Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Clever Karen at AOL Holidays!

A few weeks ago I was contacted by AOL Holidays, asking if they could use my picture of my map Easter eggs in a feature on Amazing Easter Eggs that they were doing. Today they sent the link to the webpage - if you click on the slideshow, my eggs are the 6th picture. Kinda cool! I'm always amazed at how others find discover my stuff on the internet! It's nice that my creativity no longer just happens in a vacuum but can be shared to a world wide audience. Below is a screen shot of what the page looks like:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sugared Almonds

So tomorrow we are having another salad luncheon at school, and this week I just wasn't going to be home long enough in the evening to bake anything, so I took the wimpy way out and signed up to bring almonds because I knew that I already had a big package of them! But then I thought that it would only take me 10 minutes to make sugared almonds! Thought I'd share the easy directions with you.

Take a heavy pan and toss in 1 cup of slivered almonds and 3/4 cup of white sugar. Put the heat on high.

Watch carefully - in about a minute the sugar will start to melt. Then you need to stir them constantly with a wooden spoon. In about 3 or 4 minutes the sugar will melt to a golden color and will coat the toasted almonds. Remove from the heat.

(Note to self: don't stop at this moment to take pictures - almonds will continue to darken and may burn!)

Immediately spread the almonds on parchment paper that is set on a cookie set.

(Note to self: get the parchment ready before starting to heat the almonds. And another note to self: do not touch the almonds after spreading them, because they remain hot for several minutes. And especially, do not try to eat one of the hot almonds.)

After the almonds have cooled, break them apart and store in an airtight container. These are wonderful sprinkled on top of salads, yogurt, fruit, or desserts.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quick Thai Green Curry with Chicken

I bought this Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce at Trader Joe's recently and used it to make a quick no measure meal. I stir fried a half package of sugar snap peas and one chopped red pepper for about a minute in a large pan. Then I tossed in some cooked grilled chicken from Trader Joe's and the simmer sauce until warmed.

I topped the curry with some green onions and added a few rice noodles for a bit of crunch. (Peanuts or cashews would also be a good topping.) I served it over brown rice. The sauce is slightly sweet with a slight kick - different, but I liked it! And you can't get much easier!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

National Park Project

I've been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks using all my clever energy developing a presentation for the MACUL educational technology convention. I shared about a project I did based on the U.S. National Parks. I know this isn't the typical food, travel, and crafts that I share, but maybe some of you might be interested in a peak at the presentation slides which I posted online. Note, the actual presentation had some effects, video, and sounds - this Slideshare just shows the pictures of the slides.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Buttermilk Fantail Rolls

Last month, my friend Sally kept emailing me pictures of delicious homemade rolls. Every weekend her husband Scott was testing out a new roll recipe from this February issue of Gourmet magazine and she faithfully sent me pictures of the finished products for me to drool over. I finally decided I had to go out and buy the magazine so I could try some the recipes myself.

Last week I made the recipe for Buttermilk Fantails. I followed the recipe that Gourmet posted at Epicurious almost exactly :

I've made the recipe twice. I hate to knead dough by hand, so the first time I used the dough hooks on my Kitchenaid mixer to knead the dough and the second time I used my bread machine. Both methods seemed to work fine! I must confess that I had trouble visualizing how to cut the rolls correctly to form the layers. They looked really messy when I put them in the pan, but they looked beautiful after they rose and baked.

I did drizzle the rolls with the leftover melted butter before I baked them. The rolls are so tender but the butter seems to add a slight crispy surface. And it is fun to pull apart the layers - it reminds me of those Pillsbury Butterflake rolls that I used to eat when I was a kid.

Stay tuned for more roll recipes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Athens Souvalki - Southfield

Do you ever rediscover a restaurant that you totally forgot about? Last year I rediscovered "Athens Souvalki" when they catered a meal at school. It is located close to work, so recently it has become my favorite place to go to when I want to pick up a quick meal on my way home. (Note the guys in the picture looking out at me - the crazy woman taking a picture of the sign in their window. I can only imagine what they were thinking.....)

The restaurant is located in the Harvard Square plaza on the corner of Lahser and Eleven Mile. It is a small diner style restaurant with warm colors and wonderful murals of Greek scenery and mythology.

The star of this restaurant is the homemade pita bread! They bake it fresh on the grill. Soft inside, a slight crunch on the outside, a bit of olive oil flavor. The bread alone is worth the trip!

The other thing that I absolutely love is their chicken. They marinate it in some lemony herby goodness and then grill it. I love to get it added to the Greek salad which is topped with olives, tomatoes, peppers, and a generous layer of feta cheese. Their homemade dressing is a perfectly tangy topping for the salad.

My favorite take out meal is the Chicken Gyro Sandwich. The chicken is served on the homemade bread with onion, tomato, and yogurt sauce. I sometimes get a side order of rice topped with a Greek red sauce. Everything else I've had here has been good as well - the kabobs, the Beef Gyros, the lemon rice soup, and the Pastitisio are other things I've tried and enjoyed.

Athens Souvlaki on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Microwave Coconut Tapioca Pudding

Last weekend it was cold and rainy and I needed comfort food. I wanted tapioca pudding. Coconut tapioca pudding. Was there such a thing? After a little searching I found some recipes but I didn't want to sit at the stove stirring for 20 minutes. Then I noticed a recipe on the box for microwave tapioca pudding on the tapioca box so I combined that recipe with several that I found online. It worked like a charm - in 10 minutes I had my pudding!

Microwave Coconut Tapioca Pudding

1 can coconut milk, 14 ounces (I used light coconut milk from Trader Joe's)
1 cup milk (I used skim milk, worked fine)
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup coconut, toasted

Combine all ingredients (except the toasted coconut) in a large microwave safe bowl and let set for 5 minutes. Microwave on high for 10 to 12 minutes until mixture comes to a full boil, stirring every 10 minutes. Eat warm, or cover the top of the pudding with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Top with the toasted coconut before eating.

To toast the coconut, spread in a tray and put in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes. Watch carefully! I toasted mine in my toaster oven.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Majestic Cafe - Detroit

On our last symphony night we ate at the Majestic Cafe which is located a couple blocks north of Symphony Hall and is a part of a block long complex that includes several restaurants and the famous "Rock 'n Bowl" bowling alley. This is the second time we've eaten here in the past year and both time it has been an enjoyable meal.

The restaurant has a hip urban atmosphere with brick walls that are filled with art. As you walk in you are greeted with this big tray of deserts and I am proud to say I resisted the temptation (as I knew I was heading out for the cruise in the next few days)!

The daily specials are listed on a chalkboard and they always sound so tempting. I ordered one of them - a Pork Loin that had good sauce (cherry something, maybe, I can't remember now), I just remember that I wished it had more of it! It was served with asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes.

I think Patty had the best meal though. She let me have a taste of her Chicken Carbonara Fetticcine and that is definitely what I will order next time! The creamy sauce was filled with wild mushrooms and prosciutto. It tasted savory and rich and definitely yummy! So I hope we make another trip so I can eat a whole bowl of it instead of a taste!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dangle Leaf Necklace

I found these great little leaf beads at Munros. They are gold on one side and pearly on the other side. I did little wire wraps and added them to a gold chain. I'm not the neatest at the wire wrapping, but it still turned out fine. Here's a close up:

And here's what it looks like when it's hanging around my neck:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 17

Blue and Aqua Glass Butterfly Bead...
on sea glass colored seed beads...
and funky blue glass bead earrings

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chocolate Toffee Shortbread Bars

There is a parent at school who makes the most amazing toffee and gives it as gifts at Christmas. She has turned me into a big toffee fan. This recipe gives a little bit of that toffee taste on top of a buttery shortbread bar.

This recipe comes from a Betty Crocker "Cookies and Bars" magazine - one of those magazines that tempt you at the super market checkout with yummy pictures on the cover. When I started making this, I realized that I didn't have the correct size pan, so I used a 9 x 9 and an 8 x 8 pan. I did use pecans rather than the almonds that they had listed in the recipe. There are a few other things I think I will change next time. First, I would add a bit more sugar to the shortbread crust. And I would make a bigger batch of the toffee layer - maybe increase the ingredients by half as much. With a little tweaking, I think this recipe will be absolutely perfect.

Almond Toffee Shortbread Bars

3/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 15 x 10 x 1 inch pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, beat 3/4 cup butter and 1/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add the flour and continue beating until dough starts to form. Press into the pan. Bake for 13 to 18 minutes until lightly golden brown.

3. Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, melt 1 cup butter combined with the brown sugar and corn syrup, stirring frequently. Then boil for 2 minutes without stirring. Add the pecans, quickly stir, and then spread over the shortbread layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until dark golden brown and bubbling. Remove from the oven.

4. Immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips over top of the bars. Let them stand for 5 minutes, then gently spread the chocolate over the bars. Let cool about 30 minutes, then cut into bars. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Trader Joe's Choczillanut Cookie

You may recall a few posts ago that I mentioned that I wanted to go back to stay at the DoubleTree hotel just to eat another of their cookies. I no longer need to do that. Why? Three words - *BEST* *COOKIE* *EVER* !!!

Yes, I found it today at Trader Joe's! You know how I tend to end up buying at least one new thing every time I shop there. I'd never seen these Choczillanut Cookies before and they looked so tempting. I was weak. So I bought a package. And yes, I ate it for lunch!

First off, they are huge - 4 1/2 inches across! And they are the chewy, soft kind. They are filled with dark, white, and milk chocolate chunks and chopped pecans. They taste homemade! Truly, the perfect cookie! I savored each bite (after all, it was my lunch)! About half way through, I thought, all it is missing is being warm, so I stuck it in the microwave for about 10 seconds, and then it was true cookie perfection!

