Thursday, December 30, 2010

Road Tripping Dogs

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Dog and Her Cookie

Vespa and I have been getting loads of Christmas cookies and other edible goodies. She's so thrilled when she gets a whole cookie and doesn't have to share it with Mingus or Greaseball.

Note that her ears are so ginormous that I can never fit them whole into the frame.

Friday, December 17, 2010

All is Well

My fears about my neighbors having a hard time this Christmas were mostly quelled. I walked Vespa a little earlier than usual, and was pleasantly surprised to count 9 blow up Christmas things gracing their house. They also had 2 lighted reindeer and festive paper decorations, too.

The only thing strange now is that they run the air compressors for a couple of hours, stop it for a few more hours, and then run it again late at night. Maybe they are trying to conserve energy. If the rain stops tonight, which is highly doubtful, I'll walk Mingus by the house so he can have some Christmas cheer as well.

Oh, but on second thought, Mingus has royally irritated me and perhaps he deserves only a lump of coal. A few days ago, I arrived home from work ready to eat my arm off and grumpy from the unexpected two hour commute. I was starving in one of those "nobody better get in between me and the food" ways. All I had to eat was some leftover lunch from a work cafeteria - it wasn't stellar, but it would do - and a hunk of Acme olive bread. As the food is heating up, I'm looking for the bread. I can't find said bread. However, I found a shredded bread bag on the floor, sans bread. Bad Mingus! I was sad, but at least I had my lunch/dinner to console me. I put the food down and went to wash my hands. When I returned, my dinner was gone! Double bad dog!

The boy later informed me that the bread bag had not only bread, but a hunk of salami in it, and that the bag was previously nestled in his work backpack.

Now, some of you may ask why I blame Mingus instead of Vespa, and the answer is that he is a very bad dog who takes advantage of situations. He once snagged a mouthful of roasted leg of lamb while company was over. Vespa, on the other hand, has never counter surfed. Never.

Plus, Mingus has a special relationship with carbohydrates, and most specifically, bread. Last week, he sniffed out a piece of bread I had wrapped up in my purse, opened my purse, and ate it. Nevermind that I earmarked that bread for him. (The restaurant I went to serves a lot of senior citizens, and the wait staff presumes that all patrons want to take home leftover bread, butter, jams,  etc. I like the idea of not wasting.)

And this is why Mingus's middle name is "Don't Mind If I Do!"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Attack of the Killer Ninja Tawashi

Beware the super stealth ninja tawashi! Ninjas are taking up a big part of my brainwaves, and I'm not sure why. I made this little guy while I should have been making a gift, but I could not help myself. The ninja just wanted to be made, and I was merely the humble vessel. Crochet patterns are a pain to write out, but pretty easy to chart. Perhaps I'll make a ninja tawashi chart so more ninjas can materialize and take over the world.

I also spent a little bit of time sketching my perfect ninja in AutoCAD. I'm sure that's what my high school drafting teacher had in mind when he told us that we were learning an invaluable skill. Cracking open the CAD to sketch ninjas sounded like a fun thing to do, so I did it with gusto. I think these are going to be incorporated into a new project.

What project? Probably an embroidery project because that's another thing sucking up part of my time, in a most pleasant way, of course.  I have a vision of legions of cartwheeling ninjas embroidered onto napkins.

And speaking of napkins, the picture above is a joint gift project by the boy and I. Gotta love a husband who sews! We found 100% hemp material at Dharma Trading Co., and we snatched up a few yards. He cut them up and hemmed them, even adding some cool mitered corners. I personalized them with some French knots and split stitches. It's funny, but as of two days ago, I never embroidered in my life. Thank goodness for kind strangers who post videos!

I think the coolest thing about embroidery is that the start up cost for the necessary tools are cheap. Although I admit to having $50 of stuff in my cart at one point (so many fancy, unnecessary tools!), I walked out of the craft store only paying $5 and some change.

I also made a demented rainbow dishcloth for a relative. This is the relative who sent me a Betsy Ross Pig ironing board cozy that was later used to cover low window at and old employer's bathroom. For this relative, the louder the colors, the better. I used a lot of my kitchen cotton scraps, and added a double crochet border. 

