Sunday, February 28, 2010

One Good Turn Deserves Another

Thank you, thank you, thank you to the nice person who found my wallet lying on the street and turned it into 24-hour Fitness. It was only a 20-minute turnaround between when I actually lost my wallet, realized I lost it and then recovered my wallet. I should have asked the 24-hour staff if they knew who turned it in so I could thank them myself, but I was in a minor state of panic at the moment and wasn't quite thinking. Now I will have to do something extra nice for someone else!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Baby Hats and Sacks

My middle sister asked if I would make her some baby hats and sacks so she could use them in her photo shoots. I went through some books and did some searches online and made her three hats and two sacks (a.k.a. "cocoons").

The hat with the braided ties is a very-slight adaptation of Ersie Major's Bee hat.

This little hat is from one of my many pattern books and was my first attempt at a pompom.

These two sacks are based on the baby stork sack pattern from the hipknitized blog.

And finally, my favorite new pattern from the Corry's crafts blog. This pattern is called Noggin.

Monday, February 22, 2010

If You Like the Teen Fantasy Section at the Bookstore, Read the Wicked Lovely Series

Fragile Eternity (Wicked Lovely, #3) Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was a bit miffed with Melissa Marr's Fragile Eternity.

You should probably stop reading now if you don't want to know an entirely general bit about the ending of this book.

For some reason I thought the Wicked Lovely series was a trilogy and that everything would be resolved by the end of book. Ugh. Lucky, yet unlucky me, the series will continue.

I know, I know, I gave it five-it-was-amazing stars. I loved it. Melissa Marr has created a very cool world of fey. There is a dark twist to the series, so it's not all light-hearted frivolity. Then there is an interesting balance between the different characters. Those who should lean more towards darkness and malice have streaks of kindness and caring in them. Then are those seemingly fanciful characters who are truly manipulative. It's all so interesting and cool.

But, then it ended on page 400 (don't be too impressed, this is teen fantasy so it's quick-reading). I really hate having to wait for the next book to be published! I am all about instant gratification and would much rather gulp down an entire series book-by-book than have to wait months on end for the next installment. Now I will have to sit and wait for book four. This is going to be rough.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner

Since our anniversary falls on February 12, Seth and I normally go out to dinner then and I make dinner on Valentine's Day. This year I made:

  • Anaheim Peppers Stuffed with Feta
  • Caesar Salad
  • Chicken Parmesan
  • Crack Pie

The flavors don't really go together, but after our Esin dinner, Seth wanted me to try making the peppers at home. All-in-all, it was a long day in the kitchen, and after my snafu with the pie, I considered ordering pizza.

Crack pie is a sought-after dessert from New York's Momofuku Milk Bar and the L.A. Times Test Kitchen has an adaptation of the recipe available. The filling is basically sugar, heavy cream, eggs and butter; and the crust is made of oatmeal cookie. My pies did not turn out very pretty, but the one we cut into tastes quite nice. I will try the recipe again now that I know what I need to do to fix the crust. Of course, I have nothing to compare this recipe to since I have never tried the real-thing, but it's good-enough stuff.

Here are the recipes:

adapted from

8 Anaheim peppers (more if they are small)
1/2 lb. feta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 small serrano pepper, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 390 degreees.

Cut a cap off the tops of peppers and scoop out seeds (be careful not to break or tear the pepper). In a bowl, mash the feta with a fork until soft. Add oil, parsley, hot peppers, salt and pepper and mix until well combined.

Using a small spoon, stuff the cheese mixture into the peppers (use the spoon handle to press the cheese down) to 1/2 inch from the top. Press a small piece of bread into the pepper to keep the cheese from melting out during cooking Place the caps back on the pepper.

Lay the peppers on a nonstick baking pan and roast for 20 minutes. If your peppers are large, it will take about 10 minutes longer.

adapted from America's Test Kitchen

4 slices of bread
6 chicken breasts
3 extra large eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
Grated mozarella
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Marinara Sauce

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Tear bread into quarters and place in food processor. Pulse until crumbs are about 1/8 to 1/4 inch big. One slice equals approximately one cup of bread crumbs.

Using a meat pounder, pound chicken breasts to 1/2 inch thickness.

Pat chicken dry. Salt and pepper each side of chicken. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess. Dip in eggs and then dredge in bread crumbs. Put on plate.

