New Crafty!

So, I did it. I bought an embroidering sewing machine. Why? I saw the cool stuff you can make with patterns from Urban Threads (like patches. AND LACE!!!). And the cool stuff Greg Dean’s (from Real Life Comics) wife has made. In fact, I blame Greg entirely for this.

Anyway, I’ve opened an etsy shop with a few of the things I’ve made from patterns I have bought. I hope to one day be able to make patterns of my own, but OH MY GOD have you seen how much the software is? I downloaded a trial and holy crap is it complicated. Really steep learning curve. And I supposed some artistic talent is required. Hrm. I seem to lack that as well. Perhaps I can outsource the creation of art to my sister. Hey, I’d give her a cut of any sales!

Sunday Eats: Vietnamese Pork Belly Banh Mi Sammiches

You read that right. Pork belly banh mi. I first had a banh mi taco at the Peached Torilla taco truck. Holy crap. So succulent, so moist, so so good. I have to get it every time I go. So that got me thinking: how can I make this at home?

Me and Google? Tight, yo. Even after they changed how you search. I found this recipe from White On Rice Couple. They do a lot of food photography and have plenty of delicious recipes. Now that I have the recipe, how do I get a damn pork belly? Many searches for “pork belly austin” got me such responses as “You have to buy an entire one and talk to a butcher.” and “good luck, I had to order mine online.” Well, crap. Then a random post on facebook (ugh) lead me to The Meat House.

The Meat House has all kinds of meat, fresh and frozen (elk? yup. lamb? yup. ostrich? you betcha). And in one of the freezers was a nice one pound pork belly slab. Oh my yes. I picked out a $10 slab and it sat in my freezer for weeks. Finally, I decided to dig out this recipe and give it a try.

Braised Caramel Pork Belly Banh Mi Sandwich Recipe

Pickled Daikon and Carrot:

Trust me. You want this.

1/2  pound Carrots
1/2 pound Daikon
4 tablespoons Vinegar (white or rice wine)
3 tablespoons Sugar
2 tablespoons Salt
4 cups Warm Water

Cut a carrot and a daikon radish into thin strips, kind of like match sticks. Mix salt, sugar, water, vinegar until everything is dissolved.

Put the sliced (julienned!) veggies into a sterile jar and pour the liquid on top.

Let sit for 3 days or as long as you can stand. I let mine sit for as long as it took for the pork belly to cook. With strips this thin, they should be “acceptable” pickles in a short time. Obviously the longer they sit, the better they are.

Note: There was no way I was going to julienne a pound of carrot and daikon for a couple of sandwiches. I cut at most half a cup total, then eyeballed the brine.They turned out fine. I was looking for a pickle taste and a crunch. I got it. Hooray for winging it!


3 Tbs sugar (edit: I used 2 Tbs or sugar and a tablespoon of local honey)
2 Tbs warm water

Add sugar and water to heavy bottomed sauce pan. Cook on medium heat until it turns a golden brown.

DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED. It will go from nice golden brown syrup to horrible burned sugar in a split second. As soon as the mixture turns to a medium golden brown, immediately remove pan from heat.

If the mixture is still too thick (remember, you’re not making candy, you’re making a syrup), SLOWLY and CAREFULLY add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes more watery consistency. Adding water will make it bubble and splatter. That crap hurts. Quickly mix with a wooden spoon so that there are no hard lumps. When finished, set aside. When I was ready to add the caramel sauce, I had semi soft candy. Sigh. If this happens to you, add a little water and heat until all is melted again.

Now on to the meat!

Pork Belly:

2 lbs cubed pork belly (about 1 inch cubes)
2 large shallots, minced (about 3-4 tablespoons)
1 tablespoons oil or butter. I like butter.
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
about 1 or 1.5 cups of water
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Melt butter/heat oil in a medium to large saucepan or large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for about a minute. Add garlic and cook until both are fragrant and translucent.

Add the precious, precious pork belly. Cook for 10 minutes or until all edges are seared and browned. At this point, it should smell AWESOME.

