Monday, March 17, 2014

More Muffins!

More muffins!
I've been promising to get this recipe up and available for a few people, partly because I'm terrible at remembering to write more than one email, but mostly because I hadn't gotten the recipe actually written down until just now.
Here we go:

  1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  1 cup quick-cooking oats
  1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  2 teaspoons baking powder
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  1 egg, lightly beaten
  1 cup (8 ounces) plain yogurt
  1/4 cup butter, melted
  2 tsp vanilla
  1 cup chopped cherries
  1/3 cup chocolate chips

First thing you need to know, is this turns out somewhere closer to a really sticky dough than a batter. A little like oatmeal cookie dough, if I were to compare it to anything. That's good, that's how it's supposed to be.
The vanilla is a minimum, honestly. My hand slipped the first time, and I'm pretty sure I ended up with rather more than a tablespoon. It was wonderful.
As for the yogurt, I've been using that 0% fat Greek yogurt. It works great for the texture, and I think it makes the muffins just slightly tart, which works wonders with the dark tart cherries I've been using.
It turns out that Costco, once a year or so, has frozen cherries in stock. I have a bag of the dark tart ones, and to get them ready I just chop them roughly, the largest pieces being halves. I haven't had access to fresh cherries, but I'm pretty sure they would work just fine.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the first six ingredients thoroughly, then mix in the egg, yogurt, butter and vanilla until the mixture is moist. Fold in the cherries and chocolate.
Make sure you grease the muffin cups well, fill each cup about two-thirds to three-quarters full.
They'll need 18-22 minutes, or until they're lightly golden and have no obvious wet spots left on top. You can also check with a toothpick, and if it comes out clean, they're good, or if they feel firm when you tap them (just avoid tapping a cherry, the juice will stick and might burn your fingertips)

Also, I apologize for the novel last post. I'm working on a revision of it, I never edited it before posting. I was just trying to finally post something. Sorry about that!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

It's just muffin!

I've been working with this muffin recipe lately... It started out pretty good, I have to admit, but I'm a firm believer in stuffing breakfast muffins as full of tasty goodness as is, well, tasty. So, I've been making batch after batch of these things. Partly because I want to keep tweaking the recipe, but mostly because they keep getting eaten so quickly.

I'm considering that a good sign.

I somehow got it into my head that I really wanted oatmeal muffins, and I had bananas that were...well, only good for baking at best. So I dug through about fifteen or so recipes, kind of pieced together what they seemed to agree on, and settled on this recipe as my starting point.

After a few weeks of messing about, though, I've made a few slight alterations, though I'm not sure if the adjustment to the moisture content was necessary because I live in a desert, or because I'm not using the quick-cook oats. That was the first deliberate change I made. I just got the cheapest plain, old-fashioned rolled oats the store had. 

Maybe they cook the same as quick-oats, I'm not sure... I have a terrible confession to make- I hardly ever eat oatmeal. I don't particularly like it. Oops. But in muffins, well, that's another matter.

The second change, and I think the biggest, was to the pecan...mix. I added chocolate chips. When I chop the pecans, I add in a handful of chocolate chips, probably about a third of a cup (I have large hands, so that's an easy scoop) and chop the pecans and chips roughly together, so that I get some smaller bits of chocolate. I aim to end up with about a full cup of the pecan-chocolate chip mix, and I add even the dusty bits at the bottom of the pile. I was really aiming for a stuffed full, protein  rich kind of breakfast muffin.

Next, the milk. I only ever keep at least two percent around, and the for first two batches I had some cream I was trying to finish off from another recipe, so I added that in (to approximate cooking with whole milk) and it came out just fine. The real difference came when I just almost doubled the milk from the original recipe, so just a tablespoon or two shy of a half cup of milk, in the end.

Finally, and I haven't really tried this yet on the texture but I know the flavor will be just fine, you could probably go down to half the brown sugar. Next batch.
After my slight adjustments, the recipe looks more like this:

  3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  1 teaspoon baking powder
  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (a bit more can be nice)
  2 egg whites
  1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 medium)
  1/4-1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  1/2 (a bit less) cup fat-free milk
  1/4 cup canola oil
  1 cup chopped pecans and chocolate chips

The directions given on the website are nice and simple, so I'll include them (with a few observations)

"1-In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In a small bowl, beat the egg whites, bananas, brown sugar, milk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Stir in pecans.
2-Coat muffin cups with cooking spray; fill two-thirds full with batter. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Yield: 1 dozen."

