Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bourbon Maple Pumpkin Butter... oh, oh yes

The few days before a holiday like Thanksgiving are the worst. That's of course an exaggeration, but follow along with me. The weekend is over, the lingering work week before the break are upon us. Somehow, the anticipation of having a free pass on vacation days makes the last few days to get there seem even longer. It's like the opening scene of every other teen romcom (romantic comedy) where the kids anxiously stare down the clock until the final bell rings and suddenly horny, clueless, angst-filled teenagers burst out of the high school's double doors to greet summer vacation with cheers and papers flying. Yes, that is how I feel about the last few days before we all get to take some time off for the holidays.

It may be filled with more planning and responsibility than when we were kids - booking the flights home, taking the 2nd trip to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient and wondering when the little red button in the Jenny-O turkey will pop up and let us know the bird is done - but the added ownership in piecing the day together brings a greater sense of reward and appreciation for the day.

Thanksgiving is still four days away and the last minute planning panic and countdown to T-Time has begun. I'll be spending the day with my family on Camano Island in Puget Sound, thus forcing me to chillax with homemade Manhattans, beach combing and crackling fires. As a take-ahead snack starter, I made Pumpkin Butter with a maple bourbon twist. Pumpkin butter is really a misleading name because it tastes more like a pumpkin candy spread and has no butter whatsoever. It's also delicious on anything from a cracker to a stack of pancakes. Make some for yourself or a Thanksgiving hostess gift.

Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Butter
29 oz. can Pumpkin Puree
3/4 C Maple Syrup
1/4 C Sugar
1/2 C Apple Cider
1/4 C Bourbon
4 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir constantly to incorporate ingredients and avoid bubbles from splattering. Reduce to low heat and cover with a lid. Simmer for 30 minutes and then pour into an air tight jar.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Can You Draw the Internet?

I grew up with dial-up. In 1998 at 12-years old I really only used the Internet to chat with friends on AIM. I may have researched a book report or two on, but the Internet wasn't totally clear to me beyond being a communication tool. The Internet connection regularly failed, mom would pick up the phone or it would just flat out crash, resulting in exaggerated pre-teen meltdowns because I'd be mid-instant message to the hottest boy in the 7th grade and get logged off. So I would sit, staring at the little yellow AOL man as he attempted to log me back on with the digital screeches of modems reconnecting. It was the dark ages. And nowadays the Internet is somewhat of an inconceivable abstraction. Creative agency Saint took this notion and wanted to expand upon it by posing a simple question - can you draw the Inernet? In a culture of grown ups who have seen the the role of the Internet rapidly evolve and creep into every cranny of our lives, business and socialization, we are overrun with the necessity and capacity of the Internet. Yet we can still recall times when the Internet played only a small role, if any at all - smart phones, for example, were first introduced in the mid 90's, and we didn't see our beloved iPhone appear until 2007.

But now, we've reached a place in time where there are young generations who have never experienced life without the Internet at their immediate disposal. Kids have an astonishing innate agility and affinity with technology. While I am still teaching my mother the concept of right-clicking, my boss tells a story of how his 4-year old daughter picked up an iPad during a trip to Best Buy and began to easily navigate the applications using a natural technology common sense.

Saint directed their creative challenge to members of the advertising and design community, and then, to a group of kids in primary school. The results were posted on November 12, 2010 and viewers can vote for their favorite representations. Not only is it interesting to compare the artistic thoughts of professional creative talents and those of some awesome kids, I also find it interesting to examine trends and interpret what makes the highest-ranking drawings "the best" in the minds of the public.

It appears that the front running designs all convey a simple, pointed emotion through analogies and visual representations that pertain to the role the Internet plays in human life. Even in the adult entries, the drawings that communicate a single-minded thought with emotional resonance, rather than convoluted social commentary or complex subtexts to wade through, were chosen as favorites. At the end of the day, there is no real winner because there is no single answer to what the Internet is and what significance it has. What we can tell, is that the saturation and reach of the Internet is becoming more of a second nature rather than an application we control.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Time for Treats, Not Turning Tricks

Halloween is an opportunity to pull out the best of your creative skill and craftiness to make your favorite characters and fantasies come to life. I think every young girl, or sometimes not so young girl, goes through the slutty costume phase. It's really quite amazing how us chicks can wear little more than lingerie, don a pair of fake ears or wings, and call our porny excuse of a costume a cat, an angel, a fairy etc. I wore out of that phase after one Risky Business episode back in college. It's just boring. Halloween is fright and whimsy the personification of puns.

This year I didn't know what to be until my roommate announced she was dressing up as Finn from our favorite cartoon, Adventure Time. You need to watch this show, it's like a television writer wrote down the verbal diatribe of a 7 year old boy playing make believe on a sugar high, found an animator, and made magic. Inspired by the novelty of my smoking roommate dressing up as a little boy cartoon, I started to think of my own favorite cartoons as a child. I landed on Chuckie Finster from Rugrats, and thence came one of the best costumes I've ever created. There are two criteria: 1. how cheaply can you make an awesome costume, and 2. how accurate can you make it. It all came down the hair, I teased and sprayed and teased and sprayed, and I had an orange fro that I never knew was just dying to come out. Enjoy your Halloween everyone, and as a last minute throw in - enjoy these tasty pumpkin flavored pumpkin crisped rice treats :).

Pumpkin Rice Crispies Treats
8 Tbs. Butter
24 Oz. Marshmallows
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
12 C Crisped rice cereal
Food Coloring
Black Icing

Melt 6 Tbs butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 22 ounces of marshmallows (about 1 1/2 packages) until meted down, stirring continuously. Add red and yellow food coloring to create an orange hue. Add pumpkin pie spice and stir until combined. Add crisped rice cereal and stir until well combined. Set aside and let cool until able to handle.

In a separate saucepan heat an additional 2 table spoons of butter until melted and add 2-4 ounces of marshmallows. Incorporate green food coloring (this will be your stem!). Add 1 Cup crisped rice cereal and combine with marshmallow.

Form your pumpkins into baseball sized balls and set on wax paper to cool completely. Take your green mixture and form small stems atop each pumpkin. Once all your pumpkins are made take your icing and draw spooky faces on your treats. Makes 12-15 Pumpkins.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Have I Told You About My Pumpkin Obsession?

Oh it's big. I love pumpkin everything. Once Fall hits, I will buy the mega cans of pumpkin pie filling and absent mindedly scour the internet for pumpkin recipes in my free time. It's even lead to an exploration in other gourds and squashes. I take my cues from marketing on when the actual season begins (I know I should be able to avoid the advertising influence, seeing as I am in the industry, but it hooks me every time). It seems like once the pumpkin spice lattes hit Starbucks or the pumpkin pie flavor is being scooped at 21 Choices, my furor is unleashed and I toy with ways that I could subsist solely of variations of pumpkin.

When I moved in to my new house my mom bought me a mini deep fryer as a housewarming gift…I’m still not sure why. I had big dreams of locking my doors, closing my curtains and having a sinfully gluttonous day of deep frying anything I could get my hands on. It’s yet to happen but I haven’t let go of the dream of turning my kitchen into a county fair and creating deep fried Snickers, macaroni & cheese balls and corn dogs. A friend told me he actually took a piece of ham, wrapped it around cheese and tossed it gingerly into a deep fryer once, “It was like a ham wonton!” he exclaimed. It makes you both cringe and secretly salivate at the same time, admit it!

But I digress, I first christened my mini fryer over last Thanksgiving when I made a pumpkin doughnut hole recipe for dessert. The resulting little flavor bombs were sweet and spicy without being too greasy. The dough was dense and moist, remnants of sugar and cinnamon clung to my lips. The leftovers were good for days and I nibbled my way through the rest of the batch by the end of the weekend. It just so happens that this recipe is Vegan as well – a fact I tend to slip in quietly as I find many assume that vegan cooking will taste like pasty lentils or vegetable pulp. Not the case! Anyway, I thought this recipe would be perfect for a Sunday morning Halloween breakfast – something to stave off the oncoming work week and assuage the Monday blues. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Doughnut Holes
1 Tbs flaxseed meal
2 Tbs warm water
1/4 C soy milk
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 3/4 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tps baking soda
1/2 tps salt
2 Tbs pumpkin pie spice
1/2 C sugar
2 Tbs margarine
2 tsp ginger paste
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 C canned pumpkin (not pie filling!)

