Sunday, February 26, 2012

Creation Sunday - Oatmeal Roundup

Today Hillary is going to share some oatmeal recipes she has been into lately.

I love oatmeal as an ingredient because it adds some fiber and a unique flavor to anything you cook with it.  I had been ignoring it for a while, but recently I went through most of a canister of quick oats in about 2 weeks because of all the yummy oatmeal treats I made. So today I am going to share with you two indulgent recipes I made recently, and a healthy creation of my own from many years ago.

The first one is a super simple no-bake recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies.  My mom made something very similar for me when I was growing up and I remember it being a staple among treats I made for many years (before weight watcher's).  When I was trying to come up with something indulgent and super easy, the other day, I remembered these and whipped up a batch while fixing lunch.  Without further ado, here is the recipe on food network's website.  I do this recipe completely without modification. They're perfect, even for picky me, exactly the way they are.  Although, on occasion, I have wondered what a variant made with almond butter would be like... hmm...

The second one is a Fabulous Banana Pancake Recipe By Racheal Ray called Oatmeal Cookie Pancakes.  I did make some modifications due to my husband's tastes, my preferences, and according to what I had in the pantry.  I made a 1.5 batch because we had three bananas.  I used a mixture of turbinado sugar and white sugar instead of brown sugar because it's what I had. Because I had some cake flour and I thought it might add a little fluffiness to the pancakes, I replaced about a quarter cup of the all purpose flour with cake flour. Because hubby doesn't like sour cream, I used 3/4 C of buttermilk and 1 cup of whole milk to replace the sour cream and milk in the original recipe.  I intentionally used a little less buttermilk than the amount of sour cream called for because I didn't want the batter to be too thin.  Instead of putting the walnuts in the batter, I set them to the side and added them in to individual pancakes.  In some of the pancakes, I used chocolate chips instead of walnuts.  No one in my house likes raisins at all, so I left them out (we eat oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and are thoroughly offended by the idea that in many people's minds, oatmeal cookies=oatmeal raisin cookies, hehe).  I added a pinch or two of salt, but other than that, I made no modifications to the seasonings.  Hubby said they were excellent, which is a big compliment from him because he tends to like pancakes a specific way (at least from my standpoint).
The pancakes I made turned out thick and flavorful (the way we like them in my house).  If you wanted a thinner pancake, I'm sure adding a little more liquid would be okay and if you wanted to go thinner than that, replacing some of the oats with flour might be the way to go.

The last recipe is one I made for low-calorie multi-grain chocolate chip muffins many moons ago when I was on weight watchers.  When I make chocolate chip muffins, I often go for this recipe rather than a standard one because they are more flavorful and unique than most recipes on top of being more healthy.  They can even be made into pina colada muffins with some minor alterations.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
1 C quick cooking oats
1/2 TSP salt
1 TSP double acting baking powder
1 egg
1 TBL white sugar
1 TBL Honey
1/2 C lowfat yogurt
1/4 C apple juice
3/4 C chocolate chips or peanut butter chocolate swirl chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or place muffin cups in tin.
Whisk together first 4 ingredients.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg and then add sugar while continuing to beat.
Stir in yogurt, honey and apple juice.
Stir dry ingredients into wet until just moistened evenly. Add additional apple juice or water if needed for consistency.
Stir in chocolate chips until just evenly distributed.
Spoon into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until fork/knife/toothpick inserted into muffins comes out clean.

PiƱa Colada Variation:
Substitute 1/2 C shredded coconut and 1/2 C chopped dried pineapple for the chocolate chips 

One more quick note on this recipe: Yes, I know this method is different from the standard, traditional muffin method but I promise it works.

We hope you enjoyed the recipes.  Stay tuned for exciting interviews and updates soon!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Interview with Laurie from Art By L J Grove

Today we bring you a fabulous interview from
from Art By L J Grove  (Laurie J Grove).  Not only is Hillary a huge fan of Laurie's work, but she has purchased several items from Laurie as christmas presents over the last few years.

First, Tell us how you got started with art.

I've been dabbling in arts all my life. I can remember being pretty serious about charcoals and pastels when I was around 9 years old, and I've had a growing selection of art supplies ever since. The art store is one of my favorite places to go and I'd probably camp out there if they'd let me.

Have you ever tried different mediums or art forms and if so, how did you settle on your current art form?

