Sunday, October 28, 2012

Crisp Cheddar Cheese Crackers

Also known as fancy homemade Cheez-its!  

I saw this recipe on Joy the Baker a few weeks ago and had a hankering that would not subside until I made them.  Cheez-its: another one of those things that I rarely bought in the U.S., but since I can't get them in Jakarta, I inexplicably crave them regularly.  I could probably get some sort of cheezy cracker here, but a lot of the crunchy cheese snacks made around here are just... not quite right.  And they have MSG in them, which gives them a weird after taste.

Flakey, cheesy, a little bit buttery... these rule.  They would be awesome with beers for happy hour.

And easy!  They literally have 5 ingredients: cheese, butter, flour, salt and pepper.  Mix, chill, roll, cut, bake, snack.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Baby Kimono: Meh.

Not gonna lie or sugarcoat it... I hate this yarn

I had purchased a couple of skeins a long time ago, before I was really all that into or knowledgeable about knitting and crocheting (not that I am particularly knowledgeable now, but I think I now know enough not to buy yarn like this).  I crocheted a lumpy and meh (in retrospect) scarf with the first skein and now I've knit a lumpy and meh baby kimono with the second.  

Sigh.  At least it was a quick and easy knit and I didn't spend too long on an inferior project.  The pattern itself seems fine- it's knit in one big piece and then seamed up the sides and under the armpits.  I blame it on the yarn... I don't like how the yarn is squeaky (must be the acrylic), splitty, lumpy and weird to both knit and crochet with.  The final product is just general misshapen and odd... hopefully it looks better on, but it has little hanger appeal.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

(Faux) Ikat Tiny Pock Tank

I love, love, love the Tiny Pocket Tank that I made a few months ago.  I would wear it everyday if I could, so I decided to make another one.

I might love this one more.

The neckline is flattering and perfect for necklaces, it can be dressed up or dressed down, it stands alone or under a cardigan or blazer...  this one, too, is particularly awesome because the fabric (a faux [i.e. printed, not woven] ikat quilting cotton from Joann Fabric) has so many colors that it's very versatile... I can take it in lots of different directions- brighten it further with an orange cardigan and big turquoise jewelry, or tone it down with a taupe or olive green blazer.

Love it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pineapple Upside-down Puffy Pancake

Tim's out of town this week, in Vietnam, no doubt noshing on beefy delicious pho and the crispy, herb-filled banh xeo.  Meanwhile, I'm chilling at home in Jakarta, doing some networking, doing some crafting and tearing it up buying batik at the American Women's Association shopping bazaar like the kept woman I am. 

For dinner tonight I made myself an old favorite with a twist: a puffy pancake (or Dutch Baby, which I find to be a bizarre name) made like a pineapple upside-down cake..   The Real Martha used to make these for us occasionally back in the day, although she typically made hers with apples.

I followed this recipe from the other Martha, but switched it up by using thinly sliced baby pineapple (which Tim and I have taken to buying pre-peeled at the store out of pure laziness) plus some brown sugar in place of the honey and cardamom.  Quite good!   I love how the pancake puffs up so much and is simultaneously custardy and yet still crispy on top.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dotty Tee Skirt

I bought a bright orange tee-shirt dress last year off the sale rack... I love the color and the cut of the top half, but I found myself avoiding wear it.  I think it was just a little bit too much orange.  Thus, I decided to cut off the bottom of the dress and turn it into a top/tunic.  But what to do with the fabric I trimmed off the bottom?  Skirt for Miss Zoe.

The skirt is pre-hemmed, which rules, so all I had to do was conquer my fear of sewing with knit fabrics, set my machine to zig-zag stitch, and add an elastic waistband.  Quite easy.

Then, inspired by this tutorial on Craftiness is not Optional, I added some reverse applique embellishments to the skirt using squares of knit fabric cut out of a couple of old tank tops that I never wear because they are... how can I put this delicately?  I can't: they're arm pitty.  Gross.  But besides the armpits, the rest of the fabric was totally usable.

I traced evenly-spaced circles onto the skirt hem using a round cookie cutter, backed each circle with a square of contrasting color fabric, sewed around the circle, then trimmed the extra fabric on both sides.
The inside of the skirt, halfway through the embellishing:

... from the outside:

And the final product:

I sewed around each circle three or four times with contrasting color thread, not worrying about getting the circles exactly perfect.  I like the slightly chaotic stitching style, a la Alisa Burke, whose mixed media, free style sewing I have been admiring for a while now.  Also, sewing knit fabric in a small circle is hard, so there's that, too. Ha.

