Thursday, July 31, 2008

Graphic Tee

There are a lot of t-shirts out there with kinda cool grungy graphic designs on them. The problem is they are too tight and have these teeny sleeves which don't look that attractive on those of us that aren't teenagers. I had bought a t-shirt from Eddie Bauer and thought I'd jazz it up by creating my own iron-on graphic design.

I used the Print Shop program and some free swirly looking digital scrapbooking elements that I had collected to make the design. The circles were some samples of fabric that I liked on some fabric websites. I copied the fabric image onto my design and cropped them into circle shapes. Then I printed the design onto iron on paper sheets. (You can purchase these at most office supply stores.) Remember if you have words on your design to check the command to reverse the design before you print.

I cut the design out close to the edges. Then with a hot iron with no steam I ironed the design, pressing hard and being careful not to move it. I ironed it for several minutes, then let it cool for about a minute before removing the paper.

Here is the end result. This is closer to the true color - the rest of the pictures I took at night and the color is off.

I used mostly dark images in this design because the shirt was dark and I knew it would mute the colors. The one part I don't like is on the left - it was a lighter color swirl and you can't see it at all, it just looks like a muddy mess. I'll know better next time. I'd like to try something similar on a lighter color shirt because I know the results will be better.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Let There Be Light!

Clever Karen should be renamed "Handy Andy" this week. I am in the midst of plethora of cleaning/painting/fixing projects around the house. (The local hardware stores are rejoicing that I am doing my part for the economy!)

One of my projects was to paint the ceiling and trim in the kitchen and then replace this lamp. I have been wanting to replace this light fixture for many years, but couldn't find something I liked that had a 100 watt bulb. Finally I bought a light at Ikea that had more of a track light style. When I went to install it, the placement holes for the screws was in different places - maybe because it is European. Couldn't figure out how to install it, so that one is going to be returned to Ikea. Yesterday I found a different fixture at Home Depot and went to install it last night.

Everything fit correctly and after about 20 minutes I had all the wires connected. I went into the basement to turn the power back on and then flipped on the light. Nothing. Turned off the power, tightened the wires again, turned on power, flipped on light. Still nothing.

Bummed and frustrated I pull out the direction sheet from the box. While doing that I noticed three small boxes sitting on the table. DUH! I guess it would help to put the bulbs into the fixture!

With the bulbs installed in their sockets, I flipped the switch and tada, it worked. I don't love it - the halogen light bulbs give a different kind of light that is more directed to specific spots and doesn't seem as bright. But at least it is a fresh look and will do for now. Ok, gotta get back to my projects. More later.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tahiti Blondies

Several months ago I watched an episode of Bobby Flay's Throwdown on the Food Network which featured making blondies. They featured a Tahiti Blondie from a shop called Sugar Daddies that was made with pineapple and coconut and studded with white chocolate and macadamia nuts. Alas, no recipe! So I've been searching the internet for a similar recipe. I found a couple of good options, from Genesis of a Cook and from Second Helpings that helped inspire my version of the recipe.

This is a dangerous recipe to make - I find myself continuously cutting little slices off to nibble throughout the day. I think the crushed pineapple makes them a bit more cakelike rather than like the dense texture of a typical blondie, but I don't care, these are so good. I brought them to a recent teacher seminar for a treat and they were a hit! I served them in a square shape, but if you want to make them look fancy, cut them out in circles like they do at Sugar Daddies.

Tahiti Blondies

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups coconut
1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup crushed pineapple (8 ounce can, drained and pressed to remove as much juice as possible)

Preheat oven the 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray (and line with parchment paper if you want to remove the blondies to cut into circles).

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In another bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir. Blend in the flour mixture, then add the coconut, nuts, pineapple, and white chocolate. Do not over mix or the blondies will be tough. Pour into the pan.

Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until lightly golden. Do not over bake. Cool before cutting. (Ok, I confess, I usually eat one warm from the pan and it is divine!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Vintage Treasures

Last week I unearthed a couple of new vintage fabric treasures. The first one was a tablecloth that I found at the Royal Oak Garage Sale last Saturday. I have a collection of old tablecloths. I have fun looking for them and part of the game is that they don't cost any more than 10 dollars. As more and more people are collecting tablecloths, the price has gone up, so it is harder to find ones cheap enough to buy. This one was marked 10 dollars, and (without even having to ask) the vendor told me he'd take five! SOLD!

It was the colors that I like, had a floral/fruit print, and didn't have any damage or stains. I really love the graphic designs on these old tableclothes. More scans of my collection are here on Flickr.

Also, I had blogged a few days ago about buying old postcards last week at the Wooden Shoe Antique Market in Holland. My other purchase there was this old quilt for 25 dollars. When I saw the tag, I thought surely it was a mistake, but it wasn't. I grabbed it!

Now it does have a faded spot, some damaged fabric, and a frayed corner - it has been well loved. And some paint on the back side, by some *guy* who probably used it as a drop cloth. Even with the damage, I think it is wonderful. For 25 dollars I can cut it up to use for pillows and other projects. I love the design and the muted colors. What great bargains, huh???

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Daylily Day

I've discovered that daylilies grow quite well in the partial sun/shade that I have in my garden. This time of year most of the varieties are in bloom. I have a variety of colors - I especially like the ones that have double sets of petals. Enjoy!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Zingerman's Roadhouse

Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor is a great place to go if you love food and like to try things made with quality ingredients. I love their macaroni and cheese, and enjoy tasting new things there. Not everything is a 10, but there always are fun foods to explore.

A recent visit with friends (and their kids) was really fun. We ordered lots of different things and spent a couple hours just eating and talking.

The meal started with crusty bread from their bakeshop topped with homemade butter from their creamery. They also gave us a sampler plate with some barbeque and creamed corn. One of the great things about this restaurant is that they will give you a little taste sample of things before you order.

Scott ordered corn dogs as an appetizer (great flavor, could have been more crispy), and had a sandwich for the main meal. Sally had the fried chicken (which was juicy and crunchy) and the kids had chicken fingers. I had the barbeque sampler plate (which is featured on Thursdays). It had a little taste of the brisket, pulled pork, and chicken wings and I got the sweet potato fries. The fries were thick cut and good - not as good as the crispy fries at the Burger Bar though. I especially liked the brisket - loved the sauce! The sample portions were unexpectedly small, however. I guess that's what sampler means. At least there was plenty of room for dessert!


Do you think she likes ranch dressing?

For dessert we shared a citrus cake and the kids got the chocolate pudding. We thought the cake was a bit dry and needed a punch more of citrus. I also asked for a sample of the macaroon gelato and that truly was the best! Wish I had gotten that instead of the cake. However the pudding was a hit - deep rich flavor from Scharffen Berger chocolate. Even the kids liked it, as you can see below!



Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vintage Travel Postcards

When I saw that "Sunday Show and Tell" was featuring vintage paper collections this week, I thought it would be fun to show off the vintage postcards that I picked up at the Wooden Shoe Antique Market in Holland, Michigan a few days ago. My favorite booth is the huge postcard booth - what a collection, all organized by place or theme. I was looking for postcards from places that I visited on my trip out west this summer, and it had a large selection of cards from the Grand Canyon, Bryce, and Zion National Parks. Here is what I ended up purchasing (sorry about the glare on the images, the light today is terrible, and no time to edit right now):

Vintage postcards were the inspiration for the colors in my travel themed office/craft room. I use them as decoration and on my inspiration boards. (You can see more pictures of my office here on Flickr.) Postcards are from Yellowstone and Washington State.

I recently organized this old screen to display postcards, tickets, and more. I had a hard time figuring out how to attach things - finally discovered small paper clips could be stuck into the screen holes if you have a steady hand.

Well, I have lots more vintage postcards, but hopefully these pictures show you some of the clever ways you can use your collection to decorate.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chocolate Lava Cakes

I overcooked these wonderful cakes for our gourmet picnic. Alas, no lava to run out when you dig your fork in to take a bite. Maybe I should rename them as "Extinct" Lava Cakes. Well, they still tasted wonderful with a rich and dense chocolate flavor. A sprinkle of raspberries over the top and some vanilla ice cream on the side were the perfect accompaniments for this dessert.

This recipe is adapted from the Taste and Tell blog.

Chocolate Lava Cakes

2 sticks unsalted butter, plus an extra tablespoon for buttering the pan
unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting the pan
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Use a jumbo sized muffin tin with 6 openings, 3 inches deep. Coat each opening with butter and then dust with cocoa powder, shaking out the extra. (You could also use custard cups.)

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a pan over low heat. Meanwhile, beat the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Mix for about 5 minutes, until pale and almost doubled in size.

