Monthly Archives: May 2015

Got a Tiny Kitchen? Five Tips To Get The Most Out of Your Space

So here’s the thing: Bryan and I live in an L.A. apartment. It’s a small four-plex from the 1950’s, and as many apartment-dwellers know, furniture tends to get pushed too close together, styles get mismatched and my kitchen is, well… BEYOND TINY. So friends and family who read this blog and come over to our place for the first time ask me, “How in the world do you get so much done in THAT kitchen??” First of all, thanks for insulting my kitchen (I’m kidding), but second of all, I do have a few spacial secrets. I hope you find them helpful!
Here’s my kitchen. A culinary wonderland, it is not.

If I literally turn around from the photo above, I’m face-to-face with my range and refrigerator.
I guess I have a Napoleon complex when it comes to my kitchen; I try to imagine it’s one of those gigantic, state-of-the-art, kitchens with cabinets, pantries, islands and room to spare. It’s not anywhere near that, of course. In actuality, it’s about 4′ x 11′, fitting a range/oven, refrigerator, trash can, counter/sink, dishwasher and under-counter cabinets. So that basically leaves about 25 square feet of working space. Well, I thought about it and realized I’ve got five tips for working in a tiny kitchen, where barely one person fits comfortably, much less two. For those of you making the best out of a similar (read: tiny kitchen) situation, are these similar to your cooking short-cuts? I’d love to know.
TIP #1: THE TRASH BOWL
I do a TON of chopping, slicing, mincing, dicing and overall prep work for meals. It’s all done on one BOOS cutting board that basically takes up the entire top of my counter. In order to keep vegetable and fruit scraps out of the “real” food – think tops and bottoms of eggplant, garlic and onion skin, herb stems, bell pepper cores/seeds – I keep a designated “trash” bowl just to the left of my workspace. Any time I have something to discard, I just put it in my bowl. This saves me many awkward trips to the actual trash can, hands full of scraps that our little pup Charlie is just waiting for me to drop. When the bowl gets full, I dump it in the trash can and start again. It keeps me organized, makes the cutting board an “ingredients-only” space and makes throwing away all the trash at once a breeze.
My “Trash Bowl” from last night’s dinner

TIP #2: REVERSE GROCERY LIST
Everyone I know keeps a “grocery list” full of items they’re running out of that they need to replenish on their next trip to the supermarket. Well, when you’re working in a tiny kitchen with a narrow, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer that forces you to push items deep in its recesses (only to inevitably be forgotten and rot), you risk losing wonderful ingredients and a boatload of wasted money. My solution? I flipped the grocery list on its head, creating a “reverse grocery list” of items that I ALREADY HAVE but risk forgetting about. We have a magnetic chalk board on the front of our refrigerator and every time we come home from the grocery store, I write the items we’ve just bought. As we go through them, I cross them out. That way when it comes to meal time, I know what we have, what my possibilities are, and make sure nothing goes to waste.
My “Reverse Grocery” List
TIP #3: ORGANIZE “LIKE-MINDED” INGREDIENTS
I have more ingredients for more kinds of foods than I can count. Italian olive oils, truffle pastes, pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and pastas. Asian vinegars, Sriracha sauce, udon and soba noodles and sesame oils. Over 30 types of seasonings and specialty salts. Not to mention the baking ingredients and decorations…melting chocolates, sprinkles, sanding sugar, and the essentials: flour, baking powder, sugar, etc. The problem is, where the heck am I supposed to fit all this stuff? I ended up buying on-sale boxes of different sizes that fit in my tiny cabinets and on top of my refrigerator. I filled them with like-minded ingredients, so I now have Asian-, Italian-, spice- and baking-specific containers. I simply grab the box and everything I need is there. No digging around in cabinets or risking knocking over 20 jars of spices. It’s all there, in one easy grab.
My “Spice” Box

