Sunday, September 9, 2007

Ladybug Gift Decor

I got my friend a little gift for her "BIG THREE-OH". The store clerk put a ribbon on the box, but it just looked so plain. So I added a ladybug sitting on a leaf to the ribbon. I made it out of felt and added the line and spots on it with black embroidery floss. I'm quite proud of the antennae I added to the head. That's also made of the embroidery floss.

Quail Eggs

I went home during the Labor Day weekend and guess what I had? Yup, quail eggs. My family has an aviary with parakeets and four little Button Quails that my brother got my sister for her birthday. One male quail with three females. My sister named them Hugh Heffner, Holly, Bridget, and Kendra. Cute, huh? So, when I went home, I checked on Hugh and his girls. Hee hee! I love saying that. I took a photo of two of the girls. Anyways, we don't know which ones are laying the eggs, but they've been laying these really cute speckled brown and blue eggs. My mom boiled them and I had a few. Just tasted like regular eggs.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Stirred Egg Soup

I made another Amy Kaneko recipe. The Stirred Egg Soup. I only skimmed the recipe and made a mistake of over-stirring the egg in the bowl and then stirring again in the pot. I knew I did it wrong immediately because it came out in clumps. The egg should have come in long thin strands. My mom makes a similar soup and she makes it in those long thin strands. Ooops. Well, the soup was still yummy. It's just chicken stock, salt to taste, a touch of sake, a lightly stirred egg, and chopped green onion. You can add sesame oil to it as well, but since I'm not to eat anything greasy or spicy this whole week, I didn't add it.

I'm doing okay since the food poisoning except when I eat. My body has rejected everything I've eaten so far. But I'm so hungry and need nutrition in me that I thought I would try this soup.

I fear that it was not successful... I can feel the pain and gurgling in my stomach... Wahh!! :(

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Pain in My Tummy

That's me in the emergency room.

These little succulent morsels are probably what got me there. But we will never know for sure.

This is what I taught my hubby to make for me today. Okayu (rice porridge usually served when you're sick) with umeboshi (pickled plum).

Let's see... Without going into the embarassing details... On Monday starting after lunch and up through bedtime, my stomach wasn't feeling that great. Earlier that evening, we decided to go to Luka's Taproom and Lounge. We've been there a few times for only cockails. Our friends told us that you can get one dollar oysters every Monday there. So we decided to go and try their entrees as well. The entrees weren't good. But the oysters were so good. We ordered a half dozen more, in fact. Our only complaint was that they were not all consistent sizes. There were puny ones that should have only been charged fifty cents!

Then, the next day on Tuesday, my husband and I headed out to the city to check out the cute stores on Hayes St. in Hayes Valley and then go to the Giant Robot store in Haight-Ashbury. When we were shopping on Hayes St., I spotted Patxi's Chicago Pizza. I was so excited because my friend told me about how it's supposed to be the rival of East Bay's Zachary's Chicago Pizza. So, I wanted to try it. We went there around 3pm and ordered a slice each of the spinach and mushroom deep-dish pizza. It was a lot less gloppier than Zachary's. And I was able to taste the flavor of the spinach. Overall, it was good, but I think I still crave for Zachary's. I don't know what it is. I think I'll have to go to Zachary's and try again. Hee hee!

Oops. Better stop with the food commentary. So anyhow, maybe around 5pm when we were in Haight-Ashbury, I had to go to the bathroom. Didn't feel too urgent, but I had this pain in my stomach like the squeezing pain you get when you have the stomach flu. So, right then, I thought that something's not right with me. As we finally headed home, we made a stop at the San Francisco Shopping Center to use the restroom before hopping onto BART to head back to Oakland. The squeezing pain kept occuring once in awhile, but it was nothing compared to the urgency of needing a restroom once I was waiting for BART. I was so miserable on BART and then the walk back to the apartment was excruciating! Once I got to the apartment, I ran for the bathroom. After that was all over, that squeezing pain just became worse. It was sharp and would stab me several times and then stop for awhile and start again. It was worse than the pain from the flu. It was so bad that I felt the saliva coming to the sides of my mouth so that I felt like vomiting. So then, Hubby took me to the emergency room.

I was tested and asked questions by the nurses and the doctor. Basically he found nothing wrong with me. He said that it's one of those things where we will never know what it is that caused this. He said that it may be food poisoning even though Hubby ate everything I did. He said that it's normal to have a thousand people eating the same contaminated food and half the people would be fine and the other half get sick. So, I got 2 cold bags of fluids put in me since I was so dehydrated. He said that that would relieve the pain in my stomach since it was so empty. I feel a lot better today. I still get the squeezing pain once in awhile, but it's a lot tolerable. The funny thing is, my mother-in-law called yesterday before we headed out to the city to ask if we were feeling fine; she knew we had eaten oysters. She had heard that oysters were recalled in Washington so she was concerned for us. At the time she called, I was fine. Oh! Another funny thing is that while we were at ER, there was a 3.2 earthquake! The epicenter was right there in Oakland.

