Peanut Butter Truffles

PB 2.jpgAKA Buckeyes and known for Ohio’s state tree. I discovered when making them, that the more frozen they were when dipping, the easier it was to dip.  As they thaw, they start to fall off the toothpick.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

Directions

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Using a stand mixer with the paddle, blend the peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt until well-combined. Slowly add the confectioner sugar. Mix until combined then refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Scoop Divide into about 32 pieces ( about 1 tablespoon) mounds, roll into balls; arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. Insert a toothpick into each one and freeze until firm, about one hour.
  3. Microwave the 10 oz of the chocolate at 50 percent power, stirring every 30 seconds till nearly melted. It will be a little lumpy) Remove from the microwave and stir in the remaining 2 ounces of chocolate until it is melted and smooth.
  4. Tilt the bowl of chocolate so the chocolate pools on one side. Dip the ball into the melted chocolate, leaving a circle of peanut butter visible on top. Let the excess chocolate drip off, then return the buckeye to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining peanut butter balls and chocolate. If you have two baking sheets, keep the second in the freezer while you dip the first.
  5. Chill the Buckeyes until firm, about 30 minutes. Smooth out the hole left by the toothpick with an offset spatula. Serve at room temperature or well chilled.
  6. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

I doubled the recipe and it worked quite well.  I did not have bittersweet, so used only semisweet and I liked the flavor, but then I love milk chocolate more than dark chocolate.

 

Peanut Butter Truffles

What’s the Difference?

Yellow, White, and Red Onions

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Today, I decided to make Gyros for dinner and was looking up recipes for the sauce and what to add in the Gyro itself. Most recipes called for onions, not specifying which to use.  I got curious about why you use certain onions for certain things and can they be interchangeable.  I found the following information useful.

Wonder why some recipes call for a particular kind of onion and whether another can be substituted in its place?

 

All these onions vary slightly in flavor, texture, and color, but can usually be substituted for one another. In terms of cooking, they will all behave the same in the pan.

When buying onions, go for ones that feel heavy in your hand and firm. Avoid soft onions or ones that have a sharp oniony odor before peeling. These are indications that the onion is old. Except for sweet onions, all these onions can be stored for several weeks in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.

 

Yellow Onions  This is the all-purpose onion, and it’s the one we use most often. Yellow onions have a nice balance of astringency and sweet in their flavor, becoming sweeter the longer they cook. They are usually fist-sized and have a fairly tough outer skin and meaty layers. Spanish onions are a particular kind of yellow onion and we find them to be slightly sweeter and more delicate in flavor.

 

White Onions – These onions tend to have a sharper and more pungent flavor than yellow onions. They tend to be more tender and have a thinner, more papery skin. They can be cooked just like yellow onions, but we like them minced and added to raw salsas and chutneys.

 

Sweet Onions – Walla Walla and Vidalia are the most common kinds of sweet onions. These onions lack the sharp, astringent taste of other onions and really do taste sweet. They are fantastic thinly sliced and served in salads or on top of sandwiches. They can range in color from white to yellow and often have a flattened or squashed appearance. Sweet onions tend to be more perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator.

 

Red Onions – With their deep purple outer skin and reddish flesh, these are really the odd guys out in the onion family. They are fairly similar to yellow onions in flavor, though their layers are slightly less tender and meaty. Red onions are most often used in salads, salsas, and other raw preparations for their color and relatively mild flavor. The lovely red color becomes washed out during cooking. If you find their flavor to astringent for eating raw, try soaking them in water before serving.

Onions are a garden favorite and can be eaten raw, in salsas and salads, and cooked into your favorite recipes. Home gardeners can choose from onion varieties that are mildly sweet to pungent. Because onions are affected by the amount of light they receive, some grow better in the North, while others perform better in the South. Short-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 10-12 hours and are often the sweetest and best for eating raw. They’re most often grown in the South. Long-day onions begin forming bulbs when daylight lasts 14-16 hours. They are usually pungent, often store well for many months, and are usually grown in the North. Day-neutral onions are a cross of the two types. Onions can be started from seeds, sets, and plants.

