Sunday, February 27, 2011

So Grateful

I work outside of the home 2 days a week, and after getting ready for work on Thursday afternoon- I came downstairs to find this scene in my backyard...

Grateful- is an understatement. 

I am truly blessed to have a father who is both willing and able to care for my children while I am at work.

For us- it is necessary that we both work- and although it causes a lot of stress and strife at times-  I am grateful that I do not have to work out of the home full time, and that the times when I am away from my children- they can be with family-
So. Very. Grateful.

Love you Pop.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

3 New Paintings!

Here are my latest paintings- inspired by the winter landscape on my parents old country road...

(mixed media, acrylic paint, 30"x 10")

The painting below I am donating to a silent auction for Z's annual preschool fundraiser.

(mixed media, acrylic paint, 8"x 8")

(mixed media, acrylic paint, 8"x 8")

The other two I will be posting in my Etsy shop and are available for purchase:) You can check out some in-process shots here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Birthday Request: Brownie Bottom Cheesecake

It was my Dad's, sweet baby boy's, and my husband's birthdays all within the first 8 days of the month.  So- needless to say we've been eating  more than our share of sweets around here!

Last weekend I baked a special request dessert for B- a brownie bottom cheesecake- of which I had never made- and it came out pretty darn good. Here's what I did...

The brownie recipe came from a Moosewood cookbook (known for their amazing vegetarian recipes)- this brownie is not the best for picking up and eating- but totally delicious as the base for a sundae- OR (as they suggest in the book)- crumbled and frozen for sundae toppings.... (or a totally delicious frozen snack)

After gathering the few ingredients- I decided to line my spring form pan with waxed paper (this worked out okay- it did stick to the bottom (but easially peeled off)- maybe parchment? or a better pan?- I was worried that mine would leak so I opted to line it)

Then, I melted the butter and chocolate together in a sauce pan over low heat- while that's happening-
I beat the eggs together

added the brown sugar, and vanilla

then added the flour and whisked it all together

then I let the chocolate mixture cool a bit- then beat it into the remaining ingredients

then- I poured it into the lined pan and under baked it (16 min., as opposed to 2o-25)- my pan was larger than the recommended 8x8 inch brownie pan- plus I figured the brownie would be cooking again with the cheesecake...

Here's how it looked after 16 min.- done around the edges and a bit soft in the center

For the cheesecake recipe- I turned to the "bible" of classic recipes...

and opted for the creamy water bath cheesecake- simple recipe- a few ingredients- very straight forward

I started by creaming the room temperature cream cheese

then, added in the sugar

then- whipped in the vanilla, sour cream, milk (the recipe called for heavy cream which I replaced with skim milk), and eggs- 1 at a time

it has a pudding consistency when it's all combined
then I placed the brownie (in the pan) on top of a piece of foil-wrapped it around the edges- and then placed it in a roasting pan-poured the cheesecake batter on top- and slid it into the oven

then poured boiling water halfway up the pan to create a water bath around the cheescake- it creates a super-creamy cheesecake...

after baking it for an hour, I turned off the oven and propped the door open with a wooden basting brush and let it cool for another 2 hours before sticking it in the fridge overnight.

Here's a few shots of the finished product:
I ended up shaving some bittersweet chocolate on top- and serving it with homemade chocolate sauce, and Stonewall Kitchens Coffee Caramel sauce-

Brownies * I think I would double this if I made it again- or use a smaller spring form pan*
Source: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home Cookbook
1/2 cup butter
3 ounces chopped chocolate
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unbleached flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 8"x8" square pan. Melt butter and chocolate in a pot stirring occasionally. While they melt- beat eggs with a fork, add brown sugar and vanilla. Stir in the flour until the batter is smooth. Add in the melted butter/chocolate mixture. Pour batter into pan and bake 20 min. until the brownies are just beginning to pull away from the pan and fudegy in the center. For cake-like brownies- bake an additional 5 min.

Source: Joy of Cooking
ALL ingredients should be room temperature before starting

2lbs. (4 boxes) of cream cheese
11/2 cups of sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsps. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon zest (I omitted this- but it would be divine with a graham cracker crust and fresh blueberry sauce...maybe with a hint of mint in the sauce...)

