Slow Cooker Tomato Beef Sauce and Quickie Baked Pasta

beef pasta 1

I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m still crazy busy and haven’t had time to cook or bake anything very exciting!  Unfortunately since I’ve been working on client work, rather than personal pieces, I can’t show anything (until it’s published).  Here’s a peek at a sketch I did that will appear as part of a story in Highlight’s magazine for babies, Hello!  I also did the cover for that issue.

I had a lot of fun painting this little on and her mom!

I had a lot of fun painting this little one and her mom!

I’m also working on another Hidden Picture for a Let’s Play Hidden Pictures book, and working another Anne Rockwell story as well as several other projects.

 

The slow cooker has been my friend still, and last week, I threw together a baked pasta with an active prep time of about 15 minutes.  Here’s what I did:  In the late morning I threw a bunch of ingredients into the slow cooker (no pre-sauteing or anything! I also didn’t measure –the recipe is an estimate) and cooked it on low for about six hours.   Then 30 minutes before dinner, I preheated the oven to 350, boiled some water and cooked some rotini pasta. Next I assembled the pasta dish with the sauce and parmesan, and topped it with some shredded mozzarella  and baked it until it melted — about 10 minutes.  That’s it– dinner done.  I didn’t even add oil at the start, as I figured the meat and liquids would be sufficient, and they were.  The meat was moist and juicy, and the sauce was delicious.  It was a bit hit with my son, who had seconds. :)

I’ve also been (quickly) experimenting with cauliflower flat bread (see my previous version here) and chia pudding in my attempt to eat more whole foods even in the midst of stress and work.

cauliflower pizza with caramelized onions

 

I’ll post more on that later!  In the meantime, enjoy this easy, fast, and delicious beef pasta dish!

beef pasta 2

 

Easy Beef Pasta in Slow Cooker

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small can of tomato paste

1 small can of diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

kosher salt

pepper

1/3 cup red wine

1/2 lb. dried pasta of choice

1/2 lb. shredded mozarella (I used smoky)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1.  Put beef through red wine into slow cooker.  Cook on low for about six hours, stirring every two hours or so.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain.
3.  Return cooked pasta to pot and pour in beef sauce and grated parmesan.  Mix thoroughly.

4.  Pour pasta mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Bake in oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.

 

 

13 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Beef, Slow Cooker

Adventures with Jello

flubber jello

 

Last month was all about Jello in the MATS Bootcamp.   I was really happy about it because anything that has to do with both food and art is excellent in my mind!  I drew a lot of Jello doodles.  Here are some:

ink sketch

 

I also messed around with different art supplies and did some color experiments:

Painted in acrylic

Painted in acrylic

Drawings in pen over old palette paper

Drawings in pen over old palette paper

I really liked the effect of drawing on my old palette paper.  I will have to revisit that technique again in the future. Not sure how I will use it though.

I had a lot of fun with all these doodles.  But when the actual assignment was unveiled,  I choked.  It was bolt fabric, and I still feel pretty insecure about pattern making because I am so new to it.  Here is my first attempt, which I hated:

pattern 1 smaller

I built all the icons in Illustrator.  The colors kind of clash.  Also there are too many items the same size.  I could have attempted another one using these icons, but I decided to trash it and start over.  I made another one that was more “me”.  Of course it had cute animals.  I’m obsessed with this bear and bunny and know there is a story there somewhere….  We also were introduced to a new “candy, nougat-y” palette.

 

My pattern and what it would look like on an apron!

My pattern and what it would look like on an apron!

I loved this nougat palette so much, I decided to do an illustration I have been wanting to do for awhile using it.  The inspiration for this one was the February MATS assignment on cuckoo clocks.   I did this Bavarian couple experiment.

bavarian couple

This is the same couple in a candy nougat colored village.  This piece is completely different for me because of the palette, but I am really happy with it!

bavarian couple_final3

 

With all this Jello activity, I was reminded of one of the very first cookbooks I got in the 70s or 80s — Amazing Magical Jell-O Desserts.  I love this book.  It is illustrated by the fantastic Seymour Chwast, and I was happy to see is still in print!