In a small bowl mix together flaxseed meal with the water, soy milk and vinegar. Set aside.
In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice.
In a third bowl, combine ginger, vanilla and pumpkin.

Beat sugar and margarine together until well combined. Add the flaxseed liquid until creamy and then add the pumpkin mixture. Mix in dry ingredients gradually in shifts until dough is just combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat several inches of oil to 365-370 degrees Fahrenheit. You want the oil to just cover your doughnut holes. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Dust your cutting board with flour and form 1/2-1 inch doughnut holes, they will expand upon frying. Fry 4-5 doughnut holes at a time, dropping them as close to the surface of the oil as possible to avoid splattering. If hot oil scares you, use a slotted spoon to gently place the holes in the oil.  Use the same slotted spoon or wire strainer to roll the doughnuts and ensure even cooking. Remove from oil after 2 minutes or a dark golden brown color. Place holes onto a wire rack or paper towels. Once they have cooled enough to handle, roll the holes in the sugar and cinnamon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Audrey II

  It's Halloween Month. Yes, Halloween is in fact a celebration I make last a month. I love whimsy, the fright fests, the communal celebration of being someone who you are not, just for an evening. But more than anything, I love the gaudy excess. We stuff ourselves with bagfuls of candy and smother our homes in faux cobwebs and ghoulish horrors, and it delights us. When I was a wee one at Christmas time I always begged my folks to decorate our house with the colorful lights and tacky lawn ornaments. No such luck. We had the wholesome and holy white lights with red ribbons on the lamp posts. It looks good in retrospect, but I'd still love me a plug-in glowing baby Jesus.

Halloween was the only time I got away with cheap kitsch and flair. So I spend the whole month of October drinking pumpkin spice lattes, filling my Netflix queue with scary movies and turning my house into a display. It is a fact all my roommates have come to accept, and I think secretly adore. In October, my spidey senses are heightened, unconsciously attuned to the next craft or decoration I can discover. So naturally, when I happen to spy a Venus Fly Trap out of the corner of my eye in the floral department at the grocery store, I pause. This plant is is a man eating inanimate organism. See "Little Shop of Horrors" for a more accurate description of how this plant is a badass. So I bought him. And in tribute to the Broadway sensation, I named him (or her, I guess) Audrey II.

This evening, I happened to kill a mosquito whizzing around my apartment. I was going to throw it away, and then a devious sensation crept in as I remembered my little leafy friend. Experiment: Will Audry II actually eat a bug if I feed it to him? The result, a resounding yes. It's kind of a sick satisfaction to see your carnivorous plant feed on a hapless little bug. Kind of like the satisfaction Freddy Krueger may have gotten from slaying teenagers. Muahahaha!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ikea Food is Artsy

I love it when artistry and food come together to create a dish that is as pleasing to the palate as it is to the eyes. But Ikea, believe it or not, has elevated the concept of eating with our eyes to a whole new level - with the help of agency Forsman & Bodenfors. Inspired by Japanese minimalism and high fashion, the partnership created a 140-page coffee table book, "Hembakat ar Bast," showcasing 30 classing Swedish baking recipes. The result is an artistic representation of ingredients, which are displayed in the forfront with such a beautiful and unusual manner, that they outshine the resulting pastry. Take a look.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Family Portrait

Last week my brother and I were bantering back and forth on instant messenger in attempts to recall our Grandmother's maiden name. I started Googling in hopes of finding records of my grandparents' marriage and was led down an hour long exploration of my maternal Grandmother's family tree. I can trace my Dad's ancestry back to the 12th Century. Underhills keep track of everything, apparently. But I've always known less about who was there beyond the last few generations from my Mom's side of things. As I was led deeper down the rabbit hole I  discovered this photo of my great great great grandparents and their family, aka my maternal grandmother's dad's parents. Following me?...that's okay, continue on.

