was planning to buy these shorts and this sweatshirt but as I contemplated the total cost, visions of non-running outfits floated through my brain. I want a new striped shirt. And I still haven't given up my search for mom jeans. And what about new shoes?! Just when I think I'm satisfied with one pair of booties, another one walks through the door.

So I left Nike empty-handed. I can't. It's against my nature to spend money on workout clothes when I can just get them for free from my mom's dresser. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Style Icon: Elina Halimi

If my overconsumption of street style pictures over the last month has given me one thing, it's a new style icon: Elina Halimi, art director of the Parisian concept store Kabuki. Things she does well: curly hair, statement coats, long skirts, baggy pants, menswear, fur, chapeaux (visors included).

Images via: The CutLucky, Athens StreetstyleRefinery29Madame FigaroSophie Mhabille

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Stovetop Cooking Challenge, Week 2

Life called and since a woman's place isn't in the kitchen, I took a week-long hiatus from the stovetop cooking challenge. Not that the inner details of my life are the stuff that reality shows are made of, but I will share that I was supposed to go to a CHER concert on Friday that got rescheduled to December because the diva is ill. My concert partner, a 56 year old woman with salt and pepper hair who also happens to have birthed me, tried to get me to go deep into Queens instead to see Jason Mraz but I kindly declined and went for the second option: the senior citizen showing of the (appropriately titled) movie My Old Lady. Really living, you guys.

Tuesday September 23

Back to the stovetop because Tuesday's status as the most mediocre day of the week calls for a mediocre meal. I have a jar of curry sauce from Trader Joe's that should be used but curry sauce usually requires the chopping up and sautéing of onions and I'm weary of making my home one that incessantly smells like allium (i.e., the one I grew up in). I think I'll do something with tomatoes even though I feel as though I've ingested too much lycopene lately.

I decide to use my new julienne vegetable peeler and make zucchini noodles because I've been dying to know if noodles made of vegetables are as satisfying as those made of wheat, and of course, if they can even be called noodles. (Topic of discussion: what makes a noodle a noodle?)

It takes me a long time to figure out the right, non self-afflicting way to julienne the zucchini. Every time the peeler hits the vegetable, I wonder if this will be the time that I julienne my finger. After a few close calls, I emerge from the prep period with only a slight cut in my finger but luckily I'm cooking for one so it doesn't matter if my blood gets mixed in with the ingredients.

I heat up two pans: one for the zucchini and one for the sauce into which I throw a chopped tomato, garlic, and half a jar of Trader Giotto's marinara sauce. I also add a few frozen shrimp that thaw at lightening speed. There's a serious shindig happening on my stovetop, so much so that I remove the tea kettle from the backburner because if three burners aren't a crowd, they're definitely a fire hazard.

The finished product turns out to be ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. It's like squid ink spaghetti with shrimp minus the squid ink spaghetti plus noodles made of summer squash.

Wednesday September 24

What to make, what to do. The curry sauce has been calling my name since I mistakingly took it for peanut butter this morning. As much as I like chicken curry, I'm inspired by both a sign I saw at the People's Climate March proclaiming "What can you do? Be vegan." and the general lack of poultry in my refrigerator so I sauté an eggplant (ugh and an onion) instead. I pour the jar of curry sauce into the pan and let it simmer with the vegetables until I decide that a taste of my half-assed baingan bharta will transport me to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It actually kind of does. Not too many lessons learned from tonight's dinner except that pre-made sauces from Trader Joe's can make you feel like a boss in the kitchen. I'm a regular Anthony Bourdain, minus the heroin-ridden past.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Few Midday Thoughts

Some things that have come to my mind while trolling the internet for both work and pleasure today:

1. Coach has come a long way from the wristlets we all wore (and presently deny to have loved) in 2005. I want one of these cross body bags (in blue, please) to escort me into fall.

2. Is this Altuzarra coat high fashun Patagucci or WHAT? I wore its Patagonia twin to my MWF math classes sophomore year of college, and I had a crush on every outdoors club guy that did too.

Image via Style.com
3. Emmanuelle Alt is hitting up fashion week accompanied by a new gang of pant-and-stiletto wearing Voguettes. They're blonder than the previous generation but still vaguely adhere to the rules of monochromatic dressing.