My original copy from my childhood

My original copy from my childhood — obvious from the price!

I thought it would be fun to make some Jello desserts with Jamie, so we spent an afternoon making three of them!  For one, we tried to make a big face on the bottom of the pan out of fruit.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a Jello-mold, so when we tried it with a pan and a candy mold, it was a big fail.The Jell-O wouldn’t come out.  :(

We made regular ones with fruit in parfait glasses and these worked out though:

Peach Jell_O with no sugar added fruit cocktail -- a classic

Peach Jell-O with no sugar added fruit cocktail — a classic!

We also made a Strawberry Poof one, but we didn’t have the correct amount of yogurt and I used sugar-free Jell-O (it was the only one that came in strawberry at the store).  This probably contributed to our second (semi) fail.  After chilling, the Jell-O totally had the consistency of Flubber!!

flubber 2

I remember making this as a kid, and the consistency was more like a mousse– light and airy.  Oh well… we tried.  Also, we had a lot of fun.  :)  We still ate it too, even though it was kind of weird.  It tasted good!

On another food/art front, the winners of the of the They Draw and Cook Glad Party were announced this week.  To see the 1st place winner and five second place winners, check it out here.  There were over 330 recipes submitted!! So I was honored to be one of the 15 Honorable Mentions!  My Amazing Tofu 3 Ways was voted “Most Awwwwwww-esome”, so that was pretty awesome. :)

 Peach Jello with Fruit

1 package of peach gelatin

1 can or about 8 oz. of fruit in natural juices

1.  Dissolve gelatin in 1 cup of boiling water in a large bowl and stir until completely dissolved.

2. Drain fruits, reserving liquid.  Measure 3/4 cup of it — if you need more liquid to make 3/4 cup, add water.  Add to gelatin.

3.  Pour some of the mixture into serving dishes about 1/4 full and chill for about 10 minutes to thicken.

4.  Add strained fruit to dishes and pour remaining gelatin mixture on top.  Chill until completely firm.

 

Strawberry Yogurt Poof (adapted from Amazing Magical Jello Desserts by Arnold Rosenberg)

1 package of strawberry gelatin  (don’t use sugar free!)

8 oz. of strawberry yogurt  ( be sure to use the full amount!)

1.  Dissolve gelatin in a large bowl with 1 cup of boiling water.  Stir until completely dissolved.  Add 3/4 cup cold water.  Chill for about ten minutes until slightly thickened.

2.  Add yogurt to jello and mix vigrously with a whisk or a hand mixer.  Transfer to serving dishes and chill.

22 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Children, Desserts, Uncategorized

Tex Mex Tofu Scramble and They Draw and Cook

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Hope everyone had a good one! :)  

I’m still recovering from a Hidden Pictures Retreat at Highlights this past weekend–lots of work to catch up on!   It was wonderful to see old friends and make new ones.  The folks at Highlights are the best.  I stayed in the cutest little wooden cabin, and we artists spent all day Saturday learning all about Hidden Pictures!  I have done a few of Hidden Pictures for the magazines for the younger set, Hello! and High Five.  But I grew up with Highlights for Children (the most popular of their magazines), as did almost everyone else in this country.  It is such an honor being able to contribute to the magazine from my childhood.  :)  I will have to do a post about it in the future.  But this one is the one I started before I left for Honesdale, PA last week!

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tofu2

Quite frankly, I would probably never have made this Tofu Scramble had it not been for the They Draw and Cook Glad Party.  I submitted an illustration there, and the requirement was to come up with three different recipes using the same ONE ingredient.  I usually only eat tofu with Asian flavors or in Chocolate Mousse, which I included in the recipe below.  After illustrating it though, I decided I had to try it.  And you know what — I love it!  I’ve been eating it several times in the past week — it is so yummy with refried beans, cheese, and salsa!  I also garnish with lime juice, plain yogurt (I can’t eat sour cream), and chopped cilantro.

