May 15, 2011

How to Stop Being so Competitive and Feel More Comfortable in Yoga Class

I got published on a website! It's so thrilling to say that, it's just one of those where you submit your article on how to do stuff, BUT they did review my article and chose to run it, so that counts :)

Have you ever wanted to try yoga, yet once you got to class felt so uncomfortable, you couldn't really get into it? The truth is, this happens to most people who are new to yoga, and the whole process of working though those feelings can teach one of the most valuable lessons yoga has to offer: Letting go of competitiveness, and focusing on caring for yourself.

How to Stop Being so Competitive and Feel More Comfortable in Yoga Class

April 20, 2011

Can you forgive me for a totally out of season baking recipe?

Especially after I just finished reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver? This is basically the bible of eating locally, and in season, and here I am craving pumpkin bread in April. Not only did I crave, but I gave in and MADE. One day this week, Zak was having a particularly bad day at work, and I was feeling a little blue myself, so I thought "what we need to do is bake, get the house smelling delicious, have something warm and comforting to bite into." Even if we can't control the forces of the universe that can make life crappy sometimes, we can eat well dammit! And for some unexplainable reason (pregnancy) all I could think of was pumpkin bread. So I broke out the canned pumpkin (the horror! not fresh?) and got to work.

Walnut Streusel Pumpkin Bread

Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chilled butter

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°.
To prepare topping, combine the walnuts, sugar and butter in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. cover and keep in the fridge.
To prepare bread, combine all dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg) in a mixing bowl. Making sure to lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife when measuring. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine the wet ingredients (pumpkin through eggs) in a bowl, and add to flour mixture. Stir just until moist. Spoon batter into a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with the streusel topping. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
 This Rosy the Riveter hand towel showed up in one of my moving boxes, I have no I idea where it came from

This turned out so delicious! Some of the streusel topping kind of melted down into the middle of the loaf and made a kind of filling inside, I don't know if this was because of some mistake I made or what, but it was a very happy accident! The rest of the topping made a satisfyingly crumbly and crunchy crust of the kind that you leave for the very last bite when you have a slice.

April 15, 2011

Finally Home

I am back and finally settled in for good!

It feels so good to say that. For the past six months, Zak and I have been going through the arduous process of buying a house. The last two of these have been incredibly stressful with mortgage lenders and accountants causing us all sorts of trouble resulting in us having to move twice in one month. We have been in a temporary place all of March, where the Internet wasn't so reliable, so I haven't been able to blog, or do anything I normally do, really. The wonderful, amazing good news is that we are finally in our new place, and it is amazing.

The kitchen is everything I could have hoped for and more...I, for the first time in my life, have a nice oven. Gas ranges and everything! I have enough room to cook to my hearts desire, to finally achieve a real sense of mise en place that I have only dreamed of before. What does this mean for my readers, or any random person to stumble across my little blog? MORE recipes! MORE culinary experiments! MORE food!

Also, I am a pregnant woman after all, and nesting has taken over in a big way. I now have all the room and all the tools I need to start some major DIY projects I have been planning for over a year. What does this mean for you dear reader? Instructionals on salvaging old furniture (especially if most of your furniture comes from the dumpster, like me) and rehabbing your own busted up things as well. Slightly less instructional posts on my adventures in learning how to sew. How to turn random crap you find in the thrift store into awesome home decor!

Did I mention I get to set up my garden completely from scratch, exactly how I want it?

So I am back for good, and ready to dedicate some serious time to this blog! What to look forward to in the future:

Homemade Mozzarella
DIY Chandelier centerpiece for the bedroom
The vegetable garden of course
Home brewed beer and apple cider

Thanks to everyone for sticking around through all these delays!

March 23, 2011

Chicken & Potato Soup with Bacon

Hello! I swear I haven't given up on blogging. I have a wonderful recipe to share, but first, some updates: These last few weeks have been very fun, busy and exciting. First, Zak and I took a road trip to visit some friends in beautiful Salt Lake City, we learned a lot about Mormons, had some delicious milkshakes (SLC has milkshake and frozen yogurt places to serve as a gathering place for the youth since many of them don't drink alcohol), enjoyed the lovely mountains, and had a bonfire. All in all, the perfect weekend vacation.

