Sunday, March 30, 2008

Smoked Salmon

My brother likes to smoke. Meat, that is. A while back he gave me an electric meat smoker that he wasn't using. Over the weekend I finally found time to test it out.

I decided to try salmon and chicken. The salmon turned out great, but the chicken was kind of rubbery, although the flavor was good. (I used boneless breast of chicken. Next time I will try chicken with skin and bones to see if that improves the texture.)

I used my favorite recipe for brining the salmon. I use this all the time for grilled salmon, so you don't need to use a smoker to use this technique. I adapted this from a recipe I found in Bon Appetit. It is truly a wonderful way to do salmon, adding a sweet and salty flavor that is delicious. This salmon is great to use as a main dish or in a salad or pasta. I usually use one of those big salmon fillets at Costco, and freeze some of the extra to use in other ways.

Grilled Brined Salmon

4 Cups water
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup white sugar

1 large salmon fillet

Put water, sugars, and salt together in and pan. Boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Let cool.

Put salmon and brine in a zip lock bag. Put into a bowl (to prevent leaks) and marinade for one hour in the refrigerator. DO NOT marinade for over an hour - the salmon becomes too salty!

I grill this on a gas grill. I have even used my George Foreman grill - but it takes several batches to cook it all. My guess is that it would work fine to cook in an oven as well.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Buttoned Up

I love buttons. This morning I read posts at Sugar, Sugar and Keepin' Up with the Tatums about this new button group at Flickr. Perfect inspiration to play with my new camera! So here are some of my first shots from my new Nikon:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

One great thing about having a week of vacation is being able to go out to lunch! A couple days ago I meet a friend at "Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup" (yes, that's the name) - a great little restaurant on Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills that we'd been hearing about.

The restaurant smells wonderful when you walk in - the aroma of simmering soup. You order from the counter and there is a small seating area in the front. The menu includes soup, sandwiches, salads, and some homemade comfort foods like macaroni and cheese. There was a lot of variety and some creative options.

I ordered a grilled cheese (you have a choice of cheeses) and Tomato Florentine Soup. Both were delicious! The soup was thick and creamy and had spinach and chunks of tomato and other vegetables. Everything looks and tastes homemade and fresh. (And I loved the sturdy wooden trays our meal was served on - classy touch!) Definitely a good choice for lunch or even dinner.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My New "Baby"

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. I used some Christmas, birthday, and extra money from after school classes to upgrade my digital camera. Yesterday my new Nikon D40 digital camera arrived from Circuit City!

I had been a Nikon SLR user since the early 80s. When I took the jump to digital a few years ago, I found I loved the convenience (since I used so many digital images for the web and projects) and appreciated not having to pay for film and developing. I could be creative and take lots of pictures. And sticking a little camera in my purse was easy for travel.

But I have missed some features of an SLR - being able to have wide angle shots, a good telephoto lens, being able to manually focus, and being able to take good macro shots with a low f stop. So I am looking forward to having a better option to use and experiment with!

Stay tuned - I'm sure lots of new pictures will be coming!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bruges Scrapbook Pages 1

Ok, I am starting on a new iPhoto book about our Europe trip. This one will be pictures from Belgium. My goal is to try to do a page every day. I'm off to a good start. Here are a few of the pages - more to come:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gateway to Narnia

This beautiful picture was taken several years ago at Cathedral Cove on the north island of New Zealand. I discovered that it now is the "gateway into Narnia" in the new Prince Caspian movie that is coming out in a few months. Check out this preview of the movie and you'll see almost the exact same shot.

I have loved the Chronicles of Narnia since my brother gave a boxed set for Christmas and I first read them in college. They were a fresh metaphor for me to use in thinking about my Christian faith. When I was a classroom teacher I always read one of them aloud - often "The Silver Chair." My personal favorite is "Voyage of the Dawn Treader." "Prince Caspian" is probably my least favorite of the series, but I have fresh motivation to see the movie now when it comes out because I know I have played on the beach where they set part of the film!

