carrot cake with coconut flour

Ten years ago, I attempted to make a gluten free muffin for a friend with celiac disease. I was pretty decent at baking normal muffins, so I decided that I could make a gluten free muffin. The recipe used gluten free flour and xanthan gum, which I searched high and low for at Whole Foods. Grain-free flours like coconut flour and almond flour didn't exist, other than ordering it online at a specialty shop. The result was a dry, kind of edible muffin. Thankfully, my friend ate the muffins graciously.

Fast forward ten years, I decided to give coconut flour a try. I'm not gluten intolerant, but I just thought on a whole we all just eat too much gluten, mainly in cakes and breads. I found this recipe for carrot cake that not only used coconut flour, but replaced white sugar with ingredients like maple syrup and honey. The frosting was made from cream cheese, honey and vanilla extract. The cake was amazing. It was a little crumbly, but definitely moist.

Carrot Cake
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the following dry ingredients:
1 cup coconut flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix the following ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the carrots and nuts last.
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup (honey or agave nectar can also be used instead)
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup coconut milk

3/4 cup finely shredded carrot

Cream Cheese Frosting
2 packages of 8oz. cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
1/4 cup of honey
2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the coconut flour mixture (dry ingredients) and wet ingredients together. Grease your pan or line them with parchment paper. I used two 9-inch round pans.

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.

Mix all the cream cheese frosting together in a mixer. Spread cream cheese frosting on bottom layer, place top layer on top and frost the top with cream cheese frosting (no need to frost the sides) then garnish with grated carrots.

brussel sprouts

Confession: I never ate brussel sprouts until about 5 years ago. I didn't even know they existed until I went to college, but I managed to avoid them for years and years after that. I finally had them during my "eat appetizers as my meal" dinners at Bandera on Michigan Ave in Chicago, and I LOVED them. Since then, I've been wanted to make them, but I was kind of scared of them. Last night, I decided to conquer that fear and make them. 

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

1 lb of brussel sprouts
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Peel the outer layer off of the brussel sprouts
2. Cut the ends off the brussel sprouts and cut them in half
3. Mix the balsamic vinegar and honey in a small bowl
4. Combine the brussel sprouts, balsamic vinegar/honey mixture, and olive oil in a medium size bowl
5. Arrange the brussel sprouts on a baking sheet
6. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the brussel sprouts
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 425°

I added grape tomatoes, because I like roasting tomatoes in the oven, but it's not necessary. Serve with a breast of chicken, which I'll share the perfect way to cook them in another post.


ice rings

Ice rings. I would tell you how they are formed but I've read two articles and I don't really understand, but they're really cool to look at! I found these at Loyola Beach in Chicago. It was so worth the cold walk to the lake.

trip to the fish market

There are a couple of hidden fish mongers inside the markets in Chinatown. On my trip to purchase my snapper for my steamed fish (see recipe below), I visited one of those markets. They're filled with all kinds of fresh fish and seafood. Some, which I cannot identify, but I definitely can purchase them fresh!

getting back to my roots

I grew up eating everything. There wasn't a dish out there that was too weird or too strange. One of my favorite 'strange' dishes was a whole steamed fish. Recently, I decided to try to make it on my own. As I was googling steamed fish, I realized that it was actually called Cantonese-style Red Snapper. Enjoy this 'strange' to some dish!

Cantonese-style Red Snapper

Whole Red Snapper
1/2 cup oil
2-inch piece of Ginger Root
2 Green Onions
1/4 cup of soy sauce

What you need to steam the fish.
- Large Pot
- Bowl that fits in the pot
- Plate that fits on the plate in the pot.

1. Place the bowl in the pot
2. Fill the pot with water, the water should be about an inch or so below the top of the bowl.
3. Put the plate on the bowl (This is where the fish will go)
4. Clean the fish thoroughly (if the fish mongers didn't clean it).
5. Boil the water
6. When the water is boiling, place the fish on the plate, put the lid on.
7. Steam the fish for 10-12 minutes (depending on the size of the fish) - Try not to take the lid off before 10 minutes.

