Massaman curry

One of our favorite restaurants in Minneapolis is Amazing Thailand. So when a friend of ours posted a recipe on Facebook that he said was just like a curry there, I definitely wanted to try it. I had just made a veggie curry that I would classify as OK. But that got me thinking how easy it is to make a coconut milk-curry paste sauce that becomes dinner really quickly, and how I think I should do that more often.

This recipe not only turned out very similar to the restaurant version, but was far better than the curry I made before. I think it’s the creaminess from the peanut butter and the added flavor from the fish sauce that make all the difference.

Isn’t this the most amazing bottle design?

I made this with chicken, but I think next time I might try it with tofu. Really you could make it with any meat, and if you wanted a vegan version of the sauce just substitute vegan fish sauce. The other thing I would change is to either cut the potato cubes smaller or pre-cook them a little. It seemed like it took forever for them to cook through. I also added some broccoli for a little color.

So here is my version of the recipe.

Massaman curry a la Amazing Thailand

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons red curry paste
3/4-inch thick cube of ginger, minced
1 pound or so boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed (or substitute tofu cubes)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons tamarind paste (I used tamarind chutney)
1/3 cup peanut butter
3 cups golden potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 13.5 ounce can of coconut milk
juice from one lime
3 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups steamed broccoli florets (optional)

Heat vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Stir in the curry paste and ginger and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken and stir until it’s cooked through, 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the brown sugar, fish sauce, tamarind paste, peanut butter, potatoes, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the lime juice and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve over brown rice with the broccoli, if you like.

My first strawberries

In all of our gardening pursuits we’ve never grown a single strawberry. And that’s just wrong. A couple weeks ago we got a strawberry pot and a few plants and just figured we’d see what happened.

They’re looking really good so far. It’s been dry as a bone around here, but I’ve been trying to water the plants daily.

Can’t wait until they turn red! I noticed some tomatoes forming over there, too. And for some reason a blood-red iris plant just bloomed. All of our other irises are bright white/yellow, so this one really stands out.

Last weekend we finally put our smoker to use. Mike made a brisket that turned out really, really well.

I can’t believe I grew up 45 minutes from Kansas City and had to come all the way to California to have burnt ends. I am thinking next time I go home I want to do a tour de barbecue restaurants.

Barney’s burgers

There are many fancypants places where you can eat in the gourmet ghetto, but we have a thing for Barney’s. It’s simple — they make damn good burgers and fries.

Case in point:

We went there last night and I had this delicious bacon-y burger, which I could only manage half of. Mike had an equally huge California burger.

They have a nice patio, so we sat outside. We split steak fries. They’re so yummy!

One funny thing I always notice about bay area restaurants — they give you an impossibly small water glass. At Barney’s it’s like a shot glass. But at least they always give you extra water in some kind of chic looking vessel so you don’t have to be too parched.

Crumb coffee cake

File this under naughty things to make once in a great while. I was craving coffee cake — you know, the kind that has as much crumbly topping as actual cake?

Well, it took me a while to figure out that most recipes for such a cake are called ‘crumb cake.’ But I finally found a recipe for exactly what I wanted.

It called for rhubarb, which would be delicious. But I didn’t have any, and I wanted it plain anyway. So I made it plain, and it was incredibly good. Like, I-need-to-be-alone-with-my-fork good.

It’s nice warm out of the oven or cold out of the fridge. Make it next time you’re hosting a brunch. Or maybe just for yourself. Just because.

Full recipe here.

Loving: snails!

Northern California has a pretty thriving snail population. The other day I woke up on a rainy morning and there were snails on pretty much every surface of the front porch.

I am totally fascinated by them. I suppose I could probably gather them up and have them for dinner, but that just seems wrong.

It’s bad enough when you’re walking somewhere and you hear that unfortunate crunch under your shoe.

In other news, I bought a stuffed squirrel for the dogs and Reggie carries it everywhere like it is her new best friend.

“Step away from my squirrel.” 

I also put our sun jar out in the backyard for a little extra light, and I love how it glows back there.

And most importantly, Mike just got back from visiting our new little neice Grace. Apparently she likes the blanket I made for her.

Those cheeks!

New pattern shop

Now that I don’t sell recycled crafts and vintage anymore, my old Etsy shop has just been sitting empty for months. So I decided to turn it into my pattern shop. Thankfully Etsy finally decided to start letting people change their shop names, so it’s now

I also finally got together a pattern for rope rugs. I put it on Ravelry too. And while I was at it, I finally put some of my projects into official patterns there. Organizational success!