The first step is pretty important for the texture of these muffins. Don't try saving bowls by just dumping all the ingredients in and mixing. There are several reasons: one, mixing the first six ingredients breaks up and evenly distributes the baking soda and powder (and the spices), which otherwise tend to clump terribly on contact with moisture and taste pretty bad when you find a plain lump. Second, beating the sugar and the rest breaks up the bananas a bit more and breaks up the egg whites so you don't end up with strands of egg in the mix, and works some air into the mix, keeping what could be a very dense recipe just a little lighter. You're not making a meringue, but you do want to work some air into it. It'll turn a little paler.

This recipe does make one dozen (12) muffins, but with the extra ingredients you are going to fill the cups a bit more than two-thirds. I just evenly distribute the batter with the measuring cup I used on the milk. You have heavy ingredients, so you'll want to keep scraping the bowl to mix things up, even as you're scooping the batter.

The recipe instructs 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. I've been finding mine finished as early as 14 minutes, though I have been told my oven cooks fast. They're ready when the tops are firm and dry looking, and bounce back when tapped (instead of feeling gooey or sinking) and they turn this lovely dark gold, or you can use the clean-knife trick, just know the chocolate chips will always be messy and if you leave any chunks of banana they'll stick to the knife no matter how done your muffin is... well, there may be limits to that, too...

So, tldr? 
-Cheap old-fashioned oats work just fine. 
-Add maybe a heaping 1/3 Cup of chocolate chips to the pecans before you chop them, or roughly run a knife through the chips before adding them.
-Aim for 1 full Cup of chocolate chip/pecan mix
-Increase milk to just shy of a half cup
-Try cutting the sugar down. Between the banana and adding the chocolate, they're plenty sweet.
-Follow the 'order of operations', it's more important than saving bowls.
-The muffin pan cups will be more than two-thirds full. That's good.
-Check the muffins early, mine always finish on the early end, if not before the timer goes off.


ps- sorry about that odd post earlier, had to get a piece to my teacher. I want to fix it up more before I post it for real.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Character Design and how bacon saves lives

First, bacon saved our lives this week. Seriously. It was one of those weeks on the semester where everything comes due all at once right after one of those hellish weeks where you slipped just far enough behind to feel like you'll never catch up ever again and all of a sudden you're pulling an all- nighter every other night and it's all you can do to appear mentally stable in class the next day and who can even mention actually turning in homework or taking that test?
...And so we come to bacon. That wonderful little packet of bacon that we bought as a treat a week ago, thinking nothing more of it than 'wow, last week was hectic, but we survived it, here's our reward'. Little did we know that bacon was to be our coping and survival mechanism, emotionally and it seemed physically, for the next week.
I would be up till three and have to get up at six, I would wake up to the smell of bacon frying. Martin would face down a brutal day full of angsty student teachers, pop quizzes and sudden deadlines, and come home to smell bacon.
It doesn't take much to make our whole apartment smell beautifully of frying bacon, and we've made that little packet last... but we just ate the last bite, and now all I think we can do is hope next week is not nearly so hectic.

One of the things that made this week so crazy was the fact that all of my midterms were due... split between only two days. Art midterms are a bit different from what most of you are accustomed to. In most art classes, we get projects throughout the semester, and these projects take anywhere from seven to thirty+ hours to complete. When the project comes due, we bring them into class, set them up for everyone to see, and sit down and spend the next few hours taking turns presenting our work to be analyzed, critiqued, and... kind of torn apart. In a matter-of-fact, my-turn-is-next, I-really-hope-this-helps kind of way, because then you have however long is left until midterms to fix whatever was found lacking in your piece.
You don't get a break in assignments, though. They just keep coming. Which means that uuusually most of the redoes are pushed off until the last few days before midterms and you pull several all-nighters getting all of the touch-ups, repaints, redraws, and overhauls finished just barely in time to turn them in.
Yesterday (or really, last night at midnight) the redraws of all my character designs were due. (That morning at eight it had been two other paintings for my senior studio class)
So, without further ado, here's a little peek at my character designs. Next post I'm thinking of doing a little walk-through of how I did these :)

It'll be a lot less wordy, I promise.

 An aboriginal medicine doctor. His name, we've decided, is Bric.
 A circus stilt-walker.
A villain. His name is Mathis Jostad. The prompt was to create a 'soft' villain. That was the entire prompt. Immediately I knew that for me, the most terrifying villains are the ones that are so soft spoken that the way you know you're in trouble is they get quieter and calmer the more angry or dangerously excited they get...he's one of those.