What did I ever do before learning how to crochet? I really like it for the neat borders that can be added quickly to any project. Before I learned how to crochet, to get the same effect I would have to do an applied i-cord, which is neither fast nor fun.

I have some other gifts to share, but they'll have to wait until after they're gifted.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Dog

A little picture from our evening walk. During the Christmas season, I love our night walks even more. Trees and ornaments don't really float my boat, but lights! I love sparkly lights!

This year, it seems like less people are decking out their houses.  My most favorite decorated house last year had seven (!!) Santas, the type that are blown up like parade floats, hanging around their house. One was on their front deck, two snow globe Santas were on their lawn, and there were a few more all lit up in all their kitschy glory. Oh, it was always great fun to walk by that house! This year, the house is completely dark. No lights, just a wreath on their front door. Because I'm fascinated with hoarders, the first thought that crossed my mind was that they are reformed hoarders (I once saw the inside of their solidly packed garage) and that step one of their new lifestyle as non-hoarders was to tone down the Christmas decorations.

As for us, we just have lights this year. A Christmas tree proved to be a nightmare since the cats wanted to munch on the needles and Mingus thought we brought a port a potty inside the house. Ick. I won't be able to have another tree until I can get over that trauma.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Almost to 100 Cats with Berets!

 On Ravelry, one of my obsessive compulsive behaviors is to check how many Ravelers have made my International Cat Hat France: Le Mieux. 94 people have made mini berets for their cats and (small) dogs. It's strange and cool that a nagging idea of a bereted Greaseball resonated with at least 94 other people. A blog giveaway is in order once it reaches 100!

Click here to see a bunch of cats who eat croissants and drink coffee. You must have a Ravelry account to view the project page, but if you don't and you knit/crochet, you surely are already a member!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Random Bits

Over the past weekend, I was on my own without a plan in sight, so what did I do? I organized my yarn stash and wound all the sock yarn scraps into balls. Then I laid them out on the table and tried to get them to tell me what they wanted to be, but so far no luck. The colorways are all so different and not at all complimentary to each other. But, I do enjoy looking at them and remembering the projects I made with each one.

That was Random Item #1, which is probably not so random for a crafty blog. Random Item #2 is that I've been watching and watching and watching a pair of French twins, Les Twins, dance on YouTube. (I told you, random!) I'm fascinated by them, and by new style hip hop in general. Perhaps this is a case of being attracted to something that would be impossible for me to do, like being the center in a professional basketball team. YAKfilms has a variety of hip hop dance videos that are oddly compelling.

In on topic news, people have actually been making and buying my Tilden Park Scarf! I don't know at what point I'll feel comfortable calling myself a designer, but this does make me feel one step closer. It's been such a fun process! Many thanks to Rani for being my first customer! That was so cool!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tilden Park Scarf

I'm thrilled to announce that the Tilden Park Scarf is now available for purchase through Ravelry! If you're not a Ravelry member, don't fret, you don't have to be a member to buy the pattern.

The Tilden Park Scarf is ruffled and ruched infinity scarf that adds a feminine touch to any outfit, from a little black cocktail dress to your favorite worn in tee. I've been wearing mine doubled up to add some ruffly goodness to my jackets.

The Tilden Park Scarf takes 480 yards of fingering weight yarn. Pictured is my scarf in Schafer Anne (60% superwash merino wool; 25% mohair, 15% nylon; 560 yards/133 grams per skein). It is knit in the round, so when you're done, you only have 2 ends to weave in.

Many heartfelt thanks go out to the kind people who test knit this scarf in 2 weeks and provided me with invaluable feedback. Also, the pattern looks extra spiffy thanks to my graphic designer friend who performed a layout miracle! Making words and pictures on paper look pretty, balanced, and yet easy to read takes mad skillz.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reluctant Sock Model

I actually think Greaseball prefers modeling hats over socks. He's mostly pissed off that I used the flash, thus waking him up from another nap. Oh well, he's got to earn his kibble somehow.

The sock yarn is from A Verb for Keeping Warm in the colorway Wonderboy. The pattern is (yet another) Jaywalker (Rav link). I'm not one for WIPs, but this was started in May! Tonight, in an effort to procrastinate finishing the boy's sweater (I only have to knit the collar), I finished up this sock. Funny how it works out that way.

