Sunday, January 31, 2010

Justyn Cooking: Stuffed Chicken Cutlets With Ham, Cheese and Sauerkraut

I challenged Justyn to cook something without any shortcuts and earlier this week I showed him this recipe from (Link: He agreed to making this tonight for dinner and it turned out pretty good. A little lacking in salt, but I don't love him any less for that. It was delicious :D Thanks B!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cards Blog Challenge: Valentine's Day Card

This is my first time participating in the Cards Blog challenge. This week the challenge was to make a Valentine's Day card without using any red or pink. Suprisingly, I found this challenge pretty easy. A light bulb went off in my head as I was reading the challenge.. why not do a "love/death" kind of card? It's morbid but lovey... right down my alley heh.

NAC: Square Heart

I made this card for the Card's Blog challenge with squares but I didn't get it in in time. Oh well :)

Embellish Magazine Challenge w/ Ribbon

Finally a challenge that involves ribbon. I have a ton of it, but I very rarely use it so this challenge was a definitely perfect opportunity to use some. A while back, Kristina Werner posted a ribbon flower card in a MACM video. I am sooo in love with that technique so I used it on this card. I used Stampin Up's pink taffeta ribbon since it's fairly thin and would fit into the small holes easier. This card is fairly plain and I actually tried adding a sentiment to it but it looked all kinds of wrong.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cooking: Chinese Braised Oxtail Stew (Day 2 & Recipe)

OK.. we're on day 2 of this recipe. I went to the store and rebought all the aromatics to make the sauce. I'll be posting a rewritten recipe at the bottom so I won't bother listing them now. Skipping ahead to how the dish tasted, well.. here's how my conversation went with Justyn.

Justyn: MM GOOD!
Me: ... *snapping pics*
Justyn: You're gonna love this dish.
Me: Whatever, I don't think I'll ever make this dish EVAR again.
Justyn: Just wait until you taste it.
Me: *tasting the oxtail* Holy crap! This is good. K I change my mind, I'll make it again.

This was an important lesson for me. Don't give up just because the you don't think it'll work out. Patience paid off big time! Oh yeah, and I had to throw in a pic of the rice cooker my parents got for me for Christmas. This thing rocks!

Anyway, here's the recipe.

Chinese Braised Oxtail Stew
*You will need to split all the ingrediants except the oxtails, green onion & mushrooms in half*

5 to 6 pounds oxtails, cut into pieces, fat trimmed
2 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
4 cups low-sodium beef or chicken stock
1/2 cup dark or regular soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 star anise, broken into pieces
2 whole cloves
4 lemongrass stalks (bottom white parts only plz!)
1 bunch scallion
1 big knob of skinned ginger
4 cloves of garlic
4 Thai chili peppers
10 ounces quartered, fresh or dried whole shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, re-hydrated if dried
1 lime zested & cut into wedges
Cooked jasmine rice, for serving.

1) Preheat oven to 300
2) Rough chop aromatics (lemongrass, 3 scallions, ginger, garlic, chili peppers).
3) Mix the beef stock, soy sauce & brown sugar together and set aside.
4) Wash & dry the oxtails well.
5) Heat pot with veg oil (medium high heat or higher will work).
6) Put the oxtails into the pan and brown on all sides. Once browned, remove them and set aside in an ovenproof casserole dish.
7) Add a touch more veg oil and the aromatics. Cook for about 5 minutes or until your house smells lovely.
8) Add the rice wine and cook until almost syrupy.
9) Add the beef broth, soy sauce & brown sugar mixture. Bring everything to a boil and then strain mixture. Pour half of the mixture and save it for Day 2 of cooking.
10) Add the strained mixture to the oxtails and cover the casserole dish with foil.
11) Put the casserole dish into the oven for 1.5 hours. After 1.5 hours, flip the oxtails and cook for another 1.5 hours.
12) Remove the dish and let everything cool before putting it in the fridge overnight.
13) The next day remove the solidified fat.

14) Preheat oven to 300.
15) Add the mushrooms to the casserole dish & the other half of the mixture you saved.
16) Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
17) Bump oven temp up to 400 and remove the foil from the casserole dish.
18) Put it back in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
19) Stir everything around and cook for another 15 minutes.

That's it! I really wish I didn't have to double up the sauce making but you really need it. There is not enough sauce left after the first day of cooking.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cooking: Day 1 Chinese Braised Oxtail Stew

I have been craving slow cooked food lately.. something with bones & something unctuous. What better than oxtails? Well.... let's start by going to Lucky to get my ingrediants. I went straight to the produce section to get the lemongrass, lime, scallion and ginger. Whenever I go to Lucky, I always have a set path.. first produce, meat and then canned goods. When I got to the meat department, I discovered that they did not have oxtails despite me seeing them a couple days ago. WTF? Is everyone making oxtail stew or something? So, I started my way back to produce to put everything back. Yes, that means tearing my bags open and dumping the contents back where they belong. How embarrassing!