Monday, October 21, 2013

LittleBlueStarling is live!

littlebluestarling Etsy Store

That's it! It's official! I have... eight pieces up on my Etsy!
I'm doing mostly little pieces for now, for two reasons- one, big pieces are expensive (to make and to buy), and I really don't see a lot of people springing for anything over the $20-$30 range from an unknown artist just yet, so I'm going to start small and see if I can get my name around a bit with... smaller... more affordable pieces.
Secondly, I really don't have the time to put into larger pieces for a store right now anyway, between the bucketloads of schoolwork I've got coming down on me right now. Why don't I sell any of my class projects, you may ask? Yes, I am an art student, and I do have pieces that are worthy of being sold, perhaps, but those are few and, more practically, I'm going to need those to stick around until at least the end of the semester when the professors ask for the final draft revisions, and when they start asking how my portfolio looks! So for now I need to hang on to something...
Anyways, that's all for now. I have to go sign up for next semester's classes in about half an hour, so I'd better make sure I have my schedule finalized!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Things that are happening...

I have some projects in the works. Some you will see sooner than later. Some will take considerably more time :3
As for the sooner, I really am just waiting until I can get a good sunny day or access to a scanner, whichever comes first (though the scanner seems much more imminent at the moment...) I'll be able to get some of my digital work up a lot faster:
A quick color study for a piece I'll be finishing (hopefully next week) in acrylic inks.

My new facebook banner...I've never had one before, ad it was starting to feel a little barren looking...

...but I've been taking a head painting class, and the required medium is oil, which is a bit more difficult to digitize than other media. Also, apparently really difficult for me in general.
It feels like it's fighting me tooth and nail, but I really feel like I'm making great strides in a lot of ways, artistically, as I work out my problems with oil paints. And with each success I'm coming to love these paints more and more.
I've also recently discovered acrylic inks, and I've decided those are the best thing since toast. And I love toast. As soon as this piece for my senior studies class is done I'll see how it scans. ...And how it turns out before I scan it.
Anyway, as for the later, I can start sharing some teasers right now. Martin and I are working on a super-not-quite secret project that we have yet to decide how many details we will divulge about later. Here's some of the initial concept items, though-

One more big thing! I am starting an Etsy store! I've started carving small shell pendants, and I'm going to be selling watercolor and ink drawings. This week I'm going to be stocking the store, and next week it goes live! I'll be posting with the name and address of the store, so be sure to check it out. Initial proceeds go towards a scanner (so that I don't have to hunt down a functioning scanner on campus anytime I want to show anyone anything) and then to fixing my printer.

See you all next post!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

'Quick' study

It was supposed to be a quick warm-up sketch before I got to my homework... but then I started noodling. Ah well. Didn't turn out to badly :)
Reference photo found here on pinterest...

Oh! Also, I'm still alive ;)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A brief feature...

I have a piece I've been wanting to show the in-progress of so bad, but my professor hasn't given it back to me yet, so I don't have a good picture of the final product. I think it's going to be another few days before I can get that post up.
In the meantime, for my folklore class, I'm writing a sort of investigative paper on webcomic artists, and how their fans and admirers affect their experience as artists. A few of these artists I've been following for years, (since high school, even) and they've had quite a hand in influencing where my art is today.
Interviewing them has just proved to me that they are as awesome, grounded, and excited about life as they'd appeared through their blogs and comics. These guys are great.

So, continuing my comic feature from ages ago, here's three more amazing webcomic artists (who I now know more about than ever before and are way cooler than I'd ever thought!)

Based out of Finland, University student Minna Sundberg somehow manages to create a page a day of this beautifully crafted multi-media webcomic A Redtail's Dream. 24-year-old Hannu and his dog, Ville, are enlisted by the great and powerful spirit Puppy Fox to fix a grievous error on his part before the council of elder foxes gets out and notices how badly he messed up in watching the Northern Lights while they were away. 
...I'm really not doing this any justice. The art is breathtaking, the story absolutely wonderful, and it is a definite must read.

Second for today is Nimona

Written and drawn by Noelle Stevenson, Nimona updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It has already won a couple of awards, and is slated for publication by HarperCollins in 2015.

"Lord Ballister Blackheart has a point to make, and his point is that the good guys aren't as good as they seem. He makes a comfortable living as a supervillain, but never really seems to accomplish much - until he takes on a new sidekick, Nimona, a shapeshifter with her own ideas of how things should be done. Unfortunately, most of those ideas involve blowing things up. Now Ballister must teach his young protégé some restraint and try to keep her from destroying everything, while simultaneously attempting to expose the dark dealings of those who claim to be the protectors of the kingdom - including his former best friend turned nemesis, Ambrosius Goldenloin."

Noelle's terrifically unique art style is completely charming, and belies the careful and deceptively solid plot and complex characters. The totally anachronistic world is hilarious and whimsical, and feels like you can read whatever sardonic social commentary you would like into it, but on the surface is just funny and entertaining.