I emailed the friends who recommended Luka's Monday $1 Oysters and Patxi's pizza the photos of me in ER. Hee hee. Giving them a hard time for their recommendations. *wink wink* So, I think out of all the things we've had, it had to be the oysters. I don't think I'll have $1 oysters anymore. I'll only eat it if maybe I fish it out of clear waters myself during peak safe and yummy season. And no dolphin better have pee-ed on it!

My hubby just told me a funny thing. He said that he was worried for me because if anything were to happen to me last night, I wouldn't have finished "Harry Potter". Hahahahaha! Yes, he is so right!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Ici Ice Cream

I've passed by this ice cream store several times on my way to a pet bird store on the same street. It's very cute and I always check to see what flavors they have. It's by a Chez Panisse protege named Mary Canales. They have sorbets and ice creams with adventurous flavors like habenero or raspberry lemon and verbena. She uses fresh, in season ingredients so it's constantly changing. It's a bit pricey but the sign says that the ice cream is made there on site. There's always a customer in there getting ice cream. This time, my husband and I couldn't ignore it. We saw many people walking around with ice cream in their hands and the line was going out the door. And it was such a beautiful warm day - perfect ice cream weather. So, when we passed by it a second time, we stood in line. Maybe it's because I will finally start working soon that splurging on fancy handmade ice cream didn't seem like a bad idea. I only later remembered to take a photo of the ice cream. That's why the ice cream is half eaten. I got green tea flavor. Not an original flavor but my test was to see if she gets it right. It didn't have the typical matcha color but the flavor and texture was spot on. Yum!! And I got mine on a cone. The cone had a surprise for me. There was chocolate at the end of it. Hubby got candied lime and orange ice cream. I had a taste and it was too tart for me, but he liked it. I'll definitely try other flavors again especially since it didn't give me a stomachache. *Wink* Check out the review and photos of the beautiful ice cream creations on Just type in "Ici" and it's located in Berkeley.

Gyoza, Potstickers, Dumplings, Whatever... They're just yummy!

Hello. I'm back. The gyoza came out good. Normally, I don't make it for lunch. I had the stuffing all ready for dinner but when I opened my package of gyoza skin, it had gone bad. Oops! So I bought a pack yesterday and made it just earlier today for lunch. I always like to make extra and freeze it so I can have it as my lunch or dinner or those days when you have unexpectant friends over and want to entertain them. I learned how to make gyoza from my mom. So the basic ingredients and procedure is my mom's way, but I like to experiment with the recipe sometimes especially when I find gyoza recipes in other places. For today's gyoza recipe, approximately...

1/2 head of small cabbage, chopped fine to medium
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 tsp. butter
1/2 pound ground pork, the fatty kind from the Asian market
1/2 pound ground chicken
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 Tbsp. grated garlic
1 egg
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. chili-garlic sauce
salt and pepper
2 packets of Japanese brand gyoza wrappers

In a wok or frying pan, I sautee the onion in butter and then add the cabbage and green onion. I then add the salt and pepper to taste. I move it away from the hot burner and let it cool down. While it's cooling, I mix together the ground meats, ginger, garlic, egg, oyster sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce and the chili-garlic sauce. You can add more salt or pepper if you want. But with the soy sauce and the oyster sauce, it should be enough. And even if the gyoza filling is not as flavorful as you would have liked, it's alright because you normally dip the dumpling in a sauce anyways. After you make your meaty filling, add the cooled veggie filling to it. If you still really care about how the filling tastes, just boil some water and drop a ball of the filling in it to cook, then eat it to see if you like it.

Now, filling the wrapper... Get a little bowl with some water in it. Using a regular spoon, put a dollop of the filling in the middle of the wrapper. Then, with your finger, wet your finger with that bowl of water and run it all the way along the edge of the wrapper. Now, fold up one half of the wrapper so that it looks like a taco. Pleat one end of the .... Forget it... Just get the plastic gyoza wrapping tool. It's too difficult to explain. Note: I use the Japanese brand gyoza wrappers because that's what I grew up with and the thick wrappers I find to be too doughy for my taste. It's funny, when I was little, I hated the gyoza wrapper, I would peel it off and dip the filling in the sauce and eat it.

Now, the cooking part. I butter the frying pan on high heat, put as many as I can on there, and listen for the sizzle. The bottom should brown a little bit. I then pour about a third cup of water and bring the heat to medium. I then cover it and listen for the sizzle sound again. That's when a lot of the water has cooked off. I take off the cover and put it back on high heat and watch the rest of the water cook off and the gyoza bottom to brown a bit more and become crunchy. Mmmm!!! And when you serve the gyoza, it should be crunchy side up so that it stays that way.