The Great Salt Lake

Then, we got back to Denver and I turned 25, which means I am no longer as young as I think I am. Yikes! You know when you fill out a survey and it asks you your age range? Well I just moved up a whole age range, 25-30, not to mention I got summoned for my first even jury duty (didn't get called). All of this, plus the fact that I am currently incubating a child leads me to believe that I must really and truly be getting older. I suppose I will just have to embrace it :)

Finally, on my birthday we went to get an ultrasound, with hopes of finding out what type of little person is residing in my belly. I remember the day before, when it was still a big mystery, I said to Zak "tomorrow, we will be living in a completely different world than we are today, a world where we'll know if we are going to have a son or a daughter." Such a crazy experience! Well I laid on that table for an hour, watching the little thing (that actually looks like a baby now, and not just a goo ball) thrashing around on the screen. The tech did all the measurements, but my belly button was creating a shadow right over the goods, so we were kept in suspense. Then a more seasoned tech came in, and within a matter of moments the great mystery was revealed:

we are going to have a girl! She is growing right on track, everything is looking healthy and good. It really was the best birthday present ever. Afterwards, my dear husband surprised me with a celebration at my favorite pizza place with all our friends, and a delicious gift bag of some of my favorite cheeses (he truly knows the way to my heart!). So we celebrated, and I had the most perfect birthday ever.

Now, for a delicious soup recipe. I got this from the meal planning website Relish! which I adore. I love to make up my own recipes, but I can get stuck in a rut, and Relish! is a great way to get inspire by new recipes. Basically you create a menu for your week by selecting from their recipes, then they create a pdf with a shopping list and all the recipes you selected. The shopping list is great, because they organized it by aisle in the grocery store, and they even have a category for stuff you probably already have (olive oil, flour, salt, etc.) I also love that they include the nutritional info for each recipe. I have been using this service for over a year now, and I love it. It eliminates the whole "I just spent $60 on groceries, but there is nothing to eat" situation, now I use everything I buy which saved us money, and I have picked up some amazing recipes. *disclaimer* I am not paid to recommend this service. I simply felt compelled to share this because it has made my life easier, and is a service I really value.

So here is the recipe, this soup is easy to make, and so satisfying to eat. I did the bacon differently than the recipe, I just cooked it separately, and crumbled it up, adding it to the soup with the potatoes. I also used about half the cream, because I can't handle super creamy soups.

Chicken and Potato Soup with Bacon  
Prep and cook time: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 white onion , chopped
6 bacon slices, sliced
2 leeks , washed and sliced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound new potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch dice
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
4 tablespoons heavy cream
  coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

per serving: 438 calories; 31 grams protein; 24 grams total fat; 3 grams fiber; 10 grams saturated fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 99 mgs cholesterol; 1006 mgs sodium; 10 weight watcher points
  [1] Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes until slightly softened. Add bacon and leeks and cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring.

[2] In a bowl, mix the flour with enough of the broth to make a smooth paste and stir it into the pan. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Pour in the remaining broth, then add the potatoes and chicken. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are tender and cooked through.


March 1, 2011

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Empanadas

I love empanadas. In addition to being one of my favorite things to eat, they are also one of my favorite things to cook. I love foods that you can really get creative with, and when it comes to empanada filling, the sky is the limit! They can be sweet or savory, vegetarian or carnivore friendly, you can just look in your cupboard and fridge and use whatever you have on hand. Which is exactly what I did for these.

I also pride myself in my ability to make a pretty delicious pastry crust. Empanada dough is very similar to making a pie crust. I just use an egg instead of water, and cut in the butter a little more thoroughly, to help keep the pastry from crumbling so much when you eat it. One thing that has completely revolutionized my pastry crust making has been to use a food processor to cut in the fat, rather than doing it by hand. You can do it in half the time, therefore keeping the butter colder, and this results in a flakier crust. I highly recommend trying this next time you make any kind of pastry crust. I might actually write an entire other post just on pastry crust alone.

Without further ado:

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Empanadas
(makes 6)

1-2 Sweet potatoes
2 cloves garlic sauteed in olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Crushed hot chili pepper
1/4 soft goat cheese
Salt to taste

Cook the sweet potatoes thoroughly (either by baking or microwaving them). Scoop the cooked potato into a medium bowl and mash to your preferred consistency. Heat up some olive oil in a skillet, then add about 2 cloves worth of minced garlic and saute until the garlic is just starting to brown. Pour the garlic and oil into the mashed sweet potatoes, then mix in the apple cider vinegar, crushed red pepper, salt and soft goat cheese (or feta). Once this is all mixed together, cover and set aside.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold butter
1 egg