TIP #4: GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR SPACE
I have a soft spot for really cute kitchen towels. Considering I don’t have room in our apartment, much less kitchen, to buy any new equipment, I tend to buy lots of kitchen towels. Problem was, we didn’t have anywhere to put them. Several attempts to hang them over the sink were thwarted by an inevitable slip to the floor or into the sink, where they would either get dirty or drenched. Not an ideal situation when it comes to the items drying your newly-cleaned utensils, pots and pans. So Bryan had the brilliant idea to use a few (3M brand, in case you’re wondering) adhesive hooks and stick them to the tile behind our sink. He grabbed a few clothesline clips that we had lying around, hung our towels over the hooks and secured them with the clips. They look so cute and definitely add a little bit of personality to the kitchen. Not to mention, we haven’t had a towel fall in the sink or on the floor since.
Use your walls for creative organization, or in our case, kitchen towels!

TIP #5: WALL-MOUNTED MAGNETIC KNIFE RACK
This has seriously changed my life. Did you know that knife blocks are like the Titanic of bacteria vessels? Think about it; the slots never get clean, sit exposed to the kitchen elements – water, fire, dust and God knows what else – and are a breeding ground for bacteria. Everything you thought was good about a knife block, well, it isn’t. This is where a magnetic knife rack comes in. I didn’t have a lot (or any, really) of counter space to lose to a knife block, so I ordered an 18″ magnetic knife rack, used a power drill to screw it into the wall (don’t worry, it’s really secure) and added all my knives. I just turn around, grab a knife and after it’s been cleaned and dried, I stick it back on the rack. It looks pretty bad-ass and makes me feel just a tiny bit more professional in my kitchen.
My magnetic knife rack

TIP #6: HAVE AN ADORABLE PUP AS YOUR SOUS-CHEF
It’s just an added bonus. 🙂
Here’s my sous-chef, Charlie, keeping a close eye on a baking cake.

Tidewater Engine Repair: Top Parts and Mechanics

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Fourth Annual BISH BALL With All The Trimmings!

Last weekend Bryan and I hosted about 50 of our nearest and dearest at the fourth annual “BISH BALL,” a day dedicated to playing softball, tapping an Anchor Steam keg, eating bacon-wrapped hot dogs and most importantly, celebrating Bryan’s birthday. The past few years, we had hosted BISH BALL at a field of questionable safety in Hawthorne, where we had to politely ask the local homeless contingency if they would kindly relocate for about seven hours. Last year BISH BALL was on hiatus due to Bryan’s poor health. This year, however, we were back with a vengeance: a friend on the board of a little league booked a field nearly eight months in advance complete with AV booth, batting cages, bleachers, snack shack and an outdoor grill station. All that was left to do was order the Anchor Steam Liberty Ale keg (Bryan’s favorite) and hit up Costco for all the fixings. For about a week, our apartment was a party waiting to happen.
The BISH BALL Field of Play
Bryan’s parents (now known as our snack shack heroes) flew down for the occasion. His Mom set out tray after tray of nachos — made with queso dip, tostitos, salsa and jalapenos, if you’re wondering — while his Dad manned the grill to feed Bryan’s famous hamburgers and USC’s famous “ghetto dogs” to over 50 hungry athletes. Bryan made the burgers with Worcestershire, salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic and a special blend of spices. And just what is a “ghetto dog,” might you ask? It’s a specialty served by cart-vendors outside of USC football games: bacon wrapped hot dogs served in a steaming bun and covered with grilled onions, peppers and mustard. They were a hit. And for dessert — there was no traditional cake this year — I made individual cupcake burgers: cupcakes cut in half, filled with a brownie, mustard/lettuce/ketchup-colored frostings and topped with sesame seeds. Mmmm mmmm mmmm. Enough said. Although I will admit I forgot candles, so I presented Bryan with the mini cake and an iPhone birthday cake app. Hey, digital candles are better for the environment. 🙂
Bryan’s burgers and ghetto dogs

There’s forty five of these beauties. That’s right; forty five.

The ghetto dog in all its glory. (Thanks, Greg!)