Shallots

Shallots have a subtle flavor that is much milder than onions or garlic and are a favorite of gourmet cooks. Their flavor really shines when sautéed in butter or olive oil. Like green onions, their green shoots and bulbs are edible and the green shoots can be used as a green onion or scallion substitute. While shallots can be grown from seed, growing them from sets is often easiest. After harvest, cured bulbs can be stored for up to six months.

Leeks

Leeks look like overgrown green onions but have a milder, more delicate flavor than onions. The white base and green stalk are used for cooking in creamy soups, fresh, stocks and more. Leeks can be direct seeded outdoors or started indoors and transplanted into the garden. Thinning during the growing allows the plant to grow much larger. After harvest, leeks can keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks—or they can be dried for storage.

Remember…

Onions, shallots, and leeks are not considered interchangeable when it comes to cooking, even though some blogs and websites might say they are interchangable. Make sure you use whichever your recipe calls for, as the distinct flavor of each may alter the taste of your dish.

 

Do you have a favorite kind of onion?

 

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Definitely, regular use of the range hood fan and cleaning of the filters is a good way to remove the odors and nasty fumes created by cooking.One thing I’d like to point out about reducing the oily residue that adheres to the exhaust fan is that certain cooking techniques create more sticky, aerosolized nastiness than others, and some grease and oil films are more resistant to cleanup than others, too, esp if allowed to sit and harden.Stir frying is the worst for creating aerosolized oily fumes that cling to surfaces around the stove and kitchen, with or without a range hood fan. The heat, the open pan, the constant motion continually kicks up oily fumes that settle on surfaces much farther than most cooks realize.Cooking low and slow takes more time, but also reduces the amount of oil and grease splattering into the air and around the stove, often producing better food in the process. Simmering, braising, and slow cooking generally create less oily mess to clean up overall. Cooking in a pressure cooker saves time and keeps open pot cooking time to a minimum, therefore reduces splatter and aerosolized fumes.Furthermore, oil sprays, such as PAM and knockoffs, create a LOT of sticky, persistent aerosolized oil drift that is VERY difficult to wash away once it hardens and dries – newer formulas claim to create less residue on cookware, but less isn’t none. Spray cookware over the sink for easier cleanup of overspray, or spray outside the house (or better yet, don’t spray at all and avoid filling lungs with oily spray, too).Cooking in open pans with polyunsaturated oils from seeds (vegetable oil, canola, corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil sunflower oil, etc., tends to promote oily fume creation. Fumes from polyunsaturated oils settle on surfaces and then become rancid, hardened, and quite plasticized. These films are very resistant to scrubbing and cleansers.I have found that cooking with traditional and more stable fats like butter, ghee, tallow, bacon drippings, duck fat, and coconut or palm oil tends creates less oily fumes (esp if food is cooked low and slow instead of stir-frying and high heat sautéing). Splatters will still occur round the pan perhaps, but they tend not to aerosolize and form thin sticky fumes that create resistant films to the same extent as polyunsaturated oils when they settle on kitchen surfaces.I became aware of the the change in the rate of oily film buildup in my range hood and surfaces adjacent to my stove when my cooking changed over the past few years – I had stopped using and buying seed oils and making quick sauté recipes. Instead I made more traditional braising and simmering recipes using traditional fats instead of oils. The lack of oily film buildup after several years of cooking differently was particularly noticeable when we were away for four months last year and had house sitters in our house during our absence; they stir fried most of their meals on high heat with a liquid oil. While the stove and kitchen was generally clean at first glance when we returned home, an oily residue had settled inside and outside the range hood and on the cabinets around the stove , and was far worse than I’d ever experienced with my own cooking, even when the range fan hadn’t been working.
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What’s the Difference?

Simple Kitchen Habits

It doesn’t have to be fancy to be a little more efficient.

Whether you learned to cook from your parents, taught yourself on YouTube, or graduated from a culinary program, we all have certain ways about moving about the space of a kitchen. Some of those are deeply ingrained, and you might not even realize that you’re doing them. Some of them might be thanks to the space that you’re working in, or the particular mechanics of the food you prepare at home.  A culinary techniques program might help you to step back and reassess the way that you use your kitchen and make cooking easier.

Having proper equipment is important. A good sturdy bowl and cutting board will make your life easier. How you organize your space and move through it might be one of the first things to change in your kitchen. Here are a few good kitchen habits that will help.

Read the Recipe All the Way Through First

This might seem like really obvious advice to you, sort of like “measure twice, cut once.” But it’s easy to glance through the list of ingredients and the basic preparation without looking through the whole recipe, only to realize that it requires more time or different equipment than you have on hand. It’s equally easy to miss what turns out to be a crucial step when you’re working quickly and haven’t seen it before. Take time and read it, and get into the habit of always doing that before you even set off to the grocery store, and it will save you a lot of hassle.

Invest in Kitchen Towels

At the beginning of every class for my culinary program, I would set up my station, which meant cleaning and sanitizing my workspace, setting up my knives and tools, grabbing a giant cutting board from a rack, and folding a stack of side towels into quarters so I could easily grab them. I went through probably five towels a class, and we used them for everything. They act as potholders and as an easy way to stabilize a bowl you’re whipping cream or to put under your cutting board to keep it in place.  At the end of class, we put them in a giant laundry bag.

At home, it’s easy to be precious about your kitchen towels, which are often printed with something decorative. If you don’t have kitchen towels that you don’t mind staining, grab some cheap ones at Home Goods or TJX Maxx. Keep a stack of them easily available to you while you work. Use a towel or two each time you’re doing serious cooking, and then throw it in the wash. It’ll cut down a lot on your paper towels, and you’ll always have something handy to insulate your hand from a hot pan or wipe up a small spatter.

Hone Your Knife Often

A dull knife is an enemy of even knife cuts, and of your fingers. But people tend to concentrate far more on sharpening their knives than honing them, and honing can maintain your knife’s sharpness a lot more easily. When you sharpen a knife, you’re actually taking a small amount of the material off the blade of the knife to return it to its edge. Unless you’re using your knife very heavily every day you probably don’t need to sharpen your knife more than once or twice a year. Instead, you can realign the blade using a honing rod, and help extend the sharpness of your knives. It helps to hone it fairly often when you’re cooking, whenever you feel the blade begin to drag a bit. And it’s much cheaper than buying a new knife.

Now I personally found this advice off, as I re-sharpen mine every time I use it.

Have a Trash Bowl

When you’re prepping vegetables or meat, designate a bowl nearby that you can put scraps from your cutting board into. That way you don’t have to interrupt your workflow by running to dump things into the trash every few minutes, and you can more clearly see what kind of scraps you’re working with and whether they’d be useful for something like a chicken stock later on.

In my kitchen the trash is right below where I cut and chop, so I finish I just scrap it into the trash, but I was lucky enough to design my own kitchen.

Keep Two Olive Oils on Hand

Olive oil is one of the things you tend to go through a lot of in the kitchen if you cook a lot, and though it would be nice use extremely nice olive oil for everything, it doesn’t make sense, or even for the flavors of lots of things. For that reason have one more affordable but still good olive oil on hand for everyday tasks like cooking eggs or vegetables, and one higher-end one in a smaller bottle for drizzling over salad or good bread, when the flavor is really pronounced. For every day, California Olive Ranch’s Every Day Extra Virgin Olive Oil makes a great oil that’s available and affordable, and for when I want something peppery and a little nicer,  reaching Gaea’s DOP Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Use what tastes good to you and what you can afford. Just make sure that you’re storing it well and use it within a few months. Otherwise, no matter how nice your oil is, it’ll go rancid.

Keep Your Salt Easily Accessible and Use It Liberally

 

The single easiest thing you can do to make yourself a better cook is to put the salt you use for seasoning in a bowl, rather than keeping it in a shaker or a container with a pour spout. It’s a really good habit to get into because you can more easily add pinches or palmfuls of salt into what you’re making and get a feel for how much you need for it to taste right. It’s also easy to be afraid of adding salt for fear of making a dish too salty. When you’re seasoning a dish, using salt is what makes the ingredients taste more like themselves.

Weigh, Don’t Measure

This is another adage that you’ve probably heard, but it is shocking how much a kitchen scale can make a difference in your whole cooking and baking game. But the measuring spoons and cups are probably right there, and well, it’s easier to reach for them. Make it easy to reach for the scale and a bowl, and you’ll get in the habit of doing that for ingredients that really need to be precise, like flour or sugar when baking.

Prep Before You Start Cooking

No one has unlimited times in their lives. It’s a normal thing to want to start the dish and the cut up the carrots or celery or whatever to go into it. And it’s a strategy that can work, or it can leave you frantically hacking at the tomatoes while the onions go from brown to burned in the pan. If you have your ingredients measured and prepped before you start, it’s going to make the cooking process that much smoother. There’s often room in recipes for you to cut and prep things while something else is simmering, a thing you’ll discover when you read the recipe all the way through. But at least prepare the things you know you’re going to need immediately, or during a time-sensitive step in the process. Leave the garnish for later.

Pay Attention to Ingredient Temperature

Can you use the egg straight from the refrigerator or does it need to come to room temperature? In baking, you’ve probably run into butter that needs to be softened or melted and cooled before incorporating it into a batter. Other cooking is the same way, particularly when it comes to proteins. Letting your meat come to room temperature will help it cook more evenly, and having your water hot or cold before you add it can alter the outcome of what you’re making. Making a mental note to keep tabs on how warm things are while your working is a good habit to get into.

Simple Kitchen Habits

Pork Loin with Spinach & Goat Cheese

pork.jpg

A sophisticated stuffing of creamy goat cheese, silky spinach, and lemony herbs give this lean and mighty pork loin 5-star flavor. Topped with apricot-infused sweet and sour sauce, we tip our hats to the slow cooker for coaxing out this degree of decadence. To achieve the coveted crisp-tender texture of the pork, we recommend browning it on all sides before placing it in the slow cooker. Once cooked, use a serrated knife to slice the pork with ease. Pair this divine main with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans or garlicky Brussels for a well-rounded meal that is sure to impress.

 

How to Make It

Step 1

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until shallots are caramelized. Add spinach; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until wilted. Remove from heat.

Step 2

Combine goat cheese, chives, parsley, and lemon rind in a small bowl.

Step 3

Holding knife flat and parallel to cutting board, cut horizontally through the center of pork loin, cutting to, but not through, the other side. Open flat, as you would a book. Starting at the center seam, cut horizontally through each half, cutting to, but not through, the other side. Open flat on either side. Place pork between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; pound to an even 1/2-inch thickness using a meat mallet or small, heavy skillet. Remove plastic wrap.

Step 4

Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spread goat cheese mixture evenly over pork; top with the shallot mixture. Roll up pork jelly-roll fashion. Tie with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals. Sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Step 5

Wipe pan clean. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add pork; cook 3 minutes per side or until browned. Place stuffed pork in a 5-quart slow cooker.

Step 6

Add apricot preserves, butter, and mustard to pan; reduce heat to medium. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until butter melts. Pour over pork loin in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 7 to 8 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of pork registers 145°F. I cooked mine in the oven at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes and it was just great. 

Step 7

Place pork on a cutting board; let stand 15 minutes. Skim and discard fat from sauce in the slow cooker. Pour sauce into a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high. Cook 5 minutes, until reduced to about 1 cup. Stir in vinegar.

Step 8

Remove and discard twine. Slice pork into 12 slices; serve with sauce.

Pork Loin with Spinach & Goat Cheese

Back in the Studio

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After my last class with Stanley Beilen, I decided to try a few small paintings on my own.  Looking around, I always can find garlic in my house, as I cook with it most days, so here is “Mr. Garlic”.

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When I walked outside, I realized I had these lovely pansies right by my front door, so they became my next painting.

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Henry’s is our local “You’ve Got Everything” store and I spotted this pot and lovely little flower and thought they went together well and needed to be painted.  Love this little 8″ x 10″ painting.

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Looking for something to paint, I found a photo I took when I visited my son in San Jose. We went to a beautiful Japanese Garden where I took a photo of the lilies. It is a nice memory of a wonderful day.  This one is a little larger at about 12″ x 18″.

Buttes.jpg

My home town of Colusa is home to the Sutter Buttes, the world’s smallest mountain range. This is from a photo I found of the area and really thought captured the beauty of little mountain range.  I sold this to a friend of mine from high school yesterday.  It is 12″ x 24″.

Happy Painting!!

Back in the Studio

What Is a Convection Oven—and What Should You Cook In It?

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An oven is an oven, right? Wrong. Many professional chefs swear by a convection oven for evenly cooked, perfectly browned foods. So should you invest in one for your own kitchen?

My oven has a convection mode, so I found this information interesting and hope to incorporate it in my cooking in the future.

Understanding why, when, and how to use a convection oven (or a convection setting) can make a world of difference in how your food turns out. Here’s what you need to know about convection oven cooking:

Convection Oven Vs. Conventional Oven

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A conventional (or traditional) oven cooks food by heating the air inside of it. The air inside the oven remains stagnant. A convection oven, meanwhile, has built-in fans that circulate the air during the cooking process. Many ovens have both convection and conventional settings, allowing you to choose between the two.

Convection Oven Pros

The convection setting on your oven can benefit your food in a number of ways, like:

It cooks food evenly.

Conventional ovens can have hot spots or areas in the oven that heat faster and higher than in other areas. This can result in unevenly cooked food, where one side cooks faster than the other. The circulating air of a convection oven keeps the temperature even throughout cooking, which is especially helpful when roasting a whole turkey or toasting nuts.

mr- classic roast turkey

It cooks food faster. Food cooks about 25 percent faster in a convection oven because the hot air blowing directly onto the food speeds up chemical reactions within the oven.

It’s better at browning. If you’re after a crispy or crunchy texture, reach for the convection setting. Conventional ovens are prone to humidity because of a lack of ventilation. Convection ovens, however, produce dry air that caramelizes sugars during roasting.

It’s more energy efficient. Faster cooking times mean you’re using less energy. Theoretically, using the convection setting can save you money and help the environment.

Convection Oven Cons

Though it can often improve your food, a convection oven isn’t always appropriate. In fact, you should probably steer clear of it when you’re making delicate foods like cakes, souffles, bread, and custard. The air circulation can inhibit the setting process, causing batter not to rise properly.

Some people claim that you should never use the convection setting for cooking American baked goods like biscuits, cakes, and cookies.

Many American recipes were developed using a conventional oven and actually benefit from the moisture that comes from humidity. Dry air will speed up crust formation, which may affect how (and if) your recipe rises during the cooking process.

Using the convection setting during baking could result in flat, fluff-less cookies, cakes, and biscuits, and no one wants that.

What Can You Use If You Don’t Have a Convection Oven?

If your oven doesn’t have a convection setting, you don’t have to buy a new oven to reap the rewards of convection cooking. Believe it or not, you can often substitute an air fryer for the convection setting. Both appliances work by circulating hot air around the food being cooked, providing quick, crispy, and evenly cooked results. While they’re not exactly the same thing, the hot air in an air fryer circulates much faster and is not blown directly onto the food. You should definitely consider trying it out before splurging on a new oven. One caveat: Air fryers are much smaller than convection ovens so plan your meal accordingly.

How to Use a Convection Oven

Sheet Pan Chicken with Roasted Baby Potatoes

Though using the convection setting on your oven is as simple as pushing a button, there are a few things you should know:

You might need to adjust recipes. Most recipes you find in cookbooks and online were developed using a traditional oven, so you’ll have to tweak them a bit. Lowering the recommended temperature by 25 degrees should do the trick. Since food cooks faster in a convection oven, you’ll need to check it’s progress frequently to make sure it’s not burning.

Give your food room to breathe. You may have heard warnings against overcrowding the pan during roasting (we’re looking at you, Julia Child fans), but it’s especially important to make sure your food is spaced properly when you’re using a convection oven. Convection relies on air being able to circulate, and packing too much onto one pan can hinder that process. You should avoid crowding the oven with too many pans at one time, as you could block a fan.

Use low-sided or rimless baking sheets and pans. If you want to take full advantage of the convection setting, you should make sure that nothing is keeping the moving air from blowing onto the food, and that includes the sides of your pans. It’s all about circulation!

What Is a Convection Oven—and What Should You Cook In It?

Honey Garlic Baked Pork Chops

 

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Honey Garlic Baked Pork Chops One of my favorite pork chop recipes! Incredibly tender & super juicy pork chops coated in a sticky honey garlic sauce and baked to a delicious perfection.

Prep Time 5 minutes

Cook Time 25 minutes

Total Time 30 minutes Servings 4 serves

HONEY GARLIC PORK CHOPS

2 tablespoons honey

4 – 6 cloves garlic minced

2 tablespoons  soy sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

1/2 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

4 (4 ounces each) bone-in pork chops, fat trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. In a small mixing bowl combine honey, garlic, soy sauce, ketchup, chili sauce, and oregano; mix until thoroughly combined.

3. Place pork chops in a large bowl, pour the sauce over the pork chops and mix.  (I did this in the morning, then completed the pork for dinner)

4. Heat olive oil in an oven safe 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.

5. Add the pork chops and sauce to the skillet; sear chops on both sides until just browned, about 2 minutes per side.

6. Remove the pork chops from heat, add the butter to the remaining sauce, and place pork chops in the preheated oven.

7. Cook for an additional 15 to 18 minutes, or until cooked through. Pork chops are cooked through when internal temperature reaches 160F.

8. Remove from oven and transfer the pork chops to a serving plate.

9. Spoon the sauce over the chops, garnish with parsley, and serve.

Honey Garlic Baked Pork Chops

Another Weekend of Art Class

This last weekend I took another three-day class at The Winslow Art Center on Bainbridge Island.  Martha Jordan brings in wonderful artists from all over the country to teach workshops.  This last weekend, Stanley Bielen came in from the East Coast to teach beautifully simplified small paintings to a group of fifteen from all over the country.

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We all had individual vignettes set up around the room.  It was so fun to see what people selected and then what they painted.  I learned a lot from the teacher and from watching the approach of other artists in the class.  I started to say “students”, but for the most part, the class was full of very accomplished artists.

I stopped to talk to a friend downstairs and by the time I returned after the morning demo, the only spot left was the one where Stanley had painted the demo, so I decided I would give it a try.

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These are small paintings at about 6″ x 8″, so this is even a little larger than the actual painting.  Being pleased with this I moved on the next day to a set-up of my own.

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This is not quite as loose as what Stanley was sharing, but it was fun and I felt good about it, which is not always the case.

In the afternoon, I looked at the choices available and found this beautiful little teapot, and thought it would be fun.  Laughing a little, I placed a quince bough in the spout and had fun painting this. Stanley made a couple of painting strokes, that really made a difference in the painting.

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Keep in mind that I am not a “flower” painter.  Ever since I was in Art School in the ’70s, and the teacher in one of my first-semester art classes said, after I produced a three foot by three foot abstract, that he was surprised, as he always thought I would just be a flower painter, I have kind of steered clear of flowers.  If you look back in your life, I think most of us would be amazed by the power that a small quick comment may have had on our lives. Teachers have more power than we often think.

Feeling good about my little teapot (short and stout) I returned to the “table of treasures”, as I called it with lots and lots of flowers, some fruit, and vegetables and tried to figure out how I could avoid painting flowers.

Ah, the Bok Choy.  One other artist painted it laying on its side, but I thought: “Let the Bok Choy stand tall”. Not sure it came out as tall, but at least it does look like a Bok Choy.

 

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That was the end of the second day and I have to admit I was a little tired. My sweet husband suggested we just go out to dinner.  I thought that was a great idea and had a few glasses of champagne with dinner, came home and had a couple glasses of wine.  I awoke with a not so happy headache but took some ibuprofen and was off to class.  Arriving at class, I realized I was tired and not really “on”.  I discovered that day that how you feel makes a difference to your creativity.  I did two more small paintings, but walked away, not liking either one of them.

One of the women in the class brought in a vase of amazing Camillias, so I thought: ” Humm, they are big, maybe I can paint one.”

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Stanley liked it, but it does not “sing” to me.  I might try more flowers just to see if I can do it more successfully.  The last painting of class should be your best effort, but I find I am usually more tired at the end of the class, so don’t think it is my best.

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I realized as I finished this, that the flower was way to close to the upper left corner.  The nice thing about working on panels is that you can cut them.  So I cropped it in Photoshop and will have my husband cut it down.

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So I will have him chop off the bottom, and I will repaint the bottom and then I think I may actually like it.

It was a very wonderful workshop and I feel lucky I was able to take it with old friends and now some new ones.

 

Another Weekend of Art Class

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies

cookie.jpgChocolate Toffee Butter Cookies – Makes 5 dozen

2 1/3 cups flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt ( I use French Gray)

1 cup unsalted butter (softened, but cool)

1 cup packed light brown sugar (not dark brown)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup toffee bits without chocolate ( I just used English Toffee bars with chocolate)

1 ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips ( I used milk chocolate)

1 tbl vegetable oil (I used butter) 2/3 cup pecans toasted and finely chopped

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk them to blend.
  2. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  3. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 2 additions, and mix until blended.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. Stir in the toffee bits.
  5. Divide the dough in half. Roll 2 logs about 9 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Flatten the logs into 2 1/2-inch-wide rectangles. Wrap rectangles in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until firm.
  6. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. With a long knife, cut the dough 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool cookies completely on the sheets. Bake remaining cookies.
  8. Transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, heat the chocolate chips, stirring occasionally, until they melt. Stir in the oil and mix until smooth.
  9. Holding one side of the cookies, dip a part of each one into the chocolate or drizzle the chocolate over the cookies with a spoon. Sprinkle pecans on top. Let the chocolate set about 1 hour.

 

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies

Learning from Bad Cookies

Interesting article on how to bake a better cookie.  I have certainly learned over the years.  This is good basic information
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1. Amount of Flour

Getting the flour ratio right is crucial to a nicely textured cookie. Too much and your cookie will be dry, crumbly, and chalky. Too little and your cookies will burn easily, spread a TON, and will feel greasy to the touch. Not good!

2. The Mixing Method

It is tempting to dump all your ingredients into a bowl and stir them together all at once. Surprisingly the results aren’t terrible, but the cookies were inconsistent in flavor. On the other hand, our over-creamed batch resulted in overly tough, puck-like cookies. Finding a happy medium between doing the most and doing the least is important for both the texture and flavor of your cookies.

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

3. Baking Powder

There’s a reason baking powder is never called for in cookies: Adding it results in cookies that have a Play-Doh texture and a vaguely chemical taste.

4. Eggs

You gotta have ‘em! Leaving them out will result in overly sweet balls of dough. Crunchy on the outside, doughy in the middle, and completely unsatisfying.

Soft & Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

5. Sugar

Not enough and your cookies will taste more like shortbread, too much and they’ll be crunchy, burnt, and obviously way too sweet.

6. Bake Time

We’ve all burnt a batch of cookies, so you likely know the deal with over-baked cookies. They’re dry, crumbly, and come with a slightly bitter burnt flavor. Still edible, though! Under-baked cookies are doughy, soft, and slightly greasy. Luckily, if that’s your issue, you can pop ‘em back in the oven and give them a little more time.

Learning from Bad Cookies