Tag Archives: art

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.





Filed under Art Related, Desserts

Citrus Tonic and My Sketchbook

citrus tonic

I’ve been sick AND busy, and this is about the extent of my experimenting with recipes!  I made this in my Vitamix:  One whole orange and one whole lemon.  You can add honey or sugar for sweetness, but I like it tart and left it out.  I had such a sore throat and was congested, and this really hit the spot — kind of like an epic Vitamin C kick in the pants.

Then I decided to paint it:


Recently, I’ve begun painting every day in my Moleskin sketchbook as a daily routine.  At first it was really hard, and I felt super self conscious about what I was painting, but I’ve finally found a certain level of comfort with it.  I don’t really care how they will turn out — it’s the process that counts — or rather, the practice– a kind of meditation.  Sometimes I am so tired and exhausted at the end of the day, especially when I was really sick, I only spend ten to fifteen minutes on them!

To read more about the development of this practice, go here.

To see my daily sketch paintings in the future — I plan to do continue to do one every day — right now they have been focussed on street life in Brooklyn — follow me on Instagram! 🙂

Citrus Tonic (really nice for when you’re feeling the cold bug taking over your face!)

One navel orange, peeled

One lemon, peeled and seeded

Honey, agave, sugar, or other sweetener if desired

1.  Process in blender and drink up!



Filed under Art Related, Beverages

Brooklyn Children’s Museum Literacy Quilt Exhibit

Muriel's 2012 WOW Brooklyn quilt. My square is the girl in the center.

Last year I was invited to participate in a quilt project developed by Muriel Feldshuh.  Muriel is a wonderful literacy advocate. After “retiring” after 30+ years working as a librarian, she continues to be actively involved in the Books for Kids Foundation which promotes literacy among youths.  One of the organization’s projects is to launch children’s libraries in under served areas.

Photo credit: Sara Heidinger

Since 1997, Muriel has been inviting authors and illustrators to illustrate a square of the quilt, which she then pieces together by hand.  Her beautiful quilts are displayed all over the country.  I had participated in the past when she made her 2009 quilt and was happy to do it again last year when Soup Day came out.  I painted a version of my character reading instead of eating soup. 🙂

Check out the back of the postcard which has a list of all the participating artists:

I especially love the Ezra Jack Keats one from “A Letter to Amy” –such a wonderful book!
This Saturday (March 3, 2012) is the grand opening for the literacy quilt to be on display at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum (145 Brooklyn Avenue (at St. Marks Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11213).  I will be there along with other artists to read and talk to the children.  My scheduled slot is 12-1 pm.  I’ll be reading Soup Day and talking about how I created the artwork for the book.  I used all different types of materials, from painted paper, origami paper, cotton balls, photographs, to dried pasta and sequins to make my collages.  I then scanned them into the computer and cleaned them up and added details, such as falling snow, some shadows, a bit of frost on the window panes…

This is the original collage. The snow is made of paper towel and the girl's jacket is trimmed with cotton.

This is after I added snow, frost, and a tree in Adobe Photoshop.

At the museum, I’ll do a collage demo and help kids make their own collage creations there.

If you are in the area, please come by and join us and celebrate reading and books!  Also, please pass the information on to folks you think might be interested.  Thanks!


Filed under Art Related, Children

Experimenting in Making Art and Cooking: Site Update and Okonomiyaki

Today I thought I would share new developments in my artwork and my cooking!

Until recently, the only artwork I was showing on my website was my paintings from books.  I finally found the time to fill in the gap and added a new portfolio section which includes other pieces — both old and new.

                Melissa Iwai 2010 Copyright

I just finished illustrating a picture book written by my husband, Denis Markell, that will be published next fall by Simon and Schuster.  It was a really fun and challenging experience because I approached it differently and used line work painted with India ink along with my acrylic painting.  Working with Denis was great.  We bounce ideas off of each other constantly.  So it was a true collaboration with the author, unlike when I illustrate other authors’ books.    I work independently with the editor and art director, and sometimes I never even meet the person who wrote it!

