Cherry-Cognac Pork with Cranberry-Walnut Taboulleh

27 06 2008

I finally got around to doing two things in my kitchen – cleaning out the  refrigerator and going shopping for real food (not milk and cereal anymore).  I found a little jar of cherry-cognac sauce that someone had given me as a gift.  I had used it before on vanilla ice cream (yum), but looking on the label, it suggested using it on meats, such as pork.  So, luckily, I had a lot of pork chops and thinking of something fruity to go along with the cherries,  I found a recipe for cranberry-walnut taboulleh.  Overall, I liked how the sweet fruity flavors complimented the meat and the bulgur wheat.

Cranberry Walnut Tabbouleh (you can find the original recipe from Cooking Light here – I didn’t have some ingredients, so I improvised.)

  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 c. chopped dried cranberries (I used Craisins)
  • 1 c. boiling water
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 minced green onions, white and green parts included
  • 1/4 c. lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. In a bowl, mix the bulgur, cranberries and boiling water.  Let sit for 30 minutes.
  2. While this is soaking, add the olive oil to a skillet and roast the walnuts in the oil for several minutes – this is to release the flavor of the nuts and infuse the oil with walnut flavoring.
  3. After 30 minutes, add the remaining ingredients and toss.  Can be served immediately or refrigerated.

Cherry-Cognac Pork Chops

  • Cherry-cognac sauce (mine was pre-bought)
  • 3 pork chops
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1 Tbsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Season the pork chops with the herbs, salt and pepper.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and spoon a Tbsp or so of the cherry-cognac sauce over them.
  2. Place baking sheet under the broiler.  Broil for several minutes, until cooked about halfway through.
  3. Flip pork chops over, reseason and again spoon about a Tbsp on each chop.  Continue to broil until completely cooked.

I ended up making an extra pork chop for lunch, which is sure to be delicious.  My only issue was with the tabbouleh – I didn’t have several things the original recipe called for.  I thought I had lemons, but I had to use lime juice instead, and I ran short on that, so I think the tabbouleh was a tad dry.  I also sent the boyfriend on a Wegman’s run before he came over to get the parsley and the mint.  When he got to my house, the conversation went a little bit like this:

Me: (as he brings out two gigantic bags of herbs) “Where is the mint?”

Him: (pointing to the bag that looks suspiciously like cilantro) “Right there.”

Me: “This is cilantro.”

Him: “But it was in the bin marked ‘mint’.”

Me: (taking it out and smelling it) “This is definitely cilantro.”

Him: “Hmm, well I thought it smelled like cilantro, and I thought it looked like cilantro, but it was in the mint bin, so I concluded it must be mint.”

Me: (slaps palm to face)

But nevertheless, the tabbouleh was pretty good.


Hand Carved Stamps

18 06 2008

The other day I was looking for tattoo-inspired stamps to use in a project I was doing.  I couldn’t find one that I had in mind, and the other one came in an expensive set that I didn’t really like.  So I decided to try my hand at making my own. 

I had seen a couple examples of hand carved stamps elsewhere, but instead of following someone else’s instructions, I kind of winged it.  (It wasn’t that difficult – pretty self-explanatory.)

To do this yourself, you will need:

First, decide what image you want to make a stamp of.  I decided on a cute little robot I drew.  You can also use tracing paper and trace an image from anywhere, or you can use a freshly printed image from an ink jet printer.

Make sure to not make your image with too many small details – even the details here proved to be a little difficult to pull off.  Make thick, heavy lines, and I went over my outline a couple times so it would be easier to rub off onto the carving material.  I used a bone folder to help rub the image, but you could just use your fingers.


Next, cut out the stamp.  I used my X-Acto knife to do this.  I recommend cutting a half-inch outline around the image instead of cutting right on the lines – this makes for a flimsy stamp, as you can see with my robot legs.  (I actually had to superglue one of them back on – shhhh.)  You can carve out the parts of the outline you don’t want to show up in the printed stamp. 

Next you will use your carving tool to carve the shape of the stamp.  Keep in mind the parts that you carve will show up as white when you print with the stamp.  Go slowly on the more detailed parts – the effort will be worth it.

At this point I ink the stamp and print it to see what shows up.  Usually there are a few stray pieces I need to chip away at.  I made two test prints, and the third one I was satisfied with.









There you have it!  A pretty simple process with pretty awesome results.  These homemade stamps are really only good for simple images, but have so many possibilities – like your own designs!  I’m still in search of wood blocks to mount the newly carved stamps on, but that is a project for another day.