8. While the fish is steaming, prepare the oil mixture.
- 1/2 cup of oil (I used canola oil)
- 2 inch piece of ginger (cut into matchsticks or julienned)
- 2 green onions, diced

Wait until you have about 3 minutes left on your fish steaming timer
9. Heat the oil in a small pan
10. When the oil is hot add ginger and onions
11. Heat until your fish is ready

12. Take the fish out of the pot. if you can you can take the plate out with the fish or transfer the fish to a new plate. drain any excess water.
13. Pour the hot oil mixture on the fish
14. Drizzle about a 1/4 cup of soy sauce on the fish - more or less to taste.

Enjoy with a side of chinese greens (like bok choy or chinese broccoli) and a bowl of brown rice.


typography 101

One of the first design classes I had in college was on typography. It was back in the day before the majority of design was done electronically. I remember we had to purchase these amazing yet expensive (for a college student) rapidograph pens. Actually I just looked them up and they are still expensive. But I loved these pens and more importantly I loved drawing with them. They took a little practice, but after awhile they were such a joy to use. Our first project was to recreate some type with these pens. I was awful at first, but after years of practice I became pretty good at it. Sadly, the craft of hand lettering was a dying art. (Thankfully there's a resurgence of it now, but that's another post.) 

But today, I was prepping for the opening of a gallery and I decided to hand letter the entrance to the gallery. Boy did those those lettering skills come into good use. Here's a photo of the finished product. If you're in Chicago and at the gallery, don't look too terribly close at it.

Honey Jar Labels

At the Museum of Science and Industry, there are bees making local and delicious honey. For my latest project, I designed some fun labels that played off the honeycomb pattern the bees create as well as the hexagon shape the museum logo is based on.

I am an artist . . . and a photographer?

In the last couple of years, I realized the first step to being an artist is to identify yourself as an artist. I've repeated this advice to many people that are just beginning to put their toe in the artists' water to encourage them and inspire them. It does wonders to call yourself an artist. You get over the hurdle of the voices in your head that's most likely filled with negative thoughts like you're not good enough and you just started this, but don't believe those voices, you are an ARTIST. Just the other day, I had to remind myself of this advice. I had just finished a photo shoot with a bunch of kids, and I was carrying my camera bag around a neighborhood fest. I was on my to meet up with a friend that was working one of the booths. When I got to the booth she asked how did my shoot go, and before I had a chance to answer, another guy at the booth said "cool, are you a photographer?"and I paused for a second and said "Yes, yes I am." In my head I wanted to say, no I just shoot here and there, I'm really a designer. . . but I decided to say what was and is true. Yes, Yes I am a photographer. 

Design Icon: Debbie Sussman

The 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was one of the first inspirations of my design career. At a mere 9 years old, I didn't know how important that impact would be. In the fall of 1984 my Language Arts (LA) teacher had a poster from the Olympics and I was mesmerized by it. I love that my LA teacher had a poster from the LA 84 Olympics. The double use of LA was fascinating to me. One of the designers behind the design was Debbie Sussman. She started out doing paste-up ads (which is where I started) to creating massive designs for the LA 84 Olympics (which is sort of where I am now - designing large banners for the front of the Museum of Science and Industry - I know it's not quite the same, but similar in scale). Sussman's work on the Olympics started my fascination with the design of every Olympics. To my 9-year-old self's delight, I found out that the Olympics were happening again that winter! So every opening and closing ceremony you will find me glued to the television waiting on what design inspirations would be revealed. Sussman passed away this morning after her long battle with cancer. Thank you for your inspiration.

Here's a link to a great article on Design Observer about Debbie Sussman. 

community care day

A long time ago before I became a designer, I was a photographer. I'm not sure why I gave it up years ago. Maybe it was the cost of film and the lack of a darkroom, but technology is a wonderful thing and earlier this year I decided to pick up photography again. To support my desire to dive back into photography, I've decided to post a photo of the week, so that I have a reason to shoot every week. 

This past weekend I volunteered with First Free Church's Community Care Day. The volunteer day took place at five different sites across the city. I teamed up with Tyler and Jake, two very talented photographers and videographers to capture the whole day. One of my sites I visited was Heartland Alliance. Heartland serves the refugee families in Chicago. While the parents sat in on a session about Chicago Public Schools, the kids played games outside. I loved the sheer glee on this girl's face while she ran up and down the alley in a relay race. You can view the rest of the photos from the amazing day here.