Monday, February 28, 2011

Crumpets with butter and blueberry jam

The other day, I had breakfast with my friend Preethi, and I was blown away when she told me that she wears running tights underneath her work pants in order not to freeze to death on her way into work (she lives in D.C.). I was also shocked today to see a Facebook picture of Petrie playing in actual snow in my parents' backyard in Oregon. These are places that, I know, get really, really cold. And still, somehow, whenever the temperature dips to 50 or below here in California, I can barely stand it. This past Saturday was one of those days, so I stayed in and mixed up a thick, sticky batter for a large batch of crumpets. I had found the recipe in the paper the day before, and it seemed like just the thing to smother in butter and jam and pair with a mug of hot coffee.

Note: the whole crumpet-making process can be sped up through the use of more than one biscuit ring on the griddle. However, it can be fun to make them the torturously slow way, one at a time, and to eat them standing up in the kitchen as they come off the griddle so that they are all gone before the last one is even finished cooking.

The mock clotted cream the recipe suggested sounded good, but not as good as simple salted butter and blueberry jam (my favorite).

Crumpets with Mock Clotted Cream
As adapted from Melissa Clark's recipe from the New York Times

Serves 6-8

1 cup warm milk
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup mascarpone
6 tablespoons heavy cream
olive oil for cooking

1. In a large bowl, whisk milk, yeast and honey (or sugar). Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until foamy, 10 minutes.
2. Whisk in warm water, both flours, salt and baking powder until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about one hour.
3. For the clotted cream, whisk together the mascarpone and cream until thick and stiff. Chill.
4. Set a griddle over medium-low heat and oil it. For flat, pancake-like crumpets, spoon batter onto the griddle and cook 3-4 minutes on one side and 1-2 minutes on the other. Or, use well-oiled English-muffin rings or cookie cutters. Place on the skillet. Spoon in batter 1/4-inch high. Let cook until dry around the edges and bubbles have formed over the surface, 5-6 minutes. Remove rings and wipe clean. Flip crumpets; cook until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Re-oil the griddle and rings before making another batch. Serve with butter and jam or mock clotted cream.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Crisp & Tailored

I can clearly remember the two times in my life when I've had a garment tailored just for me. When I was 7 I was one of the flower girls in my aunt's wedding, and each of us had a cute mini white dress made. And then in elementary school, when we were studying the California Gold Rush and had to dress to match the period every Wednesday, my mom had a seamstress make me a bonnet, apron, and long gray skirt. The lack of more custom-made clothes in my life reminds me of what a luxury it is. When I learned that a tailor in Cambodia can whip up a beautiful pair of pants or a dress for under $20, I was amazed. This white button-up shirt is one of the items I had made while on my trip. The entire shirt cost just $9 to have made (that includes the $2 price of the material). I didn't have nearly enough things made, but that just makes me appreciate the fit of the few things I did get that fold, flow and hug just right.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sitting Pretty in Ikat

Lately I've been obsessed with decorating ideas for our new place. It's the first apartment I've lived in where I feel really comfortable and where I actually find myself spending time thinking about what will fill the walls and what color living room I'd like to eat my toast in on Saturday mornings. Right now I'm in love with ikat textiles on just about anything -- chairs, pillows, ottomans. I'd especially love having curtains in the blue and white pattern from the chair in the top left corner. Since there's so much brown in our living room, I think it'd make for a really nice contrast.

1. Urban Outfitters Indigo Ikat Slipper Chair $329
2. Madeline Weinrib Celery Daphne pillow
3. Dwell Studio Diamond Ikat Citrine Pillow $58
4. West Elm Essex upholstered ottoman $299
5. Bergere chair covered in Alan Campbell fabric (

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mac and Cheese Love

This past Saturday was rainy and gray and made me want to bundle up under a million blankets and eat warm, good, gooey things. This inspired me to try my hand at making another batch of mac and cheese, one of my most favorite things to eat of all time. I've tried a few recipes in the past and none were quite memorable, including Ina Garten's version which left me oddly disappointed. That all changed this weekend when I tried the Pioneer Woman's Fancy Macaroni recipe. Holy heck. It was amazingly cheesy, gooey, savory, and flavorful--the best macaroni and cheese I've ever had. This recipe calls for caramelized onions and lots of bacon, which I think lends a lovely meatiness to the pasta, making this a great stand alone dish and not just a delicious side.

The cheeses I used were chevre (a soft goat cheese), parmesan, and a blend of gruyere, fontina, and swiss. Next time I think I might cut back on the goat cheese a bit since it's not a flavor I particularly enjoy, although it did add a nice tanginess.

Before baking...

After baking glory.

Now, I don't want to sound all crazy here, but I do believe this mac and cheese is just the thing Usher is talking about in his song OMG. Allow me...

"There's so many ways to love ya
Got me like oh my gosh, I'm so in love
I found you finally, you make me want to say
oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh"

(I know what you're thinking. But what can I say? I'm a woman in love!)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Elbow Patches and Classic Camel

H&M blazer and shirt, Anthropologie necklace

Last week, I was in the City for a birthday party at Twenty Five Lusk, a posh restaurant and bar that serves fancy dishes like roasted marrow bone with poached duck egg and soft pretzels with truffle gruyere sauce (which is where I originally got the idea to make these). Since we happened to make it there way ahead of schedule, we grabbed happy hour tacos and margaritas and then did a little bit of shopping. I couldn't resist this camel-colored blazer with chocolate brown elbow pads. It's fully-lined, too, which makes for adorable folded cuffs. When Alan saw it, he said it looked like Paddington Bear which made me like it even more.

