Thursday, December 24, 2009

happy holidays!

one project of recent was my holiday cards, which i've been making for a few years now. this year i wanted to gocco again and while i was interested in a multi-color, possible multi-screen design...i decided against it because i like simple and i don't want to waste precious, limited supplies.

outside and inside (sorry for the shallow depth of field)

i created this tree and hanging ornaments design in illustrator using basic shapes and some intricate snowflake cutouts (from my favorite snowflake website, make-a-flake). i flashed the front screen and made a separate inside greeting screen (i made the most of this screen by flashing a few additional design, soon to come). i printed with white ink on moss folded A6 cards and sent them in glass luxe envelopes.

raised print

the color is off in the above photo, but i just had to show off the embossing i did on a few of them. i learned this quick trick from my friend kim: dust super fine, clear embossing powder to the wet gocco ink, tap it off, and heat using an embossing gun. the design will emboss, slightly raised and shiny, and looks so adorable.

unfortunately, these prints were not without some hiccups. for whatever reason, my screen was missing some print areas in the tree and a number of the prints had blank areas. i still got about 50 good prints and was able to send all of my holiday cards to family and friends. i sincerely hope i didn't miss anyone!

happy holidays, season's greetings, merry chirstmas 2009. enjoy this lovely time of year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

shaped bokeh

i was on a photography board and came across a link with a unique way of manipulating bokeh (the blurry, often background, parts of a photo). here is the tutorial.

after seeing the instructions, i decided to whip up a lens hood and see if it would work. i chose a 1 inch gingerbread man hole punch and made a hood out of black construction paper to fit over my 50 mm 1.8 lens. it took me a bit to figure out how to shoot with it on, but i aimed it at my christmas tree and tested the technique. as long as the subject appears blurry in the viewfinder, the bokeh will work. the lights look like little gingerbread men!

i'd show you a picture of my lens hood but it is one shoddy piece of work. instead, check out my sample images and those in the link. i'm sure there a few random uses for something like this. either way, i found it interesting and am still a bit confused as to how it works.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

i know, i've been away. i just haven't had it in me to blog. i make dinner almost every night, but the idea of blogging, with the pictures and editing and writing...i don't know. maybe a new year's resolution for me will be to find something that works for me and blogging. it might help now that we have somewhere to live in january (not a house, but a condo for a year) and that i can focus on the baby and all of the things that are soon to change my life.

but before all of that, there are basics. like simple, good food. that's what i try to make everyday to balance some of the pregnancy cravings and indulgences. this pork chop and slaw recipe is perfect. i've never liked applesauce on my chops, but this is a nice, fresh variation of apples and pork.

pork chops with honey-mustard sauce and apple slaw (adapted from
1 green apple, sliced into matchsticks
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 c shredded red cabbage
4 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
4 boneless pork loin chops, pounded 1 inch thick
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 c chicken stock
1/4 c whole grain mustard
1/4 c honey
2 tbsp cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

1. toss the apple with the lemon juice, then add cabbage and scallions
2. in a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat
3. season the pork chops with salt and pepper and add to pan
4. cook, turning once, until browned, about 8 minutes
5. remove from pan and allow to rest
6. add chicken stock, mustard, honey, and vinegar to the skillet and bring to a boil
7. cook until reduced, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper
8. place a pork chop atop some slaw and pour on sauce

yum! the slaw was tangy and crisp, the pork perfectly cooked, and the sauce sweet and mustard filled. it was a hit with both husband and me and i imagine this would be nice to serve at a throw-together dinner party. it's got great color for a winter meal and was a nice break to all the beef i've been consuming.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

these are just digital files, obviously, but i recently had a number of thank you cards to send out. being that we have a baby on the way and we moved, our generous and thoughtful friends deserved a little note in the mail for the nice things they did along the way.

i made two designs, one for baby gifts (the above is in our baby colors of grey, aqua, and yellow) printed on white cover stock, and one for general thanks in a fall theme, printed on ivory cover stock. very simple, but worth the effort of about 30 hand made cards to show our appreciation. i imagine we'll be sending out cards like these (with new designs!) for months to come.

Friday, December 4, 2009

roasted turnips

now don't go scrunching your nose and saying you don't like turnips. i didn't like them either. growing up my dad was fond of root vegetables and my mom, sister and i were not. what a battle! since my dad did much of the cooking, those root veggies showed up a time or two, much to the dismay of the females of the house (i.e. everyone else). but we were weird, because as a child i remember liking liver and onions, brussel sprouts, and lots of other foods many kids and adults alike do not prefer. and just like my taste for liver has changed (to no, thanks, ugh), so has my taste for root vegetables.

this is simple. it's like roasting anything else, but it turns a vegetable many people don't want into something palatable and, daresay, even tasty.

roasted turnips
3-4 medium turnips
1 small sweet onion, cut into chunks (or some shallots, peeled and whole)
5-7 cloves garlic, peeled
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried parsley (you could do fresh, too)
salt and pepper
pinch of sugar

1. trim and peel the turnips
2. cut into wedges and place into baking pan with onion and garlic
3. generously coat with olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper, and a bit of sugar
4. bake at 375F until edges brown and turnips are soft, about 35 minutes

these are not potatoes, no. they cannot replace, but they can stand in a time or two. they are soft on the inside with a crispy outside and they taste not too strong, like a food you'd want to eat. i promise.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

ok, after posting my woeful pity party for one, i'm back. i have lots of posts and i'm going to stop complaining now :)

thanksgiving came and went, but not without mountains of food (many of those mountains consumed by 23 weeks pregnant me...). i had a delightful holiday at my sister's apartment (with it's tiny kitchen and easy bake oven), where husband and i spent quality time with my parents and sister. we all brought a few dishes and i was in charge of snacks, cranberry sauce (i made a simple one with orange segments and orange juice), and the dessert.

i don't like pumpkin pie (and neither does my sister), so i tried to come up with a pumpkin alternative. i had made a version of this trifle a few years ago using paula dean's recipe. because we were on location and my cooking space and supplies were limited, i made the gingerbread in advance and decided to stick to basics for the rest.

supplies and half of the layers (photos on location!)

the big change in the recipe came from homemade gingerbread. paula dean's calls for prepackaged, which is totally fine, but i was craving something at least partially from scratch. after searching, i came across this gramercy tavern gingerbread from gourmet, whih i made in a baking dish rather than a bundt pan.

i'm not posting any of the recipes, since i've linked above and it's pretty simple. yes, i used cool whip, pumpkin pie filling, and boxed pudding mix...but it doesn't matter because the gingerbread is out of this world good (i mean, it has guinness in it). to trifle it up, layer half of the gingerbread (crumbled) into the bowl, top with half the pumpkin mixture, then top with cool whip. lather, rinse, repeat. or just repeat, and you'll be left with an easy, pretty dessert.

and a tasty one, too. the pumpkin seeps around the gingerbread and the cool whip balances all the fall spices. i would prefer whipped cream, but i can't complain too much. if you don't have anywhere to take a trifle, or are done with pumpkin for the season, please go ahead and make the gingerbread. so worth it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


i know...i've been gone for too long again. i have no excuse. i'm not too busy. i'm making tons of food and have crafts planned and started. i'm just feeling pretty "meh" on blogging. i know part of it comes down to my photos. i feel like they look the same or worse as they have in the past. i don't see improvement anymore and can only pick out flaws. i'm hyper critical, but i know a good picture when i see it, and one hasn't been on my blog in awhile...

so i'm still here. i'm working on getting pictures edited and some posts written. i've just got to get back into this and like it again. it feels like work, not fun...and i don't want to blog unless it's fun. it's not my job and i don't make any money doing it.

stick around for some holiday crafts, foods a plenty, and hopefully a cheerier outlook :)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

fall brownie spectacular

yes, you read that right. pumpkin+cheesecake+brownie. take it from someone who doesn't like pumpkin pie or plain brownies...these are so worth it. i do enjoy brownies with a twist, like cheesecake, mint, or turtle, so when i saw these i just had to give them a try.

i first saw them from the beantown baker, who adapted a recipe from cara's cravings. i used the adjusted measurements in this batch.

pumpkin spice cheesecake brownies (cara's cravings via beantown baker)
brownie batter:
3/4 c butter, melted
1 c sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c special dark cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon

cheesecake batter:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/2 c sugar
2 tbsp + 2tsp flour
2/3 c pumpkin puree
1/3 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp ground ginger
1/3 tsp ground cloves

1. beat together melted butter, sugar, and vanilla, then beat in eggs one at a time
2. combine dry ingredients, then gradually stir into butter mixture with a wooden spoon
3. in separate bowl, beat together cheesecake batter ingredients
4. spread about 2/3 of chocolate batter into greased 8x8 pan
5. spoon cheesecake batter over top
6. dollop remaining brownie batter over cheesecake batter, then swirl by running a knife back and forth through the pan
7. bake at 350F for 40 minutes, or until center is set
8. cool completely on wire rack and chill before cutting and serving

couldn't wait for pictures...

seriously. seriously! these are so good. i waited as long as i could to cut the brownies for photos (and a sample), but the center was still a bit warm. all was still ok and after being chilled, everything set nicely.

i've made a lot of desserts. i can't remember one being all that bad, but these are memorable for being that good. husband and i polished these off in record time, spoiling ourselves and missing our nightly dessert once they were gone. he has requested them for his coworkers, so i'll be making them at least once more this season.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

quick, simple apple cranberry sauce

in my quest for all things cranberry, one thing i need to have is a lot of cranberry sauce. i don't save this treat for thanksgiving - i make it about once a week during the late fall. before i could get my hands on fresh cranberries, i ate at least one can of whole berry sauce every week for the past few weeks... you could chalk it up to a pregnancy craving, i guess, but really not, because i do this every year :) however, that canned stuff is loaded with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup! i feel guilty about that and really, it's cheaper to make my own and i enjoy it more.

this is a super easy recipe from the november 2009 issue of real simple. just 4 ingredients and about 15-20 minutes of prep and cook time.

apple cranberry sauce (real simple)
1 lb cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 c apple cider
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar

1. in a small saucepan, combine all ingredients
2. simmer until berries burst and sauce thickens (12-15 minutes)
3. cool a bit before serving (if you can wait!)

from whole berries to sauce

have i mentioned the time i made cranberry sauce using orange juice (a favorite of mine) and forgot the OJ and sugar were boiling...for like an hour?! i'm pretty sure i blogged about it, but if not, suffice to say i burned the sauce to a blackened crisp and had to practically crawl on the floor to get to the kitchen because the smoke was so thick and strong. it was bad. so don't forget you have something like this on the stove!

luckily, i made no errors while cooking this sauce and it came out delightful. the apple cider is subtle, so much so that i might add some cinnamon next time, but the overall flavor was great. i ate this straight from the bowl, but also used it on some turkey, cranberry, lettuce, and cheese wraps for husband's lunches. who needs leftovers when you can get it fresh whenever you want?

Friday, November 6, 2009

seriously, the best.

i have only had chicken enchiladas once before. i had never made them and have no real way to prove the following information, but i am pretty sure these are the best.

we have mexican food every week (i have it even more) for dinner and this week i decided we should try enchiladas. there are a lot of recipes, a lot with cream cheese and jarred enchilada sauce, and i just wasn't feeling that. so i went in search of a from-scratch version and found it in one from america's test kitchen.

homemade sauce is the way to go

chicken enchiladas with red chili sauce (america's test kitchen)
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp coriander
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
12 ounces bones chicken thighs OR chicken tenderloins, cut into 1/4" strips
2 cans tomato sauce
1/4 c water
1/2 c cilantro, chopped
1/4 c pickled jalapeno pepper, drained and copped
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
10 corn tortillas
vegetable cooking spray
3 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
sour cream, avocado, lettuce, green onion, tomato, salsa, limes, etc.

1. heat oil in a medium saucepan for 2 minutes, then add onion, cook until browning
2. add garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, salt, and sugar, cook for 30 seconds, stirring
3. add chicken, stir to coat, and cook for 30 seconds
4. add tomato sauce and water and stir, simmer uncovered for 8 minutes
5. pour mixture through a medium mesh strainer, pressing chicken and onions to extract sauce
6. set sauce aside and transfer chicken mixture to large plate, cool in freezer for 10 minutes
7. combine chicken with cilantro, jalapenos, and 8 oz cheese into a bowl
8. coat bottom of 13x9 baking pan with 3/4 c chili sauce
9. place tortillas on baking sheets, coating both sides with cooking spray and warm at 300F for 4 minutes
10. scoop 1/3 c filling into center of each tortilla
11. roll tortillas tightly and place seam-side down in baking dish
12. pour remaining chili sauce over enchiladas, coating fully, and sprinkle cheese over center
13. cover with foil and bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes
14. serve immediately, topping with condiments of your choice


seriously, please make these. i don't know if it's because i am 20 weeks pregnant (!) or if they really are that good, but these were like heaven on a plate. the sauce was amazing - perfectly spiced and the right consistency. i want to eat these again. worth it to make them yourself, to take the time to strain the sauce, and enjoy how i think enchiladas are supposed to taste.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

pumpkin cranberry goodness

hello november! it's fall for real now and with it comes my desire to have pumpkin, spices, and cranberries. not always together, but in this case, yes. i love fruit bursts in muffins and cranberries are probably the best for that. i had first wanted cranberry orange muffins...but that doesn't scream fall to me. enter canned pumpkin puree!

i used a simple recipe from cooking light and whipped these up for a week's worth of breakfasts. the recipe says it makes 1 dozen, but i got 12 full size and at least 12 miniatures.

pumpkin cranberry muffins (adapted from cooking light)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 c sugar
1 c canned pumpkin
1/2 c low-fat buttermilk
1/4 c packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large egg
1 c fresh cranberries, cut in half

1. combine flour, baking soda, and next 5 ingredients, though cloves; stir well
2. beat granulated sugar and next 5 ingredients, through egg, at medium speed until well blended
3. add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until combined
4. fold in cranberries.
5. spoon batter into muffin tin with liners
6. bake at 375°F for 25 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center
7. remove muffins from pan immediately and place on a wire rack to cool

fall muffin bowl

i loved these. so moist, full of pumpkin and spice, tart with fresh baked cranberries...these are good for a snack, dessert (warm with vanilla bean ice cream?), or breakfast. they stay fresh if well contained and last through the week. i treated husband to some mini "cupcake" muffins with the remainder of the batter (no cranberries left, bowl scrapings) and a half of a mini peanut butter cup in the middle. i'm really not sure if he liked the cranberry of the pb version better.

you must try these!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

happy halloween!

husband picked out the pumpkin face (online) and scooped the innards. i carved the scary expression and baked the seeds. the dogsons watched from the floor, confused about the entire process. they can't remember year to year...

they were so in the halloween spirit.

enjoy all the candy and spooky costumes. we're on the lookout for trick or treaters as i write this :)