Saturday, December 7, 2013

happy holidays to me!

I've decided to splurge with the recent sales from my etsy shop, and buy myself a few things that I've had my eye on for a little while. 

Here is a list of my new favorite things. 

 Stacey is a great internet friend. She has a funny facebook feed, and she seems really genuine with her comments. I've bought lots from her over the years, and this was my most recent purchase. She had a sale-which-included-chocolate and that was what sent me over the edge. This is my new fiber - it's called Spree for You and Me, and I can't wait to spin it up. 

pretty fiber!

I have a lot of pendants, but no cute chains. I have one of those ball chains that makes me look like my ol' rocker high school days but I wanted something more dainty. This was perfect. 
very dainty necklace

THIS IS SO COOL! I love jars and using jars for everything, and I can't wait to use my jar to hold chips and guacamole. 

YESS! BNTO mason jar!

This is hilarious. I saw this shirt a few months ago and promised I'd buy it for myself for my 1 year veganversary. I got the pink one.
pink vegan shirt

I wanted this the moment I saw it on instagram! I knew it would be perfect as a holiday gift for someone in mind that won't know until she opens it. Plus, Teresa is amazing! Look at all her candle bedazzling!


I love this. I love the bead, and the OM bead, and the stone beads. I got the word Namaste with dark blue beads. 
7) Sam the gingham hippo from the hippo ladies. 
This one doesn't have a website - sorry! They're just local crafter-grandmas that make hippos. I saw Sam today at the craft fair and I had to have him! Thankfully, they were willing to trade for some of my pomegranate jam. So Sam got to come home with me!

morris the dog and sam the gingham hippo are best friends
 That's it! I'm spoiled rotten!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

making throw pillows from old pillows - a photo tutorial.

I had this crazy thought today that I could cut an old pillow in half, sew up the ends, put a pillowcase on it, and it would be a throw pillow.

It's a good thing we had some really old, beat up pillows to practice with.

So that's exactly what I did.

ooh I made a pillow! and you can too!
It's pretty easy - just cut your pillow in half... 
cut the pillow!
stuff the stuffing in, and sew up the side - this is the part that requires the most fanegaling. It's okay if your stuffing is really packed in, because it'll relax again once you're done sewing it.   
sewing up the side
And make a pillowcase - I made an envelope style pillowcase. Just measure your pillow (mine was 13x17), add 1in to either side and cut one piece of fabric that size (14x18 for me) and cut another piece the same height but longer width (I cut mine 14x24, which is the width of the fabric). 
Cut the longer piece in half. On the long side, fold over a half inch, and then do it again. This makes the hem. Sew the hem, and do the same to the other half. 

sew the hem
Put the right sides together, with the two hems overlapping in the middle of the pillowcase. Sew around the edges. 

sewing sewing sewing
Flip the pillowcase right side out, and put on your pillow! Repeat with the second half of the pillow, and enjoy. 
it's beginning to look a lot like the holidays. 
Have fun with your new pillows!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

chocolate chocolate chip pomegranate cookies

cookie cookie mmmmm
A week ago, a friend gifted me a box of pomegranates. The day before that, my mother in law gifted me a gallon of pomegranate juice. Since then, I've been splashing pink juice everywhere in the kitchen - peeling and freezing seeds and juice, using the food mill to squish some, and making a ton of pomegranate jelly.

For my hubby's birthday, I made him chocolate cupcakes with pomegranate buttercream frosting and ever since then I've been dreaming about a cookie version. Cupcakes are awesome, but sometimes you need something a little more portable!

Cookies adapted from this recipe. 

1 earth balance buttery stick
1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
2/3 cup of unfiltered cane sugar (or regular white sugar)
2/3 cup of turbinado sugar (or regular brown sugar)
2 tbsp flaxseed mixed with 6 tbsp warm water (let sit for 5 minutes or so)
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or other flour)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups non-dairy semisweet chocolate chips (I love guittard brand - the ones in the yellow package)
1 cup pomegranate seeds (arils) (about 1 medium sized pomegranate)

preheat oven to 350
beat together buttery stick, shortening, sugars, flaxseed mix, and vanilla. beat until creamy (2-3 minutes, I used this time to peel and seed the pomegranate)
mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in batches into buttery stick mixture
mix in cocoa powder
fold in chocolate chips and arils

scoop the dough onto greased baking pans, and place into oven for 10-12 minutes. makes about 3 dozen.

eat, and good luck keeping these away from the other people in your house! the pomegranate seeds stay crisp, and these cookies are fudgy and addicting.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

giant soft pretzels

I've been threatening for weeks to make giant soft pretzels, after my yoga instructor mentioned it during class one day.

