August 29, 2010

Earrings Mod: A Basic How-To

My amateur--and successful(!)--adventure in jewelry modification.

A little while ago I picked up these great earring from the Laney Flea Market. These elaborate, dangly clip-ons caught my eye while I was riffling through a bin of jewelry. I absolutely loved the cut-out design and the round bit on the post--a little mod and a little flirty.

There's just one problem: the clip-ons HURT! I could barely wear them for more than a few hours without my earlobes screaming for relief. But I couldn't stand to stash them away so I decided to take matters into my own hands and put my very, very basic jewelry-making skills to use. So I bought a pair of jewelry pliers, unearthed a package of fish hook findings, and got to work.

Here's how I did it:

You will need: a pair of earrings in need of some modification, a pair of jewelry pliers and two fish hook findings.

Access the situation, clear your workspace, and get in your crafty zone.

Take one earring and grasp the jump ring with the tip of your jewelry pliers.

Grab the other end of the jump ring with another pair or pliers (or in my case my fingers) and gently, but firmly, twist so that the ring ends separate slightly.

Switch out the original clip-on finding with the fish hook finding...

...and close the jump ring by pinching it closed. I like to sandwich the twisted jump finding between the two tweezer bits of the jewelry pliers.

Then use the jewelry pliers to close the gap by gently squeezing the jump ring from the sides. Try to bring the ends as close together as possible without bending the ring out of shape.

Repeat, marvel at your handiwork,
and wear them with pride.

August 22, 2010

SF Street Food Festival...And How I Ate My Way Through It

I spent a better part of my weekend at the San Francisco Street Food Festival. I have to admit that I was a little on the fence as to whether or not I should go--taking BART into the city on my only day off this week, jostling with crowds of ravaged people, and spending money didn't exactly appeal to me. But then I realized that if I stayed home then I would wind up cleaning the apartment, and I could not live with myself I if passed up a food festival for housework.

So I ponied up $25 and bought myself a passport that got me $29 worth of food, a free surprise snack, and drink. Knowing that 20% of my purchase was going to La Cocina, an amazing organization that helps incubate small, culinary entrepreneurs and works to create policies that support street food vendors in San Francisco really helped me take the plunge as well. Plus, I got to spend some time with my aunt and uncle.

Ma passport: each ticket = $1 and was SO much easier than dealing with money. Plus it came with a nifty double sided map and tickets for a free Honest Tea and a "mystery" snack.

Tamales! Que casualidad!

Folsom & 25th: an intersection of culinary least for the day.

Le Menu

Vegetarian samosa from Curry Up Now, a taco truck that sells Indian food. A perfect warm up for the day ahead...and only $1. My aunt and uncle split their Tikka Masala Chiken burrito. $7 of glorious Indian goodness wrapped in a flour tortilla.

Kung Fu Tacos definitely evoked the spirit of Bruce Lee with their tasty tacos.

Check out that line! It was like that just about everywhere, but the lines moved pretty fast and the food was totally worth it.

Asian spiced chicken, sliced red onion, cilantro and pureed carrots (I think). The chicken was very good and I liked the carrot puree, but it did dilute the flavors a bit. $3 each, courtesy of my aunt.

Opportunistic street musicians (they were quite good) and very innovative--much needed-- temporary counter tops.

Next up: DESSERT!

We didn't care that it was 12:30, or that we had only tried a fraction of the food vendors, but we just had to have some smores from Kika's Treats. Homemade graham crackers, smooth chocolate and torched marshmallows. The only thing missing was a glass of milk!

A tasty, tasty beef tamale from Alicia's Tamaleria/Tamales los Mayas. Very savory and homey in the best way...almost as good as homemade. I have to admit I was starting to get full at this point.

The ubiquitous Azteca dancers. They migrated from intersection to intersection. I rather like blurry one. Artistic, no?

When I saw the Bepto Bismol booth on the map, I thought that it might be a very cleverly (or ironically) named food booth. But, no, they were there to provide Peptol Bismol cocktails to anyone who might need one. I definitely saw a number of people walking around with plastic cups filled with iced Peptol Bismol. I, thankfully didn't need any.

