Friday, March 29, 2013

Ribbed Man Hat

When we were back in the U.S. around Christmas, we made a trip out to Tim's dad's place.  Heavy snow was predicted to for the area (and lived up to the weatherman's hype, as pictured above), but Tim was wildly unprepared, clothing-wise.  Somehow his winter coat made its way into storage instead of coming with us to Indonesia.  Ditto with Tim's winter hat and gloves.  Worried about being stuck in the snow, we stopped to buy Tim gloves and a hat, but were pretty unhappy with the quality of everything we saw and ended up buying a crappy hat (see hat above) that was not warm enough and got super stretched out.  I wish I had had time to make Tim a hat before the trip...

Thus, despite being wildly inappropriate for Indonesian weather (hot hot hot, humid), I made Tim a ribbed winter cap for his birthday using this free pattern.  A simple, ribbed, rolled brim hat, perfect for a dude, knit in a pretty greyish yarn speckled with blue, red, yellow and chartreuse, Cascade Yarns 128 Tweed.  

One slight problem I had:  I don't know if I just knit really tight, or if Tim and I both have abnormally large heads (it's a virtual planetoid!  it has its own weather system!), or both, but this hat is just large enough to cover our ears... there's no way the brim would roll and still cover our ears unless I added like another 2 or 3 inches in length.  Luckily the hat looks good unrolled, too, so no worries.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy Birthday, Tim: S'more Layer Cake

Duuuuuuudes, this cake is good.  So good.  

When I saw this S'more Layer Cake recipe in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, I knew I had to make it, but I needed an occasion.  Luckily it didn't take much convincing for Tim to agree that his birthday was just that occasion.

Plus, this recipe required the use of a kitchen torch, which I always secretly wanted to buy, but could never really justify.  Heh heh... cool... fire! fire! fire!  Now I have to plan some cooking around that new flaming utensil.

A moist graham cracker flavored layer cake with a milk chocolate ganache filling and toasted marshmallow frosting...  what's not to love?

The cake itself is made by processing a bunch of graham crackers until they turn into a flour (thanks to Amy for bringing American graham crackers to us across the world!).  Buttermilk (or in my case milk plus sour cream) keeps it super moist (I actually had to cook my layers a few minutes longer to get them cooked through, but that may be my wonky oven).

Super rich milk chocolate ganache in the middle mimics the traditional Hershey's bar (I kinda wished there was more of that- maybe next time a layer of it under the frosting would do the trick?) and fluffy, sticky, marshmallowy frosting (not dissimilar from the frosting I made on this cake) is dolloped on top and torch toasted to perfection.

We ate the cake early, the weekend before his birthday, because Tim had to attend and present at a conference this week.  Don't feel too bad for him, though, because the conference is in Bali (life is tough, eh?):

Flannel Baby Swaddler

I just finished up a couple of these flannel baby swaddle blankets to give to some soon-to-be babies.  Ridiculously easy and hopefully useful!

I used the pattern by Prudent Baby's Jaime Morrison Curtis that I found in the book Fabric-by-Fabric One Yard Wonders (given to me by the always-thoughtful Colleen).  However, it looks like there is also a tutorial for the blanket on Prudent Baby if you don't have access to the book. 

Pretty easy: three pattern pieces, one yard of flannel, three packs of bias tape... it's basically a giant triangle blanket with two built-in ties sewn onto the back to keep the swaddle secure.  My wrinkly, babyless photos don't really do it justice (and Lincoln was not feeling like modeling this morning), but you can see it in action here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Feta Stuffed Dates

After working with dates for my homemade energy bars, my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to try more date recipes, so I bought another box.  A quick Google search unearthed these feta-stuffed dates with nuts... sounded like a good second date with dates (har har).

Super easy: mix some cream cheese with a bit of feta and parmesan, stuff the mixture into pitted dates, top each with an almond, baste with olive oil and drop them in the oven.  Then, inhale with a glass of wine like Tim and I did.  Or, alternatively, serve them as an appetizer at a party because they look fancy despite their simplicity.

I took these photos before baking them since I was quickly losing the natural light, but they look even more appetizing once baked.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pumpkin Bacon Mac & Cheese

More bacon, I know.  But I made half recipes of this awesome pumpkin bacon mac and cheese as well as the tasty pea and bacon risotto... two half recipes = one package of bacon.