I kept putting it off though, because it seemed like an all day project. bread? must rise. then you have to shape them, and rise again. then you have to boil them in baking soda, and rise again. then you actually have to cook them!

But yesterday I was actually free all afternoon, and I took the plunge.

mmmm pretzel
I used this king arthur flour recipe (and king arthur flour!), but I subbed 1/2 the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour. Make's it slightly healthier. I also skipped the butter at the end, but opted to dunk in melted (vegan) butter and rub on a cinnamon sugar coating.

They're pretty good - not as pretzel-y as I'd like, but tasty. 


Sunday, November 3, 2013

the best damn vegan biscuit

I have a confession to make - I love bread. Any kind really - white, wheat, sourdough, biscuit, crackers.. even croutons! 

So you can imagine how hard it was for me to admit that I sucked at making homemade biscuits. They would never fluff up, even the recipes I would fin.d that say they guaranteed a fluffy biscuit. I researched for weeks trying to find the perfect biscuit recipe and I did. 

biscuit, october 2012
But then I went vegan, and all the rules changed. Vegan butter starts to melt immediately, and I went back to having the same flat hockey-puck biscuit problems. 

Until I found the best damn vegan biscuit recipe. The recipe uses almond milk/lemon juice instead of buttermilk. And the combination of frozen butter and the pastry blender works to keep the butter solid and creates fluffy biscuits. 

best damn vegan biscuits
I used a combination of whole wheat and white flour, so they didn't rise as high, but I love the complexity of taste with whole wheat flour. 

One trick that I have found - it only takes about 5 minutes to put these together, but it takes 8 minutes for my oven to preheat to 450. So after I'm done making the biscuits, I pop them in the freezer until the oven is ready. 

All the other tips on the side are gold - leave the batter 1in tall when cutting the biscuits, make sure they touch on the pan, and keep the butter as cold as possible as long as possible. This is not a food-processor recipe, the motor/blades make the fragile vegan butter heat up too quickly. Use a pastry blender, or forks/knives to cut the butter into the flour.

And get some jam! 


Saturday, November 2, 2013

on craft fairs and pinterest

Today I participated in the first-ever Fresno High Flea - a craft/vintage/flea market that takes place in the parking lot at Fresno High.

Usually when I do craft fairs, it's inside a gym and all I get is an 8x4 table. This time, the event was outdoors, and I had an entire 10x10 space to fill. I searched for booth display ideas on pinterest, and sketched out something that I wanted in my mind.

previous booth set up with 8x4 table
I had this idea that I wanted to use 2 ladders on either side of the booth and tie string in between them and then hang up ALL my items on the string. Or it could be a coat rack (like last years) and a ladder. Or whatever I could find.

So I put out the call on my facebook, but no one responded. I started to stress a bit - I didn't want to spend any money on the booth display, but I went searching at thrift stores anyway. Right before I really went into a panic, I found the perfect two items - a metal green outdoor shelf and a wooden ladder. They belong to my neighbor, who is currently out of town and has trusted me to pick her peppers... and probably not to steal her garden items. But I did anyway! (I'm totally going to tell her when she comes back, she'll probably wonder why they're so clean!). 

the booth set up!
So I used the two big pieces, strung some string, and had a small table for my set up. Overall, I believe it was a success. I got a lot of compliments on my work, and I think it was because it was displayed so cleanly. 

Next month, I need to figure out a way to spread the bags out more. People looked, but there wasn't a lot of bag movement. 


Monday, August 12, 2013

peach cobbler / filling

The next peach adventure was peach cobbler, and canned peach pie filling.

peach cobbler
I used this recipe for the cobbler, and I was a bit disappointed. It came out more like a sugar cookie on top of peach chunks than a biscuit, but it was still good. 

mmm peach pie filling
The last canning adventure took the form of peach pie filling. I used this recipe and made a few jars of peaches. The leftover syrup was also good!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

more about canning

The next types of jam that I've made have been just plain peach and plain nectarine. I made peach freezer jam, but I cooked and processed the nectarine jam.
sterilizing jars, jam, stir stir!, done!
I tried to buy a canning tray for my pot, but the pot is unusually narrow, so the canning tray didn't fit. I read on the Food in Jars site about this trivet, which I promptly bought (in purple). But the peaches weren't gonna wait the weekend for the trivet to be delivered, so I did freezer jam as my first batch.

dehydrated nectarines, frozen nectarines, nectarine jam
The nectarines were next. The trivet came in the mail, and so I made nectarine jam. But that only used a tiny portion of my nectarines - so I did dehydrated nectarines, and frozen slices that afternoon too. The dried ones will be great snacks for us during the semester and the frozen ones will be a giant pie in January.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

peach and nectarine adventures, part 1,000,000

peaches! and nectarines! 
I was fortunate enough to come into possession of a few boxes of peaches and nectarines (like the one you see above). The next few days will detail all of the things I've done with them, starting with the most recent.