So Much Sweater Potential

I'm the proud owner of 6 skeins of Malabrigo Rios in the Azul Profundo colorway.Malabrigo's colorways are compelling, but Malabrigo worsted is a single ply, and I like hard wearing yarns that don't pill when you look at them funny. When I read that there was a superwash, plied Malabrigo yarn coming out, I had to have some.

I know that I want to make a cardigan, but beyond that, I'm stumped. Yoked or raglan? Buttons or zipper? Ruffles or ribbing? Cables or plain stockinette? Long or cropped? I have a bad case of analysis paralysis.

Potential cardigans are (Ravelry links):
At different times of the day, different cardigans call to me. I'm even thinking about just making a simple top-down cardigan with a boatneck. Maybe I'll learn how to steek, too, since I'm much faster when I knit in the round.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scarf Teaser Pics

These are pictures of the pattern I hope to offer up for sale on Ravelry soon! It's ruched and ruffled infinity scarf made out of 420 yards of sock yarn.

I don't know about you, but my sock yarn stash mocks me! Sock yarn is so tempting at the LYS, yet for me, within steps of leaving the store it's pull on me diminishes when I realize I don't have a clue what I'm going to do with my new skein. Those of you who can roll with it have my utmost admiration. As for me, I get anxious when I have yarn just sitting around - so much potential FOs! So, sock yarn was on my mind when I was browsing all those infinity scarves in the stores. My fingers itched. I had to make one.

This scarf is in the test knit phase right now, which is just thrilling! Expect to see it for sale in January 2011!

Friday, November 19, 2010


The boy was hoarding these pictures of the pets on his phone. The quality isn't great, but they're just so sweet! I love how Vespa puts her paw on Fifty, and I love how there seems to be an animal sleep train going on. I don't love how they are on our bed, but I suppose if I saw them hugging and spooning, I'd snap a photo instead of snapping at them to get off the bed.

Knitting is happening fast and furiously in these parts. I'm almost done with an infinity scarf that I designed, and I'm hoping to get it test knit and up for sale on Ravelry! The boy's sweater is almost complete as well, and hopefully he'll be able to wear it on Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Madison Bag

A most excellent purse made by the boy as a present to me. It's the Madison Bag, an Amy Butler pattern that I had bought eons ago when I thought I would learn to sew. The boy thought this would be a great project for me, but as evidenced by the amount of time it has sat in our project bin, it wasn't meant to be my project anytime soon.

The red with white polka dot interior makes it even more quirky and fun. I'm going to be using this bag a lot!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tiny Boyfriend Hat

The annoying thing about kids is that they persist on growing, leaving a debris of lovingly hand knit goods behind. The cutest baby in the world has turned into the cutest toddler in the world, and this toddler needed a new hat since the last one I knit him doesn't even cover his ears anymore.

It must be really cold where he lives if he needs a hat right now. In my neck of the woods, the high is supposed to be 75°F on this November day. 

The pattern is The Boyfriend Hat by Stephanie Nicole. It's a simple, ribbed hat that has very symmetrical decreases at the crown. To make this hat kid sized, I cast on 90 stitches instead of the prescribed 100. I also knit the hat for 7 inches before doing the decrease rounds because I wanted his ears to be covered. The yarn is some RYC Cashsoft DK I had in my stash. Ahhh, gotta love using up the stash!

I thought this kid would be swimming in this hat because I made it much bigger than I thought was prudent, but as you can see, this is only going to last a season. Hopefully, he'll be back in the land of mild winters next fall, though, so no hat will be necessary (but I'll still figure out a way to make him more knitted goods).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Pimp Paw is Strong!

The Tilden Park Scarf is an easy ruffled and ruched infinity scarf that adds a feminine touch to any outfit.


 Big G, the notorious C.A.T., is the most wanted hoodlum in our neighborhood. Among his rumored activities are pushing catnip, stealing food from kitties, and threatening the other toms. You see, there is only room for one player in this 'hood, and his pimp paw is strong!

Remember, folks, Halloween is right around the corner, and your cat does not want to be left out. Check out my other free patterns for dressing up your cat or your kid.