Fold in the melted chocolate mixture. Then wisk in the flour until smooth. Pour into the muffin tin - each cup will be filled almost to the top. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until slightly puffed and the top is just set. A toothpick should come out with batter still attached. (DO NOT OVERBAKE OR YOU WILL HAVE LAVA-LESS CAKES LIKE ME!!)

To remove, run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen. Lay a cookie sheet over the top and flip over. Serve with raspberries and ice cream or whatever else sounds good.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Italian Coleslaw

Here's another quick and easy no measure recipe from our picnic last week. Since I don't like mayonnaise, this is an fast and refreshing way to to make coleslaw.

Italian Coleslaw

bagged coleslaw mix (in salad section, usually has shredded cabbage and carrots)
Italian Dressing (use your favorite - I used one of those little Good Seasons packets that you mix up yourself in a little shaker)
fresh parsley, roughly choppped
green onion, sliced

Combine in a bowl and serve! That's it!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Anne's Potato Rolls

Hope you aren't bored with these recipes from last week's gourmet picnic - I still have a few more left to share!

This recipe comes from my friend Anne who makes these rolls every year for Thanksgiving. I love this recipe because these rolls are so soft and tender! I thought they would be nice to eat with our burgers.

I have adapted her recipe for my trusty bread machine! Also, I use instant potato flakes so it takes no time at all to throw the ingredients together in the bread machine. I sometimes like to add fresh rosemary to make the most delicious Rosemary Potato Rolls, too!

Anne's Potato Rolls

1/2 cup mashed potato flakes
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast (regular or quick rise)
1/2 cup water
3 cups bread flour

Scald the milk. Add the potato flakes, butter, sugar, and salt. When the butter has melted, wisk the mixture until combined.

Add the flour, 1/2 cup water, and potato mixture into the pan of the bread machine. Put the yeast in the yeast dispenser. Set the machine to the dough cycle and run according to your machine's directions. While the dough is being mixed, check it. It should be soft and slightly sticky; add a touch more water if if seems stiff. Let it rise in the bread machine.

Remove the dough from the machine and put on a lightly floured surface. Separate into balls. I make 8 or 9 balls in a round or square 8 inch baking pan. Or put the rolls on a cookie sheet if you want to bake as separate buns. (For the mini burgers I did 12 rolls per batch.)

Let the rolls rise until almost doubled. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees. The individual rolls take 10 to 15 minutes; if they are in a pan, it will take longer to cook the all the way through to the center. Upon removing from the oven, brush the tops with butter if desired!

Eat warm - of course! No one could resist one fresh out of the oven!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Herbed Flat Breads

When I saw a flatbread recipe in the May 2008 issue of Bon Appetit, it reminded me of the great homemade bread that they use for gyros at a local Coney Island from where I sometimes pick up dinner on my way home from work. The Bon Appetit recipe used Indian spices, but I changed the recipe to give it an Italian twist by using the fresh herbs from my garden.

There is no yeast in these little breads and they are surprisingly quick and easy to make! They taste wonderful hot out of the pan with a little crispiness. We enjoyed them at the picnic - they are perfect for toppings! Next time I plan to try to cook them on the outside grill.

Here I have one topped with apricot jam and goat cheese. Stick it in the toaster oven for a couple minutes to crisp up the bread and melt the cheese. They work great with other toppings, too: caramelized onions, pesto, or tapinade.

Herbed Flat Breads

1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
1 teaspoon garlic
chopped fresh rosemary
olive oil for frying

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, soda, garlic, and rosemary in a bowl. Add the yogurt and mix with a fork until small clumps form. Knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it just comes together into a ball of soft dough, adding more flour or yogurt if needed.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for one minute until just smooth. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll into balls. Use a well floured rolling pin to roll each ball into a flat circle of about 4 to 5 inches.

Heat a large sized skillet over medium heat and brush with olive oil. Working in batches, cook the flatbreads until golden and puffy, about 3 minutes on each side.

When just out of the pan, I brushed the top of each bread with a mixture of olive oil, fresh rosemary, and a little salt. Serve fresh, or reheat for a few minutes in the oven to give them a little bit of crunch.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chutney Turkey Burgers

Oprah is so convincing. (I guess that is why they pay her the big bucks!) When she raved about the Mar-a-lago turkey burgers as being the best in the world, I practically ran out to the store to buy some ground turkey so I could try the recipe! (We enjoyed these at our picnic feast this week, although I think there was too much "stuff" chopped inside of them for the kids.)