That was then...
...This is now (Image via The Cut)
4. On a pop culture note, I have a new favorite celebrity tween couple, which appears to be in the midst of being confirmed by publicists: Chloe Grace Moretz and Brooklyn Beckham. I suspected this since I first saw pics of them skateboarding in Venice a couple of months ago. Going to get a life now, bye.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Stovetop Cooking Challenge, Week 1

I moved into a new apartment a couple of weeks ago. It's all the rage because I really am just a born-and-bred suburban white girl who carries a Vera Bradley duffel bag on weekend trips, so the fact that one of my new neighbors played a leading character on The OC and I can practically see Mimi Marquez (clad only bubble wrap) singing on my fire escape gets me out of bed every morning. My new living situation is mostly fun and games once you walk up the five flights of stairs and into the shabby chic rooms held up by questionably crumbling walls.

Except for one thing: I don't have an oven. I knew this when I signed the lease and didn't think it would be too much of a hindrance until the whole absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder schtick hit me and I realized that oven-baked chicken pot pie is my favorite meal. And since my funds are generally limited and I'd much rather spend my money on bomb diggity new shoes (clogs = on my feet = right now) than "outside food" (to quote my mom), I'm committed to the cause in the kitchen.

I like the thrill of a hot skillet and the sound of sizzling water, but man, do you have to get creative when it comes to a stovetop-only kitchen. So, enter The Channeling Board's new angle: cooking. It's kind of like Julie and Julia but not at all, so join me as I document my self-imposed challenge to cook dinner every night without an oven.

Starting yesterday, Tuesday September 16:

I've been intrigued by caramelized onions since 6th grade, when my French teacher presented our class with an extra credit opportunity to make French onion soup. It seemed too complicated at the time and I preferred bookish projects because one of my life mottos until I was forcibly kicked out of academia by way of college graduation had always been #MoreHomework. Anyway, what better time to caramelize onions than when making dinner in a kitchen sans oven? I envision sitting down to an Instagram-filtered plate of browned onions with sauteed spinach and mushrooms and a side of lentils. In my mind it looks great.

I buy an onion the size of an American Girl doll head and start cooking it the minute I get home at 7:30. I skimmed through a recipe earlier in the day and thought it would only take 10 minutes to make but reading comprehension has never been my strong suit--as the College Board can attest to-- and it turns out that it takes an hour to caramelize an onion. It's acceptable to let a grumbling stomach wait an hour for a steak, but for a root vegetable? No. My roommate has already eaten her fried egg sandwich and moved on to her chocolate-yogurt-honey course by the time the natural sugars seep out of my onion. At 8:37, I make an executive decision to eat the onions as they are, which is like, 89% caramelized. Not great you guys, not great. The spinach and lentils never made it into the pan, but the mushrooms did and I totally crowded them despite Julia Child's warning not to but it doesn't matter because mushrooms don't contribute a lot of flavor to anything either way.

I eat an exotic pear that I bought because it was big and wrapped in that cute lil' fruit netting thing but quantity does not equal quality and the pear tastes like shit. I eat it anyway because I'm ten times happier when I'm chewing than not at all.

Wednesday September 17

Inspired by my French host mom's Sunday night dinners and the omelette scene in The Hundred Foot Journey, I decide to make an omelette for dinner. I like the thrill of a bargain when it comes to shopping and that includes groceries, so I go to the Manhattan Fruit Exchange inside Chelsea Market and buy a massive amount of spinach for a dollar. My omelette is pretty boring: it's just spinach and eggs. The excitement is more in the cooking technique (ie. how the eff do I flip this thing?) than in the variety of ingredients. Between you, me, the skillet, and my roommate realizing that eggs over easy aren't so easy next to me, it wasn't a simple task getting so-called omelette from the pan to my plate.

I can't help but think that the ingredients would be better baked into a quiche but that requires an oven so I'm stuck with my mediocre meal.

I eat a Bartlett pear (my favorite type of pear) but I mistakingly stored it in the recently-discovered Arctic corner of the refrigerator so it's frozen. It's gross but I eat it anyway because the only thing worse than a frozen pear is a frozen plum which I had last week and I never want to experience that again.

Lesson learned: the omelette would've been more satisfying had it spent some time in 350 degree oven heat. We all want what we can't have and I want a frittata.