Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Got A Pink Christmas Tree


2012 is the first year Nick and I have been at our own place for Christmas, so we got our first real Christmas tree. Somehow I managed to convince him that it should be pink.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My New Refrigerator Is Bright Red


A few weeks ago I wrote a story for The Kitchn about learning to live with a tiny, tiny freezer. You see, European apartments tend to come with comparatively small refrigerators. People here just stock less and shop more often, so they don't need our monster American refrigerators. But the tiny freezer was something of a shock to my system. But no more! Because not long after that post went up, I became the proud owner of a new refrigerator with ample freezer space. And the best part is that it's bright red!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Di San Xian 地三鮮 (Three Treasures) Recipe, Roasted Version


Going out with vegetarians was a little difficult in Beijing, because they kept wanting to have the meat taken out of all the dishes. (I like those little crumbled bits of pork in my dry-fried string beans!) The one bright spot when dining with vegetarians was that someone always ordered di san xian 地三鮮, or “three treasures.”

The three treasures are eggplant, potato, and green pepper. They’re each stir-fried separately, then cooked together in a semi-sweet, savory sauce with a bit of darkly smoky awesomeness from the caramelized edges of the vegetables. It's one of my favorites, but it tends to soak up a lot of oil in the prep stages, so I've always worried that it was a secret calorie bomb despite being just made of vegetables. (I normally don't like to fret about calories, but China did a serious number on me, so now I play it a little more cautiously with Chinese food. (Which I honestly think may be the best food in the world.))

But then last week I was working on an article on how to roast eggplant for The Kitchn when I found myself thinking, “I have an oven now … could I roast the vegetables first instead of stir-frying them individually?” It turns out I could! I wound up using a lot less oil than normal, and it tastes just the same. (If you want a more authentic version, the instructions for that are in here, too.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mock Built-In Bookshelves From IKEA Billys


The best decoration is a massive wall of books (or four massive walls of books).

I adore huge, wall-to-wall bookcases. But they're expensive and permanent, and Nick and I rent and tend to move around a lot, so they always seemed like a "someday" thing. But a couple years ago I saw a brilliant post on Centsational Girl about making a wall of "built-in" bookshelves from IKEA Billys. Basically, she set up IKEA bookshelves and then put wood molding around them so it looked like they had been built into the wall. At first I was skeptical, because Billys were those wobbly bookshelves that had followed me since college. But her results were completely amazeballs. (Seriously, go check them out at her site. I'll wait.)

See? I've been wanting to try my hand at a set of those since I saw them, but was never in a space that would accommodate them. Until now.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Good Libations: Gin and Jam


This happens to everybody, right? It's Monday night and you're watching The Voice and you'd really like a cocktail, but a quick look through your cabinet reveals that all your ingredients are completely gone. There's a bit of gin, but no Champagne, no lemons, no limes, no egg whites, nothing. What's a girl to do?

Well, I guess I could just drink the gin straight, but I haven't drunk straight gin since I was 14 and picked up my voice teacher's water glass by mistake.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Berry Tarts Are Not For Breakfast


Berry tarts are totally not for breakfast.

Whatever. It's eight o'clock somewhere.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What it Looks Like Inside a Mongolian Ger

Ger - 10

Every day in Mongolia we stayed in ger, which is a movable round house similar to a yurt and often called by that name. (But it's not a yurt in Mongolia, it's a ger.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Grandma B's Italian Crescent Cookies

Crescents - 14

I was in a massive funk when I first moved back to Chicago from Beijing. I missed my friends; I missed all the friendly stray cats I brought home (sorry, Nick); and I missed my disposable income. But mostly I missed the food.

Even at the time I knew it was a crazy thing to sit in Chicago and miss any kind of food, but the food in Beijing was some of the best I'd ever had, and I just couldn't find the same things or even make my own, having left behind the contents of my massive Beijing pantry.

But I can't stay in a food funk forever, especially in a food-centric like Chicago. After a few weeks I decided it was time to stop mourning my nightly jian bing and try to focus on the things Chicago did better, like sushi and Italian cookies.

