Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Purple Pear Tote (reversible)

Totes. Clutch. Drawstring. Canvas. Oilcloth. Coin. Zipper. Grocery. Book. Magnetic. Camera. Secret. I love bags. One can never have too many! 

As I was researching easy DIY sewing projects, I found a wonderful tutorial on making a reversible tote. All you need are two pieces fabric 13.5"x14"(outside), two pieces fabric 13.5"x14"(inside), one piece of fabric 4''x44" long (straps); of course you also need thread, a sewing machine, scissors, and an iron. I did two things differently from the instructions. Instead of two pieces of fabric for the outside and two pieces of fabric for the inside, I folded a piece of fabric in half and used the fold as the bottom "seam" for the inside and the outside. Therefore each of the pieces of fabric were 13.5"x28". The other thing I did differently was I added a pocket. I love pockets. Can't wait to make another!!

Green Gingham. Lavender. Pear.

Blue Paisley & Red Floral Belts

Adding to the collection of Whimsical Belts, we now have Blue Paisley and Red Floral. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Orange Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate and orange are such an elegant pairing. It's like a grown up oatmeal cookie with flair.

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Bake Time: 10 minutes per batch
Yield: 5 to 6 dozen

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 Tsp orange zest (I used two oranges)
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla (I used vanilla bean paste)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and oats in a bowl.
  3. In electric mixer, add butter and cream in brown and white sugars, and orange zest for about 1 minute.
  4. Beat in egg. Mix vanilla. Mix in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. In walnut-sized mounds, place about a dozen cookies per parchment-lined sheet tray (about 2 inches apart, they will spread out a little). 
  6. Bake for 10 minutes. They will look a little puffy and shiny as if they aren't done but don't be fooled! If you stick them back in, you'll end up with overdone cookies. Remove and let cool on pan for 5 minutes (or however long it takes you to prepare the next tray to go into the oven) before transferring cookies to wire rack to completely cool. I like to go back and forth between two parchment-lined baking sheets to reuse the same sheets of parchment paper. If it's fairly clean at the end, I'll fold up the parchment paper and save it for the next baking adventure!
  7. Store in airtight container once cooled. You probably won't need to worry about storage because they won't be hanging around for long!

The Ribbon Candy Apron

This fabric reminds me of a candy store. The kind of candy store with a glass window lined with finger prints and wide-eyed drooling children, watching ribbon candy being formed right in front of them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Whimsical Belts

With long strips of leftover fabric from making aprons and the miscellaneous, an itch to create, and a few more trips to the fabric store, I launched myself into a new project - belts! What fun it is to wear something so functional and whimsical.

 color.   whimsy.   the small things that lead to happiness

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Split Pea Apron

The apron obsession continues! The fabric store personnel either think I'm really forgetful or really busy or really nuts or maybe all of the above since I have visited them three times in 24 hours (within 5 minutes after opening or 30 minutes to closing...). 

Red Apron, check! Pear Apron, check! Hello Split Pea Apron!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Vera's 4 Month Photo Shoot - 01/21/2012

From Vera in the belly to newborn Vera to a beautiful Vera who is now 4 months old. Ingrid and Ryan, your bundle of joy is absolutely precious!

Mommy's Girl
Yum, Towel. Yay! Tummy Time! I'm Tired.

Little Miss Ballerina

My Daddy's Funny

Princess Vera

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Pear Apron

Second apron complete. The Pear Apron is based on The Red Apron with a few adjustments. A few asymmetrical notes. Why not? Different type of ruffle. A girly girl has to have ruffles. All pieces are double layered - gives weight to the finished product and provides better protection from splatters and spills. Front pocket is made up of three pockets. One can never have too many pockets!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Red Apron

Some days you feel especially lucky and all is good. Woke up peacefully this morning without an alarm clock at 6:00am. Started on my orange marmalade prepped the day before. Watched the sun rise through glowing clouds while the scent of orange filled the house. Fabric store opened early at 8am today. 40% off regular price item, check. 10% off total purchase, check. Perfect selections from the scrap bin. By noon, eight jars of marmalade were canned and I finished my first apron project! No pattern, just a lot of thinking, prepping, re-prepping, and trial and error. Who doesn't love a red apron? Next one, brown and pink polka dots with peeks of floral? Or pear print with vintage blue and yellow buttons? I think yes and yes.