Add fish sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point, it should go from AWESOME to OH MY DEAR GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL??? That’s the fish sauce. Which is salt, water and anchovy. Yup. Cost? About a buck thirty-nine at the local Asian market for a 24 ounce bottle. Now it is possible that I got some horrible brand (they had a bottle for $8. Sorry, but $1.39 beats $8). But they all had the same ingredients. Anyway….

Add enough water to cover the belly. Add peppercorns and cook on low for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add caramel sauce and continue cooking on low (this is called braising!) for 45 minutes to an hour. Open doors and windows to get that garlic fish sauce smell out. Stir occasionally.

How to put your sandwiches together:

Baguette (Vietnamese if you can get it, regular french if you can’t. I was told that in a pinch a Mexican bolillo roll or ciabatta roll will work)
Pork liver pate
Carrot-Daikon pickles
Soy Sauce

Slice the roll/baguette lengthwise and add your fixins. I added some avocado because I had one about to go bad. This…oh this tasted so good.


Lookit that! Braised caramel pork belly, carrot-daikon pickles, pate, mayo, and avocado

Things I learned:

  1. My belly was too fat (pork belly!). Need to find one with more meat. Guess where I can find that? The Asian market. As I was looking for fish sauce, I wandered around the meat section. They had pre-sliced belly that was much more lean. It’s possible they had a slab as well, but I didn’t look. I really like the cubed style. But if I can get more meat for my money, then I’m all there.
  2. Fish sauce can be cheap.
  3. Fish sauce frigging stinks.

In short, I loved it. Aelerelean was not as enthused. Too much fat and he can’t eat organ meat so pate is right out. I would totally make it again with leaner belly.

Sunday Peaches

A friend of mine has a peach tree. She brought the most delicious white flesh peaches I have had in a while to a party. My mom ended up taking them. I still don’t know how that happened. Anyway, my friend promised me another bag. And she came through:

If I had my little way, I’d eat peaches every day. Nature’s candy in my hand, in a can, or a pie.

This is what I had left. Oh what do I mean? I had to be sure they were still tasty. I ate two immediately. So juicy.

As much as I loved them, I could not eat them all before they went bad. So…JAM IT IS! But not my full scale, 6 dozen jar production. Nope. I bought a bread maker (and then discovered the joys of mixer and no knead bread. Go figure) and it can make jam. In fact, I think most can. Anyway. A cup or so of fresh peach jam coming up!

First, I must skin the peaches. How do you do this the quick way? Boil some water:

Watched pot, etc, etc

drop peaches in for a minute:

Gonna get in the hot tub!

dunk in ice water:

Naughty peaches being shocked

skin peels right off!

That is a horrible lie. My mom’s peels came right off. My peels did not come right off. “Cut an X on the bottom!” Did that. no love. I boiled them for 60 seconds. I boiled them for almost 2 minutes. Nothing. You know what did it? A paring knife.

Instructions from the manual: <none> There were no instructions for peaches. For hard fruit like apples:

“Cut into small pieces, cook with water until soft, mash. Add 1 cup of prepared fruit to pan with one cup of sugar.”

I did not want sweet cooked peaches. I wanted jam. Well, preserves.


“Cut into smallish pieces, eat multiple lovely juicy chunks that didn’t get cooked mushy by the failed peeling process, add 1 cup of whatever is left to the bread pan, realize you have a bit more than a cup, add the rest, add 1 cup of sugar, and a bit of pectin because I want a harder set.”

Instructions from the manual:  Put pan in the breadmaker, press the jam button. Come back in 1 hour 20 minutes to jam! Let cool. Place in clean container. Cover and refrigerate.

Reality: Put pan in breadmaker, press jam button, come back in 1 hour 20 minutes to find sweet peach flavored syrup with bits in. Press jam button again. Wonder why the machine just beeps at you. Realize it has to cool down. Come back 5 minutes later, press jam button, machine still beeps at you. Come back in an hour because, really, it’s time for dinner. I don;t need jam RIGHT NOW. Press jam button. Machine complies. Come back in 1 hour 20 minutes to find mostly thickened jam with peach bits in and burned sugar at the top. Rejoice! Spoon into clean container, cover and place in fridge. Lick spoon. Go to bed happy.”

