Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mediterranean Lemon Pepper Papparadelle

My friend Sally clued me in to the wonders of Trader Joe Papparadelle. And now it comes in Lemon Pepper! I got the idea for this recipe from one of the Trader Joe flyers and twisted it by adding some of my favorite ingredients. It is quick and easy and you really can throw in whatever things you have available in the house. When I brought this in for lunch last week, everyone in the teacher's lounge was drooling, so I am posting the recipe here.

Mediterranean Lemon Pepper Papparadelle

1 package Lemon Pepper Papparadelle
2 cans Genova Tuna in Olive Oil

Prepare the papparadelle according to the package. Toss in a large bowl with 2 cans of tuna with the oil - do not drain. Then toss in a variety of Mediterranean style vegetables and toppings. I like to use:

fresh or sun dried tomatoes
red peppers
kalamata or green olives
feta cheese (I used the reduced fat feta from Trader Joes, where else?)
fresh baby spinach
pine nuts

Add an extra drizzle of olive oil if needed, and salt and fresh cracked pepper if you desire.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 6

Turquoise necklace with quartz and silver beads.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Greek Corn Bread

Trader Joes has a marvelous corn bread mix which makes a crusty sweet corn bread. I make the mix according to directions on the package, but I put it in a larger 9 x 13 pan. I top it with thin slices of tomato and red onion, kalamata olives, and either feta or goat cheese. Bake for about 20 minutes. As the corn bread starts to get golden, I remove it from the oven and drizzle it with a little olive oil. Return to the oven and finish baking for another 5 minutes. The corn bread should be a deep golden brown - if under baked it will fall apart. Let it cool slightly before cutting - the bread will be a bit crumbly, but oh so good.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Last week I went shopping with my friend Andrea at Sommerset Mall. She had a gift card to Brio which she was determined to use up! I was happy to help her, as Brio is a favorite Italian restaurant.

I helped her eat this lobster bisque - I was some of the best I have ever had. The crispy flatbread is amazing, too!

Chopped salad - cold, crisp, tangy...

I had a panini with grill chicken and sundried tomatoes and homemade chips. Andrea had salmon, which was garnished with tomatoes with with cheese. Both were great.

And then dessert - we had to use up that gift card, you know! Brio's now has these desserts in mini cups - just a few bites for 2 dollars each. I was **forced** to help eat a sampler of 4 chocolate desserts. They included a molten chocolate cake, a chocolate hazelnut brulee, a white chocolate raspberry bread pudding, and a chocolate caramel cake. The chocolate caramel cake was ordinary - everything else was great! We had to wait and wait for dessert - after about 20 minutes they came with apologies and said our dessert was free. (So much for using up the gift card - actually they ended up with a nice tip!) This is the second meal I've had at Brio recently - both have been wonderful, and I will gladly go back again!

You can't see much under all that whipped cream! Trust me it was good! Please refrain from drooling on your keyboard!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 5

Bohemian Pearl Necklace
mixture of freshwater pearls of various sizes
turquoise, lapis, and coral
six strands

(It took a couple of years to collect the right mix of stones and pearls.
And many hours to string!
This is one of my favorite necklaces.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 4

Pretty in Pink Isabella Necklace
(named after the daughter of a friend - I made her the first version of this design)
Pink freshwater pearls, crystals, and a silver heart.
Longer necklace is pearls and crystals knotted on a silk string.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Creative World Studio

About a year ago I redecorated my office. I removed an old computer that I no longer needed and reorganized everything so all the items I needed for craft projects were close at hand. It is decorated with a "world travel" theme with maps and souvenirs. The picture above is my most commented picture at Flickr. Over a thousand people have viewed it. Click below to see the complete set of office pictures, including my before shots:

Flickr pictures

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Seldom Blues

This weekend was symphony night, and we decided to treat ourselves to dinner at Seldom Blues before the concert. I've heard a lot about this trendy restaurant that overlooks the river in the RenCen. The restaurant is a large open room. We were seated in the center - next time I'd reserve a table by the window so we could enjoy the view. It was the kind of restaurant where they put the napkin on your lap - haven't had that happen in a while.

This place is definitely a splurge. I ordered the Baked Ruby Trout which was delicious - it was served with a potato hash and a crab/lobster stuffing which I really liked. My friends ordered the salmon dish and the scallop and lobster pasta which looked yummy with 2 huge scallops and a big chunk of lobster. We all split this berry custard dessert which was warm and creamy.

