Click Here to Start Launch and Power Button Start Cookies

  
This past week, we celebrated the release of my husband, Denis’, debut novel, Click Here to Start.

Click-Here-to-Start-High-Res
This awesome book cover was illustrated by Octavi Navarro.

The book chronicles twelve year old Ted, who is a whiz at Escape the Room Games, and his two friends, as they cleverly figure out what is behind the clues left by Ted’s great uncle – a WWII veteran of the Nisei Brigade from Hawaii. Ted is sure there is something valuable to be found in his late uncle’s apartment, and he has to use his gaming knowledge to do it. Along the way, the trio realizes there are other people searching for the same “treasure”, and they may not be so “friendly”. Ted and his friends have to use their wits and brains to solve the mystery – and ultimately, themselves, in this fact-paced, kid friendly novel.

The audio book, produced by Listening Library, was released at the same time, which was very exciting! It’s narrated by Greg Watanabe, an actor and comic. He does a wonderful job! I love how he’s able to do the different voices of all of the characters, whether they are male or female, young or old, from Hawaii or from the mainland… He gives each of them a distinct personality.

So far, the book has gotten such positive reviews from School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, kidlit bloggers, teachers, librarians, kids. It was named a School Library Guild Section and an Amazon Best Books of the Month Selection.

“As addictive as your favorite video game. I couldn’t put it down.”-Adam Gidwitz, New York Times bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm

“Humor, believable characters, and adventure…keeps readers in suspense to the end. A winner for mystery enthusiasts.”-Kirkus Reviews

“In this clever debut, Markell takes readers on a clue-filled adventure…[and] maintains an energetic, entertaining balance of character-driven narrative and tricky challenges.”-Publishers Weekly

“Markell’s highly entertaining debut novel…is a well-paced read with fully realized and likable characters,…[and] should have strong appeal to gamers, fans of video game-based stories, and reluctant readers.”-School Library Journal

And today from Jean Westmore of the Buffalo News:

“Markell offers plenty of scary suspense, thrilling action, references to literature and movies and lots of humor in his cleverly constructed puzzle. The book is dedicated to “the valiant men of the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat team, who fought so bravely for the U.S. at a time when their Japanese-American relatives back at home were being treated so dishonorably.’ His wife’s uncle was among them.”

click-cookies_Melissa-Iwai
For the Click Here to Start book launch at BookCourt this past weekend, I made Power Button Start Cookies. Jamie, our son, was a great help with frosting and packaging. He’s so proud of his dad!🙂

jamie-_Click-Here-_-Bookcourt

me-icing_Click  

For the cookies, I used my tried and true sugar cookie and royal icing recipe I’ve used for holiday cookies in the past. This time, I used powdered egg white merengue for the frosting, and I think it really made a difference. The exterior piped frosting was perfectly hard. I am just not so great at piping! I dyed the frosting a bright green to match the Start button on the cover of the book. We frosted them green, then later, I piped the Start symbol on top in white. It is an extra step to do the piping and then the fill with diluted frosting, but the results are much better. You get a crisp outline and a very smooth interior with no ridges.

The event was wonderful. Fun to see old friends and new ones. Denis spoke about how he came to write the story, which is inspired by my uncle, Nicholas, Nakabayashi, who fought with the 100th Battalion during WWII. Denis also had fun playing Escape the Room Games with Jamie as research.🙂

 Denis-and-Aubry-at-Book-COurt
I was surprised that almost all of my 38 cookies were eaten at the event! Only two remained, which we enjoyed after the big event. :) 

  

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Summer Fruit Tart

fruit-tart-Melsisa-Iwai-2016

Summer is here in Brooklyn, and in expensive, delicious fresh fruit is in abundance (unlike when I lived in California where this is the norm!) My cousin visited us recently, and I made a Summer Fruit Tart for the occasion. They were impressed, but it is a pretty simple dessert to make. The key for me is to do it in steps over a couple of days. I made the dough on Thursday, the pastry cream on Friday, and baked and assembled the tart on Saturday right before our guests arrived.

I’ve made mini fruit tarts in the past, which are fun to do with kids.
tartlets_flash

For this one, I just made one large crust and filled it with one batch of the pastry cream. For the fruit, I arranged cut strawberries, sliced oranges (I cut off the membranes), kiwi, and blueberries and glazed with thinned apricot jam. Below is the recipe I used with some adjustments.

 

tart-close-melissa-iwai-2016

Pastry Cream (Adapted from Jacques Torres’ Dessert Circus)

2 large eggs

2 large yolks

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar (4.5 oz.)