For the concept, I knew I wanted to include animals, becauseI love drawing them, and I wanted characters and a story in the piece.  Since there had to be three recipes, I thought it would be fun to do three different courses: A soup, a main entree, and a dessert.  Then I came up with the Fox’s Cafe and went from there!  I realized each recipe kind of has a different cultural background as well, so I incorporated that into the design with each animal saying how delicious tofu is in three different languages.  At the end I have instructions for storing tofu.  It’s important to keep it in fresh water.  I actually have some leftover tofu in my fridge in water in a Glad container just like the little guy in my sketch:

sketch1c

And this is the final piece which I submitted:

Click to view larger

Click to view larger

It pretty much was the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted, though it doesn’t look so complicated…  It’s made up of several files, one of which — just the ingredients in the recipes—was over 550 layers!  Crazy, huh?  That’s what happens when you import something from Illustrator.  Lol.  Every sliver of scallion had its own layer.  The animals (yes, I am obsessed with the bunny and the bear — they keep showing up) are a separate file, and I assembled everything together in one big Photoshop file.

I realized that working this way (using several flattened files to make one big file) is a LOT like baking a complicate dish– something like the German Chocolate Cake we made for Denis’ birthday last weekend!  There are also three stages to making the cake:  First there is the cake component, then the  filling component (which needs to be cooked and coddled and babied at the stove for 20 minutes), and then assembled all together later when everything has cooled!

This year, I had a baking assistant, which I was very grateful for!

Cracking the eggs...OMG, this cake has 3 eggs, and 4 egg yolks!!!  It's kind of scary like that.

Cracking the eggs…

OMG, this cake has 3 eggs, and 4 egg yolks!!! It’s kind of scary like that.  But if you are brave, here is the recipe.  I only make it exactly once a year, and only for the man I love!

Tex Mex Tofu Scramble

1 block of tofu

1 teaspoon oil

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 green pepper, diced

1/4 teaspoon or to taste of ground cumin, chili powder, and dried oregano

dash of kosher salt and pepper

1/4 cup chopped cilantro and more for garnish if desired

1.  Wrap block of drained tofu in a paper towel and weight under a heavy pot for 30 minutes.

2.  Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Saute onion and pepper until softened, about 3-5 minutes.  Crumble pressed tofu and add to skillet.  Season with spices, and saute for about five more minutes.

3.  Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

4.  Serve with grated cheese, lime wedges, refried beans, sour cream, salsa, and warm tortillas if you’d like.

Makes about 2 servings.

6 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Vegetarian

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions and Easy Weeknight Mini Pizzas

Mini Pizza with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, and mozzarrella

Mini Pizza with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, and mozzarrella

I recently completed another Skillshare class (Character Illustration from Concept to Final Artwork)!  I almost didn’t take this one because I felt character development is something I’m pretty capable of doing.  But it also has an Illustrator and Photoshop component, and I felt I can always learn more about creating digital art.  I’m really glad I did take it, because I was introduced to some key things that I will definitely use in my work — for example, importing layers into Photoshop from Illustrator (who knew!!?).  I don’t know if I will end up working exactly this way in the future, but going through the process was really valuable and a great learning experience!  And I did learn things I am using now that I didn’t before. :)

Here is my work process for this assignment:

I first did sketches of pirates and chose a final one to take to final:

roughs

This is the one I decided to work with.

This is the one I decided to work with.

This is my pirate after I drew every shape in Illustrator.  it was WAY tedious!

This is my pirate after I drew every shape in Illustrator. it was WAY tedious!

This is the pirate after rendering it in Photoshop -- I realm I am a lot more comfortable in!

This is the pirate after rendering it in Photoshop — a realm I am a lot more comfortable in!

This is a full illustration incorporating the character.  I will use this as a promotional piece.  I used a lot of techniques I learned in the Skillshare class, so I'm really happy I took it.

This is a full illustration incorporating the character. I will use this as a promotional piece with my artist rep. I used a lot of techniques I learned in the Skillshare class, so I’m really happy I took the class!

With these various projects going on, the slow cooker has been my friend.

My bestie!

My bestie!

Our favorite dish is Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.  It’s so great to throw everything in the cooker and forget about it.   In 6-8 hours, you’ll have tender, tasty meat.