Orange Marmalade

marmalade [MAHR-muh-layd] A preserve containing pieces of fruit rind, especially citrus fruit. The original marmalades were made form quince - the Portugese word marmelada means "quince jam." Quince has an astringently tart flavor and high pectin content. Now, Seville oranges are the most popular fruit for making marmalades. Food Lover's Companion 4th Edition.

Growing up I was not a fan of orange marmalade. It lured you in with the fresh citrus smell and the sweetness of the first bite, then it got you at the end with a bitter aftertaste! What a tricky condiment. Several years later, I have grown to enjoy the balanced complexity of this bittersweet preserve. This is my first attempt at making at making orange marmalade. I read a dozen recipes and came up with my own rendition,  likely never to be made the same way twice!

Yield: six 8oz jars
Time: 24ish hours (but time you spend actively doing something is approximately 2 hours)
Tools: large glass bowl, wooden spoon, zester, chef's knife, juicer, Dutch oven, measuring cup, canning jars, large pot, small plate, tongs, oven mitt, dish towel, wire rack

5 oranges (from my in-laws' garden)
1 Meyer lemon (from our garden)
6 cups water
3 cups granulated white sugar
  1. In a large glass bowl, zest oranges and lemon. Juice oranges and lemon and add pulp and juice to zest. Thinly slice and dice rest of citrus into pieces no bigger than 0.5cm. Allow mixture to sit overnight in refrigerator. This process helps release the pectin and also soften the peel. Some recipes julienne strips of the peel, halve the oranges to juice, discard the white parts, and add store-bought pectin later. I decided to use the whole orange (minus the couple of seeds) and make use of the natural pectin.
  2. The next day, pull out your large Dutch oven. Pour in mixture from last night, pour in water, bring to boil, then simmer for 1.5 hours. 
  3. Add sugar, bring to a hard boil. Boil for 30 minutes. Mixture should thicken as sugar dissolves and water boils off. Skim off any foam. Test for jell-point: drop a small amount of hot marmalade on a chilled plate. Return to the freezer for 1 minute. If surface forms a skin, it has reached jelling point, if still syrupy, continue cooking and test again in 5 minutes. Apparently if you boil the mixture too long, the pectin can break down, the peel can get tough, and a reaction occurs between the sugar and acid which affects the set.  I may have boiled mine too long but I won't know until tomorrow! 
  4. Remove from heat, cool for 15 minutes, spoon into half-pint sterilized jars leaving 1/4-inch head space and seal.  To sterilize the jars, wash the containers in hot, soapy water and rinse. Boil them in a large pot for 10 minutes. Keep the jars in hot water until ready to use to prevent the jars from cracking. Dry with clean dish towel before filling with marmalade. Once filled, put on lids and collar. Boil again for 10 minutes to seal the jars. This process is very hot so I recommend using an oven mitt and tongs to handle jars. Once all the jars were filled and sealed, let cool on wire rack over the dish towel.  Place in a cool dry place and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours before opening.  This time allows the marmalade to set. Once open, store in the refrigerator. Unopened marmalade will last for up to 6 months.

Friday, January 13, 2012

螞蟻上樹 (má yǐ shàng shù)

I am intimidated by Taiwanese cooking. I am intimidated because my parents and grandparents are excellent cooks. I am intimidated because I don't want to offend anyone by making a blasphemous mistake that completely ruins the dish. I am intimidated because I will have something in mind I want to eat that I have seen my parents cook a dozen times but I have no idea how to even begin shopping for the right ingredients. I call Dad for help. I describe what it is I want to eat, "you know, something Mom makes." Then we spend the next few minutes figuring out what type of noodles I have in my pantry. "Bean noodles? What kind?" I can't read Chinese. I take a picture of the noodle package, send it to him, he confirms it. Ok, I have a start. 

This dish consists of stewed cellophane noodles with a spicy ground pork meat sauce. 蟻上樹 (má yǐ shàng shù) translates directly to "ants climbing a tree." The bits of ground meat clinging to the noodles are like ants walking on twigs. 

Best advice Dad gave, "Don't be afraid - make it your own."