3 tablespoons flour (25 g)

2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon cornstarch (25 g)

2 cups + 1 tablespoon milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 1/2 tablespoons butter

1.  Whisk eggs, yolks, sugar, flour, and cornstarch in a medium bowl until combined.  Make sure there are no lumps.

2.  Heat milk in a 2 quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil.

3.  Temper eggs.  Pour a little bit of the heated milk into the egg mixture while whisking constantly.  Then pour this mixture into the saucepan of milk.  Continuously whisk as it thickens.  After it comes to a boil, cook 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.

4.  Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with saran wrap gently pressed on top of custard to prevent a skin from forming.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Pate Sucre (Sweet Dough) (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour (6 oz.)

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar (1.5 oz)

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into pieces

1.  Whisk together egg yolk, cream, and vanilla in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Scatter butter over the flour.  Pulse 15 times.  With machine running, add egg mixture through feed tube.  Process until dough comes together, about 25 seconds.  Shape into disk and wrap with saran.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour

2.  Let stand at room temperature until malleable.  Roll out about 1/4-inch thick.  Cut to fit tart pan.  Press in and prick bottoms with the tines of a fork.  Chill until ready to bake.

3.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Fill tart with pie weights (or cover with a piece of aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick spray and fill with uncooked rice).  Bake about 15- 20 minutes.  Remove weights; bake 10-15 more minutes,  Watch closely – tarts should be golden — don’t let them brown too much.  Let cool on baking rack.  Using a sharp knife, remove shell to rack to cool completely.

Assemble Tart:

Glaze

1/3 cup jelly (I used apricot jam)

2 teaspoons water

1.  Heat jelly and water together.  Whisk.  Add more water if necessary to get a consistency of thin honey which you can easily brush on fruit with a pastry brush. If your preserves are lumpy, pass through a strainer.

2.  Cut fruit into slices.  Wash and dry berries.

3.  Fill tart shells with pastry cream.  Make a design on top using fruit.  Brush on jelly glaze with a pastry brush.

 

 

 

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Chocolate Hardware Tools and Book Signing in Brooklyn

Melissa Iwai 2016

Melissa Iwai 2016

Anne Rockwell, the author of Let’s Go to the Hardware Store, and I will be at BookCourt (163 Court St.) in Brooklyn tomorrow  (March 26) at 2 pm to read and sign books. I will also talk a bit about how I created the artwork for the story.

I also made a bunch of treats to bring to the event!

First up are dark chocolate and milk chocolate tools. I bought a cute tool mold here to make the candies. I melted chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl in the microwave at 30 second intervals (about 1.5 to 2 minutes). Mixed well to get rid of any lumps and poured into the molds.

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Getting the chocolate in the nooks and crannies takes a bit of time. You can nudge the chocolate with a spoon. Then, I wiped the edges clean with a damp paper towel and tapped the mold hard on the counter several times to get rid of any air bubbles. I found the dark chocolate to be easier to work with. Then I stuck it in the refrigerator to chill. The milk chocolate took longer to harden. Also, I discovered that the longer you let the chocolate chill, the easier it is to remove.

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To do so, you just turn the mold over and gently press on the shapes. The chocolate should snap out in one piece.

Finished tools -- they are so shiny!

Finished tools — they are so shiny!

I wrapped the chocolates in foil, and then printed out my illustrations of tools from the book and affixed them to the wrapped chocolates.

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For the toolbox, I made gingerbread. I used the same recipe I used for my Haunted Gingerbread House and Magna Tiles, but made one and half batches. I was inspired by this blogger’s cute tool box, but I made my own template, and I used a breadstick instead of a straw for the handle.

The trick is to roll the dough out on the baking sheet on parchment.

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Then, using a template, score the dough gently with a knife. Bake for 15 minutes. While the dough is still warm, cut out the shapes. This ensures a sharp clean edge.

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Then I frosted the pieces using this recipe. I am not so great at frosting and made my flooding icing too thin.😦 So my toolbox is not so pretty. But it holds my chocolates well. I made a divider out of card stock that is labelled “dark chocolate” and “milk chocolate” on each side so people can choose their favorites.

