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The Uncommon Life

A Rockin’ Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Rice) Recipe

August 31, 2012

I had a bunch of leftover cooked jasmine rice in the fridge and a new UncommonGoods gadget I wanted to try, the Garlic Rocker. So I did the math and came up with Garlic + Rice = Garlic Rice. Clever, eh?
Googling “garlic rice” in search of a recipe led me to the discovery that in the Phillippines, it’s a breakfast staple called “sinangag” in Tagalog. Garlic for breakfast?! I was on it like white on rice.
Because fried rice doesn’t require exact measurements–you can judge just by looking how much of each ingredient you want to add to it–I looked at several recipes and more or less winged it from there. (The recipe links are at the bottom of this page.) I also consulted UncommonGoods’ two Filipino software developers, Albert Tingson and Orlando Geronimo.
Orlando (right, in photo) said, “How about if you bring the sinangag to work and we’ll have a good breakfast with some tapa and fried egg. We call it ‘Tapsilog.'” All three of us were enthused about this idea until we remembered that we have no way to cook fried eggs at work.
With any kind of fried rice, you want to get all the elements (except herbs, if you’re using them) cooked and chopped before the “frying” begins (actually, sautéeing in my case, as I used a flat pan instead of a wok).
I put some “fancy” generic store brand frozen peas in a bowl and defrosted/cooked them in the microwave. When they were done, I set them aside.I started scrambling a couple of eggs. The secret to good scrambled eggs is low heat, minimal scrambling, and removing the eggs when they’re still slightly underdone, because they’ll cook a little more from their internal heat. That way, the eggs turn out soft and delicious rather than rubbery and tasteless.
When the eggs were done, I sort of stab/chopped them into irregular, bite-size chunks with the plastic spatula I was using in the non-stick pan. Then I set them aside.I took my leftover rice out of the fridge and broke up the stuck-together hunks so that it’d be ready to be scattered into the pan when the time came. I set that aside, too.Then I cut each garlic clove in half lengthwise so that it would lay flat and stable.Now I was ready to ROCK. I pressed the rocker down onto a nice, fat garlic clove and rocked it back and forth to cut through the whole clove.Oh, how beautiful the results were. Perfect little bullets of garlic that resembled part of a honeycomb. Without bothering to scrape off the “bullets,” I put another couple of cloves underneath the tool and pressed/rocked them, too.Because I’m a garlic glutton, I rocked a few more cloves. Then it was time to sauté the garlic bullets.
I used peanut oil. Chinese cooks normally use it because it has a high “smoke point” – meaning it can get a lot hotter than, say, canola oil, corn oil, or butter, before it starts smoking and burning. Also, its flavor goes better with Asian food than olive oil’s does. (If you live near an Asian grocery, buy it there. It’s a lot more expensive at typical American groceries.)I put maybe three tablespoons more into the pan than I needed for sautéeing the garlic, so that there’d be plenty of gloriously garlicky oil left over to fry the rice with.
I’m an impatient cook and I hate to watch over things, which is why I very often overcook my hamburgers and burn my garlic. Burning garlic ruins it. It tastes really acrid and bad. So I made myself pay attention and kept the heat low-ish. I didn’t ruin it! OK, actually a few pieces were overcooked, but I deleted them.One of the recipes I’d found said to add the rice to the garlic in the pan, but I didn’t want to risk cooking the garlic any longer. Instead, I set it aside with the other prepped ingredients, leaving as much as possible of the now-flavored oil in the pan.
It was time to put together the sinangag. I raised the heat to high and added the rice, stirring it in order to make sure it all got some oil on it. I cooked it for maybe three minutes, not enough to brown it, but sufficient to get it hot and give it some of the character of the hot oil. You can smell when it’s right — it’ll remind you a little bit of popcorn cooking in oil.
I added the peas and eggs and stirred to more or less evenly distribute them in the rice and to get all three elements to flavor-kiss a bit. Then I turned off the heat, added the garlic, and stirred some more. A wave of garlic bliss came over me while putting so much into what was only a couple of servings of rice.And there you have it. In imitation of the photo accompanying one of the recipes I’d found, I pressed it into a little bowl-type thingy (I don’t know what to call it because it isn’t round like a bowl — mini-crock?) and made it look all nice and photogenic.
I served some of it into a bowl that I know is an actual bowl because it’s rounded, added a couple of dashes of soy sauce, and dug in. It was a beautiful, heavenly, garlic symphony, much more than the sum of its humble parts.