By the way, Cathedral Cove is a stunning place. We hiked about a mile along the bays of the Coromandel Peninsula to reach the cove. We had several gray rainy days in New Zealand, but this weather was perfect on this morning. Here is another view of the other side of the cove - you can see this view in the preview as well:

By the way, if you want to see more of our pictures of New Zealand and Australia, they are posted here: Down Under Digest

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sour Cream Cinnamon Rolls

So what should one do with a tub of cream cheese frosting leftover from making coconut cupcakes? (Besides eating by the spoonful - which I could easily do.) Since I had some sour cream leftover as well, I thought I would make cinnamon rolls. I love making coffee cakes with sour cream because it makes a soft and tender bread - sometimes regular dough can get a bit dry and tough. These yeasty rolls are soft and tender and melt in your mouth, and when slathered in frosting - well, need I say more? Because I use my bread machine to mix the dough, these are fairly easy to make. Here is my recipe:

Sour Cream Cinnamon Rolls


1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package quick rise dry yeast
1/4 cup water
1 egg
2 cups flour

In a small pan, combine the butter, sour cream, sugar, and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring with a wisk, until the butter melts. Set aside to cool slightly.

In the pan of your bread machine, add the egg, flour, and water. Put the egg into the pan first and top with the flour and water (so the egg does not cook when you add the butter mixture). Top with the butter mixture. Add the packet of yeast into the yeast dispenser of your bread machine. Set the machine to run on the dough cycle. At the end of the cycle remove the dough from the pan. Set on a lightly floured surface and roll out into a 10 x 12 inch rectangle.


3 Tablespoons softened butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup chopped pecans (or other nuts)

Spread the dough rectangle with the softened butter. Sprinkle with the mixture of sugars, cinnamon, and nutmeg and then top with the chopped pecans. Roll the dough up from the 12 inch side. Cut the roll into 9 slices about 1 1/4 inch each. Place into a greased 9 inch square pan and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until golden.

Let cool slightly. Top with your favorite frosting. Eat warm!!! (I guess that goes without saying!)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Map Easter Eggs

I saw this great idea for decorating Easter eggs at the Inspireco blog. I wanted to give my own twist to it, but didn't have time to play until yesterday. Instead of old paper, I used scraps of maps. I tried to separate the colors so the eggs would have different colors and used modpodge to glue it onto plastic eggs. I wanted something that would go in my travel room. A fun project!

He is Risen Indeed!

Have a wonderful and blessed Easter!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Chick Clicks

Well, I just got inside from clearing 3 or 4 inches of snow from the driveway. There will be no pictures of this 3 to 4 inches of snow! Snow in December and January is pristine and pretty and poetic - I take pictures of that kind of snow. Snow on the day before Easter is ironic and cruel. I refuse to take pictures of ironic snow. I told my friend that lives in Dallas that I don't want to hear about their weather - so now her emails have blank spaces. (No, I'm not bitter.)

So while most of the country will don their Easter bonnets as they head to church tomorrow, we will be zipping up our boots.

So to brighten the day I am sharing these pictures of some cheery Easter chicks. These are some vintage Easter postcards that I bought at an antique store several years ago. I got them for "cheep!" (Sorry, couldn't resist!) I think they were a 25 or 50 cents each, so I bought a bunch. There are some nice scans of the collection to check out at my Flickr account, if you want some to print out for fun or projects.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hop to It!

ADHD toys.
Wind them up and watch them hop!

...were these vintage Easter wind-up toys once a part of Clever Karen's Easter basket?
You shouldn't ask such questions!....

("Recent" Vintage - is there such a thing?)

This bunny and chicky are a fun part of my Easter decorating!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Some Bunny wants Spring!

At some point in March I reach a moment when my desire for spring overcomes my lust for another snow day. That is the time I take my snowmen off the shelf and put up some Easter bunnies. Since Easter comes so early this year, I didn't get the bunnies up until a few days ago. So it's official now - the spring weather may begin!

(And if we have snow tomorrow, it's not my fault! Someone else out there still has their snowmen up!)

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 8

Gold and Ivory Pearls
dangling from a silver chain

Monday, March 17, 2008

Coconut Cupcakes

I have had this recipe from the 101 Cookbooks blog tucked away for over a year. Yes, I know that the picture on their website shows nice frosty cupcakes with snowmen on top. But to me, a coconut cupcake is the perfect spring nest for a few pastel jelly beans. Hopefully a batch of these can encourage the warmer weather to come a bit sooner.

I followed the recipe pretty much as in the link above, so you can go there if you are interested in the recipe (or you can just stay here and drool as you look at the picture). I think next time I might leave out the nutmeg and maybe try coconut flavoring instead of the vanilla. And I made the cupcakes in regular cupcake liners instead of the jumbo size. It made about 20 cupcakes and it took 15/20 minutes to bake.

