Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NAC: Noel

At this rate I should be labeling these posts as NACC (Not Another Christmas Card). I can't help it! This inspiration came from Andrea Walford's mistletoe card. She shows how to create mistletoe leaves using circle punches which I thought was really creative. (http://andreawalford.com/?p=3162) Instead of using two different sized punches, I just used my 3/4" punch to create the holly berries & the leaves. After some faux stitching on the punched shapes, I assembled some silver chipboard thickers from American Crafts to spell "noel". I kinda wish American Crafts would carry small thickers. These things are huge on cards!

Monday, September 28, 2009

NAC: Joy

Yes yes.. I know it's early for Christmas but as a lot of cardmakers know, you can never be too early for Christmas cards. I have a bunch to make so why not start now? The inspiration for this card came from Kristina Werner's MACM (http://www.kwernerdesign.com/blog/?p=2207) and her Ribbon Weaved card (http://www.kwernerdesign.com/blog/?p=368). I simply loved the look of the two cards and combined it into this plaid design. I have to say by far that this is one of my favorite cards that I've made so far. Sorry about the lighting. My camera was about to die.

Do you like my kindergarten looking sketch? I knew "Merry Christmas" wouldn't fit on the card so I chose a simple Christmasy word.

Friday, September 25, 2009

NAC: Dad's Birthday

My dad's birthday was earlier this week but we're celebrating on Sunday. Tonight was the perfect chance to make his card. He's huge into astronomy so I made a card based on stars. My friends also helped me come up with a name for my card line. I'm not selling cards yet but once I get good enough, I'll go under the alias Hallsnark. Do you like the upsidedown crown ;) Hopefully it won't be taken by the time I get to that level if it hasn't already. I'm also creating a new category for cardmaking and calling it "NAC", Not Another Card.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cooking: Bulgur Wheat Salad

Man I'm trying all new stuff these past few weeks huh? First baking and now bulgur wheat? Luckily this time I didn't run into too many issues. The only thing that happened was me not looking at the directions on the package of the bulgur wheat and seeing that it needed to soak for an hour. An hour?! Justyn was hungry and I needed to put food on the table. I only soaked it for 20 minutes before draining, boiling and draining it again.

Oh yeah.. and this is my very own recipe for it too :)

Bulgur Wheat Pasta
2 cups bulgur wheat
1 cup chick broth
1 can drained chickpeas
1 container of feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 roma tomatoes diced
2 drumsticks & 1 chicken breast roasted and diced (just buy the store rotisserie chicken)
4 gloves garlic minced
1 lemon zested & juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp butter
salt & pepper to taste

Soak bulgur wheat for 1 hour (yeah right.. I only soaked it for 20 minutes) in cold water and then drain it.

Boil chicken broth, butter & drained bulgur wheat. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and move the pot off the burner. Let it sit there for 15 minutes and then drain excess liquid.

Combine the tomato, chickpeas, feta cheese, chicken, parsley, green onion & mint.

Once the 15 mins is up on the bulgur, combine it with the tomato mixture and serve.

Super easy weeknight dinner. Pretty healthy too.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Baking: Maple Bacon Cupcakes

Baking?! Yes.. I finally baked dessert. Cupcakes to be exact. This is the third time in my life that I've made them. The first two times were out of a Disney cook book when my sister and I were little kids. Based on that experience and the simplicity of that recipe, I wondered.. how hard could it be to make maple bacon cupcakes? I found this recipe through tastespotting thought it was an interesting mix of savory and sweet. Link: http://lifewithcake.com/2009/05/french-toast-and-bacon-cupcakes/

I studied the recipe briefly but forgot to print out the recipe before I went to the store. When I got home with my groceries, I checked the recipe and found I was missing heavy cream and maple extract. Poop. Two trips to the grocery store later, I was all set.