The youngest child sitting on the mother's lap is my great great grandfather. The picture was taken just before the turn of the 19th Century. And as I stared at this picture, searching the faces for glimmers of resemblance or personality, I realized how absolutely little I knew about him. We look at pictures or hear facts about our ancestors and place them under a microscope of comparative analysis with ourselves. Does she have my eyes, did he have the same interests I do, was he brave, was she funny? Did they do something impactful with their time that still resonates in mine? The remnants and trinkets of our ancestors possess a magnetism and significance imbued from their rarity and obscurity. They're puzzle pieces that we know will never complete the picture but give us a hint or insight into ourselves and our origins.

 I began to wonder what legacy my depictions and possessions would leave for my family a century from now. And then I realized, I don't have as many precious possessions as I do stuff. Loads of stuff. Not only material items that are devoid of personal meaning, but pictures, videos and conversations that will be forever accessible through the click of a mouse. And while it's pretty incredible to realize that five generations from now, my decedents will theoretically have my entire life at their finger tips, it also makes it less special and mysterious. I have 2,769 pictures on Facebook. I have an E-mail account that records every conversation with Search features. My life will be mysterious to understand not for lack of information, but for too much of it.

I have this one picture of my great great great grandparents and their family. This was a special photo. It was an orchestrated event to capture this brood of 10, in the farmlands of rural Missouri, in a rare family portrait. And somehow, this image survived and was scanned onto a computer so I could find it in a search engine over a century thereafter. While technology and social networks actually help us discover more of those missing puzzle pieces of our past, it makes it easier to muddle our own legacies that we choose to leave. And that's something worth considering.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

We be Jammin

People crave convenience more than they crave the satisfaction of the process. We've seen the industrialization of our livestyles and commoditization of our goods offer us more ways to facilitate our busy lives. And it all seems to be about saving time. Drive this to get there faster. Eat this prepared meal to save hours on cooking. Shop here to get all your goods at one place.

Yet another growing trend that has become a fad, in a sense, is the regression to the good old days where people took a hands on approach to fulfilling and sustaining themselves down to the individual level. Purists and passionate artisans built the farmers markets and created the hand-done crafts to offer to a community that cares about where their products come from and who the person is that made them. Meanwhile, large corporations picked up on the popularity of organic and homemade. All of a sudden every Kroger and Whole Foods produce department alike have graphics of American family farms and buzz words like "organic" "natural" and "gourmet" emblazoned across product labels.

But we don't talk much about the joy in it. The pleasure of the process that contributes to the reward of the end result. Wander the path, pick the fruit, stir the pot and get lost in the rhythm of your own pace. I got all that from making jam.

My parents have a house on Camano Island, located near the San Juan islands in the Puget Sound. Towards the end of the summer, the sandy bluffs that line the beachfront are covered with blackberry bushes that are bursting with lushious blackberries, salted by the ocean spray. I spent an afternoon with family, friends and their respective dogs collecting the blackberries as we walked the beach. When we brought our load home I decided to make some jam and spent the afternoon boiling jars, mashing fruit and licking sticky fingers as it simmered away. I could have spent the $5 dollars to buy a jar of Smuckers. But that jam has no significance. It's just a sweet smear on my toast that I eat absent-mindedly while scanning morning work emails. MY jam is different. My jam comes from the beaches of the Pacific Northwest and is flavored with orange zest. My jam was made on a Sunday afternoon in my kitchen as I scanned "The Joy of Cooking" and improvized a canning tray by using cookie cutters as a platform to boil my jars. My jam was anxiously anticipated as it cooled for 24 hours in the refrigerator and eagerly opened the next morning to see whether or not I totally nailed or totally screwed up the first batch of jam I've made since I was a kid making strawberry preserves with my mom in our kitchen, where I discovered the stunning sugar to berry ratio it requires to make good jam. My jam has a story and memories, it is tart and sweet and bright with citrus. There's something so much more rewarding and special about doing it from scratch.

Blackberry-Orange Jam
5 Cups blackberries
1 packet pectin
5 Cups granulated sugar
Zest from 2 oranges
Juice from 1/2 an orange

Equipment (See helpful link from pickyourown)

Place canner in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Submerge jars and lids in water and reduce to a simmer. Place berries in separate large pot with a heavy base - make sure you use a deep pot to avoid splattering hot jam! Heat berries on medium-high heat as you mash with a potato masher. Berries will continue to break down as they cook. Gradually add pectin and bring to a boil as your continually stir. Add 5 cups of sugar and orange zest and juice. Return to a boil for 5 minutes as you stir. If a layer of bubbles begins to build you can add a teaspoon of butter.

Remove jars and lids from canner and wipe dry. Fill each jar leaving space at the neck of the jar and place lid and band on top. Seal tightly. Return jars to the canner and submerge back into boiling water for 10 minutes. Set jars aside while they cool and ensure that lids form a vacuum packed seal. Place jars in refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lullaby Moon

Celebrating the new moon - Lucia Neare's Theatrical Wonders held "Lullaby Moon" at Gasworks Park on Friday evening, a beautiful performance piece that combines music, dancing and enchanting story-telling to mark the beginning of the new moon and "celebrate our precious place in the Milky Way galaxy and the promise inherent in everyone's dreams."

Children, adults and dogs dotted the hillside as we were transported to the land of nod with glowing tick tock clocks riding ponies, white rabbits in waistcoats glided across Lake union on a glowing bed and ushers in top hats and coat tails danced to a live band. The best part of this free show is that it takes place out in the open, where you could stumble upon the experience by surprise, allowing for a sense of authentic wonderment to take over your imagination - you are Alice falling down the rabbit hole rather than a customer paying for a manufactured Disney experience.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Disco Deer

Look at him. He is beautiful. I don't even feel crass or boastful in annoucing how amazing he is because I rarely actually finish a crafty-artistic venture. I will get half way through scrap booking a trip, a first coat of brush strokes into a painting. But I'm turning a new leaf, starting with committing to continually posting on this blog, but first I started with Disco Deer.

DD was first inspired by the Seattle art and culture scene (every other bar has at least one animal bust and one scrawny lumberjack with ironic tattoos). We are woodsy people and the nature of the Northwest greatly influences the style and personality of this city. So of course I had to cover a deer head with glitter, right? Honestly, I wanted to take part of what makes Seattle feel like home and transform its familiarity in a shocking way. So I ordered disco tiles and bought silver spray paint, and did work! 6 months later (#$#@!) I finally finished, having forced myself to come back to the project despite long repreives spent on other distractions. Now he be chillinz abuv my staircaz, whattin to greetz yu!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wannabe Junk Food

You can put racing stripes on a turd, but it's still a turd. Now baby carrots are not turds, but agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky have certainly given the lil snacks a racing stripe. Adding to the new trend of disguising or hiding healthy foods in not so healthy fare [examples here and here], Big Carrot baby carrot packaging company has hired the ad agency to give their carrot packaging some kid friendly appeal. The solution? Creating a new packaging look that mimics the traditional look and feel of potato chip brands. Not surprising, Crispin happens to have fast food titans like Dominos and Burger King on their roster so they're familiar with making unhealthy food seem oh so irresistable.

What's unique about this health food cover up is the strategy of using design styles and touchpoints typically seen in conjunction with fast food to market a health food. It's not hiding cauliflower in the mashed potatoes, it's using design choices and familiar fast food touchpoints to make carrots seem cool, approachable and desireable. But will the strong association with junk food via Doritos-esque packaging and marketing really convince kids that carrots taste good or just make them more fun to eat? It might not matter as long it results in increased carrot consumption. A colleague recently recounted the appall her daughter expressed upon discovering that the french fry shaped apples in her BK Kids' Meal were in fact fruit masquerading as french fries! Kids are not dumb, and duping them into eating healthy usually only works if they never discover said ruse. But this campaign isn't about hiding carrots, its about revamping their image, which just might work with picky eaters big and small.