That's when I attempted to sort my mother's recipe binder (an asylum of more than 35 years of magazine clippings and diet tips in a Joy of Cooking cover) and this fell out at me, literally:

Crescents - 02

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

New Cat-Eye Glasses With Rhinestones From Francis Klein


I have acquired new glasses! It was actually quite a long time coming, because I loved my old glasses so very much and had not found anything I liked quite as well.

I thought I was bereft of any other rhinestone-encrusted goodness, but then I discovered the wonderful world of Francis Klein eyeglasses.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Penne alla Caprese (Penne with Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella)


Nick's favorite food is probably spaghetti with chili peppers and olive oil, which is a delicious thing, except he makes it with fresh chilis and so many of them that just walking in the kitchen causes eye-watering and coughing fits. (If Nick ever does a cooking show, it will be called Cooking with Napalm.) But tomatoes are so god right now (that's a typo, but I'm keeping it), and then I found this gorgeous buffalo mozzarella at the cheese shop, so I elbowed him out of the kitchen and made this penne with tomato, basil, and mozzarella instead.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Heidelberger Bratwurst

I was sitting around the house and working on some stuff when Nick came home for lunch. He looked a little bummed.

"I was going to get some stuff from the farmers' market," he said, "but they haven't shown up yet. There's just this guy with a sausage cart."

He had me at "sausage cart."


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Apartment Therapy: How to Get a Bird Out of the House

Bird in the house! Bird in the house! Oh my God, there's a bird in the house! Read this post on Apartment Therapy to learn how to get it out.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fantasy Shopping League: Antique Kimono Reproduction Project from Ichiroya

It's been a long time since I posted anything about kimono, but yesterday I was lurking around on Ichiroya.com, one of my favorite Fantasy Shopping League haunts, and I saw that they've rolled out an antique kimono reprint project with Iuchi Shoten.

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to Pot a Meyer Lemon Tree


I finally got a Meyer lemon tree! Nick and I have been wanting one of these guys since Stanford, but we never managed to get one. Our apartment in New York didn't have enough light for even a cactus (sorry, cactus), and we couldn't find one in Beijing. But I was walking down the Hauptstrasse yesterday and it was just sitting there in front of a shop full of dorm supplies, so I finally have my Meyer lemon tree.

Of course, that means I had to make a spiffy house for him ...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Breakfast in Heidelberg


Sunday breakfast at Strohauer's Cafe in Heidelberg. Two perfectly runny soft-boiled eggs with mini ham and cheese sandwiches on fresh bread with tomato and cucumber. I love the presentation. From now on, all my eggs will be delivered in brandy snifters.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Crowdsourcing My Bathroom Design

It's time to decorate my currently empty Heidelberg apartment. Most of my worldly possessions are still in a shipping container somewhere in Great Britain, so I've decided to start with the bathroom because it is the most immediate necessity, and also there are no bathroom things coming in the shipping container.

So it's time to start afresh! But I have an odd problem with my bathroom, and I think I need some help figuring it out. Bathrooms are not my forte, and I have absolutely no idea how to decorate this one.

Also, as you can see, there's a problem:

Friday, August 10, 2012

First Look: My New, Empty Apartment in Heidelberg, Germany


The previous couple posts on this blog have followed a certain theme, and that theme is: I have moved to Germany!

Nick is now teaching at the University of Heidelberg, and we've taken a new apartment in the Old Town there. It's an adorable little teddy bear village of a college town, and there will be more on that later. But considering that I'm now chasing ambience in an entirely new location, I thought I should give you an idea of what I've got to work with. More pictures after the jump...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Apartment Therapy: What to Bring when Moving Abroad

Another Apartment Therapy post about moving abroad ... read along to mock me for all the obvious things I forgot I'd need. Le sigh.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rou Bing: Chinese Meat-Filled Pancakes

Rou Bing - 14

Is it possible to be homesick for food? As glad as I was to get home and see my family again, and as excited as I am for my next move, I have to admit that I have frequent, intense pangs of homesickness for Beijing, usually whenever I think of the food. I'd be at a loss, though, as to which I miss more, my much beloved jian bing spicy breakfast crepes, or the frequent Meat and Beer days at the office, when we'd all take off at lunch for large beers and rou bing, salty, greasy, meat-filled pancakes from the stall across the street from our office. We went out for one last, bittersweet Meat and Beer day on my final day of work, and I took some pictures.

More pics after the jump...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Places to go, things to make pretty ...

