Monday, July 14, 2008

First LO of the Year

Boy, have I been slacking in the scrapbook department this year. I've felt like I've been playing catch up for years and never seem to get close to catching up. I started a Christmas Card Challenge this year and just let scrapbooking fall to the side.

I had taken my kids surfing right when they got out of school this year. I took pictures and my son took some pictures with his waterproof camera. I decided to get them into the scrapbook. To my amazement the joy of scrapbooking came right back to me. I'm anxious to get back into it. More LO's to follow.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

My Luck is a Changing

As many of you know Northern California has been socked in with smoke from a lot of fires. Well, that's where I live. It's been going on for about a month. Here it is summer and we're spending 95% of our time indoors. Anyhow, last Wednesday the kids and I decided to venture out and see a movie. It turned out to be one of the smokiest days yet. We're OK though, because we have the AC filtering the air on our way there. Halfway to our matinee the smoke started to smell really bad and my daughter reminded me to push the "recycle air" button on my AC. It smelled SO bad and that didn't help much. By that time we were at the theater.

We went to see "Wall-E", which by the way I liked way more than I thought I would. After the movie we got in the car to leave and I turned on the AC and nothing happens. Not a peep! Now were in a predicament... too smoky to leave the windows down.... too hot to leave them up. This was one of those 106 degree days. All we could do was put the windows down and buck up.

Now this presents a few problems one being I was going to be leaving town in 2 days and I didn't want to leave with a broken car. I wasn't sure why the AC wasn't working and feared something bigger could be wrong. Two... would I be able to get the car into the shop on such short notice. Three... if I could get to the shop how would I get home? And Four... where the heck was I going to get the money to fix what I was sure going to be an expensive problem. So, I called the car repair office and to my surprise they could get me in the very next morning and had a shuttle to bring me home. I was feeling very fortunate. Then the gal handling my car calls me at home to tell me that just the fan was broken. In fact it had gotten so hot that the connector and the fan had melted. It was a faulty part and they have improved the new parts. (OH SO that was the extra awful bad smoky sell we were being choked with!) Good news, it's covered by warranty. I really couldn't believe my good fortune! I don't think I've ever heard those words. What I've heard many times over the years is "Oh too bad your warranty expired 3 weeks ago."

DH got home from work with plenty of time to drive me up to pick up my fixed car. When I went to pay the cashier hands me a flower. A little unusual and surprising, but a nice touch in these impersonal days. I paid for my measly oil change. I then get instructions that a questionnaire will be coming in the mail and that if I fill it out and bring it in they'll give me $25 in gas. I'm flabbergasted now. Having a broken car has never gone so well for me.

Flower in water... I was back on the road and on my trip with confidence!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Adventures with Arepas

Last Sunday I decided to make arepas. I saw a Throwdown with Bobby Flay with Arepas. Maribel and Aristides Barrios, NYC restaurateurs who hail from Venezuela were challenged. The food looked SO good and interesting. Arepas are Venezuela's national bread. They are eaten at all meals and throughout the day. These small corncakes are sold in restaurants called areperías, where they are stuffed with all manner of fillings. Arepas are the basically the Venezuelan version of the sandwich. Many different filling can be used, but the gals on Throwdown said the best and most traditional filling is Pabellón. It's their best seller. So, that's what I wanted to make.

Bobby Flay lost the throwdown, so I didn't want to use his recipes on the Food Network. Using notes from the gals that WON the arepa throwdown I went on a search of the internet for recipes that were similar. This was going to be quite a project, but I knew it would be fun and delicious. I'm never scared away by hard work in the kitchen. First I needed ingredients. Ran to the local grocery store Saturday evening and bought just about everything. The produce gal couldn't find a plantain I knew what they looked like despite my complete inexperience with them and I found them. They didn't have the special corn flour I needed. Decided to make a trip to the Mexican grocer in the morning. They had exactly what I needed... precooked white corn meal P.A.N.

According to Maribel and Aristides to make a simple traditionally served Arepa one needs a Venezuelan stew called Pabellón, black beans, fried plantains, arepas, and cojita cheese. I had a lot of cooking ahead of me. I got the boneless chuck roast cooking similar to how I would cook pork for carnitas. Browned roast, then add onion, celery, salt, pepper and enough water to cover everything. I simmered it for 2 hours. While this was simmering I got the presoaked black beans (the reason I went to the store the night before wanted to soak the beans) to cooking with a little browned salt pork and onions. They too simmered for 2 hours.