Sunday Eats

Let’s work our way backwards, shall we?

6/17/2012: Alton Brown’s Shepherd’s Pie…mostly

A “real” shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, not beef. Hence the name “shepherd’s pie.” Whatever. Sunday, I ventured forth to get some ground lamb. Because I did not think ahead to go to the farmer’s market the say before. Grump. Now I gotta go to Central Market. Ugh. I didn’t wanna go all the way to Central Market. Sprout’s! They should have ground lamb!

This…this is not ground lamb

No problem! I have a big ass Kitchen Aid mixer and a meat grinding attachment! Now that I had transformed the lovely lamb shoulder chops into a mass of pink squidginess, I could then get to cooking! What does the recipe say? “Add onions and carrots and saute.” Why would I saute carrots? I did however, saute onions and–oh look!–5 medium sized mushrooms that need eating! Then I dumped in my lovely pink critter meat and browned it.

Next, “add flour, cook for one minute, add tomato paste–” Tomato paste? Sure, why the hell not! And hey, while I’m at it, I’ve got some cherry tomatoes from my garden, let’s slice and toss those in as well! They’ll cook down (no they won’t)! Simmer for a bit, add your additional veg (no corn here. it just looks wrong) and add to a casserole dish.

Looks tasty already

So, I’ve never made a proper shepherd’s (or cottage)  pie. I’ve always browned some meat, added gravy from a packet, dumped in some frozen veg and topped with mashed potatoes either from instant or from the refrigerated section. There was none of this “make a gravy” or “simmer” stuff. This time, however, I whipped some red potatoes (russets suck) and added it to the top (yes, I still used frozen veg. Alton said I could!).

Mmmm. 1000 calories per serving

Now, I have no idea why the recipe calls for an egg yolk, but I put it in. Next time I won’t. Bake this puppy for 25 minutes and dinner is served.


Right. Bread. I found a no knead bread that only called for 2 hour sitting time instead of 12. Welp.  This is bread. There’s nothing good or bad to say about it. It was flour, water, yeast, and salt. No milk (it would go bad), no oil/butter (why?), no sugar (guess the yeasties would eat it too fast?), and no character. It’s fine for dinner but not a sandwich bread. Of course, I think I did screw it up. It was supposed to be sturdy like a bread dough. I was goopy. “Using a serrated knife, cut off a piece of dough.” No. It was more like “Get a spoon.” Now I know how to fix it for next time.

Sunday Sweet

I’ll admit, I don’t know when I made this. It was on a day when I wasn’t making anything really special for dinner. Maybe it was a roast chicken day. Anyway, I decided to make a bread pudding.

Let me state right now that I don’t like the feel of wet bread. Wet bread feels so gross and many puddings I’ve had were just wet bread. Bleah. This recipe, however, is pretty good.

Again, I pull from Alton Brown with his Chocolate Bread Pudding but with modifications.


  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot chocolate mix
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 ounces espresso, slightly cooled
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
  • 18 ounces stale challah bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-inch pieces

Modification 1: No hot cocoa mix
Modification 2: No espresso
Modification 3: No chocolate chunks

So here you’re asking “Then why are you using the chocolate bread pudding recipe if there’s no bloody chocolate in it?” Because his other recipe is not what I was looking for. Trust me. It works

Modification 4 aka Here’s your damn chocolate:  I had a chocolate babka sitting in the freezer for over a year. The plan was to make bread pudding out of it. It just took longer than I thought. I have no idea how much bread I used. I just cubed it up and put it in a pan. A bundt pan.

Modification 5: Some rum. “how much is ‘some rum’?” No clue. Less than a half cup, more than a tablespoon. I like rum.

