Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 1

So what's hanging around my neck today? I have way too many necklaces (yes, I know I have a bead addiction problem). So this is going to be a new series - every so often I will give you a quick web cam shot of the necklace "du jour." Today's necklace features some large orange stone beads that actually were part of a necklace that I purchased in India. I took the necklace apart, and over the years have used the beads in many ways. Stay tuned, you never know when the next episode of "Hanging Around Clever Karen" will be posted!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pear Pecan Salad

This is a nice easy salad to make. I use the grilled teriyaki chicken breasts and the champagne pear vinaigrette, as well as the green lettuce leaves, all from Trader Joes. Put a few slices of ripe pears on top. And then add a sprinkle of candied pecans or other nuts. (Check what Trader Joes has if you really want to make this the easy way!) Or you can make your own Brown Sugar Pecans.

Brown Sugar Pecans: I take 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of pecans. Put them in a small heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Stir, stir, stir for about 2 minutes. Then add 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup. (The real stuff, and yes I get that at Trader Joes too!) Stir, stir, stir some more for about 2 more minutes. At the point that it just starts to smoke a little (don't burn it) take it off the heat. Spread the pecans on a cookie tray that is covered with parchment paper. Let them cool. Store in a covered container. (Ok, usually I eat half of them as soon as they are little cool.) If you have any left, they taste good on a salad too!

the Afghan War

I was amused by this post in Posy Gets Cozy last week. I think her cat has been talking to my cat. Last week when the temps dropped below zero, I cuddled up on my sofa on my afghan. Each time I got up from the sofa, I would return to find the cat curled up in my spot. Back and forth, every day, over and over.

In fact there she sits right now all nice and snug on the afghan. As I watch her from the cold recliner. Surrender. The Afghan War is over. And the cat has won.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cupcake Station

A few days ago I treated myself to a stop at the Cupcake Station which is located in downtown Birmingham. It's a good thing I don't live closer to this place or I would fall into this temptation more often!

Don't these Valentine cupcakes look yummy? They didn't have my favorite cupcake (Almond Joy - it must have been a monthly special) so I opted for the Michigan Bumpy Cake cupcake. (If you don't live in Michigan, you may have never had a Sanders Bumpy Cake - chocolate cake with ribs of white frosting covered in chocolate glaze.) Below is the cupcake - there were yummy bumps of white frosting under the chocolate. Enjoy - virtual cupcakes have no calories!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friendship Block Quilt

This is my most recent quilt and is my favorite. It is based on the technique in Eleanor Burns' Egg Money Quilts. It was a great way to use all my fat quarters of vintage reproduction fabrics. I like to use it on my table during the summer.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thimbleberry Quilt

This is another quilt that I first saw on Simply Quilts. I had the quilt store order the pattern for me. I thought it would be a lot smaller, but actually it is a medium size - too big for my wall space. I really do like the design with the pine trees, the houses on the diagonal, and the fence that surrounds the border of the quilt.

Tomorrow is the last of the quilts. I'll share my favorite and most recent one!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Home of the Brave Quilt

Day 4 of Clever Quilts week: a small quilt inspired by an episode of "Simply Quilts." Perfect for decorating in July!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Teacup Quilt

Day three of Clever Quilts features this teacup quilt. Once again I can't locate the pattern to give credit - this is another one I made several years back. I used pinks and blues with lots of reproduction fabrics. I love my morning tea, so this is quilt reflects part of my personality.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Kitty Love Quilt

Another quilt for Clever Quilt week. This is my cat quilt. I found the idea for this in a book from the library, but I can't recall what book it was so I can't give credit. (If I find it, I will update later with the information.)

I made it out of flannel and in colors that work for Christmas but also can go later into the winter. I especially like the strips of various fabrics used as a border.