  • 40 yards of worsted weight purple yarn for the hat. I used Cascade 220 in colorway 7807
  • 10 yards of worsted weight yellow yarn for the gold chains
  • Size J crochet hook for the hat
  • Size K crochet hook for the gold chains
  • 12 inches of  5/8-inch ribbon in an animal print
  • A couple of feathers. Mine feathers were plucked from a catnip mouse.
  • glue
  • tapestry needle
4 sts in sc = 1 inch (I'm a tight crocheter, so check your gauge)
Finished hat has a 10.5-inch circumference around the sides (not the brim)

[ ]     repeat instructions between brackets
ch     chain
sc     single crochet
sl st  slit stitch
st(s) stitches

5/28/11 Edited sc increases so stitch counts are correct.

Using the magic ring method and the smaller crochet hook, ch 1. SC 5 into the loop. Pull the tail tightly to close the hole and sl st into the turning chain (the first ch 1).

Top and Side of Hat
Rnd 1: Ch 1, sc into base of sl st just made, sc 2 times into next 5 sc. Sl st into the turning chain. (12 sc total)
Rnd 2: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 1 sc, sc 2 times into next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (18 sc total)

Rnd 3: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 2 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (24 sc total)
Rnd 4: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 3 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (30 sc total)
Rnd 5: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 4 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (36 sc total)
Rnd 6: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 5 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (42 sc total)
Rnd 7: Continue to sc into the next stitch (you are crocheting in a spiral) until the hat is 2 inches high.

Rnd 8: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 6 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (48 sc total)
Rnd 9: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 7 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (54 sc total)
Rnd 10: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 8 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (60 sc total)
Rnd 11: Ch 1, sc into the base of the sl st just made, [sc 1 time in next 9 sc, sc 2 times in next sc ] to end. Sl st into the turning chain. (66 sc total)

Cut yarn. Using a tapestry needles, thread yarn tail through the last stitch and weave in tail. To get my hat to have crisp edges, I soaked it and blocked it on top of an upside down measuring cup. When dry, glue a piece of ribbon and a couple of feathers to the hat. I used plain old Elmer's glue, but feel free to use some other type of adhesive or to stitch the ribbon into place.

Gold Chains
Using the larger crochet hook, make a slip knot. Ch 1 until you have a "gold chain" long enough to wrap around your cat's neck, then cut yarn and thread the yarn tail through the last stitch. My chains varied from 16 to 21 inches, and I made 4 necklaces. Tie the necklaces together at the base.

As always, if you make this, let me know! I continually troll my patterns on Ravelry looking for new pictures, so if you're too shy to contact me, post a picture of your pimpin' cat in Rav and I'll be sure to see it!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Chinese Chicken and Long Bean Stew

Last week, I had an amazing Cantonese clay pot dish with rock cod, mung bean noodles, Napa cabbage, and tofu skin at New Kong Yang in Fremont. If you want to try it out for yourself, it has the cumbersome name of "Fillet of Rock Cod with Dried Beancurd Stick Deluxe Claypot (and I think it's #25). Eating that dish reminded me that there are some very tasty one pot Cantonese dishes that have fallen off my cooking repertoire, and I planned on fixing that this weekend.

I've tried to keep a Chinese clay pot around, but I'm apparently not a gentle person because I break them all the time. You have to be careful not to heat shock them, and even when I am careful, they seem to fall apart after the tiniest bump. Therefore, I used my ever so traditional Chinese stew pot: the (French) Staub.

I'm going to 'fess up now and say that I this post is mainly for me. I don't want to forget how I made this dish! When it comes to Chinese cooking, I navigate by taste and smell. This has the unfortunate side effect of sometimes forgetting how I did something because I'm grabbing whatever I have on hand at the time, and currently my pantry is stuffed with Cantonese, Korean, and Sichuan items. And, yes, I used all of it here!

Admittedly, if you don't live in an area with a large and diverse Asian community, some of these ingredients are going to be hard to find, so feel free to use whatever you have on hand. I pictured two harder to find ingredients below: dried bean curd skin and mung been noodles. Both are excellent sources of protein, and they provide different textures - the tofu skins are chewy firm while and the mung bean noodles have a slight chew, but are mostly silky.