Wrap outside of the pan in foil and place in a deep roasting dish.
Blend cream cheese until it's smooth, add in sugar and vanilla.  Add in eggs, 1 at a time beating until smooth, add in milk, sour cream and zest (if using). Pour into pan. Place pan in oven- pour boiling water into the roasting pan surrounding the cheesecake pan. Bake at 325 degrees 55-60 min. Bake until the edges look set but the center is still jiggly when you tap the pan. Turn off the oven- and prop the door open with a wooden spoon (or brush), for at least an hour. Let cool completely before unmolding.- its; best to refrigerate a cheesecake at least 5 hours before serving.

Happy baking!

Oh- and here's a glimpse at our latest past time...we call it floor sledding...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Back At IT...

I got a chance this evening- to work in my studio- uninterrupted- head phones on- and it was even in  (the very end of) daylight- and it was HEAVEN! 

Thank you, to the husband for coming home from work a little bit early- so that this could be possible (xoxo).

I started a new piece a couple weeks ago- and hadn't been back in to rework it until today.  I also started two more smaller paintings.  All three of them are inspired by a view on my parents road (where I grew up).  This view is gorgeous at all times of the year- but I found it particularly striking the other day- covered with drifted snow. 

I am really excited to see how these paintings turn out...the process of painting that I've been using with my latest series is a very exciting one.  I, as the artist am creating the paintings, and making decisions- but the materials also do a lot of the work- a lot of the time my decisions are based off of how the materials interact and move on the canvas.  So- when I say "I'm excited to see how they'll turn out"- it's because tomorrow (if I get a chance- fingers crossed) to go into my studio and peel off the leaves I will find very different paintings than when I left them.

Here's a few in-progress shots I took with a macro lens I'm borrowing from a friend- a new experience for me:)-lots of fun!

I will unveil them soon....oh- and I'll try to get a shot of the area of inspiration too!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Carby Comfort: Noodles with Shallots and Squash

I originally saw this recipe on an episode of 30 minute Meals with Rachel Ray (before I had the kiddos I would veg in front of Food Network when I returned home from work each day....ahh- the good ole' days;)
Anyhow- it's such a great dish- here I threw in some extra veggies- and roasted chick peas would have been good too-or chicken for you meat eaters out there.

I am a TOTAL carb-girl.  If I'm stressed, tired, hungry- give me the carbs!!! I like them in all forms- particularly the sweet, baked, bread, and pasta variety;)

Start by peeling and slicing 12 shallots (it's a tedious process since they are so tiny)

(I added 2 zucchini and a summer squash)

Then saute the shallots with apx. 2 Tbls olive oil, salt and pepper

Then  slice up a few pieces of bread, butter it generously, salt and pepper it and add a little garlic powder- and put it in the toaster oven

after cooking the shallots down for about- 10 min. on medium heat  add the squash and a little more salt and pepper

the pasta water should be boiling at this point- add some salt and the pasta (I used Trader Joe's whole wheat spaghetti)

When the toast is toasted to a crispy perfection- cut it into chunks and blended it up in the food processor

To make bread crumbs

Here's a great Rachel Ray tip- reserve a cup or so of the pasta water (take it out right before you drain the pasta)- add it to the pot when you toss all of the ingredients together- it helps keep the pasta moist when there's no sauce.

When the pasta is done- and the veggies look like this...

You toss it all together- and dig in!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Best Buttercream

I feel like I have "messed up" my share of buttercreams- and honestly the most common mistake is using butter that is too cold, but when I found this recipe- thank you Martha- it all clicked and I will never go back:)

To start- whip 3 sticks of room temp butter for 2 WHOLE minutes

When you're done it should look light and fluffy like this- then add in your vanilla- 2 tsp. (or any other flavorings- such as cocoa powder, lemon,  peppermint extract, chcoloate chips, you get the idea;)

Then- you gradually add in the powdered sugar (1 Lb. in total)- 1/2 cup at a time- all the while the mixer should be on medium speed.  Here' s the important part- every 2 sugar additions- turn the mixer up as high as it goes for 10 seconds- then back down to medium- until you've added all the sugar (this whips in some air and keeps the frosting light and fluffy)

There you have it!
A bowl of rich, buttery (of course), light and fluffy frosting perfection!

Perfect for piping onto pink valentines sugar cookies-YUM! (same dough as the basic vanilla from my Christmas cookie making post)

(We also made some with just white sugar on top- a close second!)

I'll be using the remaining frosting for Mosie's belated birthday blueberry cupcakes that I'll be baking this weekend!