Today (the last Saturday of my carefree summer), I used the last of my canning jars to make some peach-raspberry jam and peach-tomato salsa. The salsa recipe came from the perfect peach cookbook and the peach-raspberry came from Taste of Home. 
peach-raspberry jam and peach-tomato salsa. 
The jam is great, but very sweet. I'm hoping some of that sweetness mellows as it sets. In the future, I may try cutting back some of the sugar and adding a low-sugar pectin to combat the sweetness. My peaches were very sweet though.. 

The salsa is whoo spicy and sweet at the same time. There was leftovers that wouldn't fit into the jars and I ate a bit of it for dinner as a gazpacho-type soup. I bet it would even taste great as a marinade of sorts. I added extra garlic to the recipe, but left out the tomato sauce and paste because I didn't have any. I did add extra tomatoes to try to compensate, and the jam is a bit thinner than it seemed like the book recipe would make - but I like it that way. 

This summer is the first time I've canned and processed the cans. I've put stuff in jars before and left it in the freezer/refrigerator, but processing the cans is a first. I read a LOT of websites with different (and sometimes opposite) tips, but I think the best thing that worked for me was just following the directions on the box of pectin. After I figure out the science behind it all, I think I'll be able to experiment a bit. 


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

the summer of frozen yogurt, part 1

yogurt photos! 
This summer, Jefferson and I have been on many frozen yogurt dates. These are the places/yogurts we've gotten.

Yodiggity - they had pineapple sorbet! I mixed with oreos.
Tutti Frutti - my favorite so far. they have soy milk frozen yogurt - peanut butter flavored, and almond flavored. I like to mix with almonds.
Yogolicious - jolly rancher flavored, and strawberry lemonade sorbet. tangy!
Yogurtland - another tangy sorbet.
Chill Yogurt - 3! flavors of sorbet - hawaiian punch, mango, and strawberry.
Yogurt Etc. -  they were out of sorbet when we went, but Jefferson had original tart and liked it.

More to come, I'm sure. What's your favorite yogurt place?


Monday, July 29, 2013

meatless monday: another peach cake

Last weekend, I volunteered to help cook and serve at the Masumoto's annual adopt a tree picking day. In exchange, the volunteers were given a few of each of their Elberta peaches and Le Grand nectarines.
the elberta peach. a beauty!
The first recipe I made was this peach crumble. I've been craving coffee cake, but, since Jefferson doesn't love coffee cake, I wanted to find something that tasted like coffee cake but looked like regular cake! (sorry hubs, guess I let my secret out).

Either way, this cake was delicious. I halved the recipe and ended up only using 2 of the elberta peaches. Other subs included flax seed egg instead of regular, almond extract instead of vanilla (ran out!), coconut milk yogurt instead of sour cream, and, strangely enough, cumin instead of cardamom powder. 

It was just fine without the glaze, but Jefferson wanted some, so I just added a tiny bit of powdered sugar mixed with a tiny bit of water. I swirled it on with a fork. 


Sunday, July 28, 2013

spinning sunday: a handspun shawl for fair submission

Remember this yarn?

Well it's being turned into a handspun version of a BLT scarf (basic lace triangle).

See the pretty stripes! That's why I did the 3ply on the yarn. The lace holes will open up more, once it's finished and blocked. And hopefully it will earn me a blue ribbon. :-)

Last year was my first year submitting to the fair. I submitted a handspun, handknit sweater, two skeins of handspun yarn, and a handknit shawl. I won second place on all four submissions! This year, I'm hoping to up the ante a little bit and get the big prize. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

cinnamon basil

cinnamon basil
Lately, I've been leaving a vase of basil on the kitchen table. After the meal is over, I like to eat one leaf as a palate cleanser. This week, it's cinnamon basil. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

meatless mondays - vegan bbq'n

Last Saturday, I BBQ'd.