Once the beef was cooked and shredded, with dog and my daughter hanging around for bites, I could do the final cooking. I followed the Pabellón recipe I found on line with a few changes from the notes from Maribel and Aristides I got off of the Throwdown show. The changes I used, a 3 pound boneless chuck roast, red AND green peppers, 1 can of tomato paste instead of tomatoes and 1 1/2 tsp of ground cumin. I needed about 3 cups of my broth from cooking the meat to moisten it up just right. I did make one mistake in that the peppers and onions should have been finely chopped. My kids would have preferred it from an aesthetic point of view (you know kids it may taste good, but doesn't look good). It looked great to my husband and I and it didn't effect the taste at all. It was SO good. I'll definitely be making this stew again.

After the stew was made I started frying the plantains and frying the arepas (corncakes). Plantains were pretty straight forward. I sliced them like the gals said on throwdown. I must say that the plantains scared me a little. I've never tried them before. I read that you want to get one that is yellow with black speckles or completely black for maximum sweetness. Completely black at the store wasn't an option. Once peeled they are much firmer than a regular banana and had an odd peach hue. After frying I tried one. They have sort of a fried sweet potato flavor and texture if you've ever had tempura sweet potato you'll know exactly what they are like.
The arepas I followed the recipe . Later that day I tried making the arepas the way the Maribel and Aristides had said. The difference being the online recipe used boiling water. It took a very long time for it to cool, so I could shape the arepas for cooking. The gals used lukewarm water and the dough turned out very soft and difficult to shape. I'll need to work on them to maybe find a happy medium between boiling water and lukewarm water. The one exception to the recipe is I only fried them on the griddle as the arepa gals said. The recipe asked them to be baked also.
OK I've got Pabellón, cooked black beans, fried plantain, arepas and grated cojita cheese. Now to assemble. I split the arepa all the way through layered on 2 fried plantain slices, a spoonful of Pabellón, a spoonful of black beans and then a sprinkle of cheese. I then leaned over the plate and took a big bite. WOW it was good and very messy. Maribel and Aristides from the throwdown have their own arepa restaurant in New York and they said people ask for forks. They really raised their noses at this notion as they are to be eaten with one's hands. I am a utensil person. I wanted a fork SO badly, but I didn't want these ladies snickering at me for using a fork. I kept adjusting my grip and the corncake until all was gone. I found out that one recipe of corncakes wasn't enough. It made 8. That's why I made 2 recipes with 2 different methods. I had to make another batch they were SO good.

I found the "What's 4 Eats: International Recipes & Cooking Around the World" website to be a great reference for my adventure into the world of deliciousness. I've placed links all above for the recipes I used. Once everything was cooked it was a very fast and easy meal. We had leftovers for lunch and it seemed even better the 2nd and 3rd day. Then it was all gone. I think I'd like to make this again and have family over. It would be a fun meal to share.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th of July Pop Up Slider card

My friend Linda from my RCS group pointed me towards a youtube video on Dawns Stampin Studio with instructions on how to make this card. It looked so easy and fun I decided to make a few. Since I don't have a computer in my craft area I decided to look for some written instructions. I found them here at Split Coast Stampers. I took the cutting measurements that Dawn had given on her video and wrote them down on the written instructions and it made it very easy.

I left the card open all night so the sparkle paint would dry. That is why there is a white line on the closed card. I'm sure once it's closed in an envelope it will relax completely closed. I must apologize for the blurry picture. I took the pictures when my contacts weren't on and thought they looked perfectly in focus. :D

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Cupcake

I found the cutest cupcake pan while at the craft store. I was out shopping for fabric and paper. Dangerous... me... craft store... money. Anyhow I sold all my character cake pans at a yard sale last year. I have teenagers and they've out grown things like Winnie the Pooh. When I saw this I thought how much fun for everyone.

Today I baked the recipe on the card that came with the pan. It's a chocolate pound cake with chocolate butter cream frosting. One needs to be very careful making a delicious cupcake when you have a teenage son in the house!