I started out by making the batter and that's where I messed up. I accidentally added the maple instead of the vanilla extract. *sigh* Oh well. After making the batter, I needed to whip the egg whites. However, when I separated the egg yolks, I discarded the egg whites into the sink. Dammit! Luckily I still had three more eggs to work with. I whipped the whites until they were stiff and folded them into the batter. After distributing the fluffy batter into their cupcake holders, I baked them at 375 degrees for 25 minutes since my oven runs a little hot.

While the cupcakes were baking away, I made the frosting by combining powdered sugar & butter. When the mixture was well combined and kinda fluffy, I added the heavy cream and vanilla extract since I didn't want to duplicate the maple flavor in the frosting. When the frosting was done, I put it in the fridge to cool. The recipe said the frosting would keep in the fridge for 3 days.

When the cupcakes were done, I put them onto a plate to cool overnight. I was pooped. This whole process took me about 2.5 hours.

This morning, I baked the bacon and checked on the frosting. What the hell?? The frosting had hardened and was completely unuseable. I should've figured that butter hardens back up once you put it in the fridge. I didn't feel like waiting for it to soften up again so I made a complete new batch. I used a ziplock bag with one of the corners cut off as a piping bag but the first few looked like white poop on a cupcake. Only ONE cupcake looked decent enough to give to Justyn. I topped it with a piece of bacon and lit the candle. He said it was really good but way too much frosting. I agree. The frosting would even be too much for a sugar fiend. He scraped off most of it and after that it tasted pretty good.

After a lot of lessons learned... here's how it turned out.
The rejects

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cooking: Balsamic & Shallot Jam (?)

It was warm out tonight and I was in definite need of veggies so I bought ingrediants so that Justyn and I could have a snacky dinner. I sliced up some cucumber, roma tomatoes, bell peppers and served with some dutch crunch loaf with some coppa (dry cured meat). I also made a quick balsamic shallot & garlic jam by heating up some olive oil and butter, adding sliced shallot & minced garlic. I also added some red chili flake, salt & pepper. When the shallots were softened enough, I added a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 2: Rock Removal

It was a lot cooler today than when we first started removing these rocks. I spent the entire week looking for a contractor or someone licensed to get rid of these annoying things but to no avail. So, today we worked on them ourselves. It still doesn't look like we accomplished much but Justyn's truck is already full! If anyone knows of a good company that can hire a crew to take care of the rest of this in one day, please let me know!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Crafting: Patterened Paper Flag Garland

I recently discovered LifeFlix.blogspot.com through CreatureComforts.com and saw these really cute mini flag garlands (Link: http://lifeflix.blogspot.com/2009/09/still-learning.html). They looked simple enough to make and I had a ton of American Crafts patterned paper lying around that I hadn't used before. This project is definitely good for using up whatever scraps you have too.

Here's how mine turned out. It's hanging above our bed kinda acting as a faux headboard. I plan on making two more strands so the wall doesn't look so naked.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

White Gel Pen

Kristina Werner, might I remind you, one of my favorite card designers recently did a review on white gel pens. I thought the one I had was pretty good until I saw her video review. Yeah... I think I'm gonna have to splurge on getting the White Signo Gel Pen in Broad.

Here's a sample from my pen.

Cooking: Hainese Chicken Rice

SteamyKitchen.com recently did a post on the infamous Hainese Chicken Rice. It made me drool just reading the title of the post. I seriously love this stuff and around here I haven't yet found a place that serves a good version. The instructions seemed straight forward so today since I had time, I decided to try it out.

I couldn't find a free range organic chicken at my local supermarket, so I just bought a Foster Farms chicken. I did rub it down with salt to exfoliate as per directions from Jaden. Look at how lumpy and bump it looks compared to her chicken.. blech.

The skin was already torn when I bought the chicken but whatever. I liberally seasoned it with salt and pepper and then stuffed it with some green onion, ginger & cilantro.

I let it boil for about 45 minutes because for some reason, the chicken wasn't coming up to tempurature. However when I tested it with the thermometer, the liquid that came out of the hole was clear so I figured I was safe.