I knew Marina Foods (which I like to refer to as the aZn market) would have what I needed at a much lower price. I grabbed everything I needed crossing my fingers in hopes that they would have oxtails which they, thankfully, did. I also found the cloves & star anise as well. Yay! I got home in a hurry to sear off the oxtails. After searing and removing them, I added the aromatics (garlic, ginger, lemongrass and Thai chillies). I deglazed the dutch oven with some Chinese rice wine and let that reduce before adding in the soy sauce, brown sugar, beef broth & lime zest. I let that mixture come to a boil before adding the oxtails back in and sticking them into the oven.

After an hour and a half passed, I flipped the oxtails and set the timer for another hour and a half. Yeah, this recipe takes FOREVER! After the last hour and a half, I took the dutch oven out of the oven & had Justyn help me strain the sauce. UGH!! Look at how little sauce I was left with. This means I will have to make another batch of sauce tomorrow to compensate. I tried a little bit of the oxtail to see where it was at in terms of seasoning and tenderness. Yes, it was tender but HOLY SALT Batman.. I will have to add more sugar to my sauce tomorrow to balance things out. I really do hate when a recipe doesn't turn out the way it was intended but I figure I can help others out there to change the recipe so it works out in the end.

Anyway, here are the pictures I took after everything. Tomorrow is Day 2!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Crafting: Bird Cage

I just finished my latest project which was inspired by the Bird Cage Lanters on The Bride's Cafe. Link:

Aren't they adorable? I loved the colors from Kristina Werner's latest Color Challenge # 57, so I used the leftover cardstock to make this birdcage. The bars of the cage are severely uneven so I may go back later and fix it but whatever.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Embellish Magazine Challenge w/ Hearts

I loved the simplistic colors for Embellish Magazine's latest challenge. You really can't go wrong with black, pink & red. I decided to try out what seems to be my favorite technique on cards, which is stitching. I'm doing something very similar with a set of cards I'm making for my friend who is pregnant. Could stitching be my new niche? Stitch Niche.. hmm.. that could also be another name for my Etsy store. Yes, I'm thinking about opening up an Etsy store thanks to the amazing reactions and overwhelming encouragement I've gotten from my friends. It won't be until later though. I think I want to start cranking out some video tutorials with my new Flip camera first.

Anyway, enough babbling.. here's my entry.

NAC: Hello Kitty Birthday Card

I couldn't post this one until now since my friend just got it. What sucks is the adhesive between the pennies didn't last long. She was only able to spin Hello Kitty one time before the thing fell apart. Oh well, good to know for next time.. guess I gotta reinforce the adhesive the next time I mail a spinner card out. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: Dio Deka (Birthday Dinner)

I haven't done a review in a while only because I haven't been impressed enough to do one.. which kinda defeats the point because I should include restaurants that suck but whatever. Tonight, Justyn took me to Dio Deka in Downtown Los Gatos. I had my reservations about this place which I can't say but just trust me.. I wasn't expecting a lot. I never expect a lot whenever a restaurant is located inside a hotel. It's just wrong... Think about the Hobees or worse yet.. the Dennys. Ew! Alright, call me a snob, but you know it's true.

Well, I was wrong. This place is located inside the Los Gatos Hotel which is a very cute hotel. We didn't stay there but based on my impressions of the outside I knew I was in for a treat. Hello! They still have Christmas lights out. Yay!

Anyway, our "amuse" were kalamata olives in a marinade with oregano, rosemary and olive oil. Super flavorful, tart and salty. The way olives should be. We also had some pita bread which was brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, rosemary & oregano. Mmm... It was delish! We also brought a bottle of Peju Cabernet Sauvignon 2005.

We ordered Kalamarakia Gemista which is Monterey bay, oven-roasted calamari stuffed with gulf shrimp and feta, served with a tomato relish. At first bite, I was in love. I actually wish they had this as a main dish.

For our main dishes, Justyn ordered the Pastitsada which is the roasted leg of lamb with pappardelle hand rolled pasta, garlic confit, , Santorini wine, Kalamata olives and shaved Kefalograviera cheese. Fantastic! I recognize the fact that handmade pasta is hard to cook. I've always had it over or undercooked. The chef cooked it expertly. It was al dente but not too chewy. The lamb was tender and perfectly seasoned. It was everything Justyn loved. Thick pasta, meaty & savory.

I ordered the Arni Kotsi which was the lamb shank with butternut squash risotto, stewed brussel sprouts and Manouri cheese. Oh... my....lord. I wasn't very hungry after the olives & bread but this sent me over the edge. You know that feeling you get when you're blissfully happy after some wine and good food? Yeah... that's how I felt. Blisss... mmmm... Not to sound too pornographic.. but I was moaning with pleasure. However.. my only two gripes were that the garnish of fried shallots were stale and the lamb shank was a little too salty. That means for well balanced palates, it's TOO salty. I loved it despite those two factors.

I apologize for the bad pics but like most restaurants, lighting is terrible. Overall, I have to say that since Evvia is so far, Dio Deka is a good substitute.

Anyway, since it was my birthday, Justyn put some candles in some Haagen Daaz icecream (chocolate & PB if you must know).. all 32! Holy crap that's a lot of candles. I had an awesome birthday. Thx B!