I'm also showing below how I hang these smaller quilts on a curtain rod using curtain clips. I know purists out there will object that it could damage the quilt, but it works for me because it is easy to change out the quilts.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my next reveal!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Clever Quilts

This week is going to be "quilt week" at Clever Karen. Each day (or so) I'm going to show one of the quilts that I've made. Disclaimer: I am not an expert quilter. I'm mostly self taught. Don't look too closely - my points don't match and I usually do the quilting by machine and it doesn't always stay in the ditch and sometimes things aren't perfectly square. I am not a perfectionist when it comes to quilting!

What I do love is scrappy quilts with a mix of fabrics. I love combining the fabrics as if they were different colors of paint.

This quilt is based on a square I saw on TV on Simply Quilts. I can't remember the name of the square and I'm too lazy right now to go out on the internet and research it - maybe someone reading this can help me out. I like the kinda op art pinwheel effect that it gives when you stare at it. And I love buttons, plus they cover up the poor matching I have on my corners.

Stay tuned - more quilts will be coming!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Panini

In November and December, Cosi restaurant offered a sandwich with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce which I love. Alas, the holidays are over, but I still had a craving for that combination. So I created my own version in panini form.

To do this you need bread, turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. This tastes best with leftover turkey and stuffing, but you can use your favorite sliced turkey from the deli and boxed stuffing. I have made a box of Stove Top Stuffing to use for this and stick half of it in the freezer for later use. I used several products from Trader Joes including their Seeded Harvest Boule (which I love because it reminds me of bread I had in Europe in the summer) and their Organic Orange Cranberry Sauce. Layer the turkey, stuffing, and sauce on the bread and smush (technical term) together. Brush the outside with olive oil.

One of my friends saw pictures of this sandwich in my Flickr a few days ago and emailed me wondering if I had a panini press. No, have you seen how expensive they are???? I use the George Foreman grill which my father gave me for Christmas a few years ago (even though I old him I prefer to grill on the gas grill outside) and which sits in the back of the bottom shelf gathers dust. It works perfectly as a panini press!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


When is the last time that you were greeted at the door of a restaurant with a huge bowl of matches? Most restaurants don't do that anymore, but Mario's does. It's that kind of restaurant that seems do be frozen in time in the 1960's, a place that could be the setting of a mafia movie or an old supper club. We ate here on Friday night before our monthly concert with the Detroit Symphony. I can remember hearing about Mario's as being a very classy restaurant back in the 70's, but this was my first visit.

The atmosphere here is a faded elegance - definitely what was considered fancy way back when with the mirrors and fabric on the wall, sparkly lighting, and Italianish accents. Things look a bit worn around the edges which I guess adds to it's quirky charm. This isn't a place that has tried to create that effect, I think they just haven't updated in a while. I was a bit annoyed with required coat check (ok, why would insurance require coats to be checked, I'd like to know!) and an attendant in the restroom that hands you a paper towel (and guilts you into tipping). But the wait staff was attentive and nicely dressed in black tie and the table set with real linens. Although not full, it was busy - Mario's is popular with people who attend events downtown because of their shuttle service.

The menu had a lot of variety and most of the pasta and chicken entrees were about 20 dollars. This is quite reasonable because the price includes multiple courses. The meal starts with an antipasto plate that had salami, shrimp, olives, peppers, tapenade, green onions, celery, and beets. The bread basket was filled with crusty white bread and bread sticks. Second course was a salad that had a very tangy Italian dressing. Then we had onion soup - it wasn't covered with melted cheese but it was thick and had a nice rich flavor. Then came a small plate of pasta with tomato sauce - nothing special.

My friends had Chicken Mario and a canneloni plate. I had Chicken Francaise which was chicken with a white wine sauce with mushrooms and green onions. Very nice. It came served with green beans that were cooked perfectly and roasted potatoes that had a wonderful golden crust. Actually, I think the vegetables were my favorite part of the meal, isn't that strange?

When the waiter was boxing up our leftovers, it dawned on me, "I should have taken pictures for the blog." Alas, too late, so below is a picture of my leftovers before I ate them for supper tonight. (Yes, there is chicken under the mushrooms!)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cathedrals in Black and White

I recently replaced the pictures on my bathroom wall with these images of cathedrals which I took in Europe last summer. I enhanced and turned them black and white using Picnik. When I look at them every morning, it serves as a reminder to begin my day with worship.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Crunchy Apple Slaw

I hate mayonnaise and salad dressing. I'm out of luck at picnics where the side dishes are potato salad and coleslaw and macaroni salad. Yuck! Unless of course they are made with a nice tangy vinaigrette rather than mayo.

The apples add a refreshing twist to this sweet and tangy slaw recipe. Add a grilled chicken breast and you have a wonderful salad for a lunch!

Crunchy Apple Slaw

Put the following ingredients in a medium sized jar and shake until mixed:

1/4 cup rice vinegar
juice of one orange
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
freshly ground pepper

In a bowl mix together:

4 cups sliced cabbage mix (from a bag)
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 gala apples, cut in matchstick pieces
1/3 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped (I usually just snip it with a scissors.)

Toss with the dressing about a half hour before serving.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chenille Snowmen

Well, the last of the Christmas decorations (the little houses) came down over the weekend, but the snowmen are still up on the shelves in the dining room. I have a tradition - I keep them up until all hope of a snow day has disappeared!

I created the snowmen that are in today's post out of an old chenille bedspread. I found it at the Salvation Army a number of years ago and it's been the source of several fun projects. In fact, now I have a stash of old chenille bedspread bits in different colors which I have tucked away waiting for inspiration to hit me. Buttons and felt provide the embellishments. And the hats - would you believe they come from the ribbing from the top of an old sock that was full of holes?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Salmon and Spinach

I made this dish a few days ago. I was playing around with a recipe I found in an ad for McCormick seasonings in Bon Appetit. I liked it, but didn't love it, so I'm not going to give the recipe - it needs further work! It involved marinating the salmon in orange juice, olive oil, and thyme. Before cooking you cover it with a rub of brown sugar, paprika, cinnamon, orange peel, salt, and thyme. I served baby spinach on the side which I dressed with fresh orange juice and olive oil and fresh thyme. The flavor of the orange and cinnamon mixed with the paprika is unique - it is supposed to be a dish with a Spanish flair. I guess I have other salmon recipes that I love a lot more, so I probably won't hurry back to this one!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pearly Whites

Pretty pearly white fresh water pearls - yes, I can't resist them. Normally I make very symmetrical jewelry where the left and right side are identical, but for this necklace I grabbed an assortment of various sizes of pearls and mixed them with some quartz beads and even a few pearly buttons. It took forever to wind the wires for every pearl, but I love the end result!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cookie Tin

Does anyone else out there buy food just because you want the container that it is in? I saw these cookies at Trader Joe's for $3.39 in this cute tin. There were only 8 in the container. They were good - two crispy wafers with a chewy caramel layer in between. But what I really wanted was the blue and white tin which would match my blue and white bedroom! Plus the picture reminded me of the canals of the Netherlands from the summer. How could I resist buying it?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Stracoto (or "You will want to lick the plate" beef roast)

Well, today was back to school. No more time to sit around 2 hours in the morning reading and writing blogs and playing with digital pictures. Reality (sigh).

Today's recipe comes pretty much straight off the Food Network so I will just supply the link rather than rewrite it. I know it is a favorite of my friend Sally, and it it is quite easy. The one change that I do is I double the ingredients that are used to make the sauce. Yes, double. Because the gravy is so good, you will want to lick your plate clean. In fact, you may want to eat just the sauce alone without the roast beef!

I made this a few days ago when a friend stopped in to exchange Christmas gifts. I served it with red skin potatoes that I tossed in herbs and olive oil and roasted for about the last 40 minutes in the oven. Enjoy, and prepare to lick the plate clean!

