Archive for March, 2011

Stuff I Like (March 2011)

Ah, stuff. I like some stuff. Other stuff, not so much. Here are a few things I’m especially into right now:

1. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap in Rose

I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap for about 10 years. I love it! It’s all-natural, makes a super-rich lather with a tiny amount, and it seems to last forever. It’s also Fair Trade Certified, which is cool. The rose scent is by far my favorite, although I also like the almond. I always take a small bottle of Dr. Bronner’s with me when I travel, because it works great for washing my face and body, shaving, and doing laundry in the sink. Because it’s all-natural and biodegradable, I also use Dr. Bronner’s to wash up when I’m camping (although I still wash dishes with Campsuds, just out of habit).

2. Chai Tea

I am really into Chai at the moment, and Good Earth Organic Seven Spice is my favorite. It’s nice and spicy, without any weird artificial ingredients or vanilla flavor. I brew it up with half water and half almond milk, and let it steep a good long while. I have to admit that my all-time favorite Chai is from a recipe in Cooking With the Dead: Recipes and Stories from Fans on the Road (yes, seriously). I had this book in college but foolishly gave away. I just reordered it!

3. Indian Food

This is kind of a corollary to the Chai thing, but I’m super into Indian food at the moment, too! Especially aloo gobi (my all-time fave), saag, and (of course) naan.

4. Stadium Arcadium

I’ve liked the Red Hot Chili Peppers since the mid-’90s, and I really appreciate the way their sound has mellowed and matured over time. Although “I Could Have Lied,” from Blood Sugar Sex Magik is still probably my favorite RHCP song, Stadium Arcadium has been getting a lot of play lately. My current favorite songs on the album are “She Looks to Me” and “Make You Feel Better.” (I’m also a big Rick Rubin fan.)

Overstock.com Rug Fail

Well, I was brimming over with optimism about my kitchen rug order from Overstock.com. In hindsight, it was doomed to failure. I have difficulty making aesthetically or tactilely-important purchases without seeing/touching them first. Things like books, electronics, and music I have no problem with. But the rugs were a bit of a stretch. Nevertheless, I was excited. The rugs shipped promptly and arrived undamaged. I opened the Heritage Bakhtiari rug first because, I’ll admit, it was already my favorite. I unrolled it onto its spot on the kitchen floor and stepped back to give it an admiring look. It looked good. But wait. There was a spot of…something….

Dude! There were totally obvious manufacturing defects! It was missing pile in several spots like the one above! I couldn’t believe it! I was truly astonished at the apparent total lack of quality control by the rug manufacturer and/or Overstock. When I took a closer look I noticed that, aside from the damage, the rug colors were really uneven and the fibers were coarse and fraying. You can sort of see what I mean in the photo above – look at the blue color and you can see white-ish patches in it. The rug that will not be named was undamaged – but similarly poor quality – and just didn’t look right in the kitchen.

Anyway, through my profanity-laced rant tears of disappointment, I managed to undertake the very easy return process. I got a full refund, including shipping (allegedly – it hasn’t posted to my account yet). Packaging the rugs back up was the biggest hassle, and John was nice enough to do that. I was disappointed in the whole experience. My naive optimism was crushed. There are only a few things that can cheer me up under these circumstances. Watching/listening to Mark Knopfler is one. Check out around 4:38, and keep in mind that he doesn’t use a pick.

Seriously, our stupid Comcast Crapfinity internet went out multiple times when I was writing this post, so naturally I was trying to watch this video, which kept stopping and reloading. I’m seriously going to change cable internet providers. Oh, wait…I don’t have any other cable internet providers to choose from. Thanks, deregulation.

Chicken Math – How Much Meat is in a Whole Chicken?

In my turkey math post, I found that 60% of a whole turkey is meat parts. Naturally, I had to know if a chicken had the same composition.