I realized that if I am going to do this crafty thing for a living I better own my job as a knitting/crochet designer. It feels weird to be mostly putting journalism behind me. But that’s what I’m doing. And guess what? Almost 20 patterns sold since yesterday. Not too shabby.

My bay area top 10

I know my bay area travel guide is insanely long, so I thought I would do a shorter post on the essentials — what I would recommend you do if you only had a short time here. So here goes:

1. Golden Gate Bridge. Why? Because it just is San Francisco. If you’re lucky enough to see it on a clear day with sailboats all around, it is truly spectacular. As someone who lives here, I can tell you that it is as cool now as it was the day I got here. I would recommend seeing it from the Crissy Field area, or driving across to see it from Marin County.

2. The Ferry Building. Not just for the farmers market, which happens Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, but for the assembly of bay area foodie culture. Some of the best restaurants, food shops, and bakeries, are housed here. You can get coffee, breakfast, and a few gifts to take back with you. Plus, a clean bathroom!

3. North Beach. This may warrant more than one slot, but it is my favorite neighborhood in San Francisco, and you can walk there from the Ferry Building/Fisherman’s Wharf area. Tour Coit Tower for a view of the city, explore the Italian restaurants and beat culture on Columbus Street, check out the Zoetrope building, shop on Grant Street, then follow it into Chinatown. You can go to Lombard and see the crooked street, too.

4. Dim Sum in Chinatown. You really should eat Chinese food while you’re in San Francisco, and dim sum gives you a chance to try as many different things as you can fit in your belly. Here are some places you might want to try.

5. The Mission. This neighborhood is best known for Mexican food, especially burritos, but we like to go here for two reasons: Tartine bakery for morning buns and huge lattes, and Bi-Rite Creamery for the best salted caramel ice cream you’ll ever have. If there’s a line, wait in it. These are not to be missed!

6. Chez Panisse. Moving on to the east bay, you don’t want to miss your chance to eat at this legendary restaurant. If you can’t get reservations or can’t afford to go for a fancy dinner, opt for lunch at the cafe instead. It’s still a really special experience. And while you’re there you can check out the rest of the gourmet ghetto.

7. Bette’s Oceanview Diner. Bette’s is that place we take everyone who visits because it’s so consistently good. You do have to get there pretty early to get a table, but it’s so worth it. And you can always check out the 4th street shopping district while you wait. At Bette’s, the coffee is strong, and the food is creative, filling, and so, so good. Go for sourdough pancakes on Mondays.

8. Shopping in Rockridge. Berkeley is kind of scattered in terms of shopping districts, but if you start on College Ave. just south of downtown, you can follow it all the way to Rockridge in Oakland and find some great shopping and restaurants along the way. Rockridge is that neighborhood where you would definitely live if you could afford it.

9. Little Star Pizza. Of all our go-to restaurants, Little Star is probably our favorite. It’s actually deep-dish pizza, but with kind of a bay area twist (cornmeal crust, not too gigantic, house-made this and that). I think it’s fantastic, some of the best pizza out there.

10. Bakesale Betty. Let this be your excuse to come to the Temescal neighborhood (aka hipster paradise) in Oakland. Bakesale Betty is known for the tastiest chicken sandwiches, which you eat outside on vintage ironing boards.

Succulent flowers

I was just noticing how all of the succulents in our garden have little flowers on them now. Some of them are really cool looking.

The chives are also full of flowers. I love the little purple pom poms.

I ended up buying a new mint plant and have already used it for mint juleps. I can’t believe I killed a mint plant. How is that possible?

I finally figured out that the orange flowers you see everywhere are California poppies, and they’re the state flower.

All the blooming flowers are making my allergies return.

In Iowa, I used to have allergies severe enough that I had to take 3 medications. After a year and a half sneeze-free, I’m definitely feeling it now.

Speaking of flowers, the place where I had my craft fair last weekend has the most amazing outdoor courtyard full of blooms.

It is such a cool setting for a show. Definitely my favorite.

This was my setup. I bought the umbrella on sale at Target the day before, and it was a total lifesaver.

I didn’t sell much (it was way too hot), but I definitely had a good time. The wall behind me had this tiny door that opened to a tiny window to the street.

The most amazing part is that this place is someone’s house! The people who live there are architects who remodeled a dingy apartment building into the coolest living space. Definitely magazine photoshoot worthy.

Spring craft show

This weekend I’ll be doing my first craft show of 2012 in a great little space in Oakland. Here are the details: