Sunday, April 27, 2008

wine tasting

gsa wine tasting loot

i recently did some design work for an annual wine tasting event. it was pretty short notice and i wasn't expecting to take it on, but it was a different type of project than what i've done in the past and it was good design experience. 

the theme was "decision 2008", as the event happened just before a primary election. while i had originally worked on some pop-art samples, i did sketch out some wine-imbibing animals (the donkey and elephant icons, of course) as a possible idea and the organizer of the event loved it. so we went with a hand sketched theme and incorporated voting ballots and state icons throughout the pieces. 

you can see above the ticket invite with the zoo animals and ballot style layout. to be honest, it isn't my favorite thing i've done, and i think that was partly due to the short timeline, but the organizer loved the ballot theme and we went to print for 1000 - it's a big event! the ticket was white, high gloss 5x7 cover stock, printed front and back. 

the committee decided to go "green" and avoid using disposables, so they supplied a wine glass to each guest. they even carried the drinking party animal logo onto the glasses, which i loved. obviously this isn't the font i used in the coordinating pieces, but i didn't really work on this - they just input my art.

these were the program guide booklets. the event had wines from 9 states (and a kosher station) and guests wandered through the zoo aquarium to sample wines and watch fish. this booklet provided space to write notes about each wine and offered up some information about each state. 

here you can see the inside of the booklet. these are some of my favorite pages. the organizer and i selected iconic images to represent each state and i sketched the artwork. i also carried the voting theme along with state graphics and a big ole check mark. i think the programs were the most successful element of the whole package. the printing turned out great and we even included a perforated ballot on the last page for people to vote on their favorite wines. 

i don't have a picture, but i also created 2 x3 foot posters listing notes about each wine. these were placed near the stations at the zoo and people could read up on what they were sampling. it was the most last minute thing i worked on...we sent it to print just 2 days before the event!

i went to the wine tasting and had a jolly good time. lots of wine to drink and some great state-themed food. the ribs at north carolina were to die for. yum, i want some now.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

sunday morning

warm coffee cake on a sunday morning - yum!

i like sunday mornings. i'm usually in the mood to have a nice breakfast and often have time to cook something, unlike the weekdays. on this sunday morning, i wanted coffee cake, apple specifically, because i had some less-than-crisp apples to use up. i lucked out today because i found a recipe with buttermilk, another item i needed to use. i always find that with buttermilk, i use a little bit and end up tossing the rest. sour smelling dairy products gross me out in general, so fresh buttermilk is difficult enough...week (ok two...ok three) old buttermilk? yikes. 

today's recipe is from cooking light and i like that because it makes me feel just a little bit better about indulging. 
they didn't even know they weren't good enough raw. 

buttermilk-apple coffee cake
1 1/2 c thinly sliced apples
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 c flour
1/2 tsp baking sode
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 c sugar
2 tbsp softened butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 c buttermilk
2 tbsp sliced almonds

1. combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat 
2. cook 5 min until syrupy, stirring frequently; cool
3. combine flour, baking soda and salt 
4. cream butter and sugar until combined
5. add egg and extracts and beat well
6. add flour mixture alternating with buttermilk to wet ingredients (start and end with flour)
7. pour batter into baking pan (8 inch round/square sprayed with cooking spray)
8. arrange apple mixture over batter and sprinkle with almonds 
9. bake at 350°F for 25 minutes, until cake pulls from sides of pan and toothpick comes out clean

syrupy apples and cinnamon - see the bubbles?

yes, i mixed this by hand. don't tell the kitchen aid.

even before baking it looked ready to eat - i believe that's a good sign!

i've made and eaten a lot of coffee cakes and this might be the very best one i've had. husband agreed and consumed three pieces, one after the other. the combination of buttermilk and the apples being on top made the cake fluffy and moist. the top was almost like apple pie...but without the crust. paired with a cup of trader joe's breakfast blend, this was a perfect sunday breakfast. (ok, a bit of a plug there...but it's my FAVORITE coffee - so much so that it gets to be in caps. also so much so that i bought 5 cans of it during my last trip to tjs and persuaded a few customers to try it as well.)

haha, you won't be able to eat just this tiny piece. oh no. 
by the time you're done, only few crumbs will remain.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

it's warm!

it's finally warm out and for me, that means one thing: fruits and vegetables all the time. overall, i like my fruits and veggies...i make an effort to eat them even in the winter when i can't find a decent tomato to save my life. but once it starts getting above 70, i need fresh produce like i need buttercream frosted cupcakes. and i *need* cupcakes, ok?

this salad is sort of like glorified pico de gallo. sort of. it's a black bean and corn salad without a lot of sauce and it is perfect for making a big batch and eating it meal after meal in the warm months. 

black bean and corn salad
2 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cans corn, drained & rinsed (i used that white and yellow sweet mix)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped/diced 
handful of cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp salad oil (you can use olive, vegetable, canola...but i'd avoid nut oils)
red pepper flakes (or mrs. dash "spicy")
hot sauce to taste
salt & pepper

1. mix the first 5 ingredients (through cilantro) in a medium to large bowl
2. whisk the dressing ingredients until combined
3. pour dressing over salad and stir

i really like the taste of black beans and sweet corn, so I usually let my salad sit for a bit and then strain it to remove all of the extra dressing. you don't have to, but it stays fresher and doesn't get all soggy in the coming days if you drain it. i usually eat this with a spoon, straight up, but i know some people who might use chips as an edible utensil. 


now i know this isn't the coolest thing i've made, but it's something. and trust me, it's easy and good and you can sit out on your porch and laugh at your dog getting his foot stuck in your furniture while eating it. 

Sunday, April 13, 2008

i told you i like baby cards. this is not the last you'll see of them, either.

husband and i found out that his best friend/cousin and wife are expecting a baby in november. i sent this little card in the mail as soon as we heard the news. isn't that little 'buggy' (as my grandma would say) cute?

on an unrelated note, i haven't baked in a week. i'm trying to get back into to shape and baked goods do not fit into my plan. i am shedding tears, as i am sure you are, that there won't be any cupcake posts. worse, no buttercream for me to enjoy and you to lust after. i'll try to make up for it by making something interesting this week - maybe some new dinner recipes?

and one more unrelated thing. an apology (and vent) of sorts. i am sorry for the wacky font/text of recent. blogger, what is wrong? did i do something to make you angry? some days when i post, half of the text is so tiny no one could ever read it. today it looks like we're on a double spacing roll. this does not sit well with the perfectionist in me. don't make me bust out my old html knowledge and work from the html tab, ok? that won't be fun for either of us.

Friday, April 11, 2008

cheer cookies!

here's the follow up you've been waiting for...the sweets! i made two desserts for this year's cheer party, the classic cheer sugar cookie and a first time trial of a red velvet cupcake recipe.

the sugar cookies are Martha's recipe and you really can't go wrong there. the icing is what usually gets people's attention, and that's my own recipe, i guess. i like the icing to get a little hard on top but to stay soft near the cookie and i use meringue powder to achieve such a consistency. i don't really measure, either...(tsquare, pretend you never read that) but i'll do my best to give you a guide.

basic sugar cookie icing
1/4 c meringue powder (available online or even at jo-ann's/michaels)
2-3 tbsp milk
4-6 c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
water as necessary
food coloring (paste/gel preferred)

1. mix the meringue powder and milk until combined
2. add powdered sugar in increments, slowly combining & alternating with tsps of water to achieve desired consistency
3. add vanilla and food coloring
4. spoon into pastry bag and pipe onto cookies

the icing should be thick enough to hold it's own - if it's too runny it will drip down the cookies. i like to pipe a guide line along the edge of the cookie and fill the center as needed. twirl the cookie to fill the gaps and allow to dry for several hours. the icing will be almost hard on the outside, but not so crunchy that it chips a molar.

my all brunette cheer team in cookie form

the cookies were a success. i'll be honest, though, the cupcakes...not so much. i'm pretty picky about cupcakes and i wasn't fond of the "baking" flavors of the recipe. i found this one on cupcakeblog - one of my favorite websites for recipes. she admits up front that this didn't turn out magically for her either, but that it was good enough. i did alter it a bit (both for cake flour and amounts of cocoa) and in addition to what might have been an already weak recipe (she says so, not just me!), i think my changes may have put it over the edge.

the start - dry goods and red tinged wet ingredients

the batter - "red" velvet looks more like plain old chocolate to me....

this was my first problem. it didn't even look red! i will say, part of my problem was that i ran out of gel coloring and had to resort to liquid...the color never got very strong and couldn't hold up against extra dark cocoa. anyway, i figured we'd have a new chocolate cupcake to try, so i forged ahead. (i'm obviously not sharing the recipe since i don't know exactly what went wrong or what to adjust...)

baked up

yes, they look pretty good. decent domes even (but hard to control, they really puffed!). then i tried one. the top was pretty hard and the inside was, well, not really chocolate-y. it didn't taste of much more than baking goods. it was too late to redo, so i whipped up some vanilla bean cream cheese frosting (also from cupcakeblog) and figured it would mask any less than perfect cake with is creamy goodness.

i was right. even if people really didn't like the flavor, the mini cupcakes were still gobbled up. i don't consider this a complete failure but i still maintain that i've never made a red velvet cake. i guess that means i've got more cupcakes to bake...i'm sure no one will mind!

we don't taste that great, but our tiny size and flecked frosting still make us irresistible

Sunday, April 6, 2008

miniature food spread

i hosted the annual cheer party yesterday. the theme (because i'm into that) was mini foods! it was so fun and i think everyone liked it. the thing about miniature food is that you have to make so much more of it that normal sized stuff...and it takes a long time! cutting mini slices of things and assembling 40 or 50 of something for a group of 14 was pretty time consuming! it's a good thing i had husband on hand - he was a life saver. he cooked all of the mini hamburgers and managed the kitchen while i mingled.

2008 cheer party menu
mini vegan grilled cheese
mini mac 'n cheese cups (even some vegan!)
mini taco salads
mini hamburgers
baby carrots and dip
minty sweet tea
citrus punch
mini cupcaked
iced cheer cookies

this post is about the food, but i'll post about the desserts later.

tiny little grilled cheese cooking on the panini press (with flat plates)

for the mini grilled cheese, which were the vegan alternative to the hamburgers, i used mozz and cheddar flavored soy "cheese" and little jewish rye breads. i coated the outside with margarine and garlic salt and stuck a basil leaf between the cheese layers.

all toasted up

these were adorable - here's a size reference.

mini mac 'n cheese cups

i used a recipe from food and wine for these mini macs. the key was to leave them in the muffin tins until they were completely cooled otherwise my tops separated from the bottoms. super delish and i even made a vegan version with soy milk, margaine, panko and soy "cheese" to replace ALL of the dairy. i didn't try them and i doubt they were all that tasty...but i doubt that soy cheese product is really all that great in the first place.

close up of baked cheesy goodness.

mini taco salads

these were tsquares idea. scoops tortilla chips, shredded lettuce, black beans, salsa and a slice of avocado. this one might have been the hardest because they take a bit to assemble. we made then about 1.5 hours before the party and by the half way point of the festivities, most of the chip bottoms were a little soggy. i know husband was careful not to add much juice with the salsa, but i think using pico de gallo might help - less liquid = crispy chip.

with their avocado

mini hamburgers!

the mini hamburgers started this whole theme. they are so popular and i wanted to serve them with other comfort food staples (which i'd say the above foods were). i was most nervous about the buns but totally lucked out and found bags of mini potato buns right at the grocery store. small pieces of lettuce, vine on grape tomatoes, shallots and small dill pickles made up the fixings and we had bowls of ketchup and mustard to spoon on. like i said, husband cooked these to perfection and everyone love them.

the cuteness.

citrus punch with star fruit

the citrus punch was good and had no gelatin (not vegan friendly), which apparently is the norm for fruity punches. 2 cups each pineapple and orange juice, 3 cups cranberry juice and half bottle of ginger ale. i froze some of the liquid in my bundt pan with starfruit and orange slices to keep the punch cold for a few hours.

stay tuned for the dessert post!

Thursday, April 3, 2008


circle graphic invite with thistle logo

is that even a word? if it isn't, i don't have any idea how to put gocco in past tense. maybe because it's not a verb...or is it?

this is my 2nd gocco project. after i brought the llamas to work, other people noticed and my next project was requested. these are invitations to an end-of-the year event for an exclusive group of students. i did this event's invite last year and printed them (so plainly) on white cover stock...this year i wanted to mix it up a bit (and use my gocco!). i'm so crazy, i know.

this year's circle design was printed with navy blue ink on kraft cover - the design was done in illustrator. i didn't take step-by-step pictures because i was too busy clove poking ham, dyeing eggs and baking cheesecake (remember that day? easter?) i won't multitask with food and gocco again. 

i also learned something - my print space is smaller than i had originally thought and my design was full bleed. some of the image on the initial screen was lost on the top corners, so on each print i had to press (by hand) from below to ensure a decent inking. the worst of them only suffered a weathered look on the edges, so it wasn't too concerning or troublesome, but in the future i will practice restraint when it comes to the size of my designs. the envelope cannot be pushed here, folks. in order to do something larger, i'll have to make more than one screen. i guess it means i'll just have to gocco again!

wow. how many times did i say gocco in this post?