Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saving money and eating in

Two Christmases ago, Bobby and I received a financial advice book from my Dad. The book helped spark our interest (or obsession?) in saving money through budgeting and planning. Our strategy helped us save enough money for the down payment of our apartment, payoff our credit card, and payoff all of our student loan-related bank debts. We are so enthusiastic about saving money that last week, after noticing that the oven we purchased was now on sale, we went back to the store and we able to get the difference back in cash! One of the biggest ways Bobby and I save money is by eating almost every meal in. We always bring our lunches to work and only eat out one once or twice a month (and that is usually a cheap dinner of Turkish shawarma or Chinese food).

Not eating out can be difficult, though. Bobby and I love food the way most people love their children. And we are especially fond of ethnic food. My father has asked us on a number of occasions "Don't you ever eat American food?". In order to help us keep to our strict budget without depriving ourselves of our beloved foods, I have tried to bring some of our favorite ethnic dishes into the kitchen. Mexican food is the most common international addition to our diet (I know, Mexican is hardly 'international' to most Southern Californians, but when living in Europe, it's almost as foreign as free re-fills on soda), followed by French, Indian, Thai, and Chinese. I've also tried making Ethiopian (it didn't go so well: the injera bread is ridiculously difficult to perfect, and many of the spices needed weren't available in Copenhagen) and Lebanese (the deconstructed lamb ravioli was good, but we've had better eating out). This weekend started out with some Japanese soba noodles.

What we really, really miss from our days eating out in Los Angeles, however, is Korean food. A few weeks ago, I made bo ssam, a type of Korean pork roast. It was easy and delicious (and the 2 kilo/4.5 pound roast kept us fed for 6 days), and it gave me the courage to try something a bit more difficult: soondobu jjigae (tofu soup). I first started with the stock: onion, garlic, seaweed (I couldn't find kelp), dried anchovies, shiitake mushrooms, and chili flakes. Aren't those little anchovy heads cute?

To the stock I added some seafood (shrimp, octopus, squid, and mussels) and tofu.

The final product, which is served with a raw egg (which becomes poached in the hot soup) and a side of rice, was quite good.

We also had some Kalbi-style steak, which Bobby grilled on our cast-iron grill pan (isn't that a beautiful pan?). The meat was delicious! The soup wasn't as good as the soondobu we get at the BCD Tofu House in LA's Korea Town, but it will help satiate our craving until we go back to LA.

And what meal is complete without some dessert? These cardamom and ginger shorties have a ridiculous amount of butter, but we are going to starting biking again this week (now that the weather is above freezing), so we tell ourselves it's all ok!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Snow and cold-weather biking

Unlike the last two winters we've experienced in Denmark (which have been two of the coldest, snowiest winters on record), this has been a fairly mild winter. It's only snowed a few times this season, and only the first January snow stuck. However, we woke up this morning to this beautiful sight! You may of heard about the cold snap that has hit most of Europe: over 180 people have died from the cold, and places as far south as Barcelona have had snow this past week! Here in Denmark, the temperatures have been pretty cool, between -5 to -7 Celsius (the high teens to mid-20s in Fahrenheit), but the sun has been out and it hadn't snowed until this morning.

The bright sunlight allowed me to get a slightly better picture of our paint color in the readying/music room. Here in the nook, you can see the light blue color. Unfortunately, we won't be actually using this room until the spring. This room is extremely cold, even though all of the windows are double-paned. In fact, the room is so cold that there was ice on the inside of the windows the day I took this photo! There are two heaters in the room, but it's pretty expensive to run the heat in so many rooms.

The cold weather has also affected our biking. We do not yet have a key to the basement bike room, so our bikes has to stay outside. Last Monday, when the weather was about -7 Celsius/-20 Fahrenheit, we suited up in the morning make our regular 7 mile ride to work (suiting up means thick socks, heavy-duty long johns, a sweater, high quality water- and wind-proof jackets and pants, scarfs, thick hats, and thick mittens... it's a bit bulky). We tried to turn the lights on on the bike, but the cold had killed them, or at least prevented them from turning on. We then mounted the bike, only to realize that the seats, which has sat outside soaking the most recent snow, were literally frozen solid. We then noticed that our gears were frozen and we were stuck in just one very low gear! We somehow managed to make the ride (our gears started working after mile 3), but between the gears and frozen seats, it was a painful and extremely cold ride. Needless to say, we've been taking the bus ever since!

On a last note, Bobby discovered a large scratch in the lining of our new oven! We took this photo to the store, and they agreed to replace it. So we now have yet another new oven! It is the same model as the the original one we purchased.