Long time no see, folks. Some big things afoot over here, and I've been on the road a lot lately. I'll be back and updating shortly, but in the meantime, here's a nice dog I met at the John Denver sanctuary in Aspen.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What to do with my first summer tomato


Not only is this my first tomato of 2012, it's my first-ever, full-grown, non-stolen, container garden tomato. It's a basic patio tomato breed, and it was hidden under the foliage so I very nearly missed picking it. (Possibly that's how he escaped my neighbors, as well.)

But I did pick him, and then had a photoshoot with him.


The basil is also from one of my pots, but everyone here has basil. Picking basil helps it grow faster, so if my neighbors wanted to take some basil, they could help themselves with my blessing. (And if anybody needs some mint, please call. My mint is going insane. I think it may annex the pool soon.)

It was pretty exciting to finally get an edible tomato from one of my plants. So what did I do after our photoshoot?

I ate him, of course.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Yangrou Chuanr Recipe on The Kitchn

Yangrou Chuanr - 8

My recipe for Yangrou Chuanr, the most ubiquitous of Beijing street food, is up on The Kitchn.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strawberry Ice Cream with White Chocolate-Covered Pop Rocks at The Kitchn


My strawberries are looking a bit tragic this summer. (Despite my best efforts, I am not great with plants.) If yours came out more beautifully, or if you have a taste for strawberry ice cream, I have a new recipe over at The Kitchn for Strawberry Ice Cream with White Chocolate-Covered Pop Rocks.

I love the fizziness of the Pop Rocks in the summer, especially with the white chocolate and the fresh strawberries from the farmers' market. (Because the farmers' market people can grow strawberries better than I can.)

Did you try it? Let me know!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker Review at The Kitchn

I'm a huge dork for homemade ice cream. At this point, I think I've frozen just about every liquid that wasn't boiling or nailed down.

I spent the past couple weeks putting my new ice cream maker through the ringer to test it out.
Read my review over at The Kitchn. As always, if you have any questions, just let me know.

Friday, April 20, 2012

What on Earth was I drinking? Prucia Plum Liqueur


Sometimes I wake up with strange photos in my camera and a vague recollection of having consumed something delicious. Such is the case with Prucia Plum Liqueur.

Kanetaka Daiki at Glen in Beijing is a master of mixing surprising cocktails, and he can work with anything. Testing him is always fun, because everything he makes is surprising, and occasionally it's a mystery. In this case, I woke up with the above photo in my camera and a sense that Daiki'd served me a revelation, the recipe for which was lost to me forever like some kind of fairy dream.

The Internet informs me that Prucia is made in France with locally produced Japanese Golden Plums. It's a Western-style liqueur with ume flavors and notes of apricot and marzipan.

Man, I wish I remembered what Daiki-san did to it.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mercato del Pesce and Caffe Italia


Last week my dad took Nick and me to the Italian neighborhood on Harlem Ave., where my grandma used to live. The ostensible purpose of our trip was to visit Palermo Bakery, one of the best places for cookies in Chicago. (And we found a cassata, but more on that later). But while we were there we stopped at Caffe Italia, a slick, touristy-looking caffe that actually turns out some genuinely spectacular food and coffee.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mongolian Food: Buuz (Steamed Mongolian Dumplings)


Of all the food I tasted in Mongolia, buuz, the country's dumplings, are the dish that won my heart. The recipe is pretty much exactly the same as for khuushuur, the fried stuffed pancakes, but instead of being formed into flat, oblong envelopes and deep-fried, the dough is pleated into a round packet the size of a baby's fist and steamed until cooked through.

The mutton inside is flavored with onions, garlic, salt and pepper. During Mongolian New Year, people make thousands of them. You often hear people asking, "How many buuz did you eat today?" "Oh, only 300."

It wasn't New Year when we visited, but nearly every restaurant we stopped at had buuz on the menu and dining rooms full of men slurping away at a white soup made of buuz floating in milk tea. These buuz were made for lunch by Bata's wife and daughter-in-law, whose names I didn't manage to catch. Mongolian food doesn't involve a lot of vegetables, so buuz and milk tea are considered a full and satisfying meal. Bata's family put out a particularly impressive spread by including a salad of homemade shredded and pickled carrots.