I've only ever BBQ'd three times in my life, last week being the fourth. I got the weber brand charcoal barbecue from a friend at her moving sale. It was $10, and she threw in a chimney starter.
oooh fire
Still, every time I put the charcoal in, wrap the newspaper around the bottom and light it on fire, I'm amazed. I always remember starting the barbecue to be such a production when I was a kid - and it always seemed to take forever. I remember it constantly going out, and having to be re-lit. And those matches! Those foot long matches that never lit after striking on the box. But I've had some good luck with this barbecue and chimney starter so far (knock on wood.) 

veggies with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and thyme 
Now that I'm no longer eating what the majority of people put on their barbecue, I was a little bit at a loss for what to cook. I knew I could do diced veggies (above) in the weber wok (best purchase ever), and corn on the cob. The veggies were lightly mixed with olive oil, spices, and a splash of lemon juice. They took about 20 minutes on the grill (medium heat I think?), mixing every 7 minutes or so. The corn had the silk removed, and was rubbed with olive oil too. Took about 15 minutes, away from the coals. 

bbq! boca burgers, foil wrapped potatoes, corn, and mixed veggies. 
But beyond that I've only ever barbecued chicken. Can you believe it - vegan boca burgers were the first type of "burger" that I barbecued - and they're quick. 5 minutes a side and they're good. The grill marks are fake though. :-) And the last item was the foil wrapped potatoes. I chopped the baby red potatoes into quarters and boiled them for a few minutes to make them soft, then put them on the foil with some olive oil and whole cloves of garlic. They stayed in the corner, off the coals, for about 15 minutes. 

nectarine cake!
For dessert, I made a nectarine cake, from this strawberry cake recipe. It's a quick, go-to dessert of mine, and it works to use flax seed egg instead of real eggs. 


Monday, July 15, 2013

meatless mondays - a load of nectarines

a load of nectarines! 
Last week, J and I picked up a load of nectarines from a friend that has an old nectarine tree. This is our second year receiving such a wonderful gift, and I had a few recipes in mind already.

nectarine cupcake! OMG!
 The first thing I made was nectarine cupcakes. I used this recipe, which is an adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe (M.S. uses heavy cream in hers, and I can't figure out a vegan sub for that). I used flax seed eggs, and my own buttercream recipe for the frosting (vegan butter, powdered sugar, and usually almond milk. This time I used nectarine juice instead of milk and added a bit of almond extract). The cupcakes are delicious - one thing to pay particular attention to: the recipe says to pour a little batter in the bottom, then add the nectarines, and add more batter on top. I wasn't paying attention and mixed the nectarines into the batter and then poured it into the cupcake pan. This made the cupcakes a little fragile, since some of them got nectarines on the bottom and they didn't have a strong base.

nectarine upside down brownie cake
The next thing that I made was this nectarine upside down brownie cake. I've been craving brownies, especially since I found the pan, but I knew I had to use up the nectarines. I part-jokingly googled "nectarine brownies" and was shocked with this recipe! and it was vegan to begin with! I used nectarines instead of peaches, and used 1 banana and 2 flax seed 'eggs' instead of the applesauce. in addition, I added pecans and chocolate chips! mmm! they are very thick/dense and really really good. 


Sunday, July 14, 2013

spinning sundays - catching up with TDF

I've spun everyday during the TDF. This is my 3rd year participating, and every year I say I'm gonna spin everyday, but I don't. It's a lot easier this year since I'm currently unemployed! whoot. (or something..)
first yarn done!
I've been working on a couple skeins of yarn. The first was the one I posted about previously, which is now on sale in my etsy shop.
midnight sheep fiber
The next one was my goal for TDF. I had 2 4oz braids of this merino that I got from midnight sheep on etsy. They were both dyed in the same gradient - from light blue gradually to darker blue. I spun both the same way, and then plied them together. The resulting yarn has the same gradient - gradually moving from light to dark blue. I haven't decided if I want to keep this one or not, although I'm pretty attached to it. It might end up in the shop eventually.
the many faces of morris the dog, spinning mascot.
The next one that I'm working on is a blue/brown/yellow striping fiber that I got from maude and me. I'm trying to preserve the blocks of color, so I'm spinning it super thin and I'm going to navajo ply it, which is basically hand crocheting while you're plying. It'll make the finished yarn have stripes where the same color matches up, instead of looking splotchy or marbled like the blue one does.

That's it for this week.


