Monthly Archives: March 2014

Cooking Without a Recipe (or Attack of the Honey Bees)

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have access to good ingredients and time and loved ones to feed and, most importantly, Food Network. So I’ve gotten pretty good at sensing food, knowing how much salt and pepper are needed, what flavors go well together, how long to let things simmer – basically I can cook without a recipe. It’s not always a success but, honestly, I don’t remember the failures. They settle deep in the mind as lessons that eventually manifest as cooking intuition. Unless they’re spectacular failures, in which case they become funny stories to tell at a party. Like the time I spawned a fearsome creature of the deep while trying to make caramels.

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And then turned from my monstrosity to realize six bees had gotten in, drawn by the smell of cooking sugar. I am irrationally afraid of bees so six angry, confused ones zooming around my tiny apartment induced a minor panic attack. I immediately went to go hide in my bed then realized after ten minutes that no one was going to come save me. I lived alone and I had things to do and I couldn’t hide forever. By then, the bees had congregated near a window and I was able to kill them pretty easily, one by one, with a rolled up magazine.

iPhone 047It was sad – honeybees clearly aren’t houseflies, they don’t expect to be smashed from behind and I could see them wiggling and touching each other, probably trying to figure out how to get themselves out of this dodgy situation. But I didn’t know what else to do and I didn’t want to get stung. I still feel slightly guilty about it…

All this to say, you should try it some time! Try cooking something you’ve made a few times before, glance at the recipe to remind yourself of the ingredients, then put the recipe away and see if you can cook without it. Add seasonings slowly, tasting as you go. The more you practice, the better you get. And eventually you get in a zone, where you’re really in tune with your food and your gut and your senses instead of glancing at instructions every two minutes. You may come to enjoy cooking more, who knows?

This ABSOLUTELY does not work with baking, by the way, that’s all about science and chemical reactions. I always meticulously measure and follow the rules with baking, which is probably why I don’t enjoy it as much as I do cooking. Too bad I enjoy the results of baking so much…


Yum: Stale Crackers (trust me…)

I don’t like to waste food. Armchair psychology tells me this goes back to my grandparents making me finish every single grain of rice in my bowl because they had lived through the Korean War. But I digress….

Suffice it to say, when I discovered an old box of stale crackers in the back of the pantry, I tried to use them instead of just throwing them away. And, huzzah, turns out they make an excellent PANADE.

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Panade is just a fancy word for a thick mix of starch and liquid. You can add this to your meatballs, meatloaf, and turkey burgers to make them beautiful and moist. Usually panade is made with bread but who wants to waste perfectly good bread? Just crush up your stale crackers, add a little milk and mix until you get a paste like the texture of thick, coarse hummus. It doesn’t look pretty but, trust me, your ground meat will thank you.

Some other ways to use stale crackers:

1) If they’re not too far gone, they can be revived for use as actual crackers by throwing them in a 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes

2) Crush and mix with melted butter, throw on top of a casserole and bake for a yummy crunchy topping

3) Crush, add salt, pepper and dried herbs and use to coat chicken or fish for pan-frying

4) Throw whole stale crackers in a frying pan with some butter to make delicious faux croutons for salad or soup

5) Crush and use to make stuffing for mushrooms, pork loin, etc.

My grandparents would be so proud =)


Baby Yoda Knit Hat (with Free Pattern)

Blog - Yoda Hat 010aA college friend of mine had a baby recently and upon seeing the facebook announcement my thoughts went something like: “Oh how exciting, he’s so cute! What can I knit for him? Wait, what’s his name? Oh, they chose a good one. …Baby booties would be adorable, but who actually uses those? I hope he’s healthy… Oh, maybe a teensy hat!”

Clearly my priorities are a bit muddled but they did result in the cutest thing on this blog yet… or maybe ever in its future existence. The hat itself is a breeze to knit and works up quickly using bulky yarn. The hardest thing is stitching the ears on so they stand out symmetrically and don’t flop too much.

Since I didn’t have a readily available newborn baby, I modeled the hat on a ball of yarn which I approximate to be the size of a baby’s head. That ball of yarn gets cuter the longer I stare at that picture. The pattern is available for free after the jump!

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A little DIY: Art for the Kitchen

I know chevron has totally jumped the shark, but I still think it’s adorable in small doses and especially in a happy hue. So I wanted to share this easy and cheap project that I did for the kitchen, but really you could do for a nursery or office or laundry nook or whatever.

chevron art

And since you can get acrylic paint for $1 and canvases for about $5, it doesn’t even matter if you end up hating chevron in a few months. Just paint over the canvas for something entirely new!

See how I did it after the jump!

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Yum: Lentil Stew with Sausage (or Leftovers Magic!)

I had a hankering for something healthy and warm and hearty so I made this lentil stew with sausage and it was perfect. Perfectly satisfying with a side salad for dinner and again for lunch the next day.

But the real magic happened on the third day when I got bored. To mix up my leftovers, I put some Trader Joe’s tuscan kale in the bottom of my bowl, added a dash of salt and pepper and a healthy sprinkling of olive oil and microwaved for 1 minute.  Then I added my lentil stew on top and microwaved for a minute more. Meanwhile, I made a sunny-side-up egg to go on top. MAGIC in three minutes, I tell you! The egg yolk adds a velvety richness and the kale adds freshness and the textures go beautifully together. You could do this with almost any kind of leftover stew or thick soup – beef stew, chili, curry, even Indian food!

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Lentil Stew 1 via FuzzyCloudDesigns

Boring leftovers be banished!

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Hey look! Beauty!

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It’s officially spring! Well… everywhere else. In LA, of course, seasons are only suggestions and jasmine has been abloom for a few weeks now.  They fill the air with such a sweet fragrance I had to stop during my run to snap a photo. Happy spring =)

Yum: Cookies and Coffee

My favorite combo to fuel my knitting: warm cookies and a cup of ‘jo

Cookies are my favorite things to bake – they’re unpretentious and comforting and come together quickly and are endlessly customizable. The cookies below are from the SeriousEats food lab and are billed as the “best” chocolate chip cookies – and they are richly chewy with deep caramel flavors. For a more soft, cakey cookie, I like this recipe from good ol’ Betty Crocker.ETSY Knits 043

Coffee is a topic too grand for likes of this blog, but I’ve found lately that a tiny french press is the perfect way to make a single, mellow, non-bitter cup.

Knitting in the Sun

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I brought my knitting to my parents’ house today, 30 minutes away from central Los Angeles, in the deep San Fernando Valley where there are lush, green backyards as far as the eye can see. Instead of the incessant chatter of TV, there were birds.. flitting about and chirping about whatever birdly business they were up to. There were actually butterflies, multiple butterflies, fluttering around and a lone dragonfly hovering shimmering still in the air. The sun beat upon me gently and insistently and thousands of leaves sighed and chattered as they brushed up against each other. Occasionally, the wind chimes would play their high, sweet notes as they danced. Above this all was the click and sweep of my knitting needles and my work grew steadily and it felt like I had been in this sunny snow globe for ages and then I looked at my watch – 6 minutes.

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