Heat vegetable oil in nonstick skillet until shimmering. Add two chicken breasts to pan and cook about 2-3 minutes each side, until golden brown. Place chicken on paper towel lined plate and put plate in oven to keep warm while cooking remaining chicken.

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Place chicken on baking sheet. Add approximately 1/4 cup of marinara sauce onto each chicken breast and then mozarella and parmesan cheeses. Bake in oven 5 to 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and browned.

by L.A. Times Test Kitchen
Makes two pies!

Cookie for Crust
2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 oz.) flour
Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
Sant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup (2.5 oz.) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons (1.25 oz. sugar)
1 egg
Scant 1 cup (3.5 oz. rolled oats)

Heat oven to 375 degres.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until and fluffy.

Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully combined.

Beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats.

Spread the mixture onto a 9x13 baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to touch on a rack. Crumble for use in the crust.

Cookie Crust
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 tablespoons (.75 oz.) brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined. The mixture should hold together when clumped between your fingers. Divide the crust between two pie tins. Press the crust to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins.

They recommend using 10-inch tins. If you use 9-inch tins, cooking time extends by about 5 minutes.

1 1/2 cups (10.5 oz.) sugar
3/4 cup plus scant 3 tablespoons (7 oz.) light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (.75 oz.) milk powder
1 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup plus scant two tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 egg yolks
2 prepared pie crusts
Powdered sugar for decoration

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.

Gently whisk in the egg yolks; be careful not to add too much air.

Divide the filling evenly between the two prepared pie tins.

Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool pies on a rack.

Refrigerate the cool pies until well-chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, with gooey filling. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Crack Pie notes:

  • I could only find powdered milk, and I am still not sure if it is the same as milk powder. I am guessing not, but even so, the pie was yummy.
  • Rolled oats are not the same as old-fashioned oats and could not be found at Safeway. Whole Foods had rolled oats.
  • I have a talent for burning oatmeal cookies, and I did burn the edges of the cookie, but caught it just-in-time. Be careful not to burn your giant cookie!
  • Next time I prepare the crust, I will use a measuring cup as suggested by America's Test Kitchen as I did not get the crust high enough on the sides of the pie plate. It's a tough crust to be trying to mash down.
  • Since I used 9-inch plates, I extended the cooking time by 5 minutes at the 325 degree mark.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


For our four-years-together-celebratory-dinner, Seth suggested a Mediterranean restaurant in San Francisco. Unfortunately, due to the last-minute nature of his plan, the earliest time they could seat us was 10:00 p.m. on a Friday night. It is probably important to note that this restaurant has the highest rating on Yelp of Mediterranean restaurants in the City.

Since 10:00 p.m. is a bit late for us for dinner, I suggested a place with a bit of Mediterranean flair, Esin in Danville. We were only able to get a reservation for 8:45 p.m., and while they not overly crowded when we got there, they continued to seat people after us.

Neither of us had been to Esin before, but I have wanted to try it out for at least a year; a volunteer I work with told me about it, and her sister owns a wonderful catering company in the area, so I trust their foodie-judgment. I also had just read that Diablo Magazine rated them the best East Bay restaurant (95 of 100) during their November 2009 Food Awards.

It did not disappoint. We started with their meze platter, and it came with hummus, roasted eggplant dip, cucumber yogurt dip, tabouleh, olives, dolmas, roasted anaheim peppers stuffed with feta and grilled pita. We both loved the stuffed peppers and the grilled pita was strikingly similar to the pita bread made by myfoodaffair.

For dinner, I had the filo wrapped chicken breast and Seth [for some weird reason] wanted to try the hamburger. The filo wrapped chicken breast was the best chicken dish I have ever had a restaurant. Normally, I go for steak, but, I wanted something with a more obvious Mediterranean influence, and I love feta, goat cheese and filo. Lucky, lucky me. It was served on lemon pearl cous cous and roasted tomato coulis. The cous cous was yummy, but I did not particularly love the tomato coulis. The coulis was a little too plain tomato sauce for me, but that is essentially what it is, and there really could not have been an accompaniment with much more flavor in it considering the main dish itself.

Seth liked the burger, and their fries are made from fresh potatoes. I still think he should have tried the ribeye, especially after reading the rating Diablo Magazine gave it.

Our dessert was baklava, something we both love. It was delicious, and melted-in-the-mouth just as good baklava should. Our server said their best course is dessert, and they do offer a variety that makes it extremely difficult to pick. In other words, save room for dessert.