Chinese Chicken and Long Bean Stew
Serves 4

Each in a bowl of warm water, soak until soft (about 15 minutes):
3 dried tofu skin sticks
3 bundles of mung bean noodles
Drain the noodles and tofu skins. Slice the tofu skin sticks into 3/4" sections. Set aside.

Cut into 1/2" crosswise slices:
2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

Put the cut chicken into a mixing bowl and add:
3 T Shaoxing wine
2 T mushroom sauce (or oyster sauce)
3 T soy sauce for seafood (or 1 T regular dark soy)
1 T sesame oil
2 T minced ginger
 Let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a 5-qt pot over medium flame. Once hot, add:
2 T peanut oil

Swirl the oil around to coat the bottom of the pot and immediately add:
3 T minced ginger
3 T chopped garlic
3 stalks of green onion, white part only and cut into 1/2" along the diagonal

Saute the ginger and garlic for a minute. Add the marinated chicken and continue to stir. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the outside of the chicken is no longer pink, and add:
1 tsp brown bean paste (I used Korean doenjang)

Continue stirring over medium heat for a minute. Deglaze the pan with:
1 cup chicken stock

Toss the tofu skins and mung bean noodles into the pot. Cover with:
4 cups chicken stock (or enough to submerge the chicken, tofu skins, and noodles)

Turn heat to low. Add:
3 T light soy for seafood
2 T black vinegar

Cover the pot and simmer the mixture for 10 minutes, then add:
4 cups of long beans cut into 1" pieces

Cover the pot again and cook for 5 more minutes. Add:
1 T sesame oil

Enjoy! Seeing this recipe written out makes it look a lot more complicated and hectic than it really is. I spent probably about 10 minutes measuring out, chopping, and grouping ingredients, and the actual cooking time was about 15 minutes. There's a lot of downtime while things are soaking and marinating, and I usually use that downtime to clean up the kitchen as I go.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dry Cider

After 10 days, we decanted our hard cider experiment and enjoyed! It was quite dry, which is the way I like my cider, and there wasn't any funky aromas like the hard cider I recently drank at The Trappist. I'm going to pick up some spiced cider today to start another batch, and I'm sure this next one will take longer to ferment since the weather has cooled down considerably and I'm now wearing a down jacket around the house. (OK, so I don't live in WEATHER, as some of you in snowy areas pointed out, but I'm a wuss who hates to be cold.)

The fact that it's the day after I enjoyed the hooch and I'm still here to blog about it means that it didn't kill me. The boy was worried that our concoction would make us go blind, and I'm still scratching my head over why he would think blindness would be an issue. Headaches? Sure, I buy that (and, no, I did not get a headache). But blindness? Since my vision is far from perfect to begin with, if the hard cider made it worse, I can't tell.

Vespa, the dog who would be a smoker if she could, was giving Mingus nibbles. Mingus, attention whore that he is, loved it. He even rotated ever so slightly so she could reach new spots. My theory is that since all the animals live in a small space, they become weird.  Yeah, I'll blame it on the space.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A New Toy!

Over the weekend, the fermentation crock I ordered from Isidora Spielmann arrived! It's both beautiful and functional, very high compliments in geek-speak. I have two heads of green cabbage bubbling away in there, slowing converting to sauerkraut.

 I love the whimsical details adorning the fermenter's sides. Even the weight stone is a piece of art!

Sunday was a total food immersion day, starting with a trip to the farmers market (carrying 10 pounds of cabbage makes for a good workout), followed by gluttony at the Spice of Life Festival (Chairman Bao's truck is worth the wait! And Masse's Pastries is serving made-to-order churros and Mexican hot chocolate!), and ending with some kimchi and sauerkraut festivities.

For comparison, here is my Harsch crock. I still feel nothing but love for it, but it's huge and merely functional in appearance.

I realized today that I need some local fermentation buddies. Sure, there are online groups aplenty out there, and I have loads of friends who will share my finished goods, but sometimes a gal just needs to compare notes with people in person. Not to mention the exciting possibility of food and beverage swaps! I'm trying to convert the boy into a fermentation buddy by insisting he reads the same beer brewing books I am. I already assigned him the boring but necessary job of equipment sanitization.