For the sauce, I just mix together grated ginger, lemon juice (or rice vinegar), ichimi tongarashi, ra-yu (chili oil), sesame oil, and soy sauce. All to taste. My mom normally has the ingredients for the sauce out on the dinner table and we each make our own sauce in our dipping bowl the way we like it. A cultural difference I noticed... My family usually has salad or sesame flavored spinach on the side with a bowl of rice... But my husband, being Chinese American, is getting used to the Japanese way of having a bowl of rice with those dumplings. I guess my husband eats those dumplings by itself.

So that's how I make them. Yum!

Mmm... Pork Chops... Arglll...

Last weekend, we had a dinner and board game night at our place. I made this whole Italian dinner. I made chicken parmesan that came out juicy as usual, fiery lemon angel hair pasta, balsamic glazed chicken wings, basil pesto and sundried tomato pesto for smearing onto bread, salad with salami and red onion, and zuppa toscana with toasted garlic naan seasoned with dried thyme, butter, olive oil, and sea salt. Most of these recipes are from Food Network's Giada De Laurentiis. The chicken parm is not quite Giada's anymore. It's a smorgasbord of different recipes. Oh! And the zuppa toscana is from my brother. He found it online where they have recipe copies of restaurant dishes. So this is the one you can find at Olive Garden. It's super easy. And it was one of people's favorites at the dinner and game night. ... I can't believe I didn't take a photo!! ARG!!

But I did take a photo of the pork chops I made two nights ago. It finally came out just right! It's my mom's dishes that is one my favorites. All you do is get thin-cut or regular cut pork chops with the bone in it. You sprinkle both sides of of the chop with garlic salt. Then broil it until the top side looks cooked. I don't know for how long. I just turn on the oven light and look in. Then I flip it over and drizzle a little sake (1 tsp.) and soy sauce (1 Tbsp.) on each chop. I broil it a little more until it's not pink anymore and then add chopped green onions on each one and another drizzle of soy sauce. Cook a bit more until it looks fully cooked. Then eat.

Well, I'm off to make gyoza for lunch. I'll post that soon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Unsuccessful Recipe!

Blech!!! Blech! Blech! Blech! It was too good to be true! After three successful new recipes I had a bad one. I made "Ebi to Broccoli 'Gratin'" by Amy Kaneko from her cookbook called, "Let's Cook Japanese Food!" It's a wonderful cookbook. She's an American woman married to a Japanese man whose family taught her how to cook Japanese food. Once she moved back to the US, she tried recreating those favorite recipes using ingredients and cooking tools that you can find here. Since Japanese cuisines are influenced by other countries, there are plenty of "chuka ryori" and "yoshoku" dishes in the book. It's usually difficult to find those recipes except in Japanese language-only recipe books. Her recipes are pretty good. One night, we did an "izakaya" night. From her book, I made agedashi dofu (fried soft tofu), spinach in sesame dressing, steamed clams in sake and butter broth, and karaage chicken. I also made some gyoza, too. I took a photo of it, but I can't find it. It was fun, we had sake, too. Well, going back to the gratin... My husband and I have always had problems when we try to make creamy cheesey sauces for macaroni. The gratin was easy and all the flavors were basically good, it's just that the cheese sauce didn't come out very good. It was all curdly and super greasy. But I have to say it was the closest I've ever been to getting it right, though. So I think if someone who knew how to do it right would actually show me, I can do it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Successful New Recipes!

Here's what I made so far this week since Saturday. All new recipes. And so far really successful!

Panna Cotta with Strawberry Compote - The Panna Cotta is my sister's recipe from Italy. The compote was improvised. I just chopped up some strawberries and simmered them with sugar, orange juice, and amaretto. It's garnished with a mint spring from my balcony "garden". The dessert was a hit when I took it to a game night/potluck. I still had some heavy cream left so I made some more but this time topped it with espresso that was simmered with amaretto. Mmmm!Grilled Salted Salmon Collar - This is one of favorite dish that my mom makes. I've been craving it for so long. I finally bought it myself and salted it and grilled it on the stovetop grill. The kitchen still smells fishy. :( But it tasted like home. It was so moist and salty. We were so thirsty afterwards though.Mentaiko Spaghetti - Mmmm!! I made this today for dinner. I found the recipe on I followed the recipe exactly and it was so easy! The only thing I did at the end was add about 3 tablespoons of the pasta water to the finished product. The noodles needed to loosen up. I garnished it with nori and a dollop of fresh karashi mentaiko that I had left over. I was annoyed when my hubby brought up his finished plate to the kitchen sink. He had left the sauce with the fish roe still on the plate. I told him to eat it because fish roe is a bit pricey. He scraped it up and ate it.

