Monday, July 23, 2007

Crocheted Bacon: The Light Side and the Dark Side

Well, I may be revealing myself as a total freak with this post, but I truly think bacon is a force--of love, joy, comfort, friendship and community. But like the Force, it has a light side and a dark side. The light side revels in indulgence without a care in the world! The dark side is of guilt, heart disease and zits. So that's why I created my crochet BLT with two different faces--a happy one and a dark one.

I love crocheting food. I love the utter uselessness of this object. Even stuffed animals are somewhat useful--you can cuddle them, playact or display them proudly in a glass case (for those QVC types, that is). This BLT just sits there, perfectly useless; the most you can do with it is mime eating it--which is rather fun.

Here's my pattern--for projects like this I usually use washable acrylic craft yarn, or whatever's laying around, with my trusty pink metal 2.75 mm crochet hook. For bacon, I used a rusty orangey brown color and a light beige for the fatty bits. Inserting the wire is optional, depending on your desire for bacon shape variability.

Bread (you'll need 4 of these):
  • ch22, sc for 3.5 inches.
  • After 3.5 inches, sc in first 11 st, turn work
  • dec 1, sc 9, dec 1, turn work
  • continue until you have five st left in your row.
  • sc all the way across, bind off.
  • insert hook in second set of 11 sc, repeat decreases as above, bind off.
  • ch 4, sc in each row until it fits all the way around your bread, measure as you go.
  • Sew on eyes and stitch on mouth with embroidery thread and needle.
  • Line up two white halves, attach crust to one side of your bread.
  • Fill loosely with poly-fill
  • Attach other side of the bread.
  • ch 30, sc all the way across.
  • join darker color, repeat
  • join lighter color, repeat
  • join darker color, 2 dc in each st, bind off.
  • insert flower wire into the middle of each piece, so that you can form it in the shape you want.
  • ch 5, join to make a circle with sl st.
  • ch 2, 2 sc in each st
  • ch 2, yo, pull up 2 puffy stitches
  • pull through, ch 3, skip 2 st
  • yo, pull up 2 puffies
  • pull through, ch 3, sk 2, repeat until you reach your desired size, connect with sl st.
  • ch 6, join with sl st.
  • sc in each st once around
  • 2 sc in each st. once around
  • dc in each st. for 4 rings
  • 2 dc in each st, repeat until desired size is reached, connect with sl st.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Iced Jasmine with an Add-in

As a non-coffee drinker, I love tea. But sometimes, I realize, you’re not all that into the hot, steaming, stick in your teeth kind of traditional Asian tea, especially on a hot summer day! So I developed this recipe that infuses some of my favorite flavors—jasmine and mint, with plenty of room for improvisation. I think jasmine would also taste amazing with some springs of fresh lemongrass, or ginger, which is also incidentally great for certain types of colds. I have two of these vintage type Chinese thermoses—they’re glass on the inside, so conveniently don’t leach those nasty hormone-altering chemicals we’ve been hearing about from plastic, and they’re so darn pretty. And they keep things hot/cold FOREVER. Literally, I stored tea in one of these for a cold October picnic in the park on Autumn Moon Festival, and the tea was still hot the next day. Only thing is, since the cork is usually covered in a t-shirt like material, be sure to dry it out on your windowsill after you use it, to prevent molding. I got mine at Van China, my favorite Chinese dime store on East Hastings in Vancouver, next to the Ovaltine. Everything they sell there is at least 20 years old, and covered in a thin layer of dust, but where else can you snap up vintage Asian flower arranging accessories and little glass horses for pennies? And Canadian pennies at that. I hope they never go out of business.

Jasmine-Mint Iced Tea

2 teaballs full of loose leaf fragrant jasmine tea OR 2-3 bags of jasmine tea

Sugar syrup or honey, to taste

2 sprigs of mint leaves

Mix sugar syrup by boiling one cup of water and stirring in 1 cup of sugar, let cool.

In a large pot, boil 4-6 cups of water, then plop in your tea and turn off the heat. When the water turns a rich brown, take out the tea bags and put in your mint leaves or lemongrass stalks. Let cool.

Strain out the tea and herbs, stir in your sugar syrup or honey, to taste. Add in a bunch of ice cubes and stir.

Transfer to your pretty thermos and take to your next summer party!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Twinkle Twinkle

Okay, I'm not usually one for knitting sweaters. In fact, I find knitting anything other than squares and rectangles a little challenging; my hats often turn out bulbous and uneven, but wearable nonetheless. But I was in So Much Yarn in Belltown yesterday and was absolutely enchanted by this book by Wenlan Chia, a Taiwanese fashion designer (check out Wenlan's Fall 07 collection here) turned knitter extraordinare. Twinkle's Big City Knits seriously made me want to make a sweater, even in 97 degree heat, people! The photography is beautiful and, okay, I wouldn't want to make EVERY pattern in there, but it's just head and shoulders above some of the other outdated ugly patterns in the knitting world (you know what I'm talking about). The sweaters are made of chunky yarn that don't take forever to knit up, so when you make a mistake --that's when, not if--you don't have to curse yourself and rip up the whole thing. I'm in love with the mohair shrug and Balthazar vest. So if you're a new knitter and want to get started now so you'll have something to wear in time for fall, you can get it here on Amazon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Live Tilapia, Yummy Tilapia

Help me! Blub blub blub.

