Monthly Archives: October 2014

Pot Stickers

Occasionally I take a couple of goes to figure out how to make a dish and pot stickers are one of those with multiple attempts required, but I think they ended up quite tasty in the end.  The first go around, we made the dough way too watery and didn’t chop up the filling enough.  The second time, we used beef instead of pork for the filling which was OK but not right.  The third times the charm – well if Americanized Chinese food is what charms you that is.

The Dough:
-2.5 cups of flour
-1 cup water
-1 tsp of salt

Mix everything up and knead into a firmish dough, a bit firmer than your normal bread dough, then let rest for at least 30 minutes (up to 2-3 days in the fridge)

The Filling:
-0.75 lbs of bacon, slice roughly (ground pork would also work)
-Half a head of cabbage
-Half an onion
-4 serrano chilies
-2 tbsp of 5 spice
-1 tsp salt
-Various spices, say about 2 tbsp of ginger, cilantro or garlic or whatever you want
-2 tbsp mirin (cooking wine)
-2tbsp seame oil
-1tsp honey

Saute the bacon and the vegetables till soft, then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 5 minutes.  Then using a food processor, or in my case a blender, cut up everything finely.  Now for the tricky bit: roll out the dough into thin 3 inch circles, then place a tablespoon of filling into the center and fold over into a half moon pouch. Crimp then roll the edges over and store on a floured surface until done with the batch. You could steam them, but we always fry then in a thin layer of oil for about 3 minutes a side or until done.  For a dipping sauce, I use a mix of chili paste thinned down with equal parts mirin, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  Be forewarned this recipe makes a lot!! of pot stickers, like maybe 60 or 70.

Mmmhhh... bacon.

Mmmhhh… bacon.

The filling waiting to be dished out. It separates somewhat so mix up the liquid and solid before each use.

The filling waiting to be dished out. It separates somewhat so mix up the liquid and solid before each use.

A batch all pouched up and ready to fry

A batch all pouched up and ready to fry

And all fried up and ready to eat. I'll admit is a bit time consuming but quite tasty.

And all fried up and ready to eat. I’ll admit it is a bit time consuming, but quite tasty.

Natural Bridge State Park (N36.95 W122.06)

This past week we decided to do one last trip to the beach this year before it gets cold and headed down to Santa Cruz. We have been to a couple of the beaches in the area and I think so far Wilder Ranch is my favorite, but you always have to try new things so, on a tip from a local, we went to Natural Bridge State Beach. It was a pretty little beach, standard fare for California beaches: little stretches of sandy beaches between rocky sections. There was one extra bonus to the beach: it has a eucalyptus grove and is a prime site to watch monarch butterfly migration from about October to January.  We saw around 20 or 30 butterflies when we were there in about 20 minute of watching.

Overall, I would say it’s certainly worth going during butterfly season, but otherwise is pretty equivalent to the rest of the beaches in the area.

There are a half dozen butterflies in the picture, I swear.

There are a half dozen butterflies in the picture, I swear.

On the walk into the beach there was also a swan in a pond with a bunch of other waterfowl. Outside of NYC I don't know that I had ever seen a swan

On the walk into the beach, there was also a swan in a pond with a bunch of other waterfowl. Outside of NYC I don’t know that I had ever seen a swan.

The beach! It was pretty and fairly quite if you neglected the 50 screaming kids on a field trip

The beach! It was pretty and fairly quiet if you neglected the 50 screaming kids on a field trip.

So we ended up wandering down the rocket to find our own little secluded beach about a quarter mile to the nice and hung out there pleasantly for an hour.

So we ended up wandering down the rocks to find our own little secluded beach about a quarter mile to the north and hung out there pleasantly for an hour.

Chicken Curry

Around a month ago, Jasmine and I took an Indian cooking class that we got as a present from my parents. We learned some interesting things about cooking with spices and after trying it out a couple of times at home, I think we have a little bit of it down. So below is what I did for a marsala chicken.

4 chicken thighs (deboned with fat on it, chopped into cubes)
1 onion, diced
1 fennel, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
3 serrano peppers, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons whole Marsala spice (various spices)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil (Canola or whatever)
1/4 cup of white wine (or some other liquid like broth)

Pretty much what you do is get the oil nice and hot in a wok, then throw in the spices and saute for 1 minute. Then throw the onion, fennel, and garlic in and saute for 7 minutes. After the onions start browning, add the chicken and tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes then add the wine and all the other ingredients. Cool down the sauce for around 10 minutes and you’re all good to go.

So I have started to actually make a mise en place for cooking, it actually makes cooking easier.

So I have started to actually make a mise en place for cooking; it actually makes cooking easier.

The smell of sauteing onions and fennel in the spice is delightful

The smell of sauteing onions and fennel in the spice is delightful.