A quick break and a stroll down Folsom Street and I was ready for some more. So I got in line for some Filipino food from Adobo Hobo and the Lumpia Cart. The line was quite substantial, but my order was filled instantly and the food was definitely worth the wait. I got adobo chicken and a thai basil lemonade. And my uncle was kind enough to share some lumpia with me. The adobo could have been more vinegar-y for my taste, but the meat was uber tender and literally fell off the bone. $4 for the chicken and $2 for the lemonade.

After lumpia and chicken adobo we doubled back to Treat Street--an aptly named street--to see if we could get some mini cupcakes from La Luna Cupcakes. La Luna had sold out of cupcakes, so we got some brady caramel filled chocolate squares from Clairesquares ($5 for 3) and chocolate chip cookies from Sweets Collection. The caramel chocolate squares were really good, and we bagged the remaining squares and cookies for later.

I also picked up a 2 lb. bag of all purpose flour from Giusto's for $2. The Giusto's girls were really sweet and I'm looking forward to using my flour the next time I bake.

Next stop: 25th Street for something savory.

Enter: Flour + Water and their Melon, Duck Prosciutto and Lardo Salad. I was tempted to try their pork sausage plate, but I didn't think I had enough room for a larger portion. Besides, I was really curious about the duck prosciutto and lardo, both of which I've never tried. I have to say that my adventurous inclination paid off: the salad was quite tasty and the duck prosciutto was the best part.

We then (slowly) made our way back up to Folsom Street for one last sweep. I was intrigued by Purple Hibiscus and their beef skewers. I thought that it was Korean fare, but was pleasantly surprised to discover that they feature Nigerian cuisine.

The skewers were a bit pricey and there was a 15 minute wait, but I had a ton of tickets left over and was very curious to try Nigerian food. So I handed over 8 tickets and when I stepped aside to wait for my skewer the next door stall, Hapa Ramen, caught my eye. They were sold out of their soba and ramen noodles, but had cold somen noodles for $5. I have to admit that I was getting full, but a bowl of cold noodles with pulled pork and spicy chili oil sounded really, really good. So I stepped right up to their counter, handed over 5 tickets, parked myself on the sidewalk, and dug in.

I am so glad that I got those noodles! They were by far the best thing I ate the entire day: velvety cool noodles, sweet and savory melt-in-your-mouth pork, crisp green beans and spicy chili oil.

I finished my noodles just in time for my suya skewer: hot, beefy and super spicy. And then I was done. My tummy was full, my lips were burning and I was happy.

I can't wait for next year.

August 15, 2010

Amigurumi Spam Musubi

A tasty one night amigurumi project.

I made this Amigurumi Spam Musubi for my friend, Cherise aka Macadamia Nut, for her birthday. You see, M-Nut is from Hawaii and we both (on occasion) enjoy the culinary wonder that is Spam--especially in Hawaiian BBQ and as Spam Musubi.

I definitely procrastinated on this project and ended up making it the night before I thought we were going to get together. In the end we didn't get to hang out but I found out that nigiri style sushi amigurumi is quite simple and quick to make.

I apologize in advance for not providing step-by-step photos. Next time, I promise.

And now for the how-to:

Amigurumi Spam Musubi

Size D crochet hook
Scrap pieces of worsted yarn in white, reddish/maroon/pink, and dark green
Scrap pieces of yarn or fluff
Craft glue


Component 1
With white yarn:
Chain 13 stitches
Rnd 1: Sc into the 2nd ch from the hook, sc in each ch.
Rnd 2-7: Sc into each ch.
Rnd 8: Ch 1, working around the piece (including ends of rows), sc in each sc around, sl st into the first sc.
Work sc in the round for 5 rounds.
Finish off.

Component 2
With white yarn:
Chain 13 stitches
Rnd 1: Sc into the 2nd ch from the hook, sc in each ch.
Rnd 2-7: Sc into each ch.
Leave long tail and finish off.

Using the tail, sew component 1 and component 2 together to make a box. Make sure to leave one edge open and stuff liberally with fluff or scrap yarn. Sew shut and weave in all ends.

*When I do amigurumi, I like to hide any loose ends by pulling them into the object with my hook and thereby turning it into stuffing.

