Tag Archives: books

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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Filed under Art Related, Children, Cookies, Desserts

Princeton Children’s Book Festival and Bilingual Good Night Engines

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Copies of my new book came yesterday!  It’s the bilingual board book version of Good Night Engines.  I’ll be signing copies of these as well as Truck Stop at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival tomorrow from 11-4 at the Princeton Library in New Jersey.  Please stop by if you are in the area. There is a fantastic group of authors and illustrators that will be there.  Check it out here!  🙂

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Princeton Children’s Book Festival and Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

Denis and I signed Hush Little Monster together

Denis and I signed Hush Little Monster together

This past Saturday we participated in the Princeton Children’s Book Festival.  It was a  beautiful day for celebrating children’s books!

We met a lot of interesting authors and illustrators and wonderfully supportive parents buying books.  It was also great to see old friends.

With Anne Rockwell, author of Truck Stop, and her daughter and illustrator, Lizzy Rockwell,

With Anne Rockwell, author of Truck Stop, and her daughter and illustrator, Lizzy Rockwell

With Denise Dowling-Mortensen, author of Good Night Engines and Wake Up Engines--we met in 2004, the year Jamie was born and when Good Night Engines was released. :)

With Denise Dowling-Mortensen, author of Good Night Engines and Wake Up Engines–we met in 2004, the year Jamie was born and when Good Night Engines was released. 🙂

I made mini donuts to hand out — they looked like these and the recipe is here:

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Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of them — I was too distraught over finding my cake stand had broken en route! The good news was that the pile of donuts quickly disappeared within the first couple of hours.

Jamie was a trooper and didn’t mind having to be with us at the festival all day long with no playmates.  He wandered about the four tents of 20 authors and illustrators and looked at books, sampled treats, and had his program signed by all 80 of them!

Table seating of each tent

Table seating of each tent

He also scored  cute drawings from Dave Roman (author/illustrator of the Astronaut Academy series) and Alexis Fredrick Frost (of Adventures in Cartooning fame):

dave roman sketches

By Alexis Fredrick Frost

By Alexis Fredrick Frost

Thank you so much for being so kind to my son!

Jamie also got to choose a couple books for himself and a friend which he had signed by Dave Roman and Fiona Robertson.  It’s so special when you can give and receive an autographed copy!

By Dave Roman

By Dave Roman

By Eva Ibbotson, Illustrated by Fiona Robertson

By Eva Ibbotson, Illustrated by Fiona Robertson

I knew it would be a long day of meeting people and signing books, as well as traveling to and from the event.  It’s the kind of situation where you never know if you’ll get really hungry in a place where there might not be healthy, portable options available.  In preparation, I made a dozen Shelly’s Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins to bring with us.

Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

Chocolate Protein Mini Muffins

This recipe is from The World According to Eggface — a fantastic blog with lots of great recipes.  These muffins came in handy when we were stranded on the platform after just missing our train back to the city!  It was dinner time and we had to wait for the next train–in the end we were kind of glad we did, because we got to ride with more of our festival compatriots who arrived at the train station later.  Plus, we weren’t hungry anymore!

This coming weekend, I have more book events.  If you are in the NYC area, please come join me.  I will be at Greenlight Bookstore (686 Fulton Street at South Portland, Brooklyn, NY)  on Saturday, September 28 from 11- 12, reading Truck Stop and the board book version of B is for Bulldozer, which was just released this month!  On Sunday, September 29, I will be on a panel with Anne Rockwell and several other authors at Books of Wonder (18 West 18th street between 5th and 6th Avenues) from 1-3 pm.

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Filed under Art Related, Books, Breakfast, Children, Snack, Travel, Vegetarian

BookCourt and Mini Donuts Three Ways

5 dozen Mini Muffins and 7 dozen Mini Donuts

5 dozen Mini Muffins and 7 dozen Mini Donuts

Last Saturday we had our book launch at BookCourt in Brooklyn.  We’re so lucky to have such a fantastic independent bookstore in our neighborhood!

Anne reading Truck Stop.

Anne reading Truck Stop.

Anne Rockwell, the author, came all the way from Stamford, CT to be there!  It was nice to see her again.  If I had any brain cells I would have had Denis take a picture of us in front of the store!

Talking about how I made the artwork.

Talking about how I made the artwork.

It was well attended and a lot people ended up staying a long time even after the reading was over (that’s a sign of a good bookstore!)

I made mini donuts and mini muffins for the occasion.  Luckily there were no leftovers to bring back home…  A big THANK YOU to all those who showed up!

Cinnamon sugar, chocolate, vanilla with chocolate glaze, and vanilla with sprinkles

Cinnamon sugar, chocolate, vanilla with chocolate glaze, and vanilla with sprinkles

 

Note:  I used a mini donut pan.  You could make regular sized donuts instead.  You will have to bake them for about 15 minutes and it will make about 1 dozen for each recipe.