I've tried a lot of different mediums of art, from sculpting, wood carving, and bronze works to pencil drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings. I can't really say that I've settled on one, or even have a favorite. Currently, I'm working mostly in 2D, and I often switch between pencil drawings, ink paintings, watercolors, and oils.

What draws you to the particlar type of art you create: your style, the subjects of your drawings/paintings, etc.?
While I've explored various styles of art, I find that it is hard to change what comes natural to me. Most of my art probably falls into the "realism" category, even though I often struggle to break out and loosen up and attempt something more stylized, whimsical, or abstract. Over the years, I've also covered a lot of different subject matter in my works, but animals have been my main focus. The animal kingdom holds such joy and fascination for me. I love everything from inchworms to elephants, so I have a feeling that animals will continue to find their way into most of my creations.

How did your love of art develop into a business and how did you arrive at selling shirts, mouse pads, etc. instead of just selling paintings and sketches?
When I first started setting up an online presence, I was still only producing and selling original paintings and drawings. Many of my customers and collectors would tell me that they were running out of wall space, so I started thinking of other ways to bring my art to the public. My first idea was wearable art, so I printed my artwork onto some t-shirts, and my art merchandising business was born. Things grew from there and now I'm printing my artwork onto other types of clothing and accessories: sweatshirts, tank tops, tote bags, and mousepads. Recently, I purchased a direct to garment printer which has allowed me to expand into dark colored clothing as well. The dark colored clothing poses all new design challenges which has once again pushed me to grow further as an artist.

Do you find that competing with retail establishments is a problem for your business?

Being the artist, designer, and printer of my products, I don't worry much over having to compete with large retail stores because there are so many people out there who prefer wearing something off the beaten path... something more unique and artistic than what you can find on the shelves of Walmart and Target. 
Tell everyone out there why, as consumers, we should buy your (or an artist's) wolf shirt or your dog shirt or your eagle shirt instead of the dog, wolf and eagle shirts we can get from wal-mart for less money.

Whether my customers are looking for something cute and fun, or quirky, geeky, and just plain weird, they know they can find something that strikes their fancy in one of my online shops. They can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that their t-shirt, sweatshirt or tote bag was totally created by the hand of the artist, and that I truly care about every item I sell.

What would you tell aspiring young artists who are trying to turn their passion into a business?
For anyone with a dream of running their own business, I encourage them to never give up on those dreams. Create small goals and hurdles and measure your success each day. I believe that passion, perseverance, and the willingness to grow or change when needed, will always bring success no matter what type of business you are in. Never forget that success is not a measure of money. Success is a state of mind.

And, last but not least, where can we find you and your art?
Currently, I have 3 online Stores where my fun art merchandise (and occasionally original artworks) can be purchased:

at Etsy

at eBay

at Amazon

I also have a website which I use as more of a "home base"
And a Business Page on Facebook

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Creation Sunday 2-18-12 - Valentine's kiss cookies

This week, Hillary is going to share some rich chocolate cookie treats that she made for valentines dinner.

In trying to construct a plan for valentines, I tried to find something unique, chocolatey and easy to make.  With Valentine's being on a Tuesday, I needed food that was rich but took minimal effort/time to prepare.

I ended up with butternut squash soup--a doctored form of a major store brand, citrusy/fruity chicken--a concoction which will probably make it's way to my dinner table many times but will probably never taste the same twice, boil in bag rice, and some awesome kiss cookies-- a variant on the official Hershey's "Magical Kiss Cookies" Recipe.  "Why a variant?" you ask. because I didn't have time to do anything ahead of time so I needed the best combination of fast and decadent I could find.

What I did was super simple, super fast, and one of the richest things I have ever eaten.
I used pre-made mini chocolate chip brownie dough in place of making the cookie dough in the original recipe.  I then followed cooking instructions per the recipe but checked the cookies more frequently to make sure that I did not burn them.  In between checking, I made Chocolate Powdered Sugar (using the most potent option in the linked recipe).

When the bottoms of the cookies were brown, I took them out, let them cool for about 5-10 minutes until they were just firm enough to get pushed around in the powdered sugar, covered the cookies good, put them on a plate and served immediately.  They were a warm, gooey, chocolatey pile of awesomeness. 

This is definitely one of those treats that is much more delectable than it has any right to be given that it uses processed ingredients and takes almost no time.  You should definitely give this one a shot any time you need something amazing and quick.  Also, If you're super pressed for time like I was, you can even just make a few and refrigerate the rest of the brownie dough for later.

I hope you find these cookies to be as yummy as I did!  Look for new updates soon!