Thursday, January 27, 2011

Plans Gone Awry

I woke up Monday morning with the urge to finish up some unfinished projects in the sewing department of my life. I keep a drawer in my studio space that holds all unfinished projects. Cut pieces for small quilts, half finished aprons, hand drawn pattern pieces for clutch purses, etc...
I gathered the rather large pile that has accumulated over the past few months and brought it down to the kitchen island to sort through and order the attack on these little lovelies.



Now it is Thursday and not much has happened. My little Pfaff sewing machine is giving me lots of trouble this week. I have adjusted, cleaned and adjusted again & again every aspect of this machine and yet it leaves me with stitches looking like this. I am beyond frustrated. I have lots of grumblings under my breath (calling my machine not-so-nice names at times), which Mike finds quite amusing. Me, not so much.




In kitchen news I thought I'd share a little tip that is helpful in getting meals made a little quicker. I often add chopped (nearly minced) mushrooms as a base to many soups, chowders, stews and sauces we make. I really don't like mushrooms so much but in minced up bits, added to onion to brown and caramelize, they add a depth of flavor and earthiness to things like wild rice soup or beef stew that I don't get otherwise.



Quite often I find mushrooms on super sale at the grocery store. Last week I found 2 packages of baby bella mushrooms for $.79 a package. I brought them home, cleaned them, pulsed them in the food processor a few times, put them in a mason jar and into the freezer they went ~ ready to use at a moments notice.




Do you have any quick tips to share? I am always up for learning new time saving methods in the kitchen. Oh how I love to cook, but with 3 little ones underfoot, any bit of "help" I can get is invaluable.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Don't Knock It 'till Ya Try It



A friend recently sent me a recipe for brownies sans flour. I was skeptical to say the least. Not necessarily because of the lack of flour but rather the appearance of an entire can of black beans in the recipe. What the....?
Mike and Canaan immediately grossed the entire concept out, Ezra wasn't paying attention at all (neither was Otto) but I was intrigued.
On Friday night I made a batch and stuck them in the fridge to chill overnight. On Saturday night, after the boys were in bed and while Mike was gone to a guys night, I had a group of friends over for ice cream and brownies. I cut these little chocolaty black bean squares and put them neatly on a large white plate (presentation is everything, right?). The girls dove in. Building banana splits with all the fixins' and grabbing a brownie to boot. The verdict? Yummy. Really! Fudgy, chocolaty, without even the slightest hint of bean-y-ness. The gals and I determined these could easily be considered fiber bars for breakfast, which would allow us the freedom to eat chocolate in the morning without guilt. Brilliant, right?



I got the recipe here although I don't have a Vita-Mix (swoon)so I just used my handy 1960's blender. It worked just fine. Also, I personally wasn't crazy about the slight honey flavor. I'm not a huge fan of honey in baking though. Next time I think I'll try Agave Nectar or even just plain ol' sugar would be good.
Definitely refridge them overnight, would be my suggestion. They taste like a dense fudgy Starbucks brownie. Yummo.

Fudgy Rich Black Bean Brownies

•2 cups black beans, well drained (15 oz canned is fine)
•1/4 cup cocoa powder
•4 large eggs
•1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
•2 Tbsp. instant grain coffee substitute ** I used decaf espresso powder
•1/4 tsp. sea salt
•1 cup honey
•1/2 cup melted butter, coconut oil or combination
•1 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds or nut of your choice **I omitted


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or butter an 8x8 baking dish or cake pan (for thicker brownies) OR 11 by 18 inch baking pan (for thinner).

Combine the black beans, cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, instant coffee, sea salt and honey into the Vita-Mix. Blend till smooth, the batter should be thick and will be kinda soupy.

Pour mixture into a bowl. Add butter/coconut oil and nuts. Mix well and pour into prepared dish or pan. Bake 30-45 minutes, or until the brownies are set. If you press your finger in the middle, it should make a little dent. Don't overbake!

Let it cool (and preferably refrigerated) in the pan completely before cutting and serving.

NOTE: I did not do this, but you can line your baking pan with parchment paper and lightly oil it for ease of use.

OPTIONAL: If you love the rich flavor and want to make it even more richer: add 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Field Trip



Mike has been at home for 3 weeks now. The first two weeks proved to be an interesting lesson in communication for us in our expectations for the day, preparation for the day, hopes for the future, and so on. Week three has been much more enjoyable, less stressful and we’re finding our groove for everyday life as it happens to be right now.
He spends much of the day networking, applying for jobs and looking for jobs mixed in with helping me tote Otto around, clean up the breakfast dishes, throw in a load of laundry and help Canaan with homework. He has always been great at these things…its just that I get the help all day long now! Unfortunately I haven’t kept up on anything from my end. Having him home has totally thrown off my schedule each day. The lack of blogging is evidence of this. Also the lack of sewing, article writing and menu planning is piling up. I need to get that sorted out for future weeks.
Yesterday we decided to break out of our homebound routine and take a little road trip 20 minutes north of us to the town of Georgetown. We have been so focused on saving money by not driving around a lot, not eating out and not shopping that we have become the ultimate homebodies.



