Tag Archives: skillshare

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! 🙂

25 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

22 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Beef