BBQ Dinner on the Balcony

Well, we don't have a BBQ grill so my husband grilled some pork ribs on those stovetop grill thingy that are really annoying to clean. He randomly mixed a rub and marinated it overnight and then grilled it with store-bought sauce. It was so yummy. And I made the side dishes using recipes from the July issue of Bon Appetite magazine. Yup, it's the one with Next Food Network Star's Rory's BBQ recipe featured on the cover. The coleslaw was just okay. And then I made the herby potato salad. That, I would make again. But of course, I modified those recipes since I'm so picky about my veggies and herbs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Weird Kitchen!

July is a weird month for my kitchen! I got a carton of eggs and so far, each egg that I break has double yolk in it! Today I had medamayaki gohan (fried egg on rice). I was very excited to eat my double yolk egg. It tasted like regular eggs. I looked it up and I guess it happens when a young hen just begins to lay eggs. Then, after awhile, she lays the normal single yolk eggs. The other weird thing that happened was on Monday. When I was frying some zucchini for dinner, one of it smiled at me when I flipped it over! But my husband got the last smile because he ate it! And then, this morning, when I opened a fresh can of Illy espresso, the grounds exploded onto my face! I thought the grounds would blind or caffeinate my eyes! But I'm alright. The weird thing is that it never exploded like that at my husband when he opened a fresh can. It just released the gas. Weird, right?! I think so!!

Cards and Gift Tags

Whoa! I haven't blogged for a long time. I finally started working on my job applications so I got a little busy. Well, here are some things I worked on. Although, I think I worked on these in May... Yup. I did. Those are Mother's Day cards for my mom and my mother-in-law. I got the idea and patterns for those cards from a Japanese felt book. And the tin cans are filled with tea from Lupicia and chocolate from Scharffen Berger as gifts for my girlfriends. The gift tags are another idea taken from that book.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Smiley Kidnapper

My friend and her husband got me The Cute Book by Aranzi Aronzo for my birthday. It turns out that we both really liked the Kidnapper in there. It's weird that it's a kidnapper, but it's so awkwardly cute! I love how he has a white bag to collect the child. So, we finally got together on Friday to make him. It was difficult trying to trace the pattern of the body onto the black felt with the white pencil. Especially up the armpits and between the legs. So when I had to cut the shapes out, I kind of had to guess how far to cut up on those parts. And of course, sewing those parts got a little tricky. He's just so skinny! I didn't bother trying to fill his arms or legs with the fluffy stuff. I don't think you're supposed to anyways.

Once I finished the Kidnapper, my husband and I had fun positioning him out in the balcony to take different creepy or sneaky shots of him. Unfortunately, I didn't make his straight mouth long enough and he looks like he's smiling. My friend who has never sewn except to put on a button seemed to struggle with it, but was really persistent. She still hasn't finished it yet. I can't wait to see her finished product. I think we ended up with such a tricky one to do for a first time crafter.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Bird Swing

Yesterday, all I worked on was this bird swing for my parakeet that I don't quite have it. I would never try to make this again. Well, the swing part was easy, just get a stick and drill holes on either end of it and shape a wire through it to make the swing. Simple. The embellishments I would not do again. Not only was it painful on my fingers to sew those little flowers on it, but the parakeet will poop on it.

Now, why did I even make it then? Because I got this new Japanese zakka book called Kirippanashi de Dekirumono by Kiyuna Hareru that had a really cute decorating idea. It was strips of ribbon hung from a doorway and on each strip, there were flowers made of fabric sewn on it. I wanted to make it for my place but there just isn't a place for it. So, I decided to make it for my parakeet so that they can climb it and nibble on it.

The only change I made from the book design was that I sewed two different patterned fabrics together with a felt sandwiched in between them. That way, it was easier for me to handstitch in a way that the bird won't be shredding the fabric to pieces and possibly eating it.

I'm really happy with the outcome. It's colorful and the handstitching gives it a really charming, child-like feel to it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Welcome to Crafty Maya

Hello. Here's my blog! Welcome!

Well, I have a few reasons I decided to attempt this blog thing. My friends have a food blog and they've suggested I also post photos and write about restaurants and recipes I've tried. Another reason is that all my friends and family are scattered about the state (and some in others). And for them to know what's up with me, they can read my blog. Hmm... Although this blog will primarily be about food, little simple crafty projects I make, and the herbs and wildflowers I'm trying to grow from my apartment balcony. I may occasionally write about my pet fishies and parakeet(s?), too.

As for the name of my blog site... My shiba dog's name is Maya. She's sneaky smart. All she thinks about is food. So, see, I'll write about food. And I added "crafty" because it can mean "sneaky" (my dog) and that something is made by hand. So, I'll write about my craft projects. And the gardening in the balcony... Um... My dog hangs out in the backyard. See. So that's my explanation.