Recipe: Sinangag (Filipino Garlic Rice)

Ingredients
(I’m not giving amounts because it’s up to you and how much leftover rice you have.)

Leftover cooked rice (it should be at least one day old)
Frozen green peas
Eggs
Garlic cloves (lots)
Peanut oil
Salt or soy sauce

Preparation steps
1. Break up the rice if it’s sticking together; set aside.
2. Defrost and cook the peas. Set them aside.
3. Gently scramble the eggs; then break them up into small pieces. Set them aside.
4. Peel and cube (or “rock” – but do not use garlic press) the garlic into quarter-inch-size chunks and saute until golden–not dark–brown.
5. Set frying pan or wok on a burner and set heat to high.
6. As soon as oil has a subtle, shimmery sheen (but before it smokes), add rice and cook for about 3 minutes, until the rice is hot and perhaps very slightly browned in a few places, but no more. Turn heat down to medium.
7. Add the peas and eggs and stir to mix; cook for about a minute.
8. Turn off heat; add garlic and stir.
9. Add salt or soy sauce to taste.

Recipe links
Sinangag – Filipino Garlic Fried Rice
Garlic Fried Rice
Sinangag – Eggs and Peas Fried Rice
How to cook fried rice (Sinangag na Kanin)

Design

Tips for Creating a Winning Portfolio by Design Challenge Champ Tasha McKelvey

August 14, 2012

A great portfolio is a must-have in the visual world of design, but what’s the best way to build an eye-catching image collection? Ceramicist Tasha McKelvey captured our judges’ attention and won our first Ceramics Design Challenge with her uncommon piece. Here’s her advice on creating content to get the attention of art show judges, buyers like ours, and others in the art world.

Last fall I entered the UncommonGoods Ceramics Design Challenge on a whim. The holiday rush was already upon me, so I decided to take a few minutes and fill out the application right then. Otherwise, I knew I would end up forgetting and not enter at all.

Be Prepared

I already had an item to enter in mind. My Birdie Mini Dish would be a good fit for a catalog based on the size, price-point, cuteness factor, functionality and my studio’s ability to produce it both efficiently and in quantity.

Using relatively few images and words, I would need to effectively communicate all these details to the judges reviewing the applications for the Design Challenge.

With my entry decided on, I was able to pull my application together very quickly because I had already invested some time and thought into the process of portfolio presentation. The images I submitted for judging reflected the function, size and other options I offered for the mini-dish while still demonstrating the items’ consistent style.

This was the most specific mini-portfolio I have put together to date because it really only contains one piece of my work. I normally present a quite different group of images to craft show juries or gallery owners emphasizing the full scope of my work along with my particular style or voice.

Be Selective

Some time ago I created a Flickr portfolio of product images I had assembled for some indie craft show applications. I wanted to provide the show’s jury panel a link to a small selection of images I felt accurately represented my current ceramic work. Just sending a link to my website might have been overwhelming for a jury since it catalogs the entire diversity of my work. The smaller online portfolio I created on Flickr can also be a great resource to share with galleries, shop buyers, and the press.

Create a Cohesive Look

Additionally, the images are appropriate for uploading directly to an online craft show application that require image attachments for jurying. The individual images in my portfolio are actually composites; each jpeg consists of two images side by side. I combined the images using Photoshop, but there are lots of other programs available that can do the same thing. In order to better demonstrate the variety and relationships in my work, I chose to use two images in each “slide”. I put my bird bowls side by side with my ceramic bird necklaces, my ginkgo pottery with my ginkgo jewelry, my woodland gnome with my woodland mushroom mini-tray, etc.

