Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I just finished making these custom Valentine's Day cards for Oliver's class at school. I'm pretty proud of them, even though they were super easy to do and even though it wasn't my original idea at all. First found these cool card ideas on Design Mom, and have since seen them all over Pinterest. But still, I've made them mine now!

Denise Made This:
And did not photograph it very well, but oh well...
I will get better with the photography, I promise.

How Denise Made It:
    1. Took photos of Oliver with fist out.
    2. Put said digital photos on laptop and picked one.
    3. Placed photo on a 4x6 template in In-Design.
    4. Added background and wording.
    5. Exported to JPG (600 resolution).
    6. Uploaded to Target Photo Store.
    7. Ordered 30 copies for pick-up ($0.19 each).
    8. Picked 'em up the next morning and bought some lollipops while there.
    9. Also bought a Sharpie because I keep misplacing mine.
    10. Had Oliver sign his name to the backs of the photos.
    11. Cut slits with exacto knife at top and bottom of fist. (About 1/4 inch long)
    12. Place lollipop stick thru the slits.
    Lessons Learned:
    • I'm not exactly a pro with the ol' point-n-shoot Elph, but it sure beats an iPhone for capturing Oliver's goofy grin -- and, I have to say, that this one was the least goofy of them all.
    • Valentine's Day Cards can, in fact, double as advertising: Call Little Fox Day School at ... (Why do they put the phone number on there? I mean, I'm all about school spirit, but the 4-year-old as walking billboard I could do without.)
    • You can never trust the bleed and crop on Target photo processing, so things didn't really align and center the way I had intended (a little tight around right-side and bottom), but it was cheap and easy and I didn't have to leave my desk to do it.
    • Make sure to have the boy sign the cards before assembling them. Luckily this occurred to me after I had only done a couple of them.
    • Dumdums work as well as Tootsie Rolls on these. And Tootsie Rolls come in packs of 17 (WTH?) -- not enough for his class. I guess his "real" Valentines will get the better selections.
    • If you don't have In-Design, you might be able to work something out in PowerPoint, which also exports to JPG or even MSPaint or other cheap digital photo editing software. Or, you could always do a photo card from a template at an online store, but it would just cost more. Or you could just print out the photos and glue or write the Valentine's message. Or you could have the kid wear a shirt that says Happy Valentine's Day and just print the photos as-is without manipulation.
    • This was really easy, relatively painless, not too schmoopy, and hopefully regarded as more clever than Spongebob or Spiderman. 
    • There are lots and lots of cute ideas for homemade Valentine's online that are making me wish this holiday came more than once a year <-- a huge shift since I typically hope that it never comes even once a year.

    New Obsessions

    So I'm digging the whole Pinterest craze, aren't you? It's the perfect partner in my desire for constant research on my interests (sounds so work-oriented, but isn't that really what we do when we browse and compile? Research?)

    My obsession with gathering and trying new recipes has now grown into gathering and trying new DIY projects and gathering (and perhaps someday trying) interior design ideas. Also of note are kids activities, cool products to remember to buy, and all sorts of other fodder to pin and repin.

    In any case, since DIY falls squarely under the umbrella of the blog's title "Denise Made This," and because my sister has been heckling me on her blog (Heinz57) to get back to blogging, I suppose, I shall.

    Thanks for playing and stay tuned...

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    Deviled Eggs with a Kick

    It's funny. As I entered the title for this post, I remembered a recipe I tried last year called Egg Salad with a Kick that doctored up egg salad with horseradish and bacon to give it a bit of a kick. Can't say that I loved it (at least not in proportion to the amount of work involved).

    But this recipe-free attempt at giving my deviled eggs a kick did actually turn out pretty good and it certainly wasn't much work at all.

    Of course, I made it with a spoonful of this and a squeeze of that, so it will be hard to replicate, but the basic idea of using a spicy aioli in there was a keeper.

    The basic info on the ingredients is below. Forgive any measurement inaccuracies as I'm completely guessing from memory. And forgive also the lack of paprika garnish on these in the photo. They got eaten up so fast, it was hardly worth getting them all dressed up.