See all of the incognito carrots campaign extentions at PSFK.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Yum Tower

Hi friends. I just got home from my folks house for Labor Day weekend and have to share this recipe. It's a blatant copycat job from an incredible restaurant in Seattle, Canlis. Every time I've had the opportunity to eat at Canlis I order this salad without fail. It's a tower of creamy avocado, slippy sweet mango and fresh shrimp. It's stacked into a tower and drizzled with earthy chive oil and huckleberry syrup that gives the dish unbelievable color and vibrancy. I feel like I'm writing a dirty food novel so let me get down to the breakdown.


2 firm avacados, diced
1 mango, diced
12 shrimp, cooked
1 bunch chives
1 bunch microgreens
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C berry syrup (pomegranate, huckleberry - your preference)
Sea Salt

Dice avacados and mango into 1/4 inch pieces and set aside. Peel and devein shrimp and drop into boiling water. Cook until pink. Place shrimp into ice water until chilled and slice lengthwise down the center and set aside.

Take your bunch of chives and puree in a Cuisinart or traditional blender. Strain puree through a sieve and wisk in olive oil. Now it's time to construct!

Take a 3" cake ring mold and place on a salad plate. Don't have a cake ring mold? Yeah, me neither, so a great substitute is a 3" cookie cutter. This is going to hold your tower together as you build it. Using a small spoon, begin to fill mold with avacado until it sits roughly 1" high. Pack the avacado down so you have an even layer. Repeat this with the mango. Slowly pull the mold off to reveal your tower. Layer 3-6 shrimp slices on top of the mango, keeping with the circle shape. Sprinkle the top of your tower with a pinch of sea salt and top with a small bunch of microgreens. Finish by drizzling chive oil and berry syrup around the plate and lightly on the salad.

Yup. Getcha some.

Vintage Facebook – Didn’t We Already Try This?

It was six years ago, my freshman year in college, when Facebook hit college campuses, and I got hooked along with the rest of my collegiate cohorts. But amongst the social, informational and emotional benefits of Facebook, we dug the fact that it was just for us college kids. Friends and siblings still stuck in high school weren’t allowed to join the Facebook ranks until they experienced the rite of passage into college. Better yet, our parents and other adult authority figures couldn’t tap into the social world we’d created. It was a club. And the exclusivity made it cool.

It only took a year before our sweet reign over the Facebook kingdom ended and FB expanded to the entire world. The college members-only social platform of my heyday is now a thing of the past. But wait! Meet CollegeOnly, a new social network that is reintroducing the college-only social networking site. Mashable sat down with creator Josh Weinstein, a New York-based entrepreneur – creator of other college-centric social networking sites RandomDorm and GoodCrush – who explained that he saw a gaping hole that was never filled after Facebook went global. “Facebook has changed — for the better,” says Weinstein, “But its original use case is currently unserved, as college students are less likely to upload photos or post what they are up to with parents and potential employers looking on.”

CollegeOnly is an example of how deep diving into a specific target can be more fulfilling with consumers and effective from a brand standpoint than targeting a breadth of communities. CollegeOnly has more specified categories and post capabilities – such as class schedules and insider campus information like which frat throws the best parties. Because it prevents non-college students from accessing the site, students may also be more comfortable posting controversial content that my generation was burned for upon seeing the professional and personal consequences of revealing one’s personal life in a public arena. In many ways, Facebook has become more of a marketing tool that a network to create personal connections and share intimate details with trusted social circles. Of course, this could also bite students in the ass down the road for assuming that posting a picture of a bong rip comes without risks because it is securely locked away in a password protected cloud.

Another interesting consideration is how CollegeOnly will inevitably evolve in the future. Facebook expanded its reach to grow its business and extend its lifespan with consumers. Perhaps CollegeOnly won’t need to broaden its borders as Facebook did because its competitors have the market covered. But the exclusivity of CollegeOnly necessitates extreme privacy settings and restrictions to maintain a tight seal from outsiders. This automatically lends itself to a higher sense of security with users, and therefore, more comfort with the self-disclosure that has waned with Facebook and made the site devoid of some of its original personality and appeal.