Ooey and gooey, and yummy

I tend to avoid chicken in the slow cooker, unless it’s dark meat though.  White meat tends to dry out.

Recently, I knew I wanted to saute some onions for easy Mini Pizzas I was planning for a quickie dinner.  That morning, I had the brainstorm of throwing some sliced onions in the slow cooker and letting it cook all afternoon while I was out.  That cut down on about 20 minutes of sauteing later in the evening– 20 minutes of precious time I could be working!  I just used one onion and drizzled it with some olive oil.  It cooked on low for 4 hours.  But next time, I will buy a bag of onions and a bunch at one time.  This might take closer to 6 hours to cook.

onions 2

You end up with soft, sweet, meltingly tender onions.  They can be store in the refrigerator and used throughout the week in omelets, fritattas, quesadillas, burritos… I’ve even put them on my salads.  They are soo good!

For this batch, though, I put them on our mini pizzas for a FAST week night meal!

How about you all– what are some slow cooker recipes you can’t live without that make life easier?

onions 1

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Some onions, sliced vertically in to 1/4 inch slices

Drizzle of olive oil to coat

Pinch of kosher salt

1.  Put sliced onions in slow cooker and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt.  Stir.
2.  Cook on low for about 4-6 hours.

pizza 2

Mini Pizzas

Mini or Regular sized whole wheat pitas

Your favorite marinara sauce (or homemade!)

Shredded cheese

Slow cooker onions

Chopped artichoke hearts

Any other topping you would like!

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (I use our toaster oven).

2. Spoon some sauce on each of the pitas.  Top with toppings.

3.  Cook in oven about 8-10 minutes depending on how crunchy you like it (place directly on rack).

4.  Slice into wedges and eat! :)

19 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Dinner, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Parsnip Chips

parsnip chips1

First off, thank you all for your support and voting for me in the Skillshare Valentine Challenge !  It turned out that my card and wrapping paper design was one of the two first place winners, which was decided in secret by the instructors, Faye Brown and Majo Bautista.  The voting was for 2nd and 3rd…but I had no idea beforehand where I stood!  So many friends voted for me–I’m pretty overwhelmed by the support and vote of confidence in me.  Thank you so much again!!!  To see the other winners and their designs, go here.

I’m immensely busy still, involved in many projects.  I’m working on my book dummy for a picture book and in the middle of creating artwork for a mini one.  I still have all my Skillshare classes (!) and I am participating in the Making Art That Sells Bootcamp.  This class was designed by Lilla Rogers Studio and Beth Kempton of Do What You Love.   It’s been an amazing experience.  For one, it’s so inspiring to see everyone else’s work — there are so many talented artists in the class — over 400!  Also, people are so generous and helpful with advice and support.  I’ve made a lot of new friends there and reconnected with old ones!  Our first assignment was to design a cell phone case that had to do with cuckoo clocks.  I can honestly say I had never drawn so many cuckoo clocks in my life!

One of many sketches

One of many sketches

The clocks weren’t really calling to me, so I decided to focus on the cuckoo birds. Also because I can never seem to get away from food, I ended up with two designs having to do with eating and drinking. ha ha.  Which one do you like the best?

!st two are the same design with a different color treatment and placement of coffee and clock icons.

!st two are the same design with a different color treatment and placement of coffee and clock icons.  Click to enlarge.

I decided to go with the girl one because it had more of a response on the class forum, and because I had way more fun creating it!  I figured out a different way of working, and I’m really excited about that and plan to do my book illustrations this way.  It even got me to get off my tush and start building a place to sell some artwork once and for all.  I have been dragging my heels at the overwhelming thought of it.  I only have two things available at the moment (lol) but it will grow!  Check it out here: Society 6  I will also upload different sizes so the designs can be used on different things.  Stay tuned!