I followed the recipe with my mods. I have made this before using a homemade cinnamon bread that had very little salt but was perfect for this. So this time I knew I could kinda wing it. Last time I had too much for my pan. This time, though, this time I was determined to have things turn out differently!


That’s a lot of bread pudding. No one else will eat it. Just me. I made a nice bourbon sauce for it as well. I’d post the recipe but I have no idea what I used. Sugar, butter, flour, bourbon, milk all cooked for a bit. It turned out lovely. Really. Just…a lot. I gotta learn how to cook smaller portions.

Sunday Eats

So I lied. Weekly? That was apparently too much work. And so are pictures. Sorry.

Anyway, May 19th eats: salmon filets (HEB), couscous made with beef broth and a dash of Ms. Dash (bulk, HEB), yellow waxy and green beans (, and *drumroll* English Toasting Bread.

Salmon: a squirt of lime juice, a teaspoon of Lia Marie’s garlic butter, light sprinkling of salt. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Perfect. Moist. Awesome.Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.

Couscous: boil a cup and a half of broth or water, add one cup of couscous, put a lid on it, turn off the heat,  and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork. Done. Don’t but the pre-boxed, pre-flavored stuff. It’s not worth it. Buy it in bulk. Easiest side dish you’ve ever made.

Fresh green and yellow waxy beans: bring a couple of quarts of water to boil. Add beans (you did remember to rinse and trim the bad bits, yes?). Cook for 3 minutes. Green beans will turn a beautiful bright green. THIS IS GOOD. turn off heat, drain, immediately chill in ice water to stop the cooking and drain. Gotta preserve that color. Right before serving, melt a bit of butter in a pan and toss the beans until heated through. Nice buttery coating.

English Toasting Bread: I love this bread. I get it from HEB or Central Market (depending on where I am). My HEB does not stock it regularly and Central Market has one of the worst freaking parking lots ever. So I decided to see if I can make this lovely bread on my own. I can.King Arthur Flour has a pretty nice recipe. I might need to cut the salt a bit. There’s not a lot of salt but it still felt too salty for me. I think I could tweak it a bit.

King Arthur Flour English Toasting Bread

1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.

2) Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. Be sure to stir the liquid well before measuring its temperature; you want an accurate reading. If you don’t have a thermometer, the liquid will feel quite hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would be uncomfortable as bath water.

3) Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

4) Beat at high speed for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft.

5) Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.

6) Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.

7) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it’s just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn’t be more than, say, 1/4″ over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn’t very cold (edit: and if your flour didn’t come straight from the freezer. Like mine. Mental note: warm the flour or let it sit at room temp before using). While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

8 )  Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 22 to 27 minutes, till it’s golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.

9) Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

Yield: 1 (deliciously awesome) loaf.


Sunday Eats

I don’t know what it is about Sundays, but I feel the need to cook all the things and clean some of the things. It is the day that I can finally get things done without distractions. I can clean, I can repair, and most importantly cook stuff. I’m hoping I can make this a weekly thing. Something to make me starting updating this thing. Next time I’ll remember to take pictures.

Last Sunday (4/22) I made a roast chicken for dinner. Roast chicken (Central Market), purple hull peas (Texas Daily Harvest delivered by, and fresh broccoli (Central Market). Broccoli is no big thing, neither are the peas. The chicken….ahh the chicken. I am wary of chicken now. I failed to cook one all the way through and made both Aelerelean and me sick. I am now 3 for 4 in successful roast chicken. I usually rub it down with copious amounts of butter and generous amounts of kosher salt. That’s all it needed. This chicken, however, got the special treatment. I have in my possession the most glorious of congealed substances: duck fat.Oh my my, oh hell yes. I rubbed–nay massaged– that 4 pound chicken with softened butter and sweet sweet duck fat. no crevice was missed, nor was the cavity neglected. Let me tell you folks, that this was one damn tasty bird once done. My oven on the other hand….well, I forgot. Duck fat likes to pop. A lot. Oh well. Juicy, tasty bird. Would eat again. A++++++.