My only criticism would be the timing of the serving. Our meals came out very quickly, and then the waiter came with some sorbet which should have been served to us first. Same thing happened with the dessert - we had it almost devoured and then our waiter came with plates so we could split it. Hey, you can't be slow when it somes to dessert around us!

Cuban Chicken Stew

This is an easy recipe using Trader Joe's Cuban Mojito Simmer Sauce. You can do this with many variations, but this is what I used:

1 jar Trader Joe's Cuban Mojito Sauce
3 chicken breasts, chopped in cubes
1/2 large onion, chopped in large chunks
2 peppers (I used red and yellow) chopped in large chunks
fresh pineapple chopped in bite sized chunks

Season the chicken with salt and pepper (I used a seasoned salt mix). Brown the chicken in a large pan that is coated with olive oil. Remove when browned on both sides.

Add the onion and pepper and a little more olive oil. Saute for about 5 minutes until softened. Return the chicken and add the sauce. Simmer until chicken is cooked, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the fresh pineapple and cilantro.

Note: I like to serve it over brown rice.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Bagger Dave's

Shhhhhh, don't tell my doctor.....

Yesterday morning I had my cholesterol checked. And then I went to Bagger Dave's for lunch...

This restaurant opened in Berkley recently and the parking lot always looks full. I usually don't eat a lot of red meat or fried food, but decided to make an exception. I just had that craving for a nice burger.

Inside the restaurant is decorated with wood paneling and brick and an electric train that runs between the two rooms. The menu is basically burgers and fries, with a few other sandwiches thrown in. I had a regular burger with 2 patties of meat and my friend had a barbeque burger. Next time I would try the turkey burger. I liked all the choices they gave to customize the burger - different buns, cheeses, and a large variety of toppings that you can add for free. I had cheddar cheese, romaine lettuce, grilled onions, and green olives. We ordered both the regular fries and the sweet potato fries (with sea salt and honey). The fries are fried in "healthy" peanut oil.

We both like the burgers. The regular fries were good, but the sweet potato fries were so disappointing. They were soft and limp - we left half of them behind.

I thought it was a nice place to go for a burger. I liked the toppings, and may try the turkey burger sometime as take out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Be My Valentine

My Heart Pin made from vintage buttons and pearls...
worn on a red sweater to celebrate the day...

Vintage Valentine
I got this one as a child -
found it in a scrapbook of old cards that my mom made.
It is my most popular picture at Flickr.
At last count it had *3,287* views.
Yesterday *589* people viewed it.

Update: on Valentine's Day over 1700 people looked at my vintage valentines on Flickr.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tiptoe through the Tulips

I finally had some time to work on the scrapbook pages about the Netherlands that I started creating at the end of the summer. I want to get them printed in an iPhoto book. I'm nearing the end of the batch. Here are a few that I worked on today. On a cold snowy day like today it's nice to remember the flower markets of Amsterdam!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chocolate Cherry Truffles

This recipe is perfect for Valentine's Day or any other time you are need of some serious chocolate! I use a blend of milk chocolate and dark chocolate because I'm not overly fond of dark chocolate, but I think all dark chocolate would work fine, too. For this batch I used the big bars of Belgian Chocolate from Trader Joes. And my trick for chopping the chocolate is to put it in a zip lock bag and wack it with a meat mallet until it is broken in small chunks!

Chocolate Cherry Truffles

8 ounces chopped dark chocolate
4 ounces chopped milk chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries (or cranberries)
2 Tablespoons sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
chopped almonds or additional powered sugar to roll the truffles in

Scald the whipping cream in a heavy pan until boiling. Remove from the heat. Add the chocolate and let it set for a minute to soften the chocolate. Then blend until melted. Stir in the 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, almond extract, and the dried cherries.

Put the pan in the refrigerator for about an hour until the chocolate starts to get firm but is not solid. Take a spoonful of the chocolate and with the spoon try to roll it into a shape like a ball. Drop the chocolate into the chopped almonds or powdered sugar. Roll it around until the truffle is partly covered. Then you can use your hands to finish shaping the truffle. (Note: your hands can get very messy doing this and the less you have the touch the chocolate the better. Be warned that you'll probably have to wash your hands several times.) If the chocolate gets too soft put it back in the frig; if it is too hard let it stand at room temperature.