Into an "ice" bath it went. I forgot I didn't have any ice whatsoever *sigh*

Justyn helped me hack up the chicken with a cleaver since I wasn't cutting it.

Here it is plated.

I loooved this recipe! It turned out very well despite the fact that it was not a free range organic chicken and since I had no ice. The flavor of the soup was amazingly deep from the aromatics in the chicken and the chicken itself and I looved the chicken with the spicy sauce. The rice was savory and full of flavor from the broth. I'll definitely make this again. Justyn said it was OK but he said it's just not his kind of food. Oh well!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cooking: Japanese Curry

Ahh yes.. one of my favorite go to comfort meals. I was pretty wiped out from the weekend and we had just finished watching Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations in New York. He sampled a bunch of different yet delicious looking food and my mouth was already salavating even though we just ate lunch not to long ago.

I looked at my favorite food blogs but didn't find anything quick and easy to make so we defaulted to Japanese Curry. Yummm..

Labor Day Weekend

It's kinda interesting how you take certain things for granted like the fresh salty smell of the ocean, the gorgeous view from a hill top or the awesome weather that we have here in California.

Justyn and I spent Labor Day weekend in Half Moon Bay. He recently bought a Miata and we decided to take full advantage of the great weather and drove along the coast with the top down. The drive was really breathtaking and fun. Normally I hate long drives, especially windy ones but this was just so amazing.

Eventually we made it to the bed & breakfast place called Seal Cove Inn. I was casually perusing hotels.com and came across this place that had no ratings. The pictures looked inviting enough so we booked it. When we checked in, they couldn't find us in the computer which had me a little worried but as soon as I provided the confirmation number and proof that we had actually booked a room, the front desk was more than accomodating. In fact, because of the mess up between hotels.com & Seal Cove Inn, they upgraded our room for free! Check out this place. It's seriously beautiful and relaxing. They even gifted us a free bottle of white wine :)

We had a few hours to kill before dinner so we followed some signs to a distillery. We thought it was going to be a distillery of spirits or something but it ended up being a bar/restaurant. We parked and wandered around the property which was on top of a hill leading down to a beach.

We were originally going to go to Pacifica but I really wanted to visit the tide pools while the tide was low. I haven't seen them since I was a little kid so seeing them really took me back.

I forgot my camera for dinner at Sam's Chowderhouse but there wasn't any real loss there. I have a sneaking suspicion that we accidentally ate at a chain restaurant. I had a garlic roasted dungenness crab with swiss chard & old bay fries. Justyn ordered the lobster roll with polenta fries. Man, what a disappointment. Although the crab meat was sweet and well cooked, the sauce was a disaster. It was drowning in a big red grease pool. The swiss chard was actually spinach and they served the spinach on the same plate as the fries so they got soggy. Justyn's lobster roll and coleslaw were decent but nothing to write home about. His polenta fries were overly salty. Blech. In light of the food, we had a really nice view of the ocean & harbor.

We stopped by the store to pick up some ice cream & wine and enjoyed that on the balcony of our room. Justyn lit a fire and we just relaxed the night away. I had such an amazing time and as I'm typing this, I wish I could go back right now! It has been a long time since I felt that relaxed.

The next day we drove to Downtown Santa Cruz for lunch at a Greek place. IIRC, it's called The Greek. Not bad however I found the avogolemono soup to be waaay too tart. I added a bunch of pepper hoping to counteract it which helped a little. The gyros were fantastic though. As an added quirk, they put french fries into the gyro instead of serving them on the side. After lunch, we walked around downtown and did some shopping before heading home. Thanks for the awesome weekend B :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cooking: Grilled Cheese

I was stumped for dinner so I asked Justyn what he wanted to do. He said the two magical words... grilled cheese. Why not? It's comforting and super easy to make.

Instead of American cheese we used Muenster and added ham. I cut the grilled cheese into cute triangles and served it with some salad with some of my favorite salad dressing, Pietro's Shoyu. Yum!