I think with a little white t-shirt, this will be a pretty rockin' outfit.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Duck, Duck, Goose

Pretty simple construction and design and a totally cute end product.  I did have a little trouble lining up all those buttonholes, but otherwise it was straightforward. 

The geese on the fabric are a bit twee, but I think the grey background tones it down a bit, no?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Toilet Paper Wall Decor

So as I might have mentioned before, I've become totally obsessed with Pinterest.  I found this easy and cheap wall decoration early in my obsession.  It took me a few weeks of being extra weird at work and telling people I need TP for my wall decor! 
 When I received enough TP rolls, I cut them into 1/4 inch pieces.  I tried using spray paint thinking that would be the faster, easier way to paint each of those pieces.  Not so much.  One normal size can of spray paint only covered about 20 pieces of TP and the color just soaked into the cardboard, boo!  I also had blue foot prints and purple boogers for a few days after that try.  Oops :)  So I went back to Micheal's and picked up some small bottles of craft paint.  I got a dark denim blue, a light blue and red.  I wanted to match the colors of the pillows I made.
After all the pieces were dry and ready I used a hot glue gun and clothes pins to piece together flower/star shapes.  Once those were all done I placed the flowers in a hap-hazard way and glued them together.  I put five or six small nails in the wall above our kitchen table and just threw the TP decor up!
Fun, easy and cheap!!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stripey Snappy Shoulder Vest

This pattern is so freaking cute for little boys.  And easy.  I highly recommend it.

I love the shoulder detail, plus I added some detail of my own by making contrasting stripes and ribbed edging.

I made this vest for Amy's son, Alex, after she requested more orange things for him.  I used bits of yarn leftover from various other projects, hence the stripes.  I also overcame my fear of knitting in the round using double-pointed needles- I used them for the ribbing and it worked out pretty well!

I used size 8 needles and made the 2T size from the pattern, but I think it may be a little bit larger then 2T in reality based on my needle choice.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Mousse with Maple Creme Fraiche

I wasn't sure what I could do with half a cup of canned pumpkin leftover from my pumpkin and white chocolate bars, but this recipe sounded too good not to try: pumpkin mousse with maple creme fraiche.

While not particularly difficult, you should probably get your whisking arm and several bowls ready, as the mousse has 3 different ingredients that get a thorough whisking: egg yolks, egg whites, and cream. 

The recipe was quite tasty- the maple creme fraiche (which is like a super thick sour cream to me) was the kicker- so good!  Without it I think the mousse may have been a little bland despite all the spices, but together they were great.  I didn't make the gingersnaps as directed in the recipe, but instead crumbled some butter/almond cookies on top.  Also, I made a half recipe and was able to fill 3 dessert glasses with it (luckily, because I dropped one of them and still had two left for me and Tim!), so I think you could get six desserts out of the full recipe.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mise en Place

I made some pineapple and broccoli fried rice last... the recipe and result were nothing to write home about, but is this not the prettiest mise en place?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Bars with White Chocolate Chunks

Even though "fall" isn't really a thing here in Jakarta, I am still craving fall foods... pumpkin, kale, apples, cranberries, etc.  Sadly, only some of those things are available here (haven't seen kale or cranberries yet, but I am hoping some pop up in the grocery store soon!).  Luckily, pumpkins are available, both fresh (in the form of kabocha squash) and in canned form.  

Needing a dessert for a BBQ we were invited to, I made these pumpkin bars with white chocolate chunks using the canned pumpkin I bought (although I switched out the white sugar for brown).  Quite easy to make, quite tasty, and quite a big hit at the BBQ, but texturally they didn't turn out quite as I had hoped they would.  They were billed as blondies, which in my mind indicates that they should be dense and brownie-like, but these were much cakier than expected.  Not sure how to fix that, but also not sure it needs fixing, as these were pretty popular as is. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Batik + Plaid = Cute

The latest outfit I've made for Zoe is inspired by the modern batik clothing I've seen in stores here in Jakarta.  They mix traditional Indonesian batik with all sort of other printed fabrics- stripes, polka dots, plaid, even other batiks.  It's pretty bold, a little bit Mondo, and I dig it, so I decided to try my own version.  