That was dinner. A 4 pound bird only takes about 1.5 hours to cook at 400 (internal temp 165!). What did I do earlier in the day? Made cinnamon rolls. No idea why I wanted cinnamon rolls. I just did. They turned out pretty good. Lots of time spent waiting for the dough to rise. Peh. That’s the only part I don’t like about baking bready things. The waiting. It is indeed the hardest part. I did learn one thing though. My couple of years old instant yeast is still alive. Gotta love a nice frosty freezer.


Holiday Updates


I have no kitchen.

Before I had no kitchen, I sweetened up that last batch of coffee vodka. It was a hit. Both with the ultimate receiver of this gift and with my coworkers. Yay! When I get my kitchen back (scheduled for three days before Christmas), I will be a cooking and canning fiend. Here’s what I am planning:

  • Apple Pie jam with real bits of apple
  • Triple Berry Sangria jam
  • Peach Mango preserves (one of my older recipes)
  • Lime Curd
  • Marshmallows (topped with stuff…man I hope it works out)
  • Caramels
  • Scottish Tablet
  • Coffee Liqueur
There’s other non Kitchen Crafty Crap(tm) that really I should have been doing. I mean, I had all frigging summer. Hrm…

It has begun….

First, I must revisit the last post. Hobo wine sucked. Sucked bad. Just…ewww. Filtering through paper coffee filters takes forEVER!

Now, with that out of the way I was looking in the pantry and saw a lonely bottle full of red liquid and grey fruit hiding in the deepest recesses. Oh right! Raspberry vodka infusion! It’s only been going for a year (eyeroll). I removed the zombie looking fruits and trasferred the sweet sweet nectar to a plastic (I know, I KNOW!) Barcardi bottle. Why? I need that Svedka bottle for something else. What was that something else?

Coffee infused vodka.

Yes. Being October, I was waaaay late on getting a good infusion for Christmas. Until I found a recipe that would work in 12 hours. Nice! From the Something Awful forums:

For a real quick coffee vodka, you can use the cold-brew method of making coffee, but substitute vodka for the water.

100g medium grind fresh medium-dark coffee, soaked in 750ml of vodka for 12 hours in the fridge, stirred several times during the process, & then filtered through paper coffee filters.

That’s it. 12 hours top to bottom.

It makes a really intense coffee vodka concentrate, overpowering if you drink it straight, but it’s stunning if you mix 50/50 with ice-cold milk, or Baileys for an even better flavour.
It would make an excellent addition to cocktails, especially mixed with chocolate liquers, & I imagine it would make an intense espresso martini.


Intense flavor in 12 hours. Right. So, Sunday afternoon I start the infusion. Tuesday night I filtered it. That’s…that’s way more than 12 hours. Way more.

I dipped the tip of my pinkie into the infusion and tasted it. Four hours later I was still tasting it. It was…foul. It very much needed to be cut. I added more vodka and put it in the pantry to age. I also siphoned off a bit and added sugar syrup for homemade Kahlua. I haven’t tasted it yet. I’ll let my resident guinea pig (and ultimate receiver of this concoction) try it out first.

Hobo wine

For Christmas I got a Spike Your Juice kit. It contains an airlock, a rubber stopper and 6 packets of yeast. You supply the 64 oz bottle of juice. Now that I have time enough at last, I decided I wanted some homemade hooch. The kit says that in 48 hours (!!!) I could have that sweet sweet liquor. Okay, cool! Before I started, I decided to surf around to see what the results might be. I stumbled on CNET’s DIY Weekend. The guys there had the same kit and the results were pretty good. So why not make it better? They decided to boil the juice and add honey and sugar  to up the sugar content. Then instead of letting it sit 48 hours, they let it sit for 2 weeks.

The results? “We have no idea what the proof is, but I’ve had shots of Jager with less kick.” Yessssss. I must haves it.

Sunday will be the end of week one of organic grape juice hooch. It is still merrily burbling away and probably still will be in another week. Muhahahahaha.