I had a kind of stressful day, so I came home and made a pot of my favorite white bean soup and some pasta with vodka cream sauce. Not only are those two heart-warming dishes, but cooking up a storm sometimes helps me unwind. (It was either that or the gym tonight, which also fills the bill.) I think I’ve got some bad blog karma. I did mention that I ate the whole piece of cake at Milk Bar, right? And that pizza made with the dough from Trader Joe’s turned out great! (I’m still on the fence about the Porchetta sandwiches, but you can’t win ’em all.) Cooking those dishes reminded me of something, as the holidays near and everybody is in a panic about gift-giving because the economy looks so bleak. Sure, I’d love some shiny, new kitchen toys just like the next foodie, but when it comes down to it, I always turn to my old favorites. I’ve been raving about stick blenders (aka immersion blenders) for years. My Braun model is built so well, I can’t imagine ever having to buy a new one. My Microplane zesters will probably last a lifetime. And then there is my Peugeot pepper grinder. My first boss gave me that thing so long ago, I can barely recall when. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s about 17 years old. Now that’s a reliable piece of kitchen equipment. Add to that my trusty Williams-Sonoma steamer/stockpot and Le Creuset French oven, and my kitchen motto is quality over quantity.