This little outfit is another version of Simplicity 3511- top E and pants G.  It's the same pattern I used for Zoe's Christmas dress.  I used some cute pastel flowered batik that I picked up last week and combined it with some plaid fabric the Real Martha sent me earlier this year (also used for this top that I wear all the time)... I like how the pink and green in the plaid picks up the pink and green accents on the batik.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Eggplant Jeow

As I said, I've been hankering to make one of Laos' iconic jeows (dips) since we got back from Vientiane.
Jeow is served with basically every Lao meal... there are many different varieties and takes on jeow from around the country, but most recipes share the fact that the ingredients are grilled and imbued with a smoky flavor.  Typically, jeow is served with sticky rice, which is eaten by hand, picked out of the dish and rolled into little balls for dipping in the jeow (thusly).

Last night I finally had at it (i.e. remembered to soak the sticky rice 3 hours in advance) and made an eggplant jeow... kinda like a Lao baba ganoush, I'd say.  Smoky, salty, garlicky, a little spicy.  Good stuff.  Tim and I ate it with the traditional sticky rice accompaniment, but this stuff is multi-purpose; I could see it as an appetizer at a party, served with raw veggies, or better yet on toasted baguette slices rubbed with garlic. Next on my list: tomato jeow, which is like Lao salsa.

I used the recipe from the beautiful cookbook that I bought at the lovely Vientiane training restaurant, Makphet, called "From Honeybees to Pepperwood: Creative Lao Cooking with Friends."   I modified it somewhat as I went along, so below is the recipe with my changes noted in parentheses:

Grilled Eggplant Dip
Jeow Mak Kena

Serves 3-4


- 500 grams of Japanenese eggplant 
(I used 4 of the long skinny purple ones)

- 6 shallots 
(skin on... also, I used 6 of the tiny Asian shallots- if you're using the big French shallots, made only use 3)

- 10 garlic cloves (skin on)

- 10 chilies 
(I used 10 of the cabe merah besar, big, red, fairly mild chilies... maybe the U.S. equivalent is Serrano?)

- 4 tbsp fish sauce 
(this seemed like a lot of fish sauce to me- a little fish sauce goes a long way- so I added it to taste and ended up with more like 2 tbsp)

- 1 tsp lime juice

- handful of cilantro leaves, minced

- salt to taste


1. Grill the eggplants, chilies, shallots and garlic until the skins are charred.  Remove from the grill and cool.

2. Peel eggplants, shallots and garlic and roughly chop (I also peeled the chilies).  Do not use water for peeling, as it will bog down the jeow.

3. Using a mortar and pestle (you could probably lightly pulse in the food processor, too), pound the chilies and (a pinch of) salt.  Add the shallots and garlic and grind until ingredients are crushed.

4. Add eggplants, lime juice and fish sauce, pound until well combined.

5. Finish by mixing in the cilantro.

6. Serve with sticky rice!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Maple Glazed Baked Apple Doughnuts

Recently I bought a big bag of apples from Malang (a city located at the foot of Mt. Bromo in East Java) and was looking for something to do with them.  I saw these tasty looking baked apple doughnuts with maple glaze on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day website and thought I would give them a try (although I made a mini version).

While they were not particularly difficult to make, I can't say they tasted much like doughnuts.  Tim and I decided they were more of a sweet apple biscuit.  Honestly, I think unless it's fried, it's not really a doughnut.  Oh well.  Tim's colleagues at the office ate them up anyway.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Leaf Panel Cardigan

I had mentioned that now that my knitting skillz are improving that I'd like to try knitting cables.  While this sweater doesn't have cables, it does have this lacy leaf pattern that is somewhat cable-like and quite cute to boot.

I like how this sweater pattern has the removable panel in the front- that way you could make multiple panels with different details on them and switch out when you're bored, or if the panel gets dirty/drooly (here's looking at you, Zoe.).

Made with Lily Sugar n' Cream cotton yarn in Mod Green and finished with cute green shell buttons.

Peruvian Style Rotisserie Chicken

To take full advantage of the versatility of my new grill, I bought an electric rotisserie attachment for it.  Luckily, I had thought ahead and installed an outlet right next to the gas supply line where the grill sits.  The cord was *just* long enough to reach.

My first experiment with the rotisserie arm was Peruvian Chicken (in honor of all the joints near the Irving St house that serve this tasty and very tender grilled chicken).  I followed this basic recipe and bumped it up a few notches with additions such as onion powder and smoked paprika rather than the standard variety.

Chicken marinating for 6+ hours in the fridge

Messy transition from marinating bag to skewer

More or less in the right place

I trussed the chicken once it was in place to help it rotate better and placed a pan underneath to catch the drippings

Excess marinade used for basting

Couple of hours later...

De-skewering time

Fully roasted bird

The product was tasty.  But too wet for my taste.  I would prefer a crispy skin.  Thinking that the basting may have kept it from crisping up.  Will try again and report...