Baked Vanilla Donuts with Vanilla and Chocolate Glaze (based on this recipe from theKitchn. I used a different method for the glaze because I wanted to make sure the glaze would be firm enough for transport)

Non-stick spray

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one packet)

2 tablespoons warm water

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 cup plain yogurt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Vanilla glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

water

Drop of food coloring if you want!

sprinkles

Chocolate glaze:

2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup powdered sugar

milk as needed (about 1-2 tablespoons)

Cinnamon Sugar:

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

sprinkles

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray donut pan with non-stick spray.

2.  In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water and set aside.  In a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, yogurt, melted butter, vanilla extract, and yeast mixture until combined.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until incorporated.

4.  Spoon batter into donut pan –just a little bit — about half way.  With the mini donut pan, you don’t need much! It will spill over and look like a muffin.

5.  Bake donuts until puffed and golden, about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 5 minutes on rack.  Transfer donuts to rack to cool.

6.  For vanilla glaze, I just added vanilla and a bit of water a little at a time to sugar until the consistency is opaque but still wet.

7.  For chocolate glaze, melt chocolate and butter together in microwave in 30 second intervals.  Stir until smooth.  Add sugar gradually.  Add milk if it is too thick.

8.  For cinnamon sugar topping, mix sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl.

9.  To decorate, dip donuts in glazes and sprinkle with sprinkles if desired.   Dip on both sides in cinnamon sugar mixture.

Baked Chocolate Donuts (based on this recipe on Mom Advice

Non-stick spray

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

4 teaspoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons coffee

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 325 F.

2.  Coat donut pan with non-stick spray.

3.  Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

4. In another bowl, whisk milk, sugar, egg, butter, coffee, and vanilla until smooth.

5.  Add milk mixture to flour mixture.  Whisk until fully incorporated.

6.  Fill donut pan a bit less than half-way full.  Bake for 8 minutes or until donuts spring back when touched.

7.  Cool in pan for about 5 minutes on rack.  Remove donuts to cool on rack.

8.  Dip in vanilla glaze (see above).

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Filed under Art Related, Books, Breakfast, Children, Desserts

Cats and Curried Tuna Lettuce Wraps

Curried Tuna Salad in Lettuce Wrap
Recipe at end of post


Lo-o-o-ve me.

I recently finished some commissioned cat portraits.  I love cats, and I love painting them.  It’s so sad that I’m highly allergic to them, though, so we can’t live with them (I’ve tried, believe me!)   So painting is the next best option! 🙂

I often add cats to my book illustrations, even if they aren’t mentioned in the text.  I just love their presence.  I usually put in cats I know.  The white one with the black tail below is “Taxi”, my friend’s beloved cat, whom I loved too.  He makes an appearance in my first illustrated book, Night Shift Daddy.

I even devoted a whole parallel narrative to Chanukah Lights Everywhere involving cats.  On each night of Chanukah, more cats appear.  It’s fun to try and find them all.  Below is the 6th night, so hiding cats is getting tricky.  In the winter sometimes our street looks like this (minus all the cats, of course!) I won’t ask you to find all six, because one of them is cut off — a white cat is on one of the rooftops.  There are three cats in the windows, one cat being walked by a woman, and another cat in a green cat carrier in the background.

My husband always had cats before we got together.  I even tried to live with the last pair, Bogey and Misia, for five years, before we found good people to take care of them.

I think all those years of taking care of of cats has made it impossible for him to eat any kind of canned fish.  He can’t help but to associate it with cat food.

I, on the other hand, am happy to eat canned tuna, sardines, salmon, etc.  Also, it’s not like I eat it straight out of the can!  When you season everything it takes on a whole other dimension!
It’s also so good for you, filled with protein, good fats, calcium…

To eat, just roll the thin part of the leaf over and munch!

I made these Curried Tuna Lettuce Wraps for lunch today, and they were so good!  I love eating lettuce instead of bread in the summer because it’s just so darn refreshing and delicious.  You can use iceberg or butter lettuce in place of romaine.  I love the flavor and texture of romaine lettuce though.  The saltiness of the  cashews and sweetness of the golden raisins and apple are a nice complement to the curried tuna which has a bit of a kick!

Curried Tuna Lettuce Wraps

1 can of environmentally safe tuna

1/2 stalk of celery, minced (about 1/4 cup)

1/4 Fuji apple, diced (about 1/2 cup)

1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon Madras curry powder

kosher salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons chopped roasted salted cashews

2 tablespoons golden raisins

washed and dried Romaine or other crunchy lettuce leaves

1.  Drain canned tuna and transfer to a bowl.  Add remaining ingredients, except lettuce leaves and stir to combine.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

2.  Wrap tuna salad in lettuce leaves.  Eat!

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Filed under Art Related, Books, Children, Fish, Lunch