If you are in the Brooklyn area, please stop by and say “Hi” and grab a chocolate tool!🙂

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Chocolate Candies

1 bag chocolate pieces

  1. Pour 5 oz. of chocolate into a medium bowl.
  2. Heat at 30 second intervals in the microwave oven, checking the chocolate each time. You don’t want to overheat it. When it is smooth and silky when you stir it, stop heating. For dark chocolate it was about 90 seconds. For milk chocolate it was a little longer.
  3. Pour chocolate into candy molds. Be sure not to overfill. Nudge chocolate with a spoon or knife into nooks and crannies.
  4. Wipe around mold if you got chocolate in between shapes. Chocolate will come out easier if all the edges are clean. Tap mold hard several times on counter to remove air bubbles.
  5. Chill in refrigerator until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  6. To remove, turn mold over and gently press on the bottom. Chocolate should pop out easily.

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It’s SPRING!…Lets Go to the HARDWARE STORE! Launch!

THE WAY TUGEAU

Iwai Hardware Cover   tools IWAI

We all want to get things fixed up for spring! and especially when moving into a new home for the family.  So some of the storybook family says Let’s Go to the Hardware Store in this most delightful book from Anne Rockwell and illustrated by our own MELISSA IWAI! Published by Christy Ottaviano from Henry Holt……Happy Launch Day!

Melissa put so much detail into this book with many cut papers carefully placed just so.  That fun inclusive detail is what readers will go back again and again to see and re-see.  As their parents work with the tools we all must have, the kids will remember seeing them ‘at the Hardware Store.’  Such fun!   Good for boys and girls (and parents!) of all sizes, ages and ethnic backgrounds…. make it a family trip…….!

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National Soup Month

January is National Soup Month! It’s gotten colder here, so soup is the perfect go to meal for us. I love soup so much I wrote a book about it.

The recipe is at the end of the story.

It is featured on Library Sparks’ activity calendar for January which you can download for free here. (Did you know it’s also Happy Get Organized Month and Happy Brainteaser Month? I bet you didn’t!)

Soup Day was inspired by my son, Jamie. I created Snowy Day Soup (the recipe of which is at the end of the story) to get him to eat his veggies when he was a toddler. We’d choose the vegetables together at the market, and I’d let him cut the soft ones like the mushrooms, with a plastic knife (with my help).

Here is an old video of us making it together!

Back in 2010!

Back in 2010!

And here is a video of it being read on Story Time Castle.🙂

Another favorite soup of his is Zucchini Soup, and we have it regularly. It is so easy to make, even he can do it by himself! I illustrated a version of it which I submitted to They Draw and Cook. Here’s the art and the recipe:

Zucchini Soup Melissa Iwai 2016 72

Zucchini Soup

1 lb. zucchini sliced

1 cup chicken broth or other broth

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Slice zucchini into rounds. Steam. You can either steam on the stove or in the microwave, covered with saran for 8 minutes.
  2. Careful transfer the cooked zucchini and juices into a blender. Add chicken broth and seasonings. Pulse several times on low, and then blend at high until completely smooth.
  3. Heat and serve.

Happy Slurping!🙂

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Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti for the Holidays

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 4

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Wow, Chanukah has already passed and Christmas is just days away!

I haven’t had a chance to bake much this season because of all my art projects, but managed to combine my two loves for this batch of Pistachio Cranberry Biscotti.

I’ve been making these biscotti pretty much every year, but this time I changed it up by adding orange zest and a 1 tablespoon of orange juice to the batter. I thought they’d be pretty with some white, so I drizzled melted white chocolate over the biscotti.

I mentioned combining my art and baking — this is what I created — an illustrated recipe for They Draw and Cook.🙂

cranberry pistachio biscotti Melissa Iwai 2015

It is featured on their site this week as a Red and Green recipe.

I know it is hard to read the recipe so small! Here it is for your printing purposes (note: the white chocolate part and orange juice is not in the illustrated recipe because I didn’t have enough room!):

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 2

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

2 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice

1 cup salted shelled pistachio nuts

1 1/3 cups dried cranberries

1 large egg, or white, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water to  make egg wash

1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted (optional)

pistachio cookies Melissa Iwai 5

1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Line baking sheet with parchment.

2 Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda &powder &salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, vanilla, orange zest and beat with mixer  just until a dough forms.

3. Add cranberries and pistachios and mix at low speed.

4. Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead several times. Halve dough, then form each half into a 13 by 2 inch slightly flattened log on baking sheet, Brush logs with egg wash.

5. Bake in middle of oven until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool logs on baking sheet on a rack 10 minutes.

6. Transfer to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut side down, in 1 layer on baking sheet Bake in middle of oven turning once until golden and crisp. 20 – 25 minutes total.