    Deviled Eggs with a Kick

    • 1 dozen hard boiled eggs
    • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
    • 1 ½ tablespoons prepared Habanero and Rosemary Aioli
      (I bet you could sprinkle some chipotle powder in there as well and it would be tasty.)


    1. Cut eggs in half, placing yolks in a small mixing bowl.
    2. Put whites in a cool Rubbermaid deviled egg container like mine. (Jealous much?)
    3. Mash yolks with a fork until powdery.
    4. Add mayo, mustard, and aioli, stirring between each to test the consistency.
    5. Add more or less of each to taste.
    6. Refrigerate. (But try to let them sit out for a few minutes before serving because the ultra-cold of the fridge tends to kill the flavor.)

    I'm kind of sorry that I gave half of them to Leslye and Brian, but figured they might enjoy not having to prepare a snack in between feedings and diapering of their new baby girl.

    Served: 1/12/2010 (Same day Eric got two entire wheels stolen off his car. Oops.)

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Mashed Potatoes

    I know there are tons of awesome recipes out there for super-buttery or super-creamy mashed potatoes, but they typically have loads of fat, not to mention a bunch of ingredients I never have on hand, so when I found this simple, but tasty recipe last year, I knew it would become my go-to spud recipe.

    It uses red potatoes, which I really like especially because you don't have to peel 'em, and fresh garlic, which I really like, and milk, Parmesan cheese, and just a little butter, all of which I always have on-hand.

    I like to make these guys in advance and throw them in a casserole dish (as it seems I can't get through a meal without something resembling a casserole of late). Then I add a splash of milk and nuke 'em before serving. Too hard to get all the pieces of a meal to come out at the same time otherwise. We've had these as a simple side or under Swedish meatballs with gravy. Tasty. The only thing that could be improved is if they were a little more fluffy/whipped. These guys are pretty dense. Of course, those of you who know me, know that I've never met a potato I didn't like.

    Here's the recipe:

    Garlic Mashed Red Potatoes

    • 8 medium red potatoes, quartered
    • 3 cloves garlic, peeled (I usually throw at least five or six in there.)
    • 2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
    • 1/2 cup fat-free milk, warmed (Since Oliver's on 2%, that's what the spuds get, too.)
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    1. Place potatoes and garlic in a large saucepan; cover with water.
    2. Bring to a boil.
    3. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. (I usually cut my potatoes into smaller pieces instead of just quartering them, so this step only takes about 10-12 minutes instead of 20.)
    4. Drain well.
    5. Add the butter, milk and salt; mash.
    6. Stir in Parmesan cheese.
    Served: 1/8/2010

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Hot Stuff

    During a recent round of Pantry Patrol, I came across this pre-packaged mix that I must have bought on a trip to Scottsdale once-upon-a-time – in fact, I'm pretty sure the price tag was from this place. When the purchase was made, however, I'm not so sure. Had to be a couple years at least, but since there was no expiration on the package and it sounded pretty tasty, I thought I'd put it into the rotation of something to make sooner than later. (In the meantime, I did manage to throw out some envelopes of hardened taco and chili seasoning since I typically make my own these days – gotta watch the sodium – and since I couldn't imagine they would dissolve as designed) – oh, and they had expiration dates (dates that put them in a pantry three apartments ago).

    The package of Habanero Rosemary Aioli said it would be good as a topping for pork, which isn't my favorite (but which I'm trying to learn to like), so having it smothered in an aioli seemed like a really good idea. So after whipping it with mayo and olive oil and letting the flavors meld overnight, I served it at dinner with my in-laws on Oliver's birthday, along with seared and roasted pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and green salad.

    Nobody argued with the review of it being HOT! I mean, I should have known that being "southwestern" it would be more habanero than rosemary, but I really liked it actually – in small doses, to be sure. It helped me with my pork aversion and was also pretty tasty on the mashed potatoes. And it's been good on other things, too. Eric liked it on pork sandwiches he made with the leftovers. And I whipped up a batch of deviled eggs, using the leftover aioli to give 'em a nice kick. I can't imagine taking the package's recommendation to serve it as a dip for vegetables, though – you would literally burn your mouth if you scooped a carrot in that stuff as if it was a spinach dip.