Monday, July 8, 2013

on toaster oven cooking, a new cake pan, and vegan carrot cake

mmmmmmmmm carrot cake
I found a new round cake pan at the thrift store. I wasn't sure if it was going to be too big - it seemed to be cutting it close, but for $2, I couldn't pass it up. Luckily it fit perfectly in the toaster oven.

carrot cake!
Today I put it to work, making this version of carrot cake (with some vegan subs, of course). Jefferson said it was a great $2 investment. 

silly mo pup
Even Morris the dog asked for some!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

meatless monday - reflecting on being 6 months vegan

We had a friend over for dinner last night.

Truth be told, I'm a tiny bit overwhelmed at the abundance of food we currently have. We're CSA subscribers, and during the summer, we opt for the extra stone fruit-only box. We usually pick up our box on Thursdays, but since this week is a holiday (July 4th? already? that's a whole other post..), we get an extra early pickup - meaning, we picked up our 2 boxes on Thursday, and then another 2 boxes yesterday (Monday). 4 boxes in 5 days. 2 whole boxes of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, onions, potatoes, cantaloupe and peppers AND 2 whole boxes of peaches, plums, and nectarines. I'm not complaining about the quality (or the quantity, really), it's just the space. Our fridge has precious real estate, and it's already at capacity.

Bringing us back to dinner. I wanted to make ALL the things for dinner. I had a bunch of extra tomatoes from the garden, and a couple HUGE cucumbers from the neighbors garden, so I was thinking pizza and salad.

We got these pre-cooked flatbread pizza crusts from Trader Joe's a few days ago, and they looked like the would work perfectly. I cooked one with minced garlic and oil only, and made a bruschetta-esque topping with cherry tomatoes, basil, red onion, olives, and balsamic vinegar. For the second one, I spread goat cheese on the bottom (I cut a third off to make without cheese for moi) and layered tomatoes, zucchini, crookneck squash, and red onion. I served the two with a plain lettuce salad with a mushy plum on top. Oh, and yes, those are peaches floating in that fancy water.

For dessert, I opted for the classic peach galette - the same one from that cookbook that everyone's talking about ('cept veganized, of course). We had 2 types of coconut ice cream - strawberry, and vanilla bean. And I found soy whipped cream, which is... interesting.

Yesterday also marked 6 months from my 28th birthday, which was also the first day of the 28 day vegan challenge (guess I never got the memo that it was over.. ). In 6 months, I've completely changed how my body (and mind, really) reacts to food. I don't need to go into details, but I used to have these.. bathroom episodes that were not very much fun - seriously, it has been happening in my life for as long as I can remember, maybe every other month or so. I have not had one at ALL (nothing even remotely close!) since February. And my heartburn, another thing I've been fighting for as long as I can remember, is nearly completely gone (still acts up a little bit when I eat too much garlic. sigh). In addition, I've continued to lose weight (J+ I started tracking calories in July last year - you can see there is a big drop in Nov, that was after my knee surgery when I got sick from the anesthesia and didn't eat for 3 days, but there is another big drop in Feb - that's the one to focus on.)

I'm not going to lie - this is hard. There is something that challenges me almost everyday. There are hard decisions that I make regarding food everyday. There are things that I no longer crave (goodbye cheese!), but things that I feel like I will miss forever (hello donuts!).

There's not really a proper way to end this rambling blog post, because this part of my life isn't over yet. It's only been 6 months, and here's hoping to many many more.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

tour de fleece #TDF2013

The tour de fleece is a spinning challenge that takes place during the tour de france. During the TDF, spinners are supposed to challenge themselves and spin things (or in ways) that will push their spinning boundaries. It's also a good time to stash-bust all that fiber that's been laying around.

Today is the start day. I am still working on the merino/silk braid, so my goal for TDF will have to wait until this one is finished. The goal reveal will come later..

For now, here is TDF2013 day 1.

unspun fiber, spun fiber, and kiwi wheel

Monday, June 24, 2013

the perfect peach - peach/date bars

peach/date deliciousness 
For the third recipe from The Perfect Peach, I chose the peach-date bars. I used fresh peaches that I chopped up in the food processor - they were nearly liquid when I added them to the dates and stuff. There were other normal vegan subs, nothing too exciting. Just a delicious crumble bar that worked great as dessert or breakfast! I really love every recipe from this book so far!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

toaster oven cooking

Today, in Fresno, it's supposed to be 102. 
Today, also in Fresno, I have a craving for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. 

Usually these things would not work together - either I would have to turn the oven on, and heat up the whole house, or wander out into outside and get some cookies from the store. But not this time. 

Last year, I discovered the art of toaster oven cooking. With recipes for 2 cupcakes, and some toaster oven pans, I was able to bake all summer. 

Today = 102 AND toaster oven cookies. I'm only excited about one of these things..