Mini Cupcake “Burgers”

I think everyone had a really great day. The sun was (somewhat) shining, the dogs in attendance were barking and the babies were running the bases in between innings, proving we’re all getting a little older, a little wiser and taking the idea of “family” a little more literally. And considering everyone there is part of our “family,” it couldn’t have been a more special day. Here’s to next year!

Turning a Losing Streak Into Deliciousness

Today was USC’s homecoming football game against Stanford. Homecoming is obviously a big “RA-RA-GO-USC!” kind of day, so Bryan and I really wanted to go see a lot of our friends at his fraternity’s tailgate. It’s easier than it sounds, because Bryan and I haven’t been to a football game this season for obvious reasons…cancer recovery doesn’t exactly bode well for maneuvering through a 90,000+ person crowd. To make sure that we didn’t miss Homecoming, a few of our friends were extraordinarily helpful by giving us an on-campus parking pass as well as arranging for a golf cart to take us directly to the tailgate. Talk about first class! Nevermind that our friend driving the golf cart was drinking Wild Turkey directly out of a Snapple bottle; that’s a story for another time.

We made it safely through the tailgate and got to rally with friends for a few hours. Campus was a sea of Cardinal and Gold with such a great vibe; everyone was excited, energized and ready for a great game day. Bryan and I stayed at the tailgate until just before noon, then were shuttled back to our car to make sure we got home to see kick-off at 12:30pm.

That was about when the positivity ended. Stanford scored twice in the first quarter, leaving me with a “sinking ship” kind of feeling. While I’m a big USC football fan, Bryan is DIE HARD. So about halfway through the second quarter, I couldn’t take it anymore. While he sat and supported our team and FOX Sports’ ratings, I needed to do something else to keep me from focusing on a losing game.

So I went into the kitchen, scoured through the cabinets and decided that even if USC couldn’t win, I could salvage the day by whipping up some fun Fall-themed treats. After a survey of ingredients, I started on a batch of Pumpkin Cupcakes. But – you might be saying – didn’t I just make pumpkin cupcakes earlier this week? Yes, I sure did. And today wasn’t a time for a new recipe; it was a time for something comfortable, reliable and delicious.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t put an entirely new spin on it.

The recipe is the same as my earlier Pumpkin Cupcake recipe, but this time I decided to be much more experimental with the icing flavor and application. I followed the traditional cream cheese frosting recipe but added about two tablespoons of cinnamon and a 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. I used an electric mixer to get the icing to it’s “creamy and fluffy happy place” (or is that my happy place?) then scooped it into two piping bags with different tips (tips #22 and #31 from Surfas, I believe).

Now by no means am I a master piper. I’m barely a novice piper, if you can even call if that. My “piping” experience consists of being creative enough to scoop frosting into a Ziploc bag, cut off the corner tip and “pipe” from the bag. No professional tip, bag, nothing. It’s always come out well, but every time I start I have the fear that the result will look like a kindergarten art project. Cute, but in an “Awwww, I have to put this finger painting on my refrigerator but don’t really want to” kind of way. Luckily, it’s never gone that south.

Today’s piping experience was more difficult because I was using tools I’ve not used before. A professional piping tip, a professional piping bag, and a “attachable ring” that you can use to exchange various tips without switching to an entirely new bag. I was really excited, but the situation got messy. Really messy. Cinnamon frosting was everywhere; on my hands, the cutting board, the bowl, the bag, spoons, the counter. You name it, it was frosted. But that’s okay, because my kitchen turned into an edible Cinnamon wonderland. It’s not like gardening or painting, because you can’t exactly lick dirt or oil-based paint off of your fingers. I suppose you could, but you might have serious mental and physical problems.

After all was said and done, the piping ended up going quite well. A few cupcakes ended up as sacrificial lambs, but it didn’t matter because it gave me an excuse to eat them. You can’t have ugly cupcakes sitting around, right? Right.

You can see my piping attempts in the photos, as well as some Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies I made from the last bit of the pumpkin cupcake batter. I just threw in a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips, scooped them onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet and baked them for about 12 minutes. Since the batter had baking powder in it, the cookies turned out much fluffier than my tried and true cookies. A different, yet equally delicious result.