I bought a 4.2-pound chicken for $0.76 per pound on sale, at a total cost of $3.20. Chicken thighs and legs usually cost about $1.30 per pound in my local stores. The price for boneless/skinless chicken breasts ranges widely, but I think I pay an average of about $4.00 per pound. Anyway, when I cut up the chicken, here’s what I got:

24%: 1.0 pounds of leg and thigh (skin on/bone in)
07%: 0.3 pounds of wings (skin on/bone in)
31%: 1.3 pounds of breast (skinless/boneless)
24%: 1.0 pounds of useful carcass (all skin and excess fat removed)
14%: 0.6 pounds of skin and waste

So, 62% of the chicken was meat parts. Considering measurement error, whole chickens and whole turkeys have about the same proportion of meat to waste. I’m kind of surprised. I thought the turkey would have proportionately more meat, since the turkey’s breasts and thighs seem relatively bigger than the chicken’s. As with the turkey, I actually use the carcass for stock, so it doesn’t go to waste.

Let’s evaluate the cost. Since I don’t ever buy chicken wings, I’m going to ignore them. So, I paid $3.20 for 1.0 pounds of leg/thigh and 1.3 pounds of breast meat. If I had bought that meat as parts at the local prices I mentioned above, I would have paid $1.30 for the legs and thighs, and $5.20 for the breasts, for a total of $6.50. Cutting up the chicken myself saved me $3.30. But, I wouldn’t have saved any money if the whole chicken had been priced at $1.55 per pound.

Conclusions:
1. It’s not worth it to me to cut up a chicken for parts. I’ll try to stock up on whole chickens when they’re less than $1 per pound, but I’ll probably just cook the chickens whole (either in broth or by roasting).
3. I’m not going to worry so much about buying chicken legs and thighs when they’re on sale. They’re still a pretty good deal at $1.30 per pound.
4. I’m going to be extra diligent about buying chicken breasts when they’re on sale, since they’re relatively expensive. If I can’t get them on sale, I’ll just cook a whole chicken.
5. It’s worth it to me to cut up a turkey for parts. Although it’s a bigger project to cut up a turkey than a chicken, it doesn’t take that much longer, and I get 3.5 times more meat from a turkey than from a chicken.
6. I have an odd desire to quantitatively analyze poultry economics, but I think it might now be exhausted. 🙂

Kitchen Rug Search

I’ve been trying to find a replacement for our kitchen rug for a while now. We need a rug to protect our wood floors around the sink and stove, but because it’s a high-mess area, any rug has to be pretty food-spill-friendly. The current rug is a yard sale find that my Mom gave me, and although it’s served us very well for the last five years, it’s just stained and nasty. The formerly-white fringe has been especially hard-hit.

One of the challenges is that we have a pretty bold rug under our dining table, which is also in the kitchen. I actually like the fringe on this one! The new rug has to look good next to this one without being “matchy”.

The first option we considered for a new kitchen rug is the 100% polyester Room Essentials Circle Rug from Target.

There were a couple of problems with the Target rug. First, like other reviewers noted, the thing is super cheap-looking (and feeling). It was on clearance at our local store for $40, marked down from the current web price of $69.99. I would NEVER have paid that much for this rug. But, I like the design and I would have been willing to deal with the poor quality. Unfortunately, John and I agreed that this rug was too light to deal with our spills and would soon be destroyed by our messy ways. I also felt that it was a little too graphic and didn’t provide enough aesthetic contrast with the dining-table rug. I like the colors, though. By the way, I swear that I recently saw a high-end rug that directly “inspired” this design (naturally, I can’t find it anywhere)!

After doing nothing for a few weeks, I was finally motivated to skulk around on Overstock the other day and found a couple of likely candidates. I was hemming and hawing over which one would be best when John said, “why don’t we just order both?” Words of wisdom. So, I ordered the lovely Heritage Bakhtiari Rug (4′ x 6′) . I love the traditional look of this rug, and I think the colors and pattern are subtle enough to work well with our dining-table rug.

I also ordered the ridiculously-named Handmade Rodeo Drive Deco Splash Beige Wool Rug (3’6 x 5’6). I seriously love the idea of putting a splash-print rug in an area where it will be routinely subjected to food and water splashes. I’m not sure this rug will work with the dining-table rug, though. We’ll see.

Both rugs are 100% wool, which I like because I have found that wool rugs are durable, easy to clean, and don’t hold stains too badly. We have had an old version of the Ikea Andrea Rug in yellow-green in our living room for a couple of years, and it’s been spilled on a LOT and still looks brand new.