Friday, January 30, 2015

more-with-less

This blog post is sponsored in part by my friend, Irene, who gave my husband and I a gift card to Ten Thousand Villages four and half years ago. Yes, it was a wedding present... that was just recently used. (How many people go without spending their gift cards? I can't be the only one.)
 
My husband had been carrying around this gift card for a long time. Maybe we hoped that we'd stumble across a Ten Thousand Villages store and be able to use it? A few weeks ago, as I sat at the computer, he tossed the gift card on the table and said, "You should order something for yourself." My mind started to race through all the beautiful possibilities! (Ten Thousand Villages is an organization that sells handmade items by artisans from around the world. The artisans receive a fair price for their wares and are able to support their trade and their families. Also- everything is gorgeous! www.tenthousandvillages.com) Hmm... should I get some jewelry or a banana leaf basket or a scarf? As I began to wonder, I thought that even though all these things were beautiful, do I need another necklace or another scarf? I then remembered something I wanted for Christmas that I didn't get, the More-With-Less cookbook. (I also would like the Simply In Season cookbook if anyone would like to get that for me for my birthday; don't worry, you have until April. ...and then you may ask, "Do you need another cookbook?" The answer is, "Yes. Yes I do.")
 
I ordered the book and it came in the mail within a few days. I just ooo-ed and ahhh-ed at the recipes- the possibilities!
 
I made two recipes the other day- Basic Dry Cereal Formula (similar to a granola) and English Muffins. I've wanted to make English Muffins for a while now. They were the only bread related item that I'd buy (if they were on sale and if my husband was grocery shopping with me. He can't stick to a list; he is an impulsive shopper... and you shouldn't even think about taking him to Wegmans- the list and the budget go right out the window. I love you, babe, but you know I'm right about this.)
 
 
The muffins begin similarly to a basic bread dough recipe. You mix the ingredients, knead and let rise. After you let them rise, you roll out the dough, and use a biscuit cutter to make your muffins. Each muffin is dipped in cornmeal and then allowed to rise once more. When they have doubled in size, turn on your skillet and brown them on each side. To serve, split the muffin with a fork and toast.
 
 
My husband was gladly willing to taste test one... or two.
 
 
 
 
It was fun to try something new and they look just like English muffins from the store. I encourage you to try something you've never done like make a new bread or cook up something different for dinner. The recipe might be a keeper. <3

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bread of the Month Club

I love making bread. Early on in our marriage, my husband and I decided that we should bake our own bread instead of buying it. I honestly don't remember the last time I bought a loaf of bread. It's something that most people have the ingredients for, you just need to plan ahead because bread making does take some time. I have been baking it for our local farmers' market the last two Summers and I like to give loaves as gifts.

My sister had a beautiful, baby girl in November, but because she lives in Boston, I couldn't make her a meal or help out much. I decided to bake her a loaf of cinnamon swirl bread. I packed it up and shipped it. My brother-in-law sent me a picture with my niece and nephew eating the bread with the message, "Thanks for the bread! I want two loaves for Christmas!" That's when I got the idea for their Christmas present...

I have enrolled my sister's family in the "Bread of the Month Club." (Kind of like when Clark Griswold got a coupon for the "Jelly of the Month Club," but this will be much better.) Each month I will send them a loaf of bread or two. They can request breads if they'd like, or I will choose for them. I was thinking about having each month be a different bread, or maybe for birthday months I can send them Cinnamon Swirl bread? (There wasn't any fine print to this deal, I'm kind of making it up as I go.)

 
January is Rolled Oat Bread. This is one of my favorites and a regular bread I make for the market. It's a soft bread with a larger crumb and toasts really well. I like to do an egg white wash on the tops and sprinkle on oats. It gives the bread a nice golden color and also helps the oats stick to the top.

(In this particular package I'll also be sending a stuffed animal for my newest niece, Nora, who I mentioned earlier. I have crocheted animals for all my nieces and nephews, but I hadn't made her one yet. I've made this pattern before, for my niece Lilianna- "Fay the Flamingo" is a Lion Brand pattern. I blogged about her on my post "A Christmas Menagerie.")


 

Turn on the oven, bake some bread and share some love <3

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A bear for Teddy

Being a twenty-something with a majority of my friends married means eventually baby fever will become an epidemic. I'm struggling to keep up with all the gifts I want to make! I already knew what I was going to make our friends who just had a baby boy. They named him Theodore, but are calling him "Teddy." These friends met on a semester abroad in France.  If you guessed that I would crochet them a teddy bear wearing a beret- you win! (...I'm not sure what you win, but you should win something because that would be an incredible guess.)

If you've never made a stuffed animal -crocheted, knit or sewn- you may be surprised to know how many components it takes to put one together. This bear has two arms, two legs, a head, a body, two ears and in this particular case, a beret.