Yield: ~4-6 servings
Time: ~30 minutes

  • 5 bundles cellophane noodles (mung bean noodles)
  • 1lb ground pork
  • 2 medium carrots, grated thinly
  • 1 can pickled cucumbers (you know the Asian ones, not Dill pickles)
  • 1 package tofu
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • sesame oil
  • Sriracha hot chili sauce
  1. In a large bowl, soak noodles in water. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your ingredients. Wash and grate carrots. Drain and cube tofu. Set aside.
  3. With sesame oil in a hot pan, cook ground pork until pink is mostly gone (~5-10 minutes?) . Add tofu, carrots, and pickled cucumbers. Stir and cook until it smells good (~5 minutes?). Remove from pan. 
  4. Add vegetable broth to hot pan, add drained cellophane noodles that had been soaking. Once the noodles have absorbed most of the broth (~5 minutes?), stir in your mixture from earlier. Add hot sauce to taste. 
  5. Serve immediately!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Orange Meringue Pie

Pie, Oh My! I love pie. 'Tis the season for citrus. Everyone loves a good lemon meringue pie. My mother-in-law makes hands down the best lemon meringue pie. She uses her own home grown lemons and turns them into the perfect custard. Her meringue topping is the Mount Everest of meringues. This pie is a slight detour from the familiar lemon meringue classic. I made a couple mistakes (fortunately none were fatal): 1. Made a pie pastry dough instead of the tart pastry like the recipe called for. 2. Didn't use the right amount of ingredients to make the already wrong dough so it came out not so deliciously flaky but still edible). Lesson learned: Read and re-read instructions before starting. This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma: Desserts (and I've listed everything the way it's supposed to be, not with my inadvertent modifications).


Tart Pasty for a 9-inch tart shell
  • 1 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 2 T cold water
Pie Filling
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 c fresh orange juice (zest the oranges before you juice them)
  • 5 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 T freshly grated orange zest 
  • 5 egg whites (make sure there's no yolk or they won't whip properly)
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Pie Crust: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Make your pastry dough. Set up your food processor. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the work bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces and drop them into the bowl. Process, using rapid on-off pulses, until the mixture resembles small particles about the size of oatmeal flakes. Add 1T of the water and process for a couple of seconds more. Add the remaining 1T water and process with 4 on-off pulses. Feel the dough, it should be damp enough to form a rough mass but not wet. Turn out the dough onto a work surface, gather it together, roll it out to line a 9-inch pie pan. Bake the crust until browned and crisp, 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.

Pie Filling: In a heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the orange juice and mix well. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils, 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat, add the egg yolks all at once, and whisk until blended. Return to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the butter and orange zest. Spread the orange juice mixture in the cooled pie shell.

Meringue: Preheat the oven to broil. Place egg whites in a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until well mixed. Sprinkle on cream of tartar and continue beating until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until stiff, shiny peaks form. This whole process should take about 4 minutes. Gently spread it over the pie filling, completely covering the filling to the edges of the crust. Broil  4 minutes from the heat until peaks are brown, usually about 1-2 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool before serving (I let mine sit overnight in the refrigerator after letting it cool at room temperature).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My Macho Salad

There is this restaurant with a salad called the "Macho Salad with Roasted Chicken, Avocado, Chopped Almonds and Goat Cheese." I love this salad. The different textures and flavors and the combinations of the sweet and salty, crunchy and creamy,  makes it so addicting. To recreate a similarly addicting salad, let your tongue lead you on this adventure. Here is My Macho Salad.

Hint: Roll little goat cheese clumps in slightly crumbled toasted pecans to keep the nuts from going  down to the bottom of the bowl! Great trick I learned from my mother-in-law.

Chicken Braised in Red Wine

This hearty meal can be made on a Sunday and spread out for a few meals throughout the week with a variety of side dishes (salad, steamed veggies, mashed potatoes, rice, etc.). 