So while USC ended up losing miserably to Stanford, I turned lemons into lemonade. Or rather, a losing streak into deliciousness. Yum.

Sushi Eyaki

After baking (and baking…and baking some more) for most of the day today, the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner. Bryan was craving sushi so we decided to try Sushi Eyaki, a strip mall sushi joint recommended to us by good friends. These friends are self-professed sushi snobs, so they know high quality sushi when they have it. But best of all, they refuse to be held hostage to high quality sushi at an inflated price. Especially in Los Angeles, where mediocre, yet incredibly trendy and expensive sushi restaurants can be found on almost every corner.
Sushi Eyaki is in a strip mall on the Southwest corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Highland Ave. From the outside, Sushi Eyaki appears completely ordinary and easy to miss, tucked away between a dry cleaners and some other strip-mallish store. But once inside the tiny yet warm interior, you’re greeted by Eyaki’s friendly staff and can’t help but check out the sushi masterpieces on each of the restaurant’s eight small tables.
Bryan and I took seats at the sushi bar, ordering our drinks – hot green tea for me and water and a miso soup for him. Okay, miso soup isn’t exactly a drink, but considering you drink it out of the cup and he got nothing else but water, I’m considering it his “drink.” Bryan loved the miso soup, telling me over and over again how much more flavorful it was compared to other sushi restaurants.
Per usual, the sushi chefs presented us with a small plate of wasabi paste, ginger and a small mound of pickled cucumbers. The cucumbers came in handy to temper the spiciness of our rolls. We looked for our chopsticks, which as any sushi lover knows are typically presented as cardboard-meets-particle board wrapped in a recycled paper sleeve. Not at Sushi Eyaki. The chopsticks at Eyaki are made from metal and contained in a Japanese hideaway box. Pretty out of the ordinary but a really nice touch.
Once Bryan finished his soup, we ordered a half-order of yellowtail and salmon sashimi. It was fantastic. The quality of the fish was so fresh, so tender and so delicate it literally melted in your mouth. Some may disagree with me, but I love to add a tiny bit of wasabi to the fish’s surface, give it a tiny dip in soy sauce and then enjoy. Some say it takes away the pure flavor of the fish; I think it just makes it the perfect sashimi package. Personally, some salt and heat work in perfect harmony with the flavors of the fish.
Next, we ordered two rolls: the Hawaiian roll and Eyaki roll. The Hawaiian Roll is spicy tuna topped with tuna, avocado, scallions and Eyaki’s signature sauce. The Eyaki roll is a spicy tuna roll with cucumber, topped with yellowtail, ponzu sauce, masago and sliced jalapenos. We love our spicy tuna, what can we say?
The presentation of both rolls was absolutely gorgeous. It’s obvious that Eyaki’s sushi chefs take great pride in the artistry of their rolls, paying attention to the flavors, the colors and the textures of each dish. The rolls were beautiful to look at and even more delicious to eat.
HAWAIIAN ROLL

EYAKI ROLL
After our sushi order, I was really gunning for something acidic, like a piece or orange or sorbet. Our waitress showed me their sorbet menu, which included lemon, orange, mango, pineapple and mango-coconut sorbets served in actual fruit cups. We ordered the lemon sorbet to split, and the presentation was just as lovely and surprising as the sushi itself. Served in a lemon cup balanced in a martini glass rimmed with raspberry syrup, the lemon sorbet was soft, tangy and topped with a honey-tasting syrup. I’m not sure what it was, but it really nice nonetheless.
Our meal was quick, maybe 45 minutes total, but everything about it was great. The service was attentive and friendly, the food was beautiful on the inside and the outside, and the ambiance was warm and seemingly “in the know.” Because once you’ve experienced Sushi Eyaki, this tiny, strip mall sushi powerhouse, you’re in the club. And you almost don’t want to tell anyone about it, lest you not get a table next time you go. But in order to share it with you, I’ll take my chances. 🙂