All of these extra activities are great in that I’m creating double the work I normally would and learning lots of new ways of working and thinking about art making!  But it curtails my ability to cook or bake anything that takes more than 30-40 minutes….  (An exception will be next week when I will bake a German Chocolate Cake for Denis’ birthday!)

gc-cake-2

The other day I saw a bunch of parsnips for sale, so I grabbed them and made chips.  I was craving something crunchy by healthy, and these fit the bill.  You could probably make these out of other root vegetables, like carrots, yams, etc. but I haven’t tried it yet.  I like the flavor of parsnips — they are a tad sweet, similar to sweet potatoes.  While I was making them, Jamie and his friend thought I was baking cookies!  Imagine their disappointment when I told them it was vegetables.  They tasted the parsnip chips, though, and they liked them. :)

You need a mandoline or a box grater with a slicer on the side to cut thin slices of the parsnip.  I have one something like this.  Then you just lay the slices on a foil lined baking sheet and pop in the oven.  My friend, Alexandra, mentioned that she makes chips by putting them in a cold oven and then turning the oven on.   The method works well because you don’t burn any chips, which are delicate when thinly sliced!  Cooking them this way makes it easier to do this.  Turn the oven on to 250 degrees F, set your timer for 30 minutes and walk away.   Check them after 30 minutes.  I remove the tan, crispy ones, and return the pan to the oven and for another 10-15 minutes or so.  Easy, no?  I think the chips are best eaten right away, which isn’t hard to do! If you save them and they lose their crunch, you could probably pop them in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes and let cool a bit to crisp them up.

_DSC0301

Parsnip Chips

Several parsnips, washed and trimmed and peeled

Non stick spray

kosher salt to taste

1.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

2.  Slice thin rounds of parsnips with a mandoline or other slicer and lay slices in one layer on prepared baking sheet.

3.  Place in oven and turn onto 250 degrees F.

4.  After 30 minutes or so, check parsnips.  Sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.   Remove tan, crisp chips to a plate.  Return baking sheet to oven.  Check chips after about 10-15 minutes.  They should all be crisp now.  If not, let cook a bit longer.  Remove to a plate and eat!

18 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Gluten Free, Sides, Snack, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Valentine’s Day Steak Sandwich

Steak Sandwich with Cheese and Onions

Steak Sandwich with Cheese and Onions

Tomorrow’s V-day will be a family affair here on Shelter Island.  It’s a winter wonderland today, so we are all hunkered down in coziness preparing to stay inside for awhile.  This morning, though, J and I played in the snow and rain (unfortunately the snow turned to rain pretty quickly) until we were soaking wet.

Soggy Jamie

Soggy Jamie

He had an early Valentine’s day and exchanged gifts with his friend before we came out.  It was very sweet because it was the first time he ever did this before.  His card to her expressly said, “This is not a Valentine’s gift”  – very romantic, no?  Luckily she knows him well and was not offended in the slightest.

I did this piece, inspired by them (however not shown to them!) as a sample of older kids for my rep, Chris Tugeau- I have a gaping hole in my portfolio in this area, as all of my books are for the very young.  I think I would do it differently now– I’m not sure I like the crisp lines…  But it was fun, and it illustrates perfectly their relationship:

Ipad and Nexus tablet users

Ipad and Nexus tablet users          Copyright Melissa Iwai 2014

The Steak Sandwich recipe is based on this NY Time’s recipe for Italian Peppery Steak.  I don’t use as much pepper, because J doesn’t like it, and no rosemary, because D doesn’t like it.  It is all done in the oven and is so easy, because the most time consuming part is just waiting for the meat to marinate and preheating the oven!  I cut our meat thin and layered it with havarti and sauteed onions and used a baguette to make delicious steak sandwiches.

My hand lettering assignment that I did for Mary Kate McDevitt’s Skill Share Lettering class was the inspiration. :)  (By the way, they are having a Presidents’ Day sale there for 25% off — use code PRESIDENT — also if you want to sign up for a class, email me, and I will refer you for $10 off — no I do not work for them, I just love their classes!)

This is a Cervantes quote which I hand lettered and illustrated

This is a Cervantes quote which I hand lettered and illustrated

Another art related venture is that the bunny card and wrapping paper design from the last post is now in a Valentine’s Day Challenge Contest.

Remember these guys:
cardwrapping paperex

Please do me a favor and vote for my design here!  (I’m choice E)  Thanks, people! :)

Here is the recipe for the sandwich:

front of steak sandwich

Steak Sandwich

For Steak:

About 2 pounds flank steak (or other steak — I’ve used London Broil before)

Kosher Salt

Ground Pepper

Couple cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For Sandwich:

Cooked steak

Sliced onions

Cheese

Baguette, cut in half vertically and then horizontally into sandwich sizes

  1. Lay flank steak on a baking sheet or plate and season on both sides with salt and pepper. You may have to cut the steak in half so it will fit.  Sprinkle meat evenly with garlic slices. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons olive oil, then massage meat with your hands, and press garlic into its surface. Leave at room temperature for an hour (or refrigerate for several hours and bring to room temperature before proceeding).
  2.  30 minutes after prepping meat, turn on oven to 450 degrees. Place a cast iron skillet large enough to hold the steak (or a heavy roasting pan) on the upper rack. Let skillet heat for at least 30 minutes.  You may have to cook steak in two batches if your skillet is not large enough.
  3. While skillet is heating in oven, saute onions in 1 tablespoon olive oil on the stove until softened.  Set aside.
  4. Place flank steak in the oven heated cast iron pan and return to oven. After 5 minutes, flip the steak (it should be well browned on the bottom) and cook just until juices appear on surface of steak, 3 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare meat. Remove steak and let rest on a carving board for 10 minutes.  Continue to do the same with the other piece of meat if you had to cut it into two pieces.
  5. Cut meat on a diagonal, against grain, into thin slices. Arrange sliced meat on the bottom slice of a baguette.  Top with sauteed onions and havarti and top slice of baguette.  Return to hot oven and warm until cheese melts, about 3-5 minutes.
YIELD
4 to 6 servings

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Filed under Art Related, Beef

Perfect Broccoli Soup

Look at the beautiful color of all those nutrients!

Look at the beautiful color of all those nutrients!

Oh dear, January was National Soup month and I didn’t even post a soup recipe!!

I will make up for it by introducing one here.  You can make it from start to finish in about 10-12 minutes.  Prep time is about 3 minutes.  Take some broccoli, wash it, cut the ends off, trim the sides, cut into pieces. Then cut the stem into slices and divide the florets into smaller pieces.  Steam the broccoli in a steamer on the stove for about 8 minutes.  You could also probably do it in less time in the microwave.  Then  throw the cooked broccoli into a blender, pour in some chicken broth and blend until smooth.  Add more broth to reach the consistency of your liking.  Reheat if it is not hot enough. Eat!

The cooked broccoli gives the soup a natural thickener — much like cooked potato.  And the broccoli is full of nutrients and fiber. It really is a perfect veggie.  This soup is one of my favorites, and it is so effortless to make.  I’ve been eating it a lot this winter– so warming and comforting!  See recipe at the end of the post.

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On the work front, I’ve been very busy with book projects, some freelance work, and a new addiction– taking classes at skillshare.com!  My friend introduced me to a lettering class there taught by Mary Kate McDevitt, who is awesome!   I couldn’t get enough of these great classes, and I kept signing up for more, because there are so many skills to learn!  Also, if you refer a friend, you BOTH get $10 off.

I recently took a Typography class and a Pattern Making class and have signed up for a few more.  I told you — I’m addicted!  The great thing is that it is something you can do at your own pace.  Also, the forum is excellent.  So far, I’ve been very happy with the instruction — I have learned SOOOO much.  These classes can be intense, but only if you want it to be.  It’s up to you. You go at your own pace.  I took my time with the assignments and tried to really absorb the information.   With the pattern class, I found I had to watch the video tutorials more than once.  (Maybe I am just a slow learner…)

I find that the best way to learn a new skill is to just do it, and keep practicing.

I decided to do the Valentine’s Day Challenge given by the Typography and Pattern class.  The challenge is to design a greeting card and a complimentary gift wrap paper pattern.  Here is what I came up with — I call it “Bunny Love” — I’ve been obsessed by bunnies lately. :)

card

wrapping paperex

I really love making patterns, and I want to do more of it!  I also like making these cards.  It’s a different way of thinking, and it’s been fun to experiment.  I had to learn a lot more techniques in Illustrator, so it took awhile to finish the course.  The repeat pattern class was really a great resource for this!