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

12 06 2008

I had some free time today so I decided to get back into baking while the weather was still cool. I really like making cupcakes, and I always wanted to try them in ice cream cones. These turned out to be pretty cute.

I was too lazy to make the batter from scratch, so I used Pillsbury’s confetti cake mix. I got 24 flat-bottomed ice cream cones and filled them, leaving about a half to three-quarters of an inch from the top.

I then baked them according to the directions on the box. Some of them overflowed a little bit, so I tried to clean them up the best I could.

While the cupcakes were cooling, I made vanilla and chocolate buttercream frosting

Vanilla and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 sticks softened butter
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 7 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder.

Using a mixer, combine the first four ingredients. I find it easier to mix a cup of the sugar at a time, with a tablespoon or so of the liquid. Divide the frosting in half, and then mix the cocoa powder into one half. You now have both chocolate and vanilla frosting.

I then piped the frosting on the tops of the ice cream cones using a star tip. I only had a small one, but I would recommend using a large one, both for ease and a more ‘ice-creamy’ look to the frosting.

I then decorated the frosting with sprinkles and cinnamon dots for cherries. As you can see, my sprinkles were left over from Christmas cookies, hence the red and green. Voila! You have cute cupcakes!

Photography and crafting?

4 06 2008

My black and white photography class is going to be over in two weeks, but the good thing is that I’ve relearned the skills to develop film and make decent prints.  I’m planning on joining as a member at Genesee Arts so I can use the facilities over the summer.  Even though I’ve really enjoyed the class just for the sake of the awesomeness that is b&w photography, I sometimes wonder what else I can do with it.  I’m going to start saving the test strips for my prints, so maybe I can make something out of them.  Also, I was just invited to a local scrapbooking club, which I am insanely excited about, so perhaps I will be able to incorporate prints into my newly refueled desire to scrap everything.  Who knows?

Stampin’ Up Cards

29 05 2008

I went to my second Stampin’ Up card making class a couple of weeks ago, and I was very pleased with the results. I never used stamps before, but now that I have a few techniques under my belt, I’m excited to make more cards and use more stamps in my scrapbooking and such. All designs and materials courtesy of Judy Gierlach.

This was a cute card, but slightly time consuming to make. Each panel was stamped off once for the background, and all of the black line details were hand-drawn. The ladybugs’ wings were cut out by hand, so that took a bit of time. The real pain was attaching the red half-circles with ribbon to the top, but I think the end result is cute. The card folds up accordion-style with the green panel in front.

The only issue I see with this card is I am not sure where to write a message. I suppose you could write on the panels, or on the black paper in a metallic pen.

I ended up giving this to my friend for her birthday, and it turned out to be a birthday card and an engagement card at the same time. (The boy got her a good present, huh?) We first stamped the image on the white cardstock, then colored the flower in by hand. The edges of the white paper were inked with green and blurred a bit. The white was put on green, then yellow cardstock, then onto the card itself, which was stamped with a design in the same color. I liked how the colors were combined in this one.

This is a card in a slightly different shape – the green is a single sheet and the blue is a long, rectangular shape that is attached in the back and free in the front. When you open the card, both the blue cardstock and the yellow picture open. The image was stamped on white, then colored in by hand. The yellow ribbon was tied on the blue cardstock, then the yellow piece with the image attached was glued down. I thought the hedgehog was too adorable to pass up.

This was a neat 3-D card. I loved the polka dots. The ladybug was made out of three pieces punched out in a scallop shape. The wrong side of the punches were attached to each other and the card itself. The line details were hand-drawn.

This is one of my favorite cards, using a cracked glass technique. We first stamped the image on a white piece of cardstock, then heat embossed the image several times. (I think the final count was 5.) While we assembled the rest of the card, which was stamped with a background image on both the green and purple parts, we put the embossed cardstock in the freezer for about 20 minutes. After taking the cardstock out, we bent it gently at different angles until the hardened embossing cracked. We then took a brown ink pad and swiped it over the cracked embossing, then wiped it off to give it an antique look. You can put the ink on and wipe it off several times to get the desired effect.

I am definitely going to use these techniques for the next time I need to give out cards!

Seared Tuna with Avocado

7 05 2008

Last week, the weather was pretty nice in Rochester, which is a reason to celebrate.  I did this by walking around my neighborhood and stopped by the seafood market there.  I love fresh seafood and fish, and the Pittsford Seafood Market is great.  They are within walking distance from my house, so I save on gas, and their seafood and fish are very reasonably priced, so I save money as well.  I bought a couple of nice tuna steaks for dinner, then picked up some fresh vegetables to make a delicious, summery and colorful meal.

  • sushi grade tuna steaks (you will be leaving the middle bright pink)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, cut into slices
  • 1/2 c cilantro
  • 1 serrano pepper, minced
  • 1/2 bunch rappi (you may see this as rapini or broccoli rabe)
  • 2 heads baby bok choi
  • 1 Tbsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 5 Tbsp soy sauce, divided into 2 and 3 Tbsp
  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce, divided in half
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  1. In a skillet, heat the olive oil.  Cook the shallots and the minced ginger until the shallots become translucent.  Add enough rappi to fill the skillet, allow to cook down, then add remaining rappi, if any.  Add the bok choi and cook until softened.  Add 2 Tbsp of soy sauce and 1 Tbsp oyster sauce and mix while vegetables cook.  Keep warm on low heat until ready to serve.
  2. Pour the sesame seeds into a shallow bowl or dish.  Cover all sides of the tuna steaks with the seeds.  While you do this, heat a frying pan over high heat.  When the tuna is coated, place large, flat side down on pan and cook until fish changes color about 1/3 the way up.  Flip the tuna over and cook the same.  Remove from heat and cover with aluminum foil to set.
  3. While the tuna sits, make the sauce.  Mix the remaning soy sauce, oyster sauce, ground ginger and pepper in a bowl. 
  4. Arrange the food to be served.  Put down a layer of the cooked rappi and bok choi, then arrange alternating slices of the avocado and the tuna.  Rip off a handful of washed cilantro and put that in the center of the tuna and avocado, and mix in the minced serrano pepper.  Drizzle a couple Tbsp of the sauce over the food and reserve the rest for dipping.

I really liked the combination of the avocado and the seared tuna, but it doesn’t take too much to convince me on seared tuna.  I thought that the slightly bitter rappi and bok choi really complimented the tuna.  The cilantro salad also adds a degree of freshness and a bit of heat from the peppers.

I served this with unfiltered sake, which is very sweet.  I would change this the next time, for something not as intense.  The boyfriend came up with the clever idea of putting the sauce in the shot glass and nestling that in the cilantro salad.  It made for a nice presentation.

Poor-Girl’s Paella

17 04 2008

I was trying to think of something to make with the mounds of rice I had leftover from the other night when I made tilapia, and I thought the yellow rice would work wonderfully with a paella.   I had some frozen shrimp handy, so I only had to buy mussels (2 pounds for $6), a few clams, kielbasa and peas.  For about $12, I made a meal that will feed me for the rest of the week.

  • Goya’s Spanish Style rice (1 box, or leftovers)
  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 6 cherry stone clams
  • 1/2 lb frozen shrimp
  • 1/2 link kielbasa
  • 3/4 c frozen peas
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium shallot
  • saffron threads
  • 3/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  1. Prepare your ingredients.  Soak the clams and mussels for 15 minutes, scrub them, and remove beards from the mussels.  Split the kielbasa in half twice, both lengthwise and width-wise, then chop into smaller pieces.  Chop the onion and pepper, and mince the garlic and shallot.
  2. Cook the rice according to the directions on the box.
  3. While the rice is cooking, steam the clams and mussels.  I put them all in a large pot and put a couple of cups of water with it.  Turn on high, and steam until shells open.  You can strain water through colander and rinse with cold water.  Discard any shells that do not open.  Set aside.
  4. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the garlic, shallot, and onions until they begin to turn translucent. Add the kielbasa, and cook until lightly browned.  Add the peppers and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the frozen shrimp and peas, and cook until warmed through. 
  5. When all ingredients have been added to the skillet, crumble several saffron threads and add, and add the paprika as well.  Mix well and turn down the heat under the skillet.  Let simmer for 5 minutes, to let the flavors combine.
  6. On a serving platter, combine the rice, ingredients in the skillet and top with the shellfish. 

I found this to be easy – if you use three burners, by the time the rice is done cooking, your shellfish and your skillet ingredients can be done as well.  Just combine and serve!

This is obviously not authentic paella, but what I’ll call the “cheap and easy” version.  I ate only a tiny bit after I prepared it, but I’m looking forward to the ‘leftovers’ tonight.