And this is what it looks like when the masala is cooking down

And this is what it looks like when the marsala is cooking down.

And as served with Naan, and a little cilantro garnish.  Mmm quite tasty dinner.

As served with Naan and a little cilantro garnish. Mmm, quite tasty dinner.

Sanborn County Part 2 (N37.22 W122.05)

Since we finished up all the Santa Clara County Parks a couple of weeks ago, we decided to go back to a few of the ones we liked the best and see what we liked the absolute most.  First on the list was Sanborn Park which is a pleasant redwood park just southwest of our house.  The first time we went there was about a year ago on Thanksgiving and there was no one else on the entire hike.  A little different this time around with hundreds of people there for a wedding and some random meetup.  We went up on a different trail than last time which was mostly redwood forest and a nice lake halfway up. I think Sanborn probably gets my vote for the best park, but we need to check out Grant Park one more time to make certain.

There is a lake  on the hike, and then while we were there there was a dog in the lake! Yeah Dog!

There is a lake on the hike and while we were there, there was a dog in the lake! Yeah Dog!

This is pretty much what all the hiking looked like. A pleasant shaded hike after the first rough uphill half mile.

This is pretty much what all the hiking looked like. A pleasant shaded hike after the first rough uphill half mile.

Everyone gets one guess at what this is.  As a hint it was located in a clearing in the grove.

Everyone gets one guess at what this is. As a hint it was located in a clearing in the grove.

And then at the end of the hike we sat down for a nice pleasant picnic by the lake.

And then at the end of the hike we sat down for a nice pleasant picnic by the lake.

French Onion Soup

French onion soup is a more exiting soup to make than usual, at least in presentation. It is also pretty much the only soup I make with beef broth. Quite a tasty soup with a nice interplay of flavor (with the beefy taste, sharp cheese, and sweet onion) and also of texture (the broth, the crunch of croutons, and the stringy cheese).  You need:

– 5 cups beef broth (I make my own from Oxtail bones)

-4 onions, thinly sliced

-3 tablespoons spice (thyme, parsley, pepper and salt)

-4 tbs butter

– Some croutons and grated parmesan

-2 tbs brandy

Cut the Onions up, this takes a while. Thin slices are sadly important

Cut the onions up, this takes a while. Thin slices are sadly important.

Braise Onions

Braise the onions in butter till brown, about 30 minutes. Then add all the other ingredients, sans cheese and croutons, and simmer for 15 minutes .

Final Soup

Put the soup in an oven proof bowl, then top with croutons and cheese. 400 degrees for 10 minutes or till cheese is brown. Then enjoy!

Laptop Case

I’m a packrat, especially when it comes to sewing supplies, and today it paid off! A while ago, we got a vinyl cutter in the lab and I used this opportunity to make my laptop prettier – Firefly style.

I was a bit concerned that the novelty would wear off, but I still enjoy it.

I was a bit concerned that the novelty would wear off, but I still enjoy it.

I’ve been doing all my writing on my laptop so it comes back and forth between school and home about three days a week. Normally, I just toss it in my messenger bag, but I noticed that the letters were getting slightly worn around the edges and decided it was time I got a laptop bag. I opened up my fabric drawer (Yes, I have one. Like I said: packrat.) and had a look around. I found the leftover flannel fabric from the backing of a duvet cover I made a few years ago and leftover quilting batting from a current project. Instant laptop bag!

The first step was to measure my laptop and cut out two rectangles of the correct size: one for the outside and one for the lining. Next, I sewed the rectangles together on three sides to make a bag and cut the quilting batting to match. Then I turned the bag right-side out and pinned the quilting batting in place.

This took a lot of pins, but it held in place nicely.

This took a lot of pins, but it held everything in place nicely.

Then I sewed the final edge shut, turning over the edges for a nice finish and placed my first diagonal line of quilting stitches. I chose the diagonal at random and then matched the rest of my lines to the first one.

The completed quilting.

The completed quilting.

Next, I folded the rectangle more or less in half along the smaller axis, with a bit extra on one side to act as a flap. I pinned the edges and checked to make sure my laptop fit.

The quilted rectangle folded into bag shape.

The quilted rectangle folded into bag shape.

Finally, I sewed the edges together and tested one more time.

The finished bag with my laptop inside.

The finished bag with my laptop inside.

Now I have a brand new quilted laptop case made with leftover bits from older projects. Finally my obsessive saving of fabric has paid off!

Knit Birthday Hat

Back in July, I needed a birthday present idea for my brother. He lives in New York and is interested in history so Lloyd suggested that I make him the sort of knit hat that dockworkers used in wear in New York in the 1800s. I soon learned that this was called a stevedore, but could find out little more useful information. Having no idea what image Lloyd had in mind, this was a bit difficult so I enlisted him to show me what he was talking about. He found this:

Apart from being an awesome poster, I immediately knew what to make.

Apart from being an awesome poster, I immediately knew what to make.

I realized that I already had the pattern that I needed (which you can get here) and had already used it to make a hat for my dad for his birthday. There were a few tweeks I made to the pattern and I think it turned out rather well.

In navy blue, of course.

In navy blue, of course.

I’m still not happy with the reduction rows, but I’ll get it worked out eventually. The important thing is that my brother liked it and it will keep him warm this winter.

Indoor Gardening

Over the past couple of months, we have been spending some time and effort growing a bit of a garden indoors. I love having plants inside and it is much easier to grow clippings and seedlings indoors than outdoors, especially with our current drought and constant squirrel digging.  Nothing in particular, but thought I would share some of the indoor garden.

First off is the Lucky Bamboo forest in a pot.  I showed how to propigate the bamboo in http://neitherrocketsnorrobots.com/blog/?p=871 and now we have about 12 plants instead of 2.

First off is the Lucky Bamboo forest in a pot. I showed how to propigate the bamboo in the blog and now we have about 12 plants instead of 2.

We are growing about 5 lemon trees from the seeds of our neighbors trees, and three pots of basil which is the easiet and best thing to grow for the kitchen.

We are growing about 5 lemon trees from the seeds of our neighbors trees and three pots of basil which is the easiest and best thing to grow for the kitchen inside.

We have around 8 camellia shrubs around the house and I am trying to grom some more from clippling with some success.  More information in a few more months when I know that what I am doing works.

We have 8 camellia shrubs around the house and I am trying to grow more from clippings with some success. More information in a few more months when I know that what I am doing works.

Purple basil we grew from kitchen scraps. We're letting it go to seed because I've never done that with an herb before.

Purple basil we grew from kitchen scraps. We’re letting it go to seed because I’ve never done that with an herb before.

And a couple of coast redwood trees I am growing from clippings.  Both the soil and the hydroponic version seem to be working well.

And a couple of coast redwood trees I am growing from clippings. Both the soil and the hydroponic versions seem to be working well.

We also have some cactus and succulents that I didn’t add in pictures that we are growing from clippings and some chamomile from seed. I hope this inspires you to try to grow some plants indoors.

New Boat Progress #2

So I have not had much time to work on the boat in the past couple of weeks, but it is slowly taking shape nevertheless.  The basics of the hull are in place and I am about one day of fiberglassing away from finishing the structure.  Hopefully a maiden (rowed) voyage could take place by the end of October with sails up by mid November.

from the prow

From the prow.

and just off the port

And just off the port.

You’ll have to forgive the bit of the mess in the garage and the mess on the boat.  These are all just in progress shots.

The Last of the Santa Clara County Parks

We reached a milestone today: we have now been to all of the Santa Clara County Parks. We went to the last two today, which were both reservoirs. The first stop of the day was Chesbro Reservoir. When we first spotted the reservoir, we wondered if there was going to be any water at all. We weren’t able to see any until we got pretty close to the actual parking lot. It was sad to see the water level so low, but we did manage to hike to every interesting feature that was normally underwater. We hiked all around the perimeter of the water, with most of our path in what would normally be the reservoir.

This was all the water left in the reservoir. You can see how high the water used to be if you look at the banks.

This was all the water left in the reservoir. You can see how high the water used to be if you look at the banks.

Most of the bottom of the reservoir looked like this. It was interesting to walk on.

Most of the bottom of the reservoir looked like this. It was interesting to walk on.

This bridge is normally underwater. There was a sign on the other side that said it was built in 1937. We guessed that it used to go over a creek before the dam was built.

This bridge is normally underwater. We guessed that it used to go over a creek before the dam was built.

We then drove on to Uvas Reservoir, which was also very low. We found a parking lot that appeared to be right at the edge of the reservoir during wetter times and walked down to the water. On the way, we passed another bridge that looked very similar and was also usually underwater. This reservoir seemed to be on a more active stream as the “dry” mud wasn’t very dry at all and we had to walk along areas that had been dry for a lot longer. Lloyd skipped stones here for a while before we called our trip a success and headed home.

The view of Uvas Reservoir from the parking lot. It was a bot longer walk than usual to the water.

The view of Uvas Reservoir from the parking lot. It was a bit longer walk than usual to the water.

Lloyd skipping stones by the water.

Lloyd skipping stones by the water.

Both reservoirs looked as though they would be OK parks if the water was higher. There were no paths and not much land in either of the parks. However, the water was so low that there was plenty of room to walk. It was an interesting experience, but sad that the water level was really that low.