In May, I am going to attend Surtex 2014 at the Javitz Center!  For those of you who don’t know, Surtex is a major international licensing conference.  Buyers from around the world come to buy or license work from artists and designers.  I will be helping Victoria Johnson with her booth.  Check out her work — it is so great–she is uber talented!  She also writes about her process on her blog.  I always love reading about how other artists work.  You have probably  seen Victoria’s beautiful designs in stores already. Some of her clients include C.R.Gibson, WHSmith, American Greetings, Tigerprint, Hallmark and Marian Heath. I’m really looking forward to meeting her and working in her booth along side Flora Waycott — another talented designer!

Perfect Broccoli Soup

One or two large stocks of broccoli

2-3 cups of chicken broth or other stock

salt and pepper to taste

1.  Prep broccoli by trimming ends and coarse parts of the stems.  Slice stems into rounds.  Cut florets into pieces.  Steam in steamer for 8 minutes.

2.  Transfer about 4 cups of cooked broccoli to blender (I used two stocks and saved a lot of the stem pieces for another use).  Add about two cups of chicken broth.  Blend.

3.  Add salt and pepper to taste and blend again.  You might also want to add some more broth if you prefer a thinner consistency.  Reheat if necessary and serve.

Makes about one quart of soup.

33 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Soup, Soup, Vegetarian

Miss Paleo Brownies

Miss Paleo brownie

For all you gluten free foodies, may I present:  Miss Paleo Brownies!  I was sent these brownies to do a taste test for the blog.  Amazingly, they are wheat free, soy free, gluten free, and are made with no refined sugars.  Check out Miss Paleo cookie and brownie mixes here.  They are perfect for people who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance.  But they are tasty too — so also perfect for everyone else!

Jamie helped me sample the brownies.

jamie eating brownieHis verdict:  Two thumbs up!

The brownies were nutty (from the almond meal) and very moist (which is why J ate them with a spoon).  They also had a nice coconut flavor in them — they are sweetened with low glycemic coconut crystals!  The rich chocolate flavor was wonderful — I like to taste my chocolate, rather than have it be overwhelmed with sugary sweetness, so these were perfect.  We gobbled them up.  Thank you, Miss Paleo!

 

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Filed under Desserts, Gluten Free

Winter Citrus Pound Cake

January 2014_melissa3

This is pretty much what our January is looking like!

Even after living in NYC after more than sixteen years, seeing trees shed all their leaves in autumn and snow fall in winter is still a novelty for me.  Hey, it beats mudslides, wildfires, and earthquakes.

One thing I miss about California, though, is the fresh produce year round.  Here, on the other hand, I usually only buy apples, pears, and grapefruit regularly during the winter, because they are plentiful and reasonably priced.  At our local green market, grapefruits are three for a dollar, which is a great price for the city.  And who doesn’t love a burst of fresh citrus in the morning?

grapefruit2

Denis likes his with sugar, and I like mine with salt (I know–weird, but maybe it’s a Hawaiian thing passed down from my parents?)  Jamie doesn’t like grapefruit, which works out fine, because then I only have to cut up one.

grapefruit

I decided to experiment with grapefruit in my baking. It’s usually not the first fruit you think of it — it has some sour, bitter notes.  But I love lemon and orange poundcake, and I thought, maybe it would be a good candidate for it.  I made one  based on Ina Garten’s Orange Pound Cake, halving the recipe and substituting grapefruit juice and zest.  We brought the cake to Shelter Island and I iced it there.

Denis took these photos. Ahh, natural lighting!

Denis took these photos.
Ahh, natural lighting!