If you have a Trader Joe's in your area, I strongly suggest that you drop everything, hop in your car, drive to Trader Joe's and buy these cookies right now! Seriously! You won't regret it!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Before and After - repairing an image with Aperture

I took this picture several years ago on a canal cruise in Amsterdam. For most of the cruise it was rainy and gray. I had to try to take pictures over the heads of Japanese tourists and through dirty windows. But for about 1 minute the sun came out and I took this picture of one of the churches on the canal. I always hoped someday I would learn some tricks where I could repair the image.

Recently I got a copy of the software Aperture 2. This week I went to the Apple store and had a one-to-one lesson on Aperture. I learned some cool tricks and when I came home I played with the picture. This is my repaired image - I think the difference is pretty striking!

Forgive me for being techno-geeky, but I thought it was cool!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hanging Around Clever Karen - Episode 16

Silver and Blue Topaz pendant (or at least that's what they told me it was!)
my jewelry souvenir from Mexico

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Grandeur of the Seas - Day 5

Our last day on the Grandeur of the Seas was another cruising day. Sleep, relax, read - it was lovely! The sky was blue and the wind blew - and unfortunately the wind was too cold to really enjoy sitting outside on the deck. But there were plenty of sheltered areas where you could sit and look out at the ocean and the sunshine. Alas, all good things must come to an end....and sunset comes to our cruise.

My one disappointment of the cruise was some of the food. Although plentiful, I just didn't think it was as good or as varied as other cruises that I have taken. And I know I am a bit of a foodie, but much of it seemed just mediocre. It tasted like frozen food bought at a warehouse store that had a fancy sauce put over it. Even the "Sweet Dream" area in the cafe often wasn't overly tempting.... some of the deserts reminded me of college cafeteria food.

The bad: lobster bisque (ick - tasted like a beef broth with a seafood aftertaste); cookies (come on - there's some really good frozen cookie dough out there, it's not that hard to have good cookies); doughnuts with frosting like glue; lobster tail that was cooked to mush; breakfast pastries (just puff pastry with some blah filllings - other cruises have had amazing pastry chefs!). The pizza by the pool was bad frozen pizza. None of the main dishes that I had a dinner in the dining room really were great - the fish, meat, vegetables all tasted like frozen food that been overcooked.

The good: almost every day they had a chilled soup and they all were wonderful - watermelon gazpacho, roasted peach, berry. Roasted turkey at one dinner in the cafe; a nacho bar a lunch (I think we were really hungry!); pasta bar at dinner in the cafe; the escargot appetizer; a yummy pear and apple tart with ice cream. Key lime pie and a French silk chocolate pie in the cafe. Good salad bar in the cafe with nice variety. The breads at dinner were pretty good - you had a choice of several kinds each night. And they had a couple of chocolate desserts that were really good - here's a look at one:

But honestly, the best food item of the entire trip was the warm cookie they gave us at the Doubletree Hotel when we checked in there the night before the cruise!! (I would stay at a Doubletree again just to get one of those cookies!!!!!)

So that's my 5 day cruise adventure. I came back home to a snow storm but I didn't really care - I had been warm and had relaxed and truly felt refreshed by the time away.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tour of Tulum

So we finally arrived at the ruins at Tulum. But it still took 40 minutes before we even saw any ruins. We needed to get tickets to take the little train to get from the parking lot to the entrance. Then we had to wait in line to get into the park. And then our tour guide gathers us outside the wall hole that enters into the ruins and talks, and talks, and talks, about nothing. And then when we finally get inside, there are dozens of little tour groups just like ours, scurrying like ants on an ant hill, all over the grass. Our guide pulls us away from the ruins, onto a hill, and starts talking again and starts posing pictures of everyone. That was enough.

Bye, bye tour guide. We had an hour left to explore, because we were told the bus WOULD leave at 12 sharp.

The ruins are stunning, as long as you didn't trip over the hoards of people. And the backdrop of the aqua blue sea is stunning!

But the best part of the morning was the iguanas that were perched all over the walls! So cute!

So for a 6 hour tour, we ended up with a little over an hour at the ruins. I'm glad I saw them, but not sure it was worth it.

And the tour included a "drink" at the end of viewing the ruins. The "drink" consisted of them handing you a little plastic glass as you walked on the bus into which they poured some bottled water. The whole thing was a bit comical.

We returned via ferry to Cozumel downtown, did a little more shopping at the 10 Dollar Silver Store and a few other stores, and then headed back to the ship. Starved! So nice that there is food available even in the middle of the afternoon. We feasted on nachos and burgers and fruit and dessert!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Day 3 - Playa del Carmen

On Thursday morning we arrived early in Cozumel (and it was even earlier for us - we changed our clocks a day too early, so we were ready for at breakfast at 5:45)! We had signed up for a tour, so we boarded the ferry for a 45 minute ride over to Playa del Carmen. Then we traveled by bus for another hour or so, with a rest stop and shop. I had a great time taking pictures at this shop - great displays and I thought it really showed the colors of Mexico.

Then we continued on to the ruins at Tulum...


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