In the bowl of a food processor mix the flour and salt. Take the butter out of the fridge and cut it into several pieces, then add them to the flour mixture. Pulse the mixture several times until it looks crumbly with BB sized pieces of butter. Now add the egg and pulse again, just until the dough starts to come together into one piece. Put the bowl of the processor in the fridge to keep the butter from melting. Make a space to roll out the dough, either on your cutting board or counter and lightly flour the surface. Dump out the dough onto the surface and get a little flour on your hands. Form the dough into one cylinder and cut into 6 different pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll out each piece to approximately a 3.5in circle.  As you are working with the dough, try to handle it as little as possible. The ultimate goal here is to keep the butter from melting and mixing into the dough completely. This is what gives pastry the light flakiness.

Once you have your 6 circles of dough, spoon some of the filling into them and fold the dough in half. press the edges together, then press a fork around them to create the cute little lines. Place them on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 F, for 15-20 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

One last note, BE CAREFUL taking your first bite, the filling basically becomes molten lava. I break them in half to let out some of the steam before I take my first bite.

February 23, 2011

Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Creme

We are finally out of the Carriage House. I apologize for the lack of posts lately, for we were moving into a temporary place (before we finally move into our new house in April) and it took me about three days to get stuff unpacked! While I am sad for leaving the Carriage House behind, one thing I will NOT miss is the oven. It was only 20 inches wide (about half the size of a regular range) and the temp inside the oven was super wacky, causing many many baking mishaps.  In celebration of being able to use a regular oven again I decided to bake a cake!

This cake is based off of a regular white sheet cake recipe, but using frozen strawberries gives the cake a satisfyingly soft crumbly texture. The creme is basically a homemade marshmallow creme with vanilla extract, but you could use real vanilla bean if you happen to have it.

Strawberry White Cake

3 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/8 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chopped frozen strawberries 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 9 inch round cake pans, or a single rectangular one. In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl cream the butter or margarine and white sugar until light and fluffy. In a food processor, chop the strawberries until they are as small as you like. I did mine very small so that the cake was flavored with the strawberries and had little red flecks in it, but no big chunks. Mix in the strawberries and the vanilla. In three additions alternately beat in the flour mixture and the milk into the creamed mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallow Creme

2 egg whites
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a bowl combine the egg whites, corn syrup, powdered sugar and vanilla beat on high with an electric mixer for about 6 to 7 minutes. The longer you beat it the stiffer it gets. So if you like a thick creme continue beating a little longer. You may also add more powdered sugar if you want to thicken the creme.

February 17, 2011

T-Shirt Quilt

I feel like I am constantly trying to come up with creative ways to de-clutter my life. When I was single, all I needed to do was fill up some trash bags full of stuff I was sick of looking at and take it to the goodwill. In face, I have been almost compulisive in my purging of stuff. This worked great for me...but then I married Zak. Zak is a pack rat, no he's not to the level of those scary hoarder people, not even close. Let's just say he places strong sentimental value in many of his material possesions, and wants to keep them around forever (and ever). I have had a hard time coming to understand this, since until we began our live together, I had just gotten rid of anything I didn't use anymore, why keep it if it isn't uselful? Through the years I have come to appreciate that some items truly are special, so it's safe to say we have both grown together around this issue...that is until we moved in together, and I discovered the giant bags of T-shirts left over from when he owned his own screen printing company.

"Zak, can I take these to the goodwill this weekend?"
"No! I'm keeping those!"
"B-but they're not even in your size, you'll never wear them..."
"Jess, I'm keeping them."

I think we argued about these shirts for the entire first 4 months of marriage. You see these just aren't any old t-shirts, these are shirts that have Zak's own designs on them, and he didn't want to get rid of them, not even duplicates. I tried to understand this as much as I could, but I just couldn't justify having three industrial sized trash bags of shirts sitting around for the rest of our lives. So I started to get creative.

I finally convinced him to donate the blank shirts once we identified that it was the designs he really cared about and not the actual shirts. Then we set aside all the shirts in his size, that he can wear (I folded and put them in a rubbermaid container that fits under the bed, no more trash bags!). After that we were left with one big bag of shirts. If we were going to keep these shirts, they couldn't just sit in a bag, he couldn't even enjoy them that way. Then an idea came to me...T-shirt quilt!

I thought convicing Zak to let me cut up his shirts was going to be impossible, but I still brought it up casually...and he was stoked! Needless to say, I set to work immediately. I am a complete novice when it comes to sewing so my mother helped me get started.