7. Cool completely and drizzle with melted white chocolate if you’d like.  Put the melted chocolate in a sandwich bag, seal, and snip a hole in one corner. Squeeze and drizzle chocolate over cooled biscotti. Chill in the refrigerator to set chocolate.

 

 

 

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Lean Waldorf Salad with Canned Chicken (or Leftover Turkey!)

chicken salad 2

I love me a good Waldorf salad, but find all the mayonnaise in the dressing to be too heavy and rich for me. I came up with this healthy twist on the Waldorf that is lighter, but full of flavor and crunch. It has a lot of fiber and is nutrient dense to boot. And for times when life is crazy, but you want to make a heathy lunch without the labor, I give you permission to use canned chicken and bagged shredded cabbage like I did last week!

They have both at Trader Joe’s.🙂 But you could probably find it at any large supermarket.  And at the end of the week, you’ll have all that leftover turkey that you will want to put to good use, so you could use that instead.

I always have my whipped cottage cheese at the ready, but if you don’t, you could use Greek yogurt instead. I didn’t have grapes on hand that are usually in a Waldorf, so I threw in some dried cranberries for some color and and extra layer of sweetness.

Melissa Iwai 2015

Melissa Iwai 2015

Wishing all you Americans a Happy Thanksgiving this week!

Lean Waldorf Salad

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 cup whipped cottage cheese or Greek yogurt

1 12.5 oz. can chicken breast, or 1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups chopped cabbage

1 Fuji or Honey Crisp apple, chopped

1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

salad greens

handful of dried cranberries to taste

  1.  Mix mayonnaise and whipped cottage cheese or Greek yogurt together in a medium sized bowl.  Add chicken and salt and pepper and incorporate. Mix in cabbage, chopped apple, walnuts and dried cranberries.
  2. Serve over a bed of salad greens.
  3. Enjoy!

Makes about 4 servings.

chicken salad 3

 

 

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Giveaway

2000 giveaway

I’m doing a giveaway on Instagram to celebrate reaching 2000 followers!  I’m giving away the original signed sketch of Portrait Bombers to one winner. It was one of my most popular Inktober drawings last month and got the most comments on Instagram and Facebook. To enter for a chance to win, just follow me on Instagram if you haven’t already, and tag a friend who might be interested in the comments there! I’ll choose someone at random on Friday the 13th (November 13, 2015) at 5 p.m. EST. :) 

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Happy Halloween and Pumpkin Smoothie

inktober 31
I’ve been doing an ink sketch every day for the month of October and posting on Instagram.  This is the last one!  I’ll be doing a give away next month of some of my original sketches, so stay tuned…  See the Top 5 Favorites and which art tools I used here.

 

Here’s my Pumpkin Smoothie recipe– in keeping with the autumnal spirit of the day!

(I often freeze pumpkin puree in ice cube trays and remove and store in a ziploc bag for these…one cube equals 2 tablespoons of puree)

WIth some pumpkin granola sprinkled on top!

With some pumpkin granola sprinkled on top!

Pumpkin Smoothie

2-3 ice cubes

1/4 frozen banana 

2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

3/4 cup almond milk

dash of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin spice

pinch of guar gum and xanthan gum if you want it extra creamy (optional)

  1. Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

Makes one serving.

pumpkin-smoothie

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Pumpkin Custard for Breakfast

pumpkin custard2

Pumpkin is officially in season now! Have you see all the pumpkin products at Trader Joe’s alone?  I’m intrigued by the pumpkin cookie butter, but I haven’t bought any yet.  I stock up on their canned organic pumpkin this time of year though, because it’s always great to have on hand, and not only for pumpkin pie.

I’m trying to get more veggies into all of meals, even breakfast. AND I recently had to have dental work and gum surgery, so soft foods have been a must.😦

I’ve been enjoying this warm pumpkin custard for breakfasts as well as dessert!  It’s pretty high in protein and low in sugar, so I don’t feel guilty eating it first thing in the morning to start my day.  And since the weather is turning colder, it is such a comforting meal to warm you up!

 

Pumpkin Custard

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 egg

3 tablespoons liquid egg whites or one egg white

1 tablespoon milk

Stevia or other sweetener

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

dash of pumpkin spice

Non-stick spray

  1.  Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Spray a large ramekin or bowl or two small ramekins with non-stick spray.  Pour custard in taking care to leave about 1/2 ” space at the top.
  3. Microwave in 30 second intervals until cooked. Depending on your microwave and whether you cook the custard in two ramekins or one, it should take about 90 seconds – 2 1/2 minutes.

 

 

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