Makes about 30 truffles.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hearts and Flowers

Flowery Fabric Hearts decorated with ribbons, buttons, and pearls.
I made a collection of these to decorate a Christmas tree; they have stayed as year round decorations.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 3

The necklace by my neck is a silver snowflake with small diamonds
(a Christmas gift from my friend)
Long necklace is my creation, based on a necklace from Brighton.
It has liquid silver beads with Swarovski crystals in shades of blue and aqua and Bali silver bead caps.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Cookies

I made these cookies this week for a luncheon at school. I think the pink frosting peeking out from under the chocolate looks perfect for a valentine treat. I based them on a recipe in the September/October AAA Magazine. I liked them, but I think next time I would change a few things. Perhaps a different chocolate cookie on the bottom - I thought this one tasted a bit flat. And I would adjust the frosting a bit so the taste of the cream cheese came through a little more.

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Cream the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
2. Slowly sift in flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat until combined.
3. With a spoon, drop onto an ungreased baking sheet. (It is helpful to bake these on a silpat or on parchment paper.) Flatten the cookies with a glass that has been dipped into sugar.
4. Bake for 350 for 8 - 10 minutes. Cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting: Mix 4 ounces of softened cream cheese with 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon almond extract until smooth. Blend in 8 ounces maraschino cherries that have been chopped and drained. (Add more powdered sugar if the frosting seems soupy.) Chill the frosting. Spread one spoonful of frosting on the top of each cookie. Chill for a half hour to help the frosting become firm.

Chocolate Topping: On low heat, melt 1/2 cup butter with 1 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate. Stir to blend. Add a bit of water if it seems too stiff to spread on top of the frosting.

Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 dozen.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Live Creatively

I've been reading from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible called the Message.
Part of what I read today (from Ephesians 6) said,
"Live creatively, friends...Make a careful exploration of who you are
and the work that you have been given,
and then sink yourself into that...
Each of you must take responsibility for doing
the creative best you can with your own life."

I've thought a lot about being creative since starting this blog.

People always say they feel better when they exercise.
I have never had that feeling when I exercise!
But I do have that feeling when I am creative!
When I make something new to wear
try a new recipe
make a new discovery on the computer
add a new decoration to a room
plan a new lesson for school
make a gift for a friend
plant my garden -
These are things that bring me satisfaction and a sense of completion.

I am following God's example when I am creative.

May we keep striving to be our creative best....

Monday, February 4, 2008

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 2

Top necklace with silver and drippy pearls is from Brighton Jewelry.
Bottom necklace is a Clever Karen Creation with freshwater pearls and crystals strung on silk cording.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Often I like to roast tomatoes on Sunday afternoon. (I learned this trick from my friend Sally.) I use them on salads or for pasta. Roasting them gives them a sweet rich flavor. For lunch this week I'll put them over lettuce with some grilled chicken, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese, and drizzle with a bit of balsamic vinegar. It makes a good salad for a winter day.

To roast the tomatoes: Cut roma tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Put them in a baking dish that is covered with foil. (Trust me, it makes clean up easier if you use the foil!) I often add onions, portabella mushrooms, and red peppers, too. Drizzle them with olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for an hour and a half. They will shrink down and be a bit golden around the edges when done.

Beware: your house will smell like a pizzaria all day!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Snow Day Slippers

I have been waiting a month to try these slippers on! My friends gave me a "Snow Day" box for Christmas. I already tested the tea and biscotti (couldn't hold out for a snow day) , but I waited until after the happy phone call early this morning to put the slippers on. I plan to spend the day wearing them, drinking pear ginger tea, and listening to this music CD purchased with a gift card to Borders that was also a part of the snow day box. (Click here to listen to a preview of the soundtrack online.) And after I clear the driveway I plan to do some digital scrapbooking - something I haven't had time to do for a while.

By the way, yesterday someone at school was talking about wearing your pajamas backwards to get a snowday! And then last night on Twitter someone else said that kids wear their pjs inside out! So which one is it???!!! And how come I never heard of this until yesterday???!!! I've been missing out all these years! So did I wear my pajamas both backwards AND inside out last night? I'll never tell! But we did get a snow day!


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