I was perusing my yarn stash and decided on a skein of brown, worsted weight yarn. The skein was partially used up, but I thought that I'd have enough for the bear. I crocheted the head and began the body. I was halfway through and realized I wasn't going to have enough brown. Nuts! Instead of starting completely over, I ripped out what I had crocheted back to the fifth round and gave this teddy a striped sweater. My husband gave me the idea to make him a beret. (Have I mentioned before that my husband is a genius?) Well, really this French teddy bear is from the both of us, so it's good for him to have some input. (I've used this pattern before. It's from Lion Brand and he's called "Buddy Bear.")


Teddy, we hope you love this ours en peluche. <3

Friday, January 9, 2015

Happy Birthday, Randy!

 
 
Today is my father-in-law's birthday!
Happy Birthday, Randy!
We hope you have had a relaxing day.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Once upon a time, I was a vegetarian.

Once upon a time, I was a vegetarian. There was this boy that I liked in college and he was vegetarian, so I become one, too. He had his reasons for doing so and he was my reason. That phase lasted about a year. That boy is now my husband. (At least something stuck it out.)

One of my favorite cookbooks during that meatless time in my life was Betty Crocker's Easy Everyday Vegetarian. I steered clear of the "meatless crumbles" and the "breaded soy-protein nuggets." They never appealed to me. Soups, stews and burgers were where it was at. OK, they weren't burgers, they were patties. They were made with beans, grains and/or vegetables. My absolute favorite was and still is the "California Black Bean Burger."



California Black Bean Burgers

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (4.5 oz.) chopped green chiles, undrained
(I chop up banana peppers that I canned and add a little of the liquid from the jar.)
1 cup unseasoned dry bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 t. cumin
1/4 t. chili powder
1/4 cup cornmeal, for coating the patties.

Put beans in a food processer to mash slightly, then put beans in a medium sized bowl. Stir in green chiles, bread crumbs, egg, and seasonings.
Shape mixture into 5 patties. Coat each patty with cornmeal.

In a skillet, heat up 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Cook patties about 4-5 minutes on each side.

Usually we have these on a bun, but the other day when I made them, we didn't have any buns, so we opted to serve these burgers over brown rice.



Whether you've made resolutions to eat better or not consume as much red meat this year, these California Black Bean Burgers have lots of flavor and a good texture. No, they aren't trying to be hamburgers, but they are worth a try. If you don't like so much spice, omit the cumin and chili powder. Toppings I like are mayo and lettuce, when it's on a bun. Add salsa if you'd like.
It's a new year, try something new. <3

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Rustic Nursery

Pinterest is pretty amazing. People can find great ideas for d.i.y. crafts, home décor, desserts. I'm probably not as bad as some people, but do have a "want to make" board, and... I haven't made anything from it. I just finished two pinterest inspired crafts, but they didn't come from any of my boards.

My friend is having a baby and I needed to come up with some gift ideas for her shower. Thankfully, she has a pinterest board called "Rustic Nursery." This pointed me in the direction where I could get some good ideas. Her board has color palettes, wall décor, light fixtures and furniture.

Being a frugal and crafty person meant I would take some ideas and copy them.
First idea- a woodsy mobile. Second idea- a painted sign made with barn wood.


A woodsy mobile. This project was something on my friend's board made by someone on etsy. It is currently listed for $48. Main components being two bears, two pine trees, two moose and a log cabin made out of felt suspended with string by three dowels. How hard can that be?

I drew some silhouettes of the trees, bears and moose. (What is the plural word for moose? Meese? Well, I just made one moose.) When I liked my designs, I cut the animals out of felt and blanket stitched them together. I used a little fiberfil to make them more three dimensional. The sewing was easy, but time consuming. The tricky part was getting the critters suspended and keeping the sticks balanced. (Forty-eight dollars for a mobile didn't seem too bad at that point.) My husband stepped in and saved the day. By trial and error we got it to work. It turned out really well, I think. I would probably do this all again, but really, a $48 mobile is a bargain.







A painted sign made with barn wood. This sign was also on my friend's pinterest board. It was on zulily.com. The sign comes in different sizes and ranges from $40-$70. No problem!

Living on a farm that recently had its barn resided could have never be more convenient. My husband cut down a piece of barn wood for me. (It was approximately 8" x 12".) I used chalk to sketch out where I wanted the letters to go and used white acrylic paint to make the design. He also put a hanger on the back. When I was done, I looked at the sign and wished everything was moved up an inch. You have got to be kidding me?! How can I fix this? My husband offered to take off the hanger and cut an inch off the top, but that seemed silly to do. Then he said, "What if I put an old nail halfway in at the top to make it look like it's nailed into the wall?" GENIUS!! Again, he saved the day. He is a wonderful, wonderful man.





These gifts are going to be from both my husband and I. Without his help, I would've only had a pile of critters made out of felt and a crooked sign.

Don't be afraid to do something yourself. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish. Or, invite a frugal- crafty person to your shower and she can do it for you.  Can't wait to meet Baby Clark this Spring <3