Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NAC: Congratulations

I started this card last night but couldn't get the box around the flowers centered. I find that stepping away from a card and coming back to it helps a lot. Tonight it was a lot easier to focus and get it just the way I wanted.

PS - I revisited Lisa Spangler's blog for a tutorial on how to lighten my photos since the lighting set up (non-existant) sucks. I've been playing around in GIMP and her tutorial was super easy to get rid of the darkness in my photos.

Here's a photo so you can compare the two.

Cooking: Chicken Porridge

Today was a chilly and rainy day so for lunch we had some pho. The weather was still pretty crappy when we got home and since Justyn had some leftover rotisserie chicken from some tacos he made last night, I used the bones, salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, green onion & cilantro to a quick chicken stock. I also had the rice soaking while I prepped the ingrediants for the stock. By the time I had the stock simmering I was supposed to saute the rice prior to putting it in our new rice cooker but I got lazy and impatient. I skimmed the chicken stock and got rid of all the scum before draining it. I added the rice to the rice cooker and submerged it 3/4 of the way full and added another 1/4 of the way full with water. It's a little complicated but the results are worth it and to be honest, I don't really have much of a recipe for this dish anymore. You can pretty much wing it with a few basic tips and it'll turn out great.

1) Soak the rice for at least half an hour.
2) Drain the rice and saute it until they're a little transparent.
3) Take the time out to make a nice aromatic chicken broth.
4) Lots of toppings. I used some chopped and rinsed preserved turnip, cilantro, the tops of the green onions, prepared fried garlic & onion, lime juice & finally some baby bok choi. Sriracha & a little soy sauce on the side doesn't hurt either.

What you end up with a nice hot and flavorful bowl of comfort.

Monday, May 24, 2010

NAC: I'm There For You

Look ma! No stitching! Heh.. I was inspired by this cute tank top from Old Navy. I'm actually working on another card that has stitching on it but it's far from being done so maybe I'll finish it up and post it tomorrow.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cards Blog Challenge: Berries

The theme for this weeks Cards Blog challenge was berries. I knew I wanted to make a strawberry out of felt and add some stitching detail on it, so that part was easy. The semi difficult part was the layout. Originally, I was just going to put a banner under the strawberry but that seemed a little too simple so I took a page out of Kristina Werner's MACM video. I like the juxtaposition of the patterned paper so I incorporated that with stitching of course. The patterned papers I used are from October Afternoon's Farm Fresh line. Another trick I figured out when stitching with felt is to back it with some leftover packaging from embellishments. Just draw and cut out the shape. Then pierce holes for stitching. I adhered the felt to the shape with dry adhesive. This makes stitching close to the edge of the felt a lot easier.

Cooking: Pasta Amatriciana

I noticed that I haven't made pasta lately so guess what? We're having that for dinner tonight. This recipe is super simple and easy to make. Not too many ingrediants either which is always convenient for a weekday meal.

Haha I just looked over and Justyn and he already polished his bowl full of pasta. "GOOD!" was his response. Sometimes I wonder if he's half caveman.

Pasta Amatriciana

2 tsp olive oil
1 slice ham (1/4") cut lardon style
1 medium onion(s), chopped
1 medium garlic clove(s), minced
14 1/2 oz canned diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, to 1/4 teaspoon
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup(s) water
1/2 pound(s) uncooked whole-wheat pasta, spaghetti variety
1 Tbsp parsley, fresh, chopped

Cook the pasta per directions on the package.

In the meantime, heat oil in pan on medium high heat. Add the ham and cook until slightly browned.

Add onion and cook for a few minutes until softened. Then add the garlic & red pepper flake.

When garlic is fragrant, add tomato & oregano. You might have to add a little water if the sauce reduces too quickly. Simmer the mixture until the pasta is done. Season to taste.

Drain pasta. Add the mixture to the pasta pot and mix in basil.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cooking: "General Tsao's Chicken"

I spotted this recipe on a healthy eating website and thought... it would be nice if I could cook healthier Chinese American food. All the stuff at the takeout places are terrible so I gave it a try.

Not too shabby. I used chicken breast which made the dish have a healthy feel to it but it's not bad. The sauce ups the flavor of the bland and boring chicken breast. I took a shortcut and used ginger in tube form since grating it was not appealing today. I honestly can't really tell a difference anyway. Upon looking at Justyn's empty plate, I think he enjoyed it.

General Tsao's Chicken

3/4 cup(s) canned chicken broth, reduced-sodium
1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp peanut oil
2 medium scallion(s), chopped
2 medium garlic clove(s), minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or 1 dried chili pepper, minced
1 pound(s) uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2-inch pieces

In a medium bowl, whisk together broth, cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and ginger; set aside.

Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallions, garlic and pepper and cook 2 minutes.

Add chicken and cook until browned all over, about 5 minutes.

Add reserved sauce and simmer until sauce thickens and chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Serve chicken and sauce over rice.

Here's the recipe for the quick Napa cabbage stir-fry too :)

Napa Cabbage Stir Fry

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 pound shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine)

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and ginger, and cook for a few seconds until it begins to brown.

Stir in the cabbage until it is coated in oil; cover the wok, and cook for 1 minute.

Pour in the soy sauce, and cook and stir for another minute. Increase the heat to high, and stir in the Chinese cooking wine.

Cook and stir until the cabbage is tender, about 2 minutes more.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

5th Annual Napa Trip

Every year we try to make it out to Napa for wine tasting. This year was no exception and the weather was gorgeous so why not? We met everyone at our hotel and then caravaned over to a local market for coffee and a bite to eat before wine tasting. It was a charming little place that had a good homely vibe to it. I ended up getting apricot jam with brie on a dutch crunch roll which was divine. I'm not normally a brie person but the apricot jam really worked with it. We ate outside in their cute little patio area.