Next time you're hankering for some fish for dinner, get it live! This fish literally is so easy it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare and cook. It’s good for a weekend dinner, since you can go get your fish during the day and it’ll still be fresh for that evening without having to freeze. Be sure to ask them to clean it for you, unless you are adept at scraping gills and gutting while the fish is flapping around on a table (I am not). Tilapia is also one of the more environmentally friendly fish to choose, since the farms are located inland and aren't susceptible to escape and pollution. Find out more at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program.


Live tilapia (1-2 lbs)


Lemongrass, minced

Sea salt

Cilantro or Thai basil

Sweet chili sauce like this

Eat me! Yum yum yum.

Wash the fish thoroughly. Rub some sea salt and lemongrass into the body of the fish. Make a few incisions along the body, and stuff with slices of galangal and scallions.

Steam in a steamer over a wok until the flesh is opaque. This will vary depending on the size of your fish, but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes or so. When it’s done, top with fresh cilantro or sweet basil leaves, and serve with sweet chili sauce in the bottle, or some soy sauce, sesame oil, and scallions if you want to do it more Chinese style.

My fish wouldn’t fit in the whole steamer, so I cut off the head (I know, so barbaric!) and steamed it in the second level of one of those bamboo steamers. But ideally you should cook it with the head on because it will be moister. The best parts are the belly, tail, and cheek. Yum! Good with white jasmine rice and some greens.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Scallion pancakes with ginger dipping sauce

When I was living in Shanghai and Taiwan, I loved to get a scallion pancake as a snack, even though they can be, as one friend put it, "the greasiest thing you'll ever eat." But they don't have to be. And a little grease never hurt anyone. The recipe that follows isn't some family tradition passed down to me ever since I was a child, helping my mom roll out the dough by hand. Her method is to take them out of the plastic package in the freezer and slap them in a wok. But I've found this recipe is really simple, makes an appetizer that pleases everybody, and only takes a little bit of time. Oh, and one must-have for your pantry is the Zhenjiang black vinegar--the flavor is a lot deeper and not as sharp as the white or red stuff. When I went to Zhenjiang (sometimes spelled Chinkiang), I was struck by the over-abundance of auto body and car parts shops there, strange for a town where so few own cars. In fact, it was here that I saw two guys (unsuccessfully) try to haul a car engine on the seat of a bicycle. Here's a picture of a more successful venture:

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup sliced scallions
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup canola oil
Salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 cup ginger dipping sauce, recipe to follow

In a bowl, sift flour. Slowly add water in a steady stream while mixing with a wooden spoon. Keep adding water until a ball is formed. With the same procedure, one can use a food processor with a metal blade. Let ball of dough >relax for about 30 minutes and cover with damp cloth. (I often skip this step without any serious consequences)

On a floured surface, roll out dough into a thin rectangle. Brush on oil mixture, cover with scallion and season with salt and pepper. Carefully roll dough like a sponge cake. Cut into 4 pieces. Take one piece and twist 3 times. Make a spiral out of this and roll again and flatten to achieve a 5 to 6 inch pancake. In a medium-hot non-stick pan, coat with canola oil and pan sear both sides until golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve immediately with dipping sauce.


1/4 cup thin soy sauce
1/4 cup Chinese zhenjiang black vinegar
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Amigurumi chihuahua!

I love amigurumi--the Japanese are freakin' genius for inventing this crochet technique. It took me a while to figure it out, mostly because I was trying to decipher these books that have their instructions only in Japanese. You can get those in the craft section of Kinokuniya. This is one my earlier attempts, a white chihuahua named Pilar Maria, since I made her on election night when our senator, Maria Cantwell won a decisive victory. She eventually got turned into a Christmas ornament and she's currently living on the upper West Side in Manhattan. I didn't follow a pattern for this one, just adjusted as I went along.

Pink birdies and honeycombs

I couldn't resist getting these fabrics from reprodepot. They make fabulous prints, usually the cheapest ones are the reproduced ones in cotton broadcloth. Their imports and barkcloth are a bit more expensive. I love the geometric/organic nature of the honeycomb fabric, a Japanese import by Etsuko Furuya--I'm going to redo my couch pillows with that one. I'm planning on using the birds to make a cute pink apron, using some of the raspberry colored cuorduroy I already have for the waist and tie. Rickrack on the pocket anyone? I probably won't get the stuff for a month, though! Curse slow ground delivery!

Fan Chinese Laundry Soap

I love the look of this Chinese laundry soap, from my "gu xiang" or old hometown, Shanghai! Apparently they still make it there. I'm such a fan of simple, old packaging that's eco-friendly too--just wax paper here, no plastic. We'll see if it smells good too!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

That's Amasian!

Definition--am*asian: A combination of amazing and Asian, meaning anything that is amazingly kick-ass, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping or squeal-inducing that has an Asian influence or provenance.

This blog is dedicated to amazing things that you can do at home to make your life happier, more fun and just plain better. I'll bring you ideas on home decorating, crafting, cooking and eating (two separate things, mind you) as inspirations come in! So be sure to check back soon for amasian eye and brain candy.