Denis’ mom wrinkled her nose when he told her it was a “Grapefruit Cake”, as she’s not a fan of grapefruit.  I told him I was going to tell her it was  “Winter Citrus Cake” but he beat me to it.  Luckily, she tried it anyway, and guess what– she loved it!  So did our non-eating grapefruit son.

loaf slice


The cake doesn’t actually taste anything close to fresh grapefruit.  It has a “lemony” “orangey” “citrusy” flavor.  I think if you gave someone a taste of this, they wouldn’t even guess it was made with grapefruit!  Just tell them it is a “Citrus Cake” — it sounds better.  Grapefruit lovers and non-grapefruit lovers alike can enjoy this is nice winter treat. :)

slice 2

Winter Citrus Pound Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup freshly squeezed and strained grapefruit juice, divided

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick of butter

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons grapefruit zest (about two grapefruits)

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a loaf pan bottom with parchment and grease or spray sides with non-stick spray.

2.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.  In another bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the grapefruit juice, the buttermilk, and the vanilla and set aside.

3.  Cream the butter with 1 cup of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time and the grapefruit zest.

4.  Add the flour and the buttermilk/grapefruit juice mixture, alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour while mixer is on low.  Pour batter into prepared pan.

5.  Bake for 40-50 minutes , until a cake tester come out clean.  While the cake is baking, heat the remaining 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup grapefruit juice in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves completely.  Set aside.

6.  When cake is done, let sit in the pan to cool for 10 minutes.  Then remove, and put on a rack with a baking sheet underneath.  Pierce top of cake with a knife and pour the grapefruit juice sugar mixture on top.  I also make piercings while pouring slowly so that I can get as much of the syrup into the cake. Let cool completely.

7.  When cake is cooled, whisk sifted confectioner’s sugar with a bit of the remaining grapefruit juice until it can pour easily.  Pour over the top of the cake and let glaze set.  I did this step after traveling to our destination, as the icing would have gotten mashed if I had wrapped it tightly and carried it.

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Filed under Breakfast, Desserts, Snack, Vegetarian

Easy Weeknight Panini

Prosciutto and havarti panini

Prosciutto and havarti panini

Juggling too many projects at the moment!  I haven’t been cooking anything too complicated or time consuming recently.  Our dinners have been very E.A.S.Y.  Check out this post for what I am talking about!  Luckily, my guys are OK with it.

A new 5 minute worthy dinner I started making recently is panini.  I use Tuscan Pane from Trader Joes, but any good, hearty artisanal bread would work.  All you have to do is heat a grill pan (I have a cast iron one), brush some olive oil on the outside slices of the bread, make a sandwich with it using whatever filling you like, and grill it.  You’ll get a fabulous panini — you know the kind that costs upwards of $7 (Panera) and $10 – $15 (Le Pain Quotidien) for a fraction of the cost — maybe a couple dollars each?  Serve with a salad or soup, and you’re done.

I made Denis’ with prosciutto and havarti.   Jamie’s  was with prosciutto, shredded Monterey Jack and olive tapenade.  Mine was with roasted turkey, Monterey Jack, roasted cauliflower, and olive tapenade.   That’s the other great thing about panini:  It is easy to keep everyone happy.  :)

Easy Weeknight Panini

olive oil for brushing, about 1 tablespoon depending on how many sandwiches you are making

Good quality sliced bread – I used Tuscan Pane

Fillings:  sliced meats, cheeses, spreads like hummus, sun dried tomato, tapenade, roasted vegetables, arugula, caramelized onions, marshmallows… (just kidding!  Although, a sweet panini with marshmallows and chocolate chips and pb doesn’t sound bad — hey, that might be in another post!)

1.  Heat grill pan on medium heat.

2.  While grill pan is heating, brush olive oil on the outside sides of two pieces of bread.

3.  Make a sandwich with said bread.  Place on grill pan.  Weight with a heavy object, like a cast iron skillet.  If you don’t have one, put a baking sheet on top and weight with a pot or two.

I weight mine with a cast iron skillet placed right on top.

I weight mine with a cast iron skillet placed right on top.

4. Grill for about 40 seconds to a minute depending on how crispy you want it.  Remove weight, and flip panini with tongs (you need them to grab it quickly).  Place weight on again and grill for another 30-40 seconds.

The panini is crispy on the outside and chewy and creamy with the melted cheese in the middle.

The panini is crispy on the outside and chewy and creamy with the melted cheese in the middle.

 

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Filed under Cookies, Dinner, Grains