There has to be some kind of club out there for people who like to ferment things... Imagine the cool parties we'll have with cheese, beer, sourdough bread, and kimchi! Plus, everyone will have excellent digestive health, which has to be an added bonus somehow. Hm. Must think on this.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Inspired by Brew Bakers in Huntington Beach, I decided to try my hand at making hooch. This formerly child friendly apple juice from Trader Joe's will hopefully transform to a non-child friendly dry hard cider through the power of fermentation.

Brew Bakers has a unique setup where you can pick your beer recipe and make it with a beer making guru guiding you through the steps. No shortcuts here: you start with grains to make your mash. It was fascinating watching the entire process, and since all the beer for sale here is made by them, it instills confidence that I, too, can make this stuff. I had an excellent sour cherry beer while I watched the process, and I got to talk to the person who made it. Since I was a fan, he cracked open and shared another sour beer he brewed which somehow was even better than the sour cherry beer. The boy is in full support of this new interest (surprise, surprise).

The whole setup hard cider was pretty cheap. I paid less than $3 for the rubber stopper and the airlock, both from Oak Barrel Winecraft. The half gallon jug was free with a purchase of cherry sour beer (so, so good - much better than the Flemish brown ales commercially available) from Brew Bakers. The apple juice may have been the most expensive item, and it was around $4.

The picture shows day 3 of fermentation. Initially, I covered the mouth of the jug with cheesecloth and a rubber band, which gave the whole project an illicit feel. Woot, we're making moonshine! Once the fermentation really got going and it was bubbling, I fixed the airlock and stopper into place. Now, more waiting.... I'll taste it periodically until it is quite dry.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Kimchi Shortage!

Obviously, the kimchi shortage is not in our house, but South Korea is experiencing a shortage due to a wet cabbage growing season.

You can read more about it here.

Perhaps I should start exporting my kimchi?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Constantly Eating

Since the projects on my needles and hook are long term, there's nothing much to show. WIP photos aren't really interesting to me, so I assume that anyone who checks in won't find them interesting as well. However, I am constantly eating, so I do have some more food finds to share.

Today at the market, I bought these two jujubes. I didn't want to read up much on them before I tasted them, so I just dove right in. They remind me of apples, but they are sugary sweet with no tartness to offset their sweetness. Their texture is more snappy than apples. I've encountered dried jujubes in the medicinal soups my dad makes and in teas, but never fresh. They were quite good, but more of a dessert than a fruit.

I think my kimchi craze is waning, so I wanted to recombine all my leftovers into something new to use up the stray bits. Fried rice was yesterday's solution since I had egg whites leftover from making a miso caramel ice cream, spicy chicken and brown rice leftover from the previous day's dinner, and the always present cabbage kimchi in my fridge.

I have some koji that's just begging to be turned into miso or amazake. For those of you in the Bay Area, Berkeley Bowl West sells a pint of koji for around $5 - the price is low enough to experiment with abandon. This will probably be my next project unless something else shiny comes around.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Kimchi Chronicles

The kimchi making bug still has me obsessed, which means that dinner still consists of some sort of grilled meat, short grain brown rice, and an assortment of banchan. Since summer in the Bay Area is having an extinction burst, these meals are perfect for a day when you just want to throw something together and call it dinner, especially if the rice was made earlier and only requires a jaunt in the microwave. The banchans are made on different days, but they are all meant to live long, nonperishable lives. At various times I've thought about how lovely it would be to have a refrigerator dedicated to banchan, a staple in so many Korean households, but those thoughts are shortly chased away by the reality of my living situation: only 2 people to feed, we already own an extra freezer in the garage, no room to put a chest refrigerator anywhere, and I have no idea how much longer my banchan obsession will last.