Slab o' Spam
With reddish/pink yarn:
Making sure to leave a long tail, chain 13 stitches.
Rnd 1: Sc into the 2nd ch from the hook, sc in each ch.
Rnd 2-15: Sc into each ch.
Break yarn and finish off.
Fold the piece over lengthwise (hamburger style for all of you who remember elementary era paper craft project instructions) and hide the finish off tail inside the piece.
Using the long tail from the beginning of the piece sew the three edges of the Spam piece together. Weave in ends.

Nori Wrap
With dark green yarn:
Chain 10 stitches.
Rnd 1: Sc into the 2nd ch from the hook, sc in each ch.
Rnd 2: Sc into each ch.
Crochet as many rows as are needed to snugly wrap around the Spam and Rice components. When the appropriate length is achieved, break the yarn and finish off. Weave in one of the ends.

Glue the Rice and Spam components together. Squeeze some glue in the middle of the Nori piece and place it glue side down in the middle of the Spam piece. Wrap the Nori ends around the Spam and Rice. Sew the ends together and finish accordingly.

Ta-da! Amigurumi Spam Musubi!

August 8, 2010

Cupcake Fever

A couple of weeks ago I took a cupcake decorating class at Spun Sugar, a local baking/confection supply store in Berkeley. I prefer to think of the store as a place one goes when one wants to be blown away by the sheer volume of baking and confectionery goods that they carry. They have just about everything that any culinary enthusiast could want: cupcake liners of all shapes, colors, designs and sizes; premade (either in-house or imported from such exotic places as France) edible decorations; available in retail, wholesale and bulk quantities of Guittard, Callebaut, Cordillera, Valrhona chocolate (their "Wall of Chocolate"); and all the decorating hardware you could think of. In my opinion everything is very reasonably priced, especially things like sprinkles and other novelty decorating items. Anyways, back to the class...

The class, aptly name Cupcake Fever, was three hours long and cost a mere $75. (It was also one of my birthday presents so all I had to do was enjoy it!) The class fee covers everything: the raw, prepared and pre-made materials, instruction and the 13 cupcakes that you get to decorate and then take home. I took that class with Tracy, Spun Sugar's Wilton School of Cake Decorating-trained store manager. She was absolutely wonderful: patient, kind and extremely informative. I asked a lot of questions and basically ended up feeling like that annoying, know-it-all kid in class that never shuts up, but at least I got my answers. We also got to take home a course syllabus which contains recipes for each of the cupcake and frosting flavors that we used. I cherish this bundle of papers especially for the frosting recipes.

All but two of the cupcake flavors were premade for us and we got to watch how to make the white velvet cake; this demonstrative batch of white velvet turned into the cake for two of the cupcakes that we got to decorate. We got to work at stations (of sorts) and make three cupcakes at a time. Some of the decoration aesthetics were not my taste (the shoes cupcake, for example) but it was fun to learn how to pipe frosting and get a feel for how you could make stunning, professional looking cupcakes with just a specialized piping tip, some sprinkles and an edible gnome.

And now for the cupcake eye candy:

Elegant Rose Cupcake

White cake with chocolate buttercream
frosting and a beautiful edible rosebud.

Puppy Cupcake

Red velvet cake with buttercream frosting a
pressed sugar puppy and flower shaped sprinkles.

Petit Four Cupcake

White velvet cupcake scented with almond extract
and orange blossom water filled with raspberry jam
topped with instant poured fondant and a gum paste flower.
(My favorite by far!)

Lemon Verbena Cupcake

Lemon verbena cake with buttercream icing
and gum paste flower.

Hot Cocoa Cupcake

Chocolate cake with ganache frosting and topped
with buttercrem frosting, mini marshmallows
and a dash of cinnamon.

Hostess Cupcake

Chocolate cake with buttercream filling
and a ganach frosting.

Gnome Cupcake

Lemon verbena cake with buttercream frosting,
gum paste gnome and chocolate tree (from France!).

Carrot Cake Cupcake

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and
fondant carrot.

Burger Cupcake

White cake with chocolate buttercream
frosting and a mini, candy hamburger
made from two Nilla wafers, a mini
peppermint patty, colored icing and
sesame seeds.

Boston Cream Cupcake

White velvet cake filled with vanilla
custard and topped with ganache and
chocolate stars.

Banana Split Cupcake

Banana cake with buttercream frosting,
banana chips, white chocolate shavings and
chocolate ganache drizzle.

Disco Dust Shoes Cupcake

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and disco
dust-sprinkled gum paste shoes.