We started at the winery we always seem to start with which was Peju. This year we got to sample their Peju Pink wine which has a lovely watermelon flavor to it. Nearly everyone in our group bought a bottle of it.

The next place we went to was Alpha Omega. Originally we started inside, but Jen asked if we could sit outside which was awesome because they had a little patio area with sofas and a great view of their fountain. "Ask and you shall receive" is what Jen said and it worked :) Vincent was our fantastic host for the tasting. He really made us feel special and welcomed. Oh, and the wine? Amazing. The wines at Alpha Omega are a little on the pricey side, but once I tasted what they had to offer, I could clearly see why. Justyn and I ended up buying a bottle of their 2007 Chardonnay & 2008 Petit Syrah.

After the couple wineries that we went to, lunch was in order so we stopped at V. Sattui. I really wanted to like this place but it was such a HUGE tourist trap. Buses and cars full of people were unloading by the dozen. The lines for lunch were terrible too. Three people including myself got in line for the mozzarella sandwich and the chick (I won't even give her the respectful title of a chef) behind the table was slicing mozzarella, bread & basil to order! I really did try to be patient but seriously.. a little prep would've made the line move a lot faster. So about half an hour later or more, we finally all got our food and sat down in the grass under some shade for lunch. I was still pretty irritated so I bought a bottle of wine to wash my sandwich down with heh.

Our bellies were full from lunch so afterward we went to our last winery, Milat. I was hoping Mike, one of the vintners was going to be there but he wasn't. He was quite a character the last time we went to Milat but we still had fun.

After Milat everyone was pretty beat from the warm weather and tasting wine so we went back to Stefano's hotel to dip our feet in the pool and have some cocktails. It was so relaxing, I lost track of time for a bit. We had about an hour to get ready for dinner! I brought a dress that I had been keeping in the back of my closet for special occassions and this was the perfect time to wear it.

For dinner, we went to my favorite restaurant, Bistro Jeanty. I had been hyping up the tomato soup to everyone so they were all anticipating the greatest tomato bisque in the world. Bistro Jeanty did not disappoint, it was just as good as I had remembered it. Some of the pictures didn't come out due to the lack of lighting but everyone was telling me that they really enjoyed the food :) For dessert, Lora ordered the bread pudding which was soooo good. I don't normally like dessert but I couldn't resist this stuff.

The next morning we went to Boon Fly Cafe at the Carneros Ranch Inn for breakfast. It was an adorable little restaurant with porch swings on the outside. It had a very quaint yet upscale feel to it. I ordered the Green Eggs & Ham while Justyn got the donuts & Chilaquiles. Every little bite was delicious and it was utterly the perfect place for brunch. Of course, I couldn't have brunch without a refreshing cucumber mojito.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cooking: Miso-Glazed Cod

One of our friends mentioned how often she ate cod so I decided to make it for dinner tonight. Not just any cod, but miso-glazed. Unfortunately, the grocery store near our house didn't have any miso, so I had to make a special run to the aZn grocery store just for that. It was worth it though. Justyn is digging in like nobody's business right now.

Miso Glazed Cod

1 1/2 pound(s) uncooked cod, four 6 oz black cod or regular cod fillets
1/4 cup(s) miso
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 fl oz mirin, about 2 tablespoons
1 Tbsp ginger root, freshly grated
1 Tbsp sesame oil, dark-variety
1/4 cup(s) rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup(s) scallion(s), sliced very thin (for garnish)

Place fish, skin-side down, in a broiler-proof pan.

Place miso, sugar, mirin, ginger, oil and vinegar in a blender; blend until smooth. Pour glaze over cod and marinate in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Preheat broiler to high.

Broil fish until topping turns golden brown and starts to caramelize, and fish is no longer translucent in middle, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve garnished with scallions.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Justyn "Cooking": Snack Dinner

Since it was a warm day today and because Justyn had been craving this type of dinner, we decided to have this tonight. We had sopressata, garlic & basil goats cheese, mini sweet pickles, marinated articokes with baby corn, bell pepper & hearts of palm, sliced roma tomatoes & a french baguette.

Lemons Weekend

This weekend was spent at Thunderhill racetrack in Willows for a Lemons race. For those of you who don't know what Lemons is, it's a race for cars that are worth $500 and are rebuilt so that they're able to run on the track. You can do whatever you want to the cars but I think there's a limit to how much you can spend and what you can do to it. Last year, the theme they chose was the Porcubimmer and this year the car was based on Stephen King's Christine which they named Prickstine.

(Pics taken by: Jeff Hermann & David Moore)

They even had matching t-shirts!

The race was really fun to watch with the variety of themes the different teams came up with. Most noteable was the Tiger Woods car in which the team dressed up as women and would say crazy things like "I love you! I hate you" and bang on their car with hatred and golfclubs.

Prickstine's pit crew and racers showed great teamwork, friendship & sportsmanship. In fact, the entire race had a feeling of that. At the end of the race, one of the teams drove around in their car passing out some kind of coffee liquor which actually tasted pretty good.

I wanted to make something special for the Prickstine crew so I made them spam musubi & jap chae. I was kinda disappointed that the rice for the spam musubi hardened up but people still seemed to enjoy it. I had to cook the jap chae twice since the noodles were too hard in the morning but it turned out OK.

All in all, it was a good time :) Congrats to the Prickstine girl & guys for placing in 6th place!