Also, my good friend Esther got me the 78 eyeshadow & blush palette from Coastal Scents. I can't wait to play with it! Thanks E-Ma!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

KWerner's Color Inspiration # 57

Yay! The color inspiration challenges are back.. well just for this one time but I was super excited to participate in this one. I was inspired by the bird cage lanters that I saw on this blog: I plan on making one of these with the colors from Kristina's challenge but that'll come later.

Since I liked the cage so much, I decided to hand cut a cage for the background out of the blue cardstock. I found that October Afternoon's Farm Fresh paper pack had the right colors for the saffron and mustard so I used that for the bottom piece. The flowers were punched out and crumbled up to give it a distressed look. I stacked 3 of them together and put a brad through them. I rounded the corners and then added some faux stitching to finish off the card.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cooking: Makhani Chicken

One of my friends on a message board posted about how he made Makhani Chicken. Say that name outloud.. doesn't it just sound intruiging? Well, it did to me. He posted the recipe for me to try so tonight I decided to do just that. We had to stop by our local Indian market to pick up some of the ingrediants such as fenugreek powder, garam masala and plain yogurt. While we were there we also bought some frozen naan, veggies & rice to make for a quicker dinner. Hey, we were hungry alright? Don't judge me!

Anyway, after going to our local grocery store to pick up the rest of the ingrediants, I got home and quickly got to prepping. I wasn't able to find ginger & garlic paste, so I just grated my own using a microplane.

Instead of giving a summary of how I changed and did things, I'll revise the recipe in case any of you are interested in making this.

Makhani Chicken


2 skinless, bonless chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1 yellow onion halved and sliced
3 tbsp butter
1 lemon juiced
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1 ½ tbsp garam masala*
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin*
1 bay leaf
½ cup plain yogurt*
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered cashews*
2 cups crushed tomato
¼ tsp cayenne
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Pinch ground fenugreek*
4 tbsp honey
1 bunch cilantro rough chopped


1) Melt butter over medium low heat (don't burn it!). Once the butter stops foaming, add onions and saute until softened.

2) Add the ginger & garlic paste along with the bay leaf. Saute until fragrant.

3) Add the chicken and let that cook until you don't see anymore pink.

4)Combine the garam masala, cumin, chili powder & cayenne pepper and add to the onions and chicken. Saute that until fragrant.

4) When the onions & chicken are well coated with the spices, add the crushed tomato and combine with everything.

5) Combine the heavy cream & yogurt into the mixture. Let everything simmer for 5-7 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.

6) Stir in the honey & lemon juice. Let simmer for another 2 minutes.

7) Add cilantro but leave some for garnish.

*all ingrediants can be found at Indian grocery markets. The cumin you could probably find at the regular grocery store but it's cheaper. I had to buy whole cashews and use my food processor to grind them up into a powder.

**you can throw all the ingrediants together after the chicken has cooked enough so it doesn't show any pink but I wanted to let the spices, cashews, ginger & garlic paste "toast" a bit so their flavors came out more.

This was a fantastic recipe.. a little spicy with so many layers of flavors. It's a rich dish which pairs well with some cumin scented rice, naan & Indian style veggies. Thanks m3cha :D

Sunday, January 3, 2010

NYE in San Diego

For NYE we flew down to San Diego to hang out with peeps from a message board. Melissa and Don were gracious enough to host a party with delicious snacks, drinks & great company. It was so good to finally meet people that I’ve known for a while but have never actually seen face to face.

The next morning we met at Starbucks to caravan over to a pizza place called URBN. This place had really great thin crust pizza and the toppings were seemingly endless. Justyn and I decided to get fresh tomato, basil & artichoke hearts on ours. The salad was also amazing. It had blue cheese, homemade candied walnuts, pears and walnuts.

After a nice brunch, we went to Stone Brewery for some beers. We were supposed to leave and go to Downtown San Diego and walk around the Gaslamp District but instead we ended up having so much fun at Stone, that we stayed there well into the evening. We went back to Melissa & Don’s house for a snacky dinner and more drinks.

The next morning we woke up early to have breakfast with everyone at a place called The Longboarder. I decided to treat myself to some chicken fried steak. I rarely get it since it’s soo high in fat and calories but hey.. we were on vacation. It was super tender and that gravy sent me to heaven.

Since it was our last day in San Diego, we drove down to the pier and beach to walk around. It was such a warm and perfect day for the beach. I wish I had brought my sandals so I could’ve walked along the water. One of our friends, Kevin, put his feet into the water and totally got his pants wet.

After the beach we drove into the Gaslamp District for some drinks and an early dinner. We ended up having Thai for dinner since just about everything was closed. It was a good choice though. Melissa ordered the honey duck which was very delicious. Everyone was greedily eyeing her dinner while we ate. After dinner, we went back to the same bar we met at for our last hurrah before we had to fly back to San Jose.

I had such a good time and I can’t wait to hang out with these peeps more! Big thanks to Melissa & Don for hosting. The next time you’re in San Jose, we’re totally gonna take you out :D