    We even still have some of the aioli left – it just made so darn much. Do you think it's still good? I kinda figured if I kept it refrigerated, it would be fine for a few weeks at least, but I also don't find myself reaching for it lately either.

    Anyway, please let this hot and happy tale inspire all you cooks out there to play a round of Pantry Patrol and allow yourself to succumb to just one ingredient. Let it carry you into a full meal – with leftovers to boot. Next up for me is a jar of chow-chow that my mother brought me from Gatlinburg. Hmm... how to make it into a meal? Or better question: What is it?

    Should you be interested in trying this habanero and rosemary spice mix yourself, a little Googling found the original source to be a restaurant (that happens to have an online store):

    Served: 1/8/2010

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010


    I was quite proud of this dish, even as concocted as it was. Basically, the goal was to use up the can of enchilada sauce after first using a ½ cup of it for the Mexican Rice, I made. And also to use up anything else I had around, without going to the store.

    To that end, I concocted the Enchilada-ish dish you see here. (Someday I will learn to take a photo before digging in or to plate it nicely before snapping the camera.)

    Anyway, here's the recipe (at least as best as I can remember it). I'm learning more and more to just "wing it" and encourage you also to do the same:

    • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
    • 1 can enchilada sauce
    • 1 cup shredded cheese
    • ½ block cream cheese (4 oz), softened
    • 1 large jarred salsa (I used Pace - Medium)
    • 1 can refried beans
    • 1 cup-ish Mexican rice (Mine was homemade, but could use packaged Lipton or something like that)
    • 1 package corn tortillas (any diameter will do; mine were 6", I think.)
    • Sour cream (for serving)
    1. Preheat oven to 350.
    2. Mix cubed chicken, cream cheese and a splash of jarred salsa in a bowl.
    3. Pour enchilada sauce in the base of a greased 8x8 baking dish.
    4. Layer in some corn tortillas. Cut them to fit into corners.
    5. Layer the can of refried beans.
    6. Layer in the chicken mixture.
    7. Layer more tortillas.
    8. Pour on a bunch of salsa.
    9. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
    10. Put in oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 7-10 minutes before serving. Add dollop of sour cream to taste.
    That's it. Only thing I might do differently next time would be to squeeze another layer of tortillas in there somewhere. Otherwise, this is a good new recipe when I'm craving Mexican food – cuz let's face it, most Mexican food is the same 5 ingredients in different shapes and forms anyway, in this case the form of a layered casserole.
    Served: 1/7/2010

    Sunday, January 17, 2010

    Mexican Rice

    Oliver loves the Mexican rice I get for $2.99/lb (or something like that) at Harvestime, but last week was brutally cold and I wasn't going anywhere for groceries, so I thought I'd try to whip some up here at home.

    It turned out pretty good – a bit on the greasy side, but pretty good. Easy enough to remedy next time by using less oil. It made a good amount and I spruced up the original recipe with peas and corn.

    I will definitely make it again because it couldn't be easier really. Well, yes it could. Buying it at Harvestime would be easier, but I do really like to know what's going into my food, so this is one of those dishes that's just as good at home. Some dishes, like ethnic stuff that requires 92 rare spices and hard-to-find ingredients, are typically more trouble than they're worth since Thai or Indian or Ethopian are all just a phone call away here in the city. But Mexican Rice? Homemade is "no problema," especially because I typically have the ingredients on-hand.

    This kept well in the fridge for a couple days. Served as leftovers for Oliver and used in a layered casserole for us.

    Anyway, here's the recipe (from**):

    Mexican Rice

    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I would cut this down to two tablespoons next time.)
    • 1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
    • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/4 cup chopped onion
    • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (I used ½ cup prepared enchilada sauce because I didn't have any plain tomato sauce.)
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • (I added about a ½ cup each of frozen corn and peas)
    1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add rice. Cook, stirring constantly, until puffed and golden. While rice is cooking, sprinkle with salt and cumin.
    2. Stir in onions and cook until tender. Stir in tomato sauce and chicken broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
    **I hesitated giving the link to the actual recipe since the photos on are always so good looking compared to mine. But, I've decided that I can't perfect my photography AND keep cooking AND keep blogging about cooking all at the same time. So, oh well.