I started by plotting out a basic pattern section for the t-shirt designes with four different cut-out shapes. I think using different sizes makes the quilt look much more interesting than just having the full front of each shirt in a one-size cut-out.
Kind of looks like Easter M&Ms 
Then I calculated how many of each shape I would need to make a queen sized quilt. Then the fun part, I started cutting away, which took about a week. Once I finally had all the cut-outs, I started sewing the pattern sections together. Then I sewed all the sections together to complete the front of the quilt.
Back side of the shirts
After I had the front done, I sewed it to the piece of flannel I got for the back. I did this like you would do a pillow case, leaving one side open. Then I slid the batting into the quilt and sewed up the last side. Finally I sewed around each pattern section to hold the batting in place, I used red thred that contrasts nicely with the black and white flannel. Here is the finished product:
 Hooray, cool, cozy and sentimental (note the ninjas on the bottom!)

I have no idea if this is the proper way to make a quilt. I just went with what seemed easiest to me. One thing I would definitely do differently next time is to sew the front piece to the batting, then sew on the back, and complete with stiching around the sections. Trying to get the batting into the quilt when I had already sewed the front to the back was a HUGE pain in the ass. and it ended up being all wrinkley inside and I went insane trying to smooth it, lol. Other than that this process was a really fun way to improve my sewing skills, and de-clutter my house a little bit. Most  importantly, it now allows my husband to enjoy the shirts he spent his early 20s designing instead of keeping them hidden in a bag :) 

I also plan to frame some more of the shirts that didn't make it into the quilt, so we can have a cool wall display as well. Now if I could only come up with an equally sweet way to use all of his old notebooks from college...

February 15, 2011

I'm back and blogging for two

Well, I just fell off the face of the blogging world didn't I?

My last post was July 4th of last year, and then my life completely changed, and blogging fell by the wayside. I quit my office job, I became (am still becoming) a yoga instructor, and most shockingly, in early November, I became pregnant! The little one is due to make an appearance in early August!

Also, our life in a carriage house is coming to an end, we have bought a duplex and will be moving into one half and renting out the other. I really like the name of my blog, so I am going to keep it even though we are moving, in honor of the spirit of the year spent residing here.

I had a very tough first trimester, in which food basically became my worst enemy for a while, very very sad. I am finally feeling better, so I am easing myself back into the kitchen. So expect a slow start with recipe posts. BUT! I have started DIYing and crafting and sewing! Expect many more DIY posts, especially when we move into our new place in April. I will be focusing on up-cycling random thrift store stuff into fabulous home decor. And of course starting in late April I will be starting my garden! I am making a dedicated effort to come back to blogging I have missed it dearly.

One last thing, I will try to keep this blog from becoming a mothering blog, as I am sure most of my life will be overridden with baby stuff for a while, this will be my refuge :)

Oh yeah....and happy Valentine's Day!

July 2, 2010

Oh-ho say can you see...

A three day weekend?
Pizzas on the grill?
My grandma's 83 birthday?
Taking cool pictures with sparklers?
Fireworks with cheesy music blasting in sync?

Independence day has always been a big deal in my family, because it is my grandma's birthday! We always have a big BBQ at her house and then walk across the street to the golf course for an awesome fireworks show! I'm super excited. week is my last week at work!!! Whooooo! After that, Zak and I are going to Chicago for 4 days, and then driving to Michigan to visit one his sisters and her family. I can't wait!

I still haven't taken any pictures of my garden, because I am a horrible slacker blogger, and am rarely home when the sun is out, due to my YTTP. Soon though, I promise :)

Will post grill pizza recipes next week, happy holiday weekend friends!

June 30, 2010

Pot Holders!!

I firmly believe that it makes life a little bit more enjoyable if you have everyday items that delight you. For example, getting a toothbrush in your favorite color rather than plain white, or a coffee thermos in a pretty floral pattern rather than a plain silver one.

One of my sisters in law (sister in laws?) well, she is my husband's sister, and therefore my sister too. She is a professional costume designer, and is very talented at sewing things. She has recently opened up a little etsy shop to sell amazingly cute pot holders, they are perfect examples of how to make an everyday item something delightful! She sent me a pair for my birthday a while back, and I absolutely adore them. They are made with beautifully vibrant fabric, and are very high quality (better than you would get from target! lol)

Please, if you are looking for a new pair of potholders, or searching for a nice housewarming gift for somebody, check out her shop, Canezou on etsy.

Here are my little beauties

I love them so!