Preparation: 20 minutes. Cooking: 1 hour. Yield: 4-6ish servings

  • 1 bottle (24 fl oz) fruity red wine
  • ~8 chicken drumsticks and thighs, with skin
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour, plus 2 scant Tbsp
  • 4 Tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1lb baby bella mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 spring fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

  1. Pour wine into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until reduced by half and set aside.
  2. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Spread 1/2 cup flour in a shallow dish and lightly dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. I found tongs to be useful in this process, keeping my somewhat clean. 
  3. In a large Dutch oven pot melt 2 Tbsp of butter over medium heat. In batches as necessary to avoid crowding, brown each piece of chicken on all sides. Transfer the chicken to a platter and set aside. 
  4. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp butter to the pot, melt, and add onion and garlic. Sauté until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes, stirring often and reducing heat if necessary to avoid browning of the onions. Add mushrooms, thyme, bay leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, and a little pepper. At medium heat, sauté the mushrooms to release their moisture, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp flour over the onion and mushroom mixture, then add the stock, browned chicken pieces, and reduced wine. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to low, and simmer gently, uncovered, until the chicken is opaque throughout and fork-tender and the flavors have married, 20-30 minutes. Make sure the mixture doesn't boil, or the chicken will get tough.
  6. To serve, remove and discard the bay leaves, then use a slotted spoon or clean tongs to transfer the chicken pieces to a serving platter. Ladle the sauce over the chicken and garnish with parsley. Serve at once!
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Almond Cookies

On a sunny winter afternoon, the snap dragons and bougainvillea were pruned while the butter and egg warmed to room temperature. Can't get much better than fresh cut flowers and freshly baked cookies! This almond cookie recipe is ever so slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook. The original yield is for 96 cookies but I halved the recipe (noted in blue) and used my new beautiful digital kitchen scale to calculate the appropriate measurements. My cookies are probably a little bigger than what the recipe says to do so I ended up with 3 dozen instead of the 4 dozen I should have ended up with for halving the recipe.

Prepping: 30 minutes. Chilling: 3 hours. Baking:  8 minutes per batch. Yield: 96 cookies (36) 
Tools: baking sheets, chef's knife, electric mixer, parchment paper, wire racks

Brings me back to organic chemistry lab ... minus the goggles, explosions, and elusive yields.

  • 2 1/2 cups (350g) slivered or sliced (flaked) blanched almonds, toasted (175g)
  • 1 1/4 cups (155g) cake four (78g)
  • 1 cup (155g) all-purpose flour (78g)
  • 1 cup (250g) butter, slightly softened (1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt (2.5g)
  • 2 2/3 cup (330g) powdered sugar (165g)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature (I didn't halve the egg which led to a stickier dough)
  1. In a bowl, stir together almonds and both flours; set aside.
  2. In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the salt and powdered sugar and mix on medium-low speed until thoroughly combined, about 5 minutes, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg; mix until blended. Add the flour mixture. As soon as the dough comes together, stop the mixer.
  3. Scrape the dough onto a large sheet of plastic wrap. Using another piece of wrap to help shape the dough, gently press it into a rectangle about 4.5 by 8 inches and about 1.5 inches thick. Because I ran out of plastic wrap and (thankfully) also halved the recipe, I made one ~2x2x8 inch log using one sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is firm enough to slice, at least 3 hours or up to several days. 
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  5. Unwrap the dough, trim the edges to neaten them, and slice the dough length-wise into 3 logs each 1.5 inches wide. I did not do this dividing part since my log wasn't as big to start with. Slice each log crosswise into square cookies 1/4 inch thick. In batches as needed, arrange the squares 1/2 inch apart on the lined baking sheets.
  6. Bake until lightly browned around the edges, about 8 minutes, switched racks and rotating the baking sheets halfway through for even baking. Let cook on baking sheets until slightly set, then transfer to wire racks to crisp before serving them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Seared Garlic Butter Scallops

I love a sweet, juicy, salty, buttery scallop. The prep is so simple and the result so satisfying. Enjoy as an appetizer or as a meal with rice or buttered noodles and a side steamed asparagus!

Servings: 2 (2 sea scallops per person)
Time: 20 minutes (not including thaw time if scallops are frozen)

4 large wild caught sea scallops (~1 inch thick and 1.5 inch diameter)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T butter
  1. If frozen, allow scallops to thaw overnight and maybe into the next day if they're really big. 
  2. Pat dry, set aside.
  3. Melt butter in pan on medium high heat, add garlic. 
  4. Once butter starts browning (but garlic shouldn't be burnt), add scallops.
  5. Sear on each side for ~3 minutes, time varies on how thick your scallops are. Serve with garlic butter sauce from pan, including the super flavorful browned bits.