Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bento Boxes

Long time, no blog! Well, I'm back and I definitely have a lot to blog about. But for now, a quick post of some of my recent bento boxes! Three of the four are vegan, my husband is vegetarian so one of his boxes has a hardboiled egg. The rice balls (or onigiri) are filled with seitan in a teriyaki sauce. I have never made onigiri before this week, the process is easy - but it's getting the shape to hold with the filling that's a bit tricky. I learned a lot about making onigiri from JustHungry. All the faces are made using a sheet of nori (seaweed) and kitchen scissors. I can't believe how easy it is to make a cute face!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Kawaii Sweets Stationery

Last week I spent a lot of my free time doodling with watercolors. I've found it so freeing to paint without a complete composition in mind. I have always enjoyed the act of painting but whenever I had to do a painting for a class assignment I would fill with dread. What should the piece be? What to put in the background? It turns out I'm happiest when I'm painting small things, icons if you will. I decided to embrace this and just paint whatever came to mind. As I was painting I got the idea to make some stationery. I scoured the internets for different pastries and painted each one by one.  Then I scanned my paintings, arranged them on stationery sized template and also created stickers and cut them out with my brand new 1.5" circle cutter.

The dots on the stationery are from the singing bluebird card I created earlier this week. Now I'm excited to start building my collection of watercolor doodles and papercraft pieces so I have lots of images to use on different pieces moving forward. For this stationery I still have to make an envelope and I think I will turn a few of the stickers into buttons using resin.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sing it, Mr.Bluebird!

Last night I created a very similar card to the one below, but I wasn't happy with the color palate I chose. This morning I decided to try again and I'm happy with the results! I find that whenever I'm working I have to fight my proclivity towards laziness and cutting corners. Of course, whenever I push myself I end up much happier with the results. So with this piece, I took the time to do some watercoloring for the clouds, grass and stripes for the dots and I'm so glad I did. One of my goals for this month's pieces is to take my time. As they said in art school over and over, "Step away from the canvas." I found that to be the most valuable piece of advice I received during my BFA program. It applies to art, design and life in general. Take a step back, walk away and come back, try to get a fresh perspective. Even a little shift, a bit of space, can open the door to new creative solutions.

What are your weaknesses in your personal creative practice? Whatever discipline you work in: painting, sewing, web design, writing - we all have our pitfalls. What goal can you set this to improve in your practice?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Outgoing Mail

This week's outgoing mail will be going to Tokyo. Goodies I packaged are some gift tags I created and three packages of chocolate flavored herbal teas made by The Republic of Tea. I loved how the gift tags and the little baggie I made came out so I made a bunch of gift tags for future packages.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Canning Tomato Sauce

Happy Labor Day! Labor Day Weekend happens to be prime time for tomatoes in New England. This past week our CSA announced a special on 25lbs of beefsteak tomatoes. We decided to take advantage of the special and make tomato sauce. We had just canned tomato sauce for the first time last weekend, so we already had our process down and a few ideas for changes to our recipe from last week. Although it is quite a long process (it takes the majority of a day), making homemade tomato sauce is actually quite easy. We found the best way to peel the tomatoes is to core, score and blanching the tomatoes. This process is covered in detail in my directions below.

Materials needed:
  • knives
  • several large bowls
  • several large pots
  • small colander or large slotted spoon  
  • jar funnel
  • Ball jars and lids
  • masher

  • 20lbs+ tomatoes
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 2 large onions
  • olive oil
  • fresh basil
  • dried oregano
  • dried thyme
  • salt + pepper
  • sugar 

  1. Wash tomatoes, mason jars and lids.
  2. Core and score: Cut and pop out the cores of each tomato and score the bottoms with an X. (Core/Score process illustrated really well on this post.)While you are doing this, bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  3. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water. (We ran out of ice so we made do with an ice pack). Blanch the tomatoes in small batches by putting several tomatoes into the boiling water and let sit for 30 - 40 seconds. Use a colander or large slotted spoon to move the tomatoes from the boiling water to the ice bath. Let tomatoes cool and peel off the skin.
  4. Once all the tomatoes are peeled, you can mash the tomatoes with a hand masher.
  5. Peel and mince garlic and onions. Start warming several pots with about two tablespoons of olive oil. We use several pots to distribute the sauce to reduce the time needed to boil off the excess water. Add your desired amount of garlic and onions to each pot, add salt to sweat the garlic and onions. Keep the temperature relatively low so as not to burn the garlic and onions. Once the onions are translucent, add the mashed tomatoes.
  6. Turn up the heat so as to bring the sauce to a steady simmer in order to burn off the excess liquid. Add desired amounts of oregano, thyme, pepper, salt and sugar. We tend to be conservative with the salt and sugar until an hour or so has passed so as not to go by the taste of the sauce with the excess liquid. 
  7. Simmer for an hour and a half or so, paying attention so as to keep a controlled simmer. Use the hand masher from time to time during the simmering process to break up the stubborn large clumps.
  8. Once the sauce is closer to the desired consistency, taste the sauce and add sauce and sugar to your desired taste. Wash and chiffonade the fresh basil. We like to add the basil in closer to the end of the boiling so as to retain its fresh flavor as much as possible.
  9. When sauce is at the desired consistency, use the jar funnel and pour each jar to the bottom of the neck.
  10. Process. Follow instructions based upon the processing method of your choosing. I found this site to be really helpful for researching canning vs water bath processing. It is advised for tomato sauce to use pressure canning if at all possible. If you do the water bath method, you should add citric acid or lemon juice to your jars before processing. Last week we simply froze our sauce since we were only using it for ourselves.
For last weekend's batch we used Roma tomatoes and we found they yielded far more sauce and boiled quicker than the beefsteak tomatoes. In the future we will probably use Roma tomatoes whenever possible. During this batch we deseeded about 10 tomatoes for a special sauce for my husband's mother who needs to avoid seeds due to a dietary issue. We also found that by taking the time to remove the seeds, although it's a pain to do, it actually saved time during the boiling process and yielded a thicker sauce. So if you're using beefsteak tomatoes, I'd advise deseeding. When you break open the tomato you'll be pushing out the jelly-like chunks that hold the seeds, thus removing a majority of the liquid from the tomato.

I hope you found this post to be a helpful guide on canning tomato sauce. Good luck and happy canning!

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