Photos by Tasha McKelvey

Tell a Story

Take a look at the six “slides” that make up my portfolio. Notice the order I placed them in and the story such an arrangement tells. The first image is bold and eye-catching, while the last image references the subject matter as well as some of the colors in the first image (a little trick I also used with my UncommonGoods Design Challenge images too). Even though the backgrounds vary, each image shares the common themes of neutral colors and woodgrain — there is variety, but it is a consistent variety.

Know Your Audience

I use these images for indie craft shows and boutiques, but I do not always use these particular images for more traditional or upscale art and craft shows or galleries. For most non-indie shows I have a separate set of images with a gradient gray background. More traditional or high-end show juries have certain expectations for image presentation, and my casual woodgrain backgrounds might rub some of the more traditional art show jury members the wrong way. Also note that composite images are not recommended for non-indie shows in general.

Here are some examples of my images for non-indie art and craft shows.

Photos by Tasha McKelvey
The UncommonGoods buying team is always looking for great new designs. Check out our latest design challenge or show us your work through our new goods submission form.

The Uncommon Life

How To Repot Succulents

June 8, 2012

As Charlotte (you know, the one with the web) would say, Salutations! I’m Blair – the bloggin’ gal from the lifestyle and fashion blog, Wild and Precious and what a pleasure it is to be over in the beautiful blogging world of UncommonGoods today. And now that I’ve introduced myself lets chat about a way to spruce up that patio of yours.

In the world of trends, Succulent plants seem to be taking home the crown in the fauna and flora category. And why shouldn’t they? Their lush “I don’t give a darn,” character is nothing to be ignored. Succulents are hardy, unique, and perfect for the dry summer heat. They don’t ask for much, but a good environment to get their start in life will take them a long way. No green thumb needed — follow this quick DIY tutorial to get your happy Succulents repotted and ready for your front porch or city window.

Did you make mudpies growing up? If so, this might be your favorite part — make your own dirt mixture! When picking out potting soil just get the very most basic stuff. You don’t want anything too rich in additives — Succulents just don’t like that stuff. The goal of your dirt mixture is to get water/food/light/nutrients to and away from the roots in a time appropriate fashion. Mix coffee grinds and a little sand into your dirt before filling your pots. The sand will keep your soil from getting too over saturated with moisture (remember, these type of plants are desert dwellers – they aren’t use to a whole lot of the wet stuff) and the coffee grinds will help fertilize as well as keep away slugs and bugs that would otherwise love to nibble your Succulents down to nothingness.

You can save and use your own coffee grinds but if you aren’t a joe drinker check out your local coffee shop or favorite Starbucks. In a new effort to be green (reduce! reuse! recycle!), Starbucks is bagging and giving away used coffee grinds for garden use.

As far as picking out pots the world is your oyster. You don’t need anything too big and can even choose to put more than one succulent together in a pot. I chose these funky modern pots to compliment my trendy vegetation.

With your pot(s) picked out fill 1/3 of each pot with sand. Do not try to cut costs (sand is cheap anyway) by bringing home sand from your beach vacation — that stuff is full of salt and your succulents will no longer be… well, succulent. Sand is important in helping move around and drain water. Once you’ve got the sand in, fill with your dirt mixture leaving a small lip of space up top.

The plants: I picked out three wee little plants from Home Depot. They were around $4 each. They had crazy names, but in my excitement I lost the tags. I’m thinking about naming them myself though… ah, I digress.

Before introducing your plants to their new home give the bottom of the existing dirts/roots a bit of a scrunch. Flare the root structure out a bit. This will help it transition better into its new/bigger/better environment. This is something good to remember when planting anything anywhere. If you don’t break up the bundle they are used to having in their temporary store shells, they might be a little too shy to branch out (pun intended) into their new world.

Now — where to put them? These guys are not fans of the midday sun. They prefer indirect/filtered sunlight and enjoy a nice airflow (I chose to put mine on my front porch which is roofed). As for watering — unlike planting in your garden, you do not want to water these right away after repotting. Give them some time to adjust and then give a good watering about once a week during the warmer months. Don’t ever leave standing water in your pots — it makes them angry.