Here is the link:
Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Beads in Black

I made another couple of necklaces a few days ago - one as a gift for a friend and one for me. After taking pictures of the last set of necklaces, I realized it is difficult to get interesting and detailed images of jewelry. I did a little looking around on Flickr to find some people who have creative ways to photograph their bead creations. For this one I used an old ceramic glove mold that I've had for quite a while. The black beads are czech crystals that I bought at my favorite bead store, Munro Crafts in Berkley.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Blue Bottle Garden in the Snow

There are no flowers in my garden this time of year, but the blue bottles look beautiful beneath the "snow blossoms."

My blue bottles were inspired by a similar collection that I saw in Alaska. I like the bit of color they add to the garden this time of year.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Grown Up Mac 'n Cheese

I have been known to drive almost an hour to Ann Arbor just to have the Smoked Chicken Macaroni and Cheese at Zingerman's Roadhouse. It probably is a good thing that the restaurant in not located closer!

I've played around with making my own version of this dish. And please don't let my doctor (who wants my cholesterol level to go down) know that I have been making it! I did use lighter cheese when I made the latest batch. And although it sounds rich, it really isn't overwhelmingly cheesey. I usually eat a couple of meals of it, and then freeze the rest in those little plastic containers, which seems to work fine and lets me pull out a serving when I need a touch of comfort food!

This is one of those recipes that is easy to play with. I've made it with seafood and with proscuitto instead of the chicken. I've used different cheese combinations and left out various veggies. So give it a try with whatever you have leftover in the fridge.

Grown Up Mac 'n Cheese
  • 1 pound macaroni style pasta (I used Martelli penne which is an excellent but pricey imported pasta, but any kind should work)
Cook the pasta in boiling salted water. Leave the pasta slightly undercooked (or it will get mushy when you bake it). Save a cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

While the pasta is boiling, combine the following in a large bowl:
  • 8 ounce container of mascarpone cheese or creme fraiche
  • 3 cups cheese (I used 1 1/2 cups Cabots 75% reduced fat cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 cups lite cheese blend - both from Trader Joes.)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust to your preference, but a little adds a great kick!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Add the pasta into the cheese mixture and combine. Then mix in:
  • 2 to 3 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (I buy the grilled chicken strips from Trader Joes to make this easy)
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 ears fresh corn - slice the corn off the ears and use raw (trust me, this adds a sweet crunch!)
  • 3 ounces of sun dried tomatoes, chopped
If the mixture seems dry, add a little of the saved pasta water. You could even add more cheese or cream if you want a cheesier creamier sauce.

Spray a large lasagna pan with non-stick spray. Fill the pan with the pasta and cover with foil. Bake in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes until heated through. Remove from the oven and then top with a mixture of:
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup cheese
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
Return to the oven for about 10 more minutes until the bread crumbs are slightly browned. Remove from the oven and let set for about 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


I've always wanted to eat at Tribute - a four star restaurant in the metro Detroit area. Over the past half year they have been advertising a 20 dollar, 2 course, prix fixe lunch. Today I met a friend there and we treated ourselves to a post holiday celebration where we could exchange Christmas presents.

It looks small from the outside, and I thought the valet parking was a bit ridiculous when they ended up parking the car about 5 spaces from the door! The inside is very plush and we sat at these circular booths with very high backs.

My friend had a potato leak soup with roasted garlic that was drizzled with white truffle oil. Ooooh, this was really good!

For an entre my friend had salmon with Israeli couscous drizzled with some 20 year old balsamic. My entre was monkfish on a bed of kalamata olive pesto with spinach and carmelized fennel and bacon. The portion size was somewhat small (and looked even smaller on the huge long serving plates), but every bite was delicious!

I opted for the dessert - a chocolate creme brulee topped with fresh berries. Really yummy!

The wait staff was attentive - we had lots of coffee and tea. It was a nice treat and a nice way to try out a classy restaurant!


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