Anywho, this dish turned out pretty great (despite the terrible photos, sorry).  I combined two recipes I found online to make my final product.  I basically followed the sauce instructions from this recipe (minus the honey and all-spice), combined with the onion, bacon and buttered breadcrumb topping from this recipe.  Plus my own addition: some minced garlic with the onion.  

Healthier than your average mac and cheese, but still cheesy enough to satisfy your craving.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Batik Peplum Bubble Dress

I am in awe of all the awesome and creative free sewing (and other crafts!) patterns there are on the internet, particularly for baby and kids clothes.  I've already taken advantage of many of them (Geranium dress, baby bloomers, quilted toddler peacoat, Junebug dress...), but even then I have barely scratched the surface.  Plus, I learn about another cool blog or website everyday... score for me!
Recently I discovered a kick-ass, new-to-me blog, StraightGrain. I love all of the cute and modern patterns and tutorials on this blog.  Here is an adorable little dress I made for Zoe using one of those free patterns: the peplum bubble dress.  I love the simple bodice and puffy little skirt (see below how the bubble look is created by attaching a curved lining to a larger, rectangle outer layer) ... I think it would be sweet with some little leggings.  I highly recommend this pattern!  The dress is quite easy to make and came together really quickly.

My peplum bubble dress is made from some inexpensive teal and hot pink machine-printed batik that I bought here in Jakarta (I guess it's not true batik since it's not wax resist, but it's a batik-themed print). 
I totally chickened out on putting in a zipper.  Soon. Soon.  I have an excuse, though, in that I didn't have the right colored zipper on hand, but I did have these great hot pink buttons that I bought last time I was in Bangkok. To add buttons to the dress, I just added about 1.5 inches to the inside of each back piece, folded each side under until I got sufficient overlap, basted the flaps down,old and then added buttonholes.  Also, I used pre-packaged bias tape rather than make my own for the neckline and arm holes.  I used the single fold kind, so it is tucked to the inside, rather than visible on the outside.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pea and Bacon Risotto

Mmmm... this pea and bacon risotto recipe is a winner.  I like how some of the peas are kept whole and some are pureed and mixed into the rice to ensure the flavor is spread throughout the dish.  Plus, the fresh, green pea flavor is complimented by the smokey, meaty bacon and the lemon juice at the end brightens it all up.  Good stuff from Food & Wine

Friday, March 15, 2013

Saag Paneer and Tandoori Spiced Cauliflower

My favorite Indian dishes, hands down, are saag paneer and chana masala.  Unfortunately, our preferred Indian joint here in Jakarta is kinda a pain to get to on the regular, so I don't get my favorites as often as I would like, leaving it up to me to try to recreate them at home.

Step 1: Sag Paneer.  Step 2: Chana masala (coming soon... maybe this recipe?).


My first attempt at saag paneer was pretty successful!  Two thumbs up for the recipe, although I wish now that I had made my own paneer (there are instructions in the recipe) rather than using the store-bought kind... the consistency of the cheese wasn't what I was looking for, but I bet homemade would have the creamy goodness I seek.

The only change I made was to splash a few tablespoons of heavy cream into the dish before serving, as it was a little too thick for my taste.  Other than that, pretty straightforward and simple.  And healthy, too... Give it a try!

We paired it with some tandoori-style roasted cauliflower that had a nice flavor, but turned out a bit mushy for my taste.  Maybe a dry spice rub is better for cauliflower than the yogurt-based marinade in this recipe?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bulgur Maple Breakfast Cereal

I recently came into what I think is bulgur wheat from some friends who moved on from Jakarta to greener pastures (Hi Brooke and Rob! Miss you!)... it came in an unmarked (but for a stylized drawing of what looks like a wheat stalk) bag, but looked fairly bulgur-y, if that's a thing.  

I always think the concept of oatmeal is nice: a hearty, warm bowl of breakfast goodness.  But in reality I find oatmeal to be kinda gluey and gross.  The texture of this bulgur wheat porridge is better somehow... it's got a creaminess, but the little bits of wheat retain some appealing bite and pop.  Add a hint of smokey sweet maple flavor?  Pretty awesome.

I followed the super simple NY Times directions to a T (soaking the bulgur overnight in hot water then cooking it briefly in milk in the morning), but switched up the accoutrements, using quartered strawberries and roughly chopped almonds in place of the blueberries and pecans.  Yum.  As an experiment, I also tried Martha Stewart's cook it all at once methodology, but I found the overnight method creamier and more appealing.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Chipotle White Bean Dip

Bored with hummus?  Me too.