Our little afternoon excursion to Georgetown was just what we needed to get some fresh perspective again, enjoy the first snowflakes of our winter storm that came in last night and eat a cheap diner meal at the 100 year old Fava’s Restaurant. **Let me use this time to say that I am still on my no flour kick until Mike finds a job. It took every ounce of willpower I possess to not order or even take a bite of the ridiculously thick, greasy diner burgers. It was hard. And for those of you who may be like me (health conscious, into health foods, etc..) I have read all about how much healthier one will feel when eliminating flour from the diet. This is not so. it’s a lie. I feel no different, my skin is no more glowing than before, I have no more energy. I just want bread.
But back to Georgetown, it’s a great little place with shops, antiques, bakeries and knick knacks. We only had a few short hours before it was time to get Canaan at school…but they were a refreshing few hours, indeed.


And in the end the trip was free. Well…it will be free. We have made it customary on road trips to try to fund the trip by finding something we can sell on Ebay to cover the costs. This trip was no different. Definitely found a couple of treasures that will bring in some profit and let us enjoy little outings without the guilt of spending money during this time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Married Life


This photo was taken when Mike and I were new parents and married a little over 4 years. It hangs in our living room and holds such happy memories for us. As happy as we have been for the past 12 years and continue to be, we have many friends in our extended circle that are facing an end to their marriage. For this my heart aches.

This morning I sat in a courthouse hallway along with a dozen others waiting to testify as a character witness for a custody hearing. A friend of mine is entering into a difficult divorce and what looks to be a bitter custody battle. It is gut wrenching to see what is happening to this family because of choices. Because of feelings. Because of detachment over the years. Because of alienation. Because love is lost.

Mike and I have certainly had our fair share of ups and downs over the past 12 years. I vividly remember year 8 being a tough one...although year 5 wasn't a cake walk either. Its downright hard doing this thing called marriage, isn't it? To do it right it takes an enormous amount of work, a willingness to do self reflection often and be willing to change and adapt. It takes alot of forgiveness and a huge slice of humble pie.
But thankfully the good has definitely outweighed the bad in our relationship and we are deeply in love and ridiculously giddy about each other. This is not to say we don't have our days...we do. Plenty of them. But we have learned and continue to learn the art of quickly forgiving and forgetting. Life is too short to hold grudges and stay mad.
I listened to a fantastic podcast this week from the author of "Kiss Me Like You Mean It". It's a 2 part talk and I would highly recommend a listen whether you are married or not, happy in marriage or not. Its really good.
You can find part one here and part two here.
Sorry for the heavy post today. I had planned on sharing lots of fun things happening over this way...more puzzles, marshmallows and crafts.
I'll share more about that next week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Good Girls Banana Split



I have stumbled upon something spectacular. I affectionately call it my "good girl banana split". And it is oh-so-yummy. Fat free plain Greek yogurt topped with banana, frozen (and thawed) strawberries and a drizzle of nutella. It definitely hits the spot and has satisfied my sugar craving that creep up in the evenings (do you get the urge for sugary treats at night,too?)

Mike started his first day of the looming layoff on January 1st. Already it is stretching our marriage and giving us the rare opportunity to spend countless hours together and learn to do it with patience and grace...in this we are still learning. We started out our married life working along side each other for nearly 5 years. We loved it. Then Mike got a "real job" and it was such a transition to only see each other for a few short hours in the evening. We often joked that he should go on welfare just so we could spend the days together again. Well here we are...not on welfare, but definitely spending the days together. Overall, its spectacular. But it is certainly a lesson in communicating what each of our expectations are for the day! This marriage gig...even 12 years in, is hard work! Meaningful and worthwhile work, nonetheless.



So with the layoff in full swing I began thinking about how I could use this time in a beneficial way. On January 1st I decided that I would give up anything with flour until he got a new job. This of course, coincided with New Years. But it wasn't a New Years Resolution. Some have suggested that I am fasting from flour during this time. But it isn't a fast. Nope, no spiritual reasons for my madness...and yes, it is madness. How the heck did I decide that giving up 3 layer cake, Canaan's doughnuts, homemade