Wham bam thank you ma’am we have ourselves some repotted Succulents! Call your self hip cause you’ve got the trendiest little plants on the block. Mischief managed!

Thanks for hanging out with me — pop over any time to say hi Wild & Precious. ta ta friends.

Check out more planters and seed kits at UncommonGoods.
The Uncommon Life

How to Style Tea Towels in Two Rooms

May 29, 2012

I live in a very old building in Brooklyn. My apartment definitely needs a little work, so I’m always on the lookout for fun ways to dress the place up. After hearing about a few ways to take tea tea towels above and beyond their dish-drying duties, I decided to give towels as home decòr a try.

Inspired by these suggestions, (but not feeling crafty enough to get stitching or framing), I picked out some of our newest towels to try a few ideas of my own.

Tea towels can be used a curtains, turned in to pillows (as several of our reviewers have suggested in the past), or framed (also suggested in a customer review).

I absolutely love coffee and tea, so for my first towel decòr experiment I chose Sara Selepouchin’s Tea and Coffee diagram towels.

I didn’t get too fancy with the tea tea towel, but I do love the idea of having a tea towel diagraming tea! I hung the towel on my oven, right near my tea pot, so this one might end up soaking up a spill or drying a dish at some point. But for now, it just looks really nice hanging in my kitchen.

The coffee towel is another story, though. I can’t bear the thought of this lovely piece of textile art– a tribute to one of my all time favorite things–cleaning up kitchen messes.

First, I ironed the towel, because it came out of the packaging a little creased. Then, I refolded it to fit the space I wanted it to cover–a weird, painted over door on my kitchen wall.

I used nails to hang a thick string across the space, then used clothespins to hang the towel, creating a clothesline look. For a more rustic feel, you could do this with twine or frayed rope.

Simply adding two towels to my kitchen was a big improvement. I’d much rather look at Sara’s delightful diagrams than my old oven or the thick paint over the mystery door.

The towels look great in the kitchen, so I wondered if the same trick would work in another room and chose the Typographic Tongue Twister Towel to add a nice pop of color to the living room.

My husband built a fancy oak cover for our radiator that also acts as an end table. It’s beautiful, but I worry about it getting scratched or ruined by someone not using a coaster. This towel solves that problem. It makes a great table runner, because it’s small enough that it doesn’t cover up all of the wood’s natural beauty. It’s fun, colorful, and really looks great with my giant paperclip print.

I love the design so much, that I might actually frame the towel and hang it someday. But for now, it’s keeping my end table/ radiator cover safe while adding color and style to the room.

Wooden Drawing Model Guy agrees and gives the Typographic Towel a thumbs-up. Or he would…if he had thumbs.

Design

Best of the Best Design Blog Posts of 2011

January 3, 2012

1 & 4 / 2 / 3

January is a time to reflect on the passing year and plan for the one ahead. Some of my favorite design blogs are doing just that and rounding up their favorite posts of 2011 to share again for inspiration. Think of it as creative recycling when we need it most. I thought I would be clever and compile a round-up of round-ups.

Stefanie from Brooklyn Limestone has shared her favorite posts from 2011 including home organization tips, beautiful travel photos and exciting DIY tutorials. She also just curated a collection for us– here are her top picks for getting organized in the new year.

In case you don’t have enough blogs to follow, over at Rambling Renovators they have compiled a list of the best blogs from 2011. The series is broken up into different volumes and includes a description of their favorite post from each blog.

Apartment Therapy has been doing a lot of reflecting on 2011. They have even round-up their favorite house tours by month. My favorite is their January round-up for its diversity.

Nole at Oh So Beautiful Paper collected her favorite blog posts from this year categorized by design style. I absolutely love colors and type placement on her pick of neon wedding invitations and watercolor designs.

Having resolved to add more color to my life, I am smitten with re-nest‘s round up of color inspiration posts. After perusing the posts you may have the urge to make a colorful statement in your home.

It may be cathartic for these bloggers to look back and share their successes but I find it so helpful as I plan the improvements I will make in 2012.