The last round of cabbage kimchi consisted of Napa cabbage, radish, and carrots as the base vegetables. I used up the last of my Mexican chili powder (I think it was ancho?), so I treated myself to a trip to the Korean grocery market to pick up some more staples: gochujang, doenjang, and some Korean chili flakes. (For those of you in the Bay Area, Koreana Plaza is a fun field trip, but beware alert in the parking lot because there's a lot of backing up without looking going on!)
Grocery shopping with the boy means that we'll end up with some random food item that will require some research to use up. During this trip, he grabbed a bag of dried fiddlehead ferns and this bag of either dried squid or dried cuttlefish. He could not resist the drinking squid or the promise that this squid would go good with beer. What a sucker.
Thankfully, a little web search pulled up plenty of recipes for the dried squid. Maangchi is a wonderful resource for Korean food, and the added videos and cute commentary can easily absorb your afternoon. I used her recipe for seasoned dried shredded squid (ojingeochae muchim), and I'm happy to report that it is delicious! The squid is right: it is perfect with beer. My only change to the recipe was to substitute brown rice syrup for the corn syrup, and I used canola oil instead of olive oil (olive oil? really?).

Another banchan I made are these stewed black beans (kong jang). These are what I go nuts over at Korean BBQ restaurants, and they turn out to be a snap to make. My only changes to the recipe was to omit the corn syrup and to add an equal amount of sugar towards the end of the cooking time. Also note the the black beans are black soybeans (edamame), not the black turtle beans commonly available here. If you cannot find dried black soybeans, you may substitute regular soybeans. The tricky bit is that when you go to a Chinese or Korean market, "black beans" usually refers to the black soybeans. If you want to make sure, inspect the package of dried black beans. The skin is black, but the flesh underneath is a pale green.

Can anyone explain to me why there is so much corn syrup in Korean recipes? I tried to buy a gochujang without it, and it was impossible. I'm sure that Korean grandmothers weren't using the stuff 100 years ago, so what gives? Is this simply a matter of economics? I notice that other recipes use malt/barley syrup, too. Luckily, I have a jar of brown rice syrup from some long ago recipe, and that does the trick.

Since I bought a package of Korean chili flakes, I was chomping at the bit to make this cucumber kimchi (oisobagi kimchi). It's currently sitting in the back office, the coolest spot in the house, fermenting for a day. It was good right away, but it will be even better once it the flavors meld more and there's a bit of lactic acid in the mix.

Now, it's time for props. There are a number of fantastic Korean websites out there that I have been reading over and over again for recipes, brand recommendations, and inspiration.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I am complete in-mind!

I get some of the best email and comments from people who are convinced that I spend my free time thinking up ways to torture my poor, abused cats. This last round of comments were just too good to not share.

"Well, I think that was ridiculous. I mean, no one cat need any hat, it's just a animal. You're complete in-mind."

"That poor little cat, they using to do stupids things, as being a model
or something more foggy. You should be embarrass about it. "

"Excellent way to make a comic blog, that little cat isn't cute with that hat, maybe you're sick or something, I really was deception about it. "

So, folks, if you only remember one thing, let it be this: no one cat need any hat!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

See? I am knitting!

Currently on my needles is a sweater for the boy. It's a boring man sweater, with excitement only derived from going at it sans pattern. I'm making a top-down raglan using the guidelines from Custom Knits.  Now, the exciting parts are over, with "exciting parts" being loosely defined as swatching, calculating gauge, figuring out how many stitches to cast on, and separating the armholes and calculating extra stitches to cast on for the body after that.

I've begged to add cables. Nope. I've asked to make it ribbed. Nope. How about a v-neck? I've never made a v-neck before! Nope. He wants it plain, and he hates ribbing for some reason, so I'll finish off the cuffs and neckband with either moss stitch or crab stitch. If it weren't for the fact that he remodeled the bathroom and pretty much painted two rooms by himself, I'd scoff at the idea of making him a plain sweater. However, he did concede to letting me add some green racing stripes to one sleeve, and I'm also thinking about adding a little green skull and crossbones somewhere. It will be a surprise!

Anticipating the miles of stockinette I'll have to knit to complete the body, I tried to convince him that tight sweaters look super sexy on men. Nope. In fact, the he wanted positive ease. And did I mention that this is knit up in Hempathy, that yarn that is a skinny DK?

Last night, I tried the sweater on him now that the armholes are complete. Success! Of course, it looks like he's wearing some sort of top that goes well with Daisy Dukes (sadly, he wouldn't let me take a picture), but the critical parts are all done.

Now, back to knitting miles of stockinette...


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