Hummus seems to have turned into the staple party snack.  I have nothing against it, I mean, I love hummus, but I think it's become somewhat overdone as a snack and party dip.   

Here's an awesome alternative: chipotle white bean dip

Similar to hummus in the sense that its base is a bean and it's got some garlic and olive oil, but this dip is jazzed up with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, lime juice, cilantro, and cumin.  It's awesome as a dip for salty chips or fresh veggies- fresh and zingy, smokey with a hint of spicy...  good stuff.  And good for you, too!

 I used this recipe as my general inspiration, but altered the ratios to suit my tastes.  One can of white beans, two chipotle peppers, juice of 3 limes (although I am using the tiny Indonesian jeruk nipis, which is probably equivalent to one or one and a half regular limes), about 3/4 teaspoon of cumin, a tablespoon of olive oil, a handful of cilantro, one grated garlic clove and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

English Muffin Bread

I stumbled on this English muffin bread recipe the other day and decided that I neeeeeeeeded to make it ASAP.  I haven't had English muffins in about a year and a half, whereas when I was in the States, they were a breakfast staple...

The recipe was super simple: no knead, basic ingredients... however, I think it was perhaps a little too good to be true.  It toasts well and has an English muffin-y flavor, but is not quite right texturally.  My bread came out too dense for my taste, and didn't replicate the nooks and crannies of a good English muffin, which is really what I was hoping for.

This recipe, however disappointing, did spark my interest in making legit English muffins, though.  The kind that are cooked on a griddle with cornmeal.  Alton Brown's recipe has rave reviews.... perhaps my next project?  Gotta get me some milk powder first.  Because nothing beats an egg sandwich on an English muffin, although an egg sandwich on a biscuit is a close second.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Blooming Geraniums

Or more accurately, bloomers and geraniums... Geranium dresses, that is!

I made two sets of bloomers (remember how cute my other bloomers were?) using the free pattern at See Kate Sew, along with two Little Geranium tops using the free pattern at Made by Rae.  One for Baby Dos and one for Baby Mr. Ben and Erin, both equally cute.

I used some awesome vintage pastel seersucker fabric that the Real Martha donated to my cause, and even though I made two full outfits out of it, I still have about yard left.

And one more set of bloomers, for good measure, from scrap fabric:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Baby Shrugs

I had a few almost skeins of yarn leftover from other projects and was in need of a few newborn baby gifts: enter the baby shrug... 

It's teeny (look below to see it compared to my lens cap!), cute, a ridiculously quick knit (big needles- size 10), and perfect for leftover yarn (it took like 3/4 of a skein). You've seen these two yarns before in various forms- Lily Sugar n' Cream in Mod Ombre and Nature's Choice Organic in Petit Fours.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Guava Frozen Yogurt

After our last frozen treat ended up being a bit of a disappointment, we needed some chilled redemption in the form of frozen yogurt. 

I made guava paste with fresh guava and sugar, then stirred some of it into plain yogurt to sweeten it up.  I froze the yogurt in the ice cream maker, then layered it with additional guava paste to make a pink swirl throughout. 

Tart and tasty!  It got a little bit icy, but a few seconds on the counter before scooping solved that.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ginger Lime Fizz

Erin (you may remember her as Mr. Ben's lovely wife) was in town for work last week, so I had her over for dinner.  I whipped up a couple old favorites, Moroccan spiced chickpea soup and salty sesame chocolate chip cookies.  I wanted to make a fun drink, but since Erin is pregnant, it had to be an alcohol-free mocktail.

A riff on my favorite, the gin rickey, this ginger lime fizz drink replaces the herby gin with a spicy and sweet ginger simple syrup and pairs it with lime juice.  It's pretty awesome...  a little bit like ginger beer with a hint of lime.  The way I mixed it was by the glass rather than in a large pitcher... I found the ratio of 3 tablespoons ginger simple syrup to 2 tablespoons lime juice to 3/4 cup soda water to glass full of ice tasted just right.

This drink would be perfectly refreshing for a summertime baby shower, next to some apple green tea mint punch.  Bonus: cooking the ginger simple syrup infuses the air in your house with an amazing ginger scented air freshener.