I cannot wait to go back here. Not only was the food delicious, the service was great. Esin is now one of my favorite spots in the Bay Area.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

Ever since I found this recipe for peanut butter cup brownies on the myfoodaffair blog I have been meaning to make them. I finally baked a batch last night for little pre-Valentine's Day treat at work.

My brownies are not as nice looking as the ones from myfoodaffair, and I think next time I should use the miniatures. I also did not use the suggested roasted peanuts to decorate. Seth thought the brownies were a little too salty, and he suggested that I try the miniatures next time (just noticed that kk did not use the full-size ones in her batch). Personally, I like the salty-sweetness of the peanut butter cups. Yum! My fellow savory-lovers beware, this is a heavy treat.

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies
from Newsday

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up, plus 2 tablespoon to butter pan
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
20 Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (full size)
1/2 to 1 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

1. Butter a 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan, then line with foil and butter foil. Set aside.

2. Bring saucepan of water to boil and turn off heat. Combine butter and chocolate in heatproof bowl and set over the pan of hot water, stirring occasionally until melted.

3. Whisk eggs in large bowl. Whisk in salt, sugars and vanilla. Stir in chocolate and butter mixture, then fold in flour.

4. Pour 1/2 of batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Place peanut butter cups on top of batter, spacing evenly. Pour remaining batter over peanut butter cups and spread evenly. Decorate top with chopped peanuts.

5. Bake on middle rack at 350 degrees about 45 minutes or until top has formed a shiny crust and batter is moderately firm. Cool in pan on wire rack for at least 2 hours or in refrigerator for 1 hour to allow peanut butter cups to firm up again before cutting. Wrap pan in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature or refrigerate until next day to make brownies easier to cut. Or you can wrap pan in plastic wrap and freeze for several weeks.

6. To cut brownies, unmold onto cutting board, remove foil and place another cutting board on top. Turn cake right side up and trim away edges. Cut into 2-inch squares. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and place in layers between parchment or wax paper in tin or plastic container that has a tight-fitting cover. Store at room temperature or freeze. Makes 24 (2-inch) pieces.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Somehow, February completely snuck up on me, and so did the baby shower I am supposed to attend on Super Bowl Sunday; which, as I type, is later today. The shower is for a family friend, and I had all these grand ideas making a quilt, knitted blanket, and hats to give as my gift. Right.

I am lucky that I finished the quilt, just-in-time. It took me all day, but it is done and ready to be wrapped. This project did not go very smoothly.

It has been several months since I used this pattern, and I forgot that I adjusted the quilt squares down to four inches from five in order to fit on a 1 1/4 yard backing. I realized this when I pulled out the Star Wars flannel and compared it to what I had already started sewing together--the quilt top was too big!

Luckily, I have a rather large stash of fabric and could accommodate this mistake. The problem was that I really wanted to use the Star Wars fabric because my family friend is a huge fan. I even tried cutting four-inch squares, but determined that using the Star Wars flannel required a trip to the fabric store. In the interest of time, I decided to forgo the original plan and use another cut of fabric.

My troubles did not end there. Apparently, I really did want to use the Star Wars fabric, because by the time I had sewn seven of the eleven rows together, I found another mistake. This time, I mixed-up the quilt squares and was now one-short of a particular color, with no extra fabric to cut. The only solution was to remove a row from the top and one column on each side.

Now, the quilt top fit the Star Wars backing. Joy. Really. I know the top and backing don't really go together, but I think they (the parents-to-be) will get a kick out of the back of the blanket.

I also tried a new method of tacking. Usually, I machine-quilt the baby blankets, but it can be difficult since I have a very regular sort of sewing machine and no long-arm; or I hand-quilt if there is time. Once in a while I hand-tack using a stitch and a knot, but I don't really care for the look so I did some research on the internet and found a blog with new ideas for tacking, and pictures of crow footing.

I tried it out and liked this look much better that plain tying. In case you are trying to see what crow footing looks like, they are the purple stitches sitting on top of the seams, and look like the letter "v." Some people refer to crow footing as "fly stitch."

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Almond Macaroons

Today I had my first almond macaroon. It was divine, and now I am must try and bake my own. I think it will be quite an adventure to try and match the ones I had today. That's right, I had more than one. I even lost count; quite amazing for a non-dessert person like me. By the way, these were baked by Jeffrey Schulz Catering of Pleasanton.