A few other pieces I'd love to accessorize this blazer with are these Hunter wellies (so classic!) and this bag from H&M (a much more affordable version of this cute bag).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Piece of Home in Phnom Penh: Brown Coffee

[jasmine flower bundle. they give off an intoxicating fragrance]

My three-week trip to Asia was the longest I've been away from home in the past 15 years. Even though being thousands of miles away from anything familiar was exhilarating, it also started to wear on me as I'm a total homebody. When I discovered Brown, a Phnom Penh coffee shop that looked like it could belong down the street from my apartment back home, I was thrilled. I found it comforting to eat a buttery danish, sip a well-made latte, and just people watch (especially all the ex-pats busy at work -- what were they all working on?)

[cool concrete walls balanced by warm wood furniture]

[delicious pastries on the cheap!]

[homebody nourishment]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Soft Pretzel Valentines

Even though Alan and I aren't hugely into Valentine's Day (I can't remember ever going out for the night), this year I decided to surprise him with a tasty snack: buttery soft pretzels and Izze sodas (his favorite). The pretzels were really easy to make, so good, and so much better than stuffed animals and over-the-top bouquets, if I do say so myself. And since I've been really into learning Photoshop recently, I borrowed a line from Keith Sweat and designed a Valentine's card to match the occasion.

butter and cinnamon sugar toppings -- I loved the cinnamon & sugar!

cheesy valentine ;) (p.s. if you'd like to download and print this card for someone special, you can grab it off my facebook page)

Buttery Soft Pretzels
Adapted from

4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup salt for topping

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center; add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water. Knead the dough until smooth, about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, dissolve baking soda in hot water.
  4. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Once all of the dough is all shaped, dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution and place on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, until browned.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cambodian Holiday: the pretty, the cheap, and the must-dos

buddha statue at angkor wat

Cambodia is filled with beautiful temples, crazy driving, out-of-this-world, hour-long body massages for just $4, good food (even Italian!), and either really, really poor people or really, really rich people. It was an amazing trip and totally worth every minute of sitting on the 16-hour flight.

apsara dancers

$6 hair wash and blowout (which included a 20-minute head, neck and shoulder massage)

cute boutiques like keokjay in siem reap's pub street district

the royal palace


enjoying the hot, hot heat

spending time with these ladies

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hong Kong: the highlights

taking the subway everywhere

Hong Kong was a surprise. Before I arrived, I had absolutely no expectations whatsoever, so after I'd had a chance to explore a bit, I realized that I rather liked it. If there's one thing to say about it, I will say that the city moves--the people, the subways, the night. Everything is in constant motion, and with my (relatively) slow Californian mosey, I often felt like I was being swept up and moved along. After I got used to the Hong Kong notion of personal space (that is, no notion of personal space), the city and I got along just fine. I could definitely see it being a fun place to live for a year or so, and maybe in that time, I'd also get used to receiving a single paper napkin (if any at all) when dining out and spending my non-working life in a mall (malls were everywhere!) Here were some of the highlight's from my 5-day trip.

waiting just 5 minutes to ride Space Mountain at Hong Kong Disney

taking the second longest escalator (in the world?) through the posh Central district

hiking to Victoria's Peak (which, at the very top, did not have an observatory waiting for us or some sort of educational poster to tell us about the different species of birds found in the area, but a mall!)

eating insanely good dim sum, especially the shanghai dumplings

trekking up to the ten thousand buddhas monastery

the bustling nightlife

Monday, February 7, 2011

Novelty Foods of Hong Kong + Cambodia

One of my favorite parts of adventuring to other countries is seeking out the novelty foods. In Hong Kong, for example, none of us could resist a trip to McDonald's to see if the Big Mac was still called the Big Mac (it was) and if there were any cool regional specials to be had (there were). Most of the items were the same as the ones that can be found on your local menu, but there were two that stuck out: the red bean pie and the Ebi burger. The red bean pie looks just like a McDonald's apple pie, but is instead filled with a sweet red bean paste. With hints of floral notes, the pie was good, but not exactly my cup of tea.

While I could do without the red bean pie, the Ebi burger was really good. If it were on the menu here, I would eat at McDonald's a whole lot more. It's a fried shrimp patty topped with crisp lettuce, a bit of mustard and the same sauce that comes on the Big Mac, all sandwiched between a soft, perfectly steamed bun. It sounds so weird, but it's so good!

For breakfast in Hong Kong, I made it a point to eat as many pineapple custard buns as possible. There were bakeries everywhere, just churning out this goodness like it was their job or something.

Eye-catching displays of bright candy in Hong Kong were counterbalanced by...

...eye-catching displays of tripe and tendon snack-packs. (I was too scared to try).

I know one of my resolutions was to cut back on my chip eating, but with all the crazy flavors available in Asia, I couldn't resist! My favorite flavor was the seaweed-flavored potato chips...

...followed by the ketchup-flavored seaweed...

...followed by the unagi-flavored potato chips which were good at the time, until I got sick from them.

And although taking condensed milk in your morning coffee isn't that novel, it's something I don't ever do at home but did nearly every day in Cambodia. Once your shot of coffee is all stirred up, it's sweet and creamy and a good way to start the day.
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