I can’t show any samples from the book I did with Denis until it’s published, but it’s led me to do other pieces using the same technique which can be found here.

Melissa Iwai 2011 Copyright
Hopefully we’ll have more projects together in the future!

I have also been playing around with painting in thinner layers so my colors reproduce brighter.  There was always a problem when I was painting in thick acrylic layers dark to light, layering colors on top of each other.  I’ve always felt that the printed versions of the originals were always much darker and not as vibrant.  They can easily look “muddy” and dark, especially if the printing is not well done.

I have been recently painting with acrylics and dyes using watercolor and gouache techniques.  I use little or no layering and I paint light to dark.  I’ve been having fun using liquid frisket (which is why I had so much lying around to make my flesh wound!) and regular acetate frisket as well.

Melissa Iwai 2011 Copyright

I’d love to hear from you– Are you a painter?  What medium do you use?  Do you like to experiment with other art making techniques? 

I’m always fascinated to hear how other people create art. 🙂

Now, on to food and cooking — another art form!  Actually this dish is pretty much a classic example of individual expression.  The name “Okonomiyaki” translates to “grilled/cooked to one’s liking”.

Isn't it purrrty?

Okonomiyaki is usually associated with Osaka but it can be found throughout  Japan.  I’ve heard it called a Japanese Pizza, but it’s really more like a Latke, because it’s made up of shredded cabbage and other vegetables.  You can also add  meat or seafood to it.  I’ve even seen a version with bacon.   It is bound together with a mixture of egg, dashi (Japanese soup stock), and okonomi flour.

I was never a big eater of Okonomiyaki when I lived briefly in Japan, but recently, I’ve become obsessed with it, and I’ve been experimenting and making it several times a week for lunch or dinner.    It is such comfort food for me.  The textures and flavors are great.

This  is my version that I came up with — I use soy sauce in place of the stock with a bit of water, and I use plain flour in a smaller amount instead of the okonomi flour.  I also semi steam it to cook it, so I can get away with less oil.

It’s a single serving and a perfect quick meal.  I have bagged frozen shrimp and chopped spinach in my freezer.  I thaw four shrimp in a bowl of cold water and nuke the spinach for 55 seconds while  I chop the raw vegetables and prepare the batter and sauce.  Then I shell and devein the shrimp and chop into pieces.  Everything is stirred together with the batter and fried on the stove.

It’s commonly eaten with mayonnaise, okonomi sauce (I use a mixture of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce), furikake (rice seasoning which comes in different flavors), dried bonito flakes.  This one is with the ketchup Worcestershire mixture and furikake (my favorite is a combo of sesame seeds, dried seaweed and salt).Okonomiyaki (my version)
2 1/2 oz. finely shredded cabbage (about one cup)1 oz. (about 1/3 of a carrot) grated carrot

1 oz. onion (about 2 tablespoons finely chopped

1/4 cup steamed spinach (I nuke some frozen bagged spinach)

4 large shrimp (I use bagged Kirkland frozen– I just grab 4 and thaw them in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes while I am chopping the vegetables.  Then I shell and de-vein), chopped

1 egg and about 2 tablespoons egg white

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon water

12 g flour (about 1 heaping tablespoon)

1 teaspoon sesame oil, divided

For garnish:

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 -2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (or to taste)

sprinkle of rice seasoning (furikake)

1.  Mix veggies and shrimp in a bowl.  Whisk egg, soy, water and flour in another bowl.

raw ingredients

2.  Coat veggies with egg mixture.

coated with egg

3.  Heat 1/2 teaspoon oil in nonstick skillet.  Pour everything in and flatten like a pancake.  Cover and cook on low for about 2 minutes.  Loosen with a spatula.  Put a plate on top of skillet and flip over so pancake lands on plate.  Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil in empty skillet.  Slide pancake back in raw side down.  Cover and cook another 2 minutes or so.  Remove to plate.

In skillet

4.  Garnish with sauce  (just mix the ketchup and Worcestershire together) and extra seasonings if desired.


Filed under Art Related, Dinner, Lunch, Vegetables