I made a smaller batch of little turkey burger "sliders" based on her recipe. And I used a mango chutney from Trader Joes which tasted wonderful both in the burger and on top of it! (However during my last stop at Trader Joes, the mango chutney was gone!!! Those of you who shop at Trader Joes know the frustration of seeing a favorite product disappear. Alas! They did have a cranberry chutney though, which actually might make an interesting twist with a bit of a Thanksgiving flavor next time I try the recipe.)

I really liked the flavor of this turkey burger - the apple inside of it makes it moist and the chutney adds a nice flavor twist. Oprah's website also had a pear chutney that they put on top which I didn't try, but sounded great. Maybe next time!

Chutney Turkey Burgers

1 pound ground white meat turkey
1 or 2 scallions, chopped
1 or 2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup mango chutney (or other chutney) - I just put a big spoonful
chopped cilantro or parsley (about a 1/4 of a bunch)
1 lemon (grate the peel, also you'll use the juice of half the lemon)
salt and pepper

Cook the chopped scallion, celery, and apple in the canola oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Let cool slightly. In a bowl, mix the cooked apple, turkey, chutney, cilantro or parsley, grated peel of 1 lemon, juice of half the lemon, salt, and pepper.

Form into burgers. Cover with plastic wrap and let the burgers rest in the refrigerator for 3 hours. (This is important - it allows the burgers to firm up so they don't fall apart when you put them on the grill!) It made about 10 -12 of the mini burgers, but I'm sure regular sized burgers would work fine.

Cook on an oiled grill over medium heat. I think these would also work fine if cooked in a pan or on a George Foreman grill. Serve with a dab of chutney on top!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Feasting with Friends Menu

I only do a gourmet meal like this once a year, so I really went all out! (Note: I've linked to any of the recipes that I've already posted. I will be posting many of the other recipes over the next few days.)

Our menu was inspired by my meal at the Burger Bar in Las Vegas. I decided to make a variety of mini "slider" burgers. Here is the menu:

Burgers: Beef, Turkey, Salmon. Also grilled chicken. All were mini sized

Rolls: Onion Rye, Potato, Rosemary Flatbreads. All were mini sized.

Toppings: Caramelized Onions, Mango Chutney, Sun Dried Tomato Tapenade, Fig Jam, Bacon, Goat Cheese, and a variety of other cheeses. We had fun trying different taste cominations on the burgers.

Side Dishes: Italian Coleslaw, Caponata, Crispy Rosemary Redskin Potatoes

Dessert: Lava Cake with fresh raspberries, Chocolate Freckle Ice Cream

Sound good? Stay tuned for recipes!

Technical Note - Search Clever Karen

Just a quick technical note - I've added a search box to the tool bar on the right. This will let you search for specific posts on topics. I personally needed some way to find recipes that I've posted online without going through the entire list! Maybe you'll find it helpful, too!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Picnic Plates and more

Before I start sharing all the food and recipes from the picnic yesterday, I wanted to show you the fun dishes that I used. Most of the plates I got a few years ago at Rite Aid - most were a dollar or less at end of the season sales. The table linens are bandanas that I got a few years ago at Walmart. I sewed 4 bandanas together to make the table cloth. Again, the bandanas were a dollar each. Bright, but fun!

The weather was perfect for eating outside. This cozy spot is perfect for grilling and enjoying the garden. Stay tuned - the food is coming!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Feasting with Friends

Having a summer time feast with my friends Sally and Scott has been an annual tradition for many years. Way back, when they moved into my neighborhood, we discovered we shared a fervor for food, travel, education, books, and our faith. At some point I started inviting them over for a once a year gourmet grilled meal where I went all out with trying to be fun and creative with my cooking. Since they moved out of state, I don't get the chance every year to have them over for a feast. But this summer they were in town for a short visit and I have spent weeks mulling over what the menu would be and days shopping and cleaning and cooking.

Over the next week I will share lots of food and recipes. I think I have enough new things to fill at least a week's worth of posts. But here are a few pictures from their visit.

Sally dressed the girls up in cute white outfits to take pictures in the garden.

The girls got to play with the doll house. (And with the cat. And I introduced them to Webkins.)

Raspberry nail polish!

We ate and ate, Lots more about the food to come!


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