Oh yes, I have a lot of frosting leftover! Is that a good thing? Bad thing? Both?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bagger Dave's - revisited

I've noticed that a number of people have found my way to this blog when using Google while searching for info on Bagger Dave's restaurant in Berkley. (Here's a link to that post.) I mentioned in that post that I wanted to try their turkey burger. Well today, after a tiring day at work, I decided to run in for a take out order for supper. It wasn't busy at 4 pm, still I had to wait at least 15/20 minutes for my order.

I got the turkey burger with swiss cheese and some "meaningless FREE toppings": romaine lettuce, grilled onions, green olives, and mushrooms. (I love the variety of these choices.) I also indulged in a strawberry yogurt shake. After taking a few pictures at home, I chowed down. Both were pretty good. I thought the turkey burger could have used a bit more seasoning, but it was tasty and I enjoyed the shake. The small burger was $5.29 with the cheese added - a bit expensive for the size, I thought. But I'd stop again - it's a good option for those times that you crave a burger.

And this is a silly thing, but for some reason I like their logo! Something about the design catches my eye and it looks good against a brick wall or stamped on a brown paper bag.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Old Cat, New Trick

So why did my cat Monet suddenly discover
this basket in the end table
(that has been around for years)
and decide that it would make
a cozy spot to watch
what is happening
in the living room?
(I am surprised she has room to squish on top of
the multitude of magazine clippings
that are stuffed in the basket!)

Monday, March 10, 2008

San Chez - a tapas bistro

While in Grand Rapids this week we ate at San Chez, a very nice tapas restaurant in the downtown area. The restaurant is in an old restored building with tin ceilings and columns decorated with broken pottery. We had a nice table on the second floor with an overlook onto the main floor.

The menu is like a small book and has great descriptions of the food so it took forever to decide what to get. We ordered 4 plates of tapas which was plenty for 2 people to eat. We didn't realize that we would also be served fresh bread with a tangy chimichurri sauce to start the meal.

Here are the things we ordered, some pictures, and some comments on the food:

We certainly didn't need a second kind of bread, but this was wonderful, especially the mango honey butter (I have to try to make that sometime.)

We really liked this salmon dish - the vegetables with the sherry vinegar was wonderful!

The steak was a bit on the chewy side. It had a bit of a kick, but the creamy pasta cooled it down.

This was ok - the garlic toast was rather hard and stale which was disappointing after how good the other breads tasted. I thought the cassarole needed a bit more seasoning.

Overall, I really enjoyed the restaurant. There was such a variety of items on the menu I'd enjoy going back a second time if I ever was in Grand Rapids again, to give something new a try!

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 7

Cherry Quartz and Silver Beads
(The toggle is the front with a dangle bead instead of in the back.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Apple Fritter French Toast

Well, I am back from my computer conference. We had a great time in Grand Rapids, and our presentation went well. Once it was finished and the pressure was off we decided to reward ourselves with breakfast at Bentham's (in the Amway Grand) which over looks the river. We both opted for the French toast. We tried both the cherry bread and the apple fritter French toast. The apple fritter version was the best French toast I have ever had. (Just don't think about how much fat and calories are in the apple fritters!)

I decided this can't be that hard to make, so on my way home from church this morning I swung by Tim Horton's and got 2 apple fritters. It worked fine, although I've had better apple fritters and I think this affected the quality of the yumminess. (Is that a word?) So now I'll have to be on a search to find the perfect apple fritter to try the recipe again. I'll keep you posted if I find a better option.

Apple Fritter French Toast

2 Apple Fritters
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Slice the top and bottom off the apple fritters, leaving the fritter looking like a thick slice of bread. If you want thinner French toast and you have a good knife, you can carefully slice each fritter in half. (If the fritter is a bit stale and dry, I think it might be a bit easier to cut.)

Beat the egg, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a bowl until mixed. Dip each slice of fritter in the batter, and turn so both sides are covered.

Heat a skillet. Spray with cooking spray. (If you want to live dangerously, melt a bit of butter in the pan as well.) Put the fritters in the pan and cook each side until browned.

Dust with powered sugar and serve with maple syrup. (My version is the picture at the top. Looks good, huh?)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Which One **Suits** You?

This upcoming week I am presenting at a state education computer conference this week. I want to look professional and a few weeks ago I got this great charcoal gray suit on sale for 2/3 off. Now I need to decide what blouse to wear with it! I have black, white (it has a high waist), and light blue. Any opinions out there?  Post your vote in the comments.  Thanks!

And I may not do much posting for the rest of this week, until the conference is done.  And if you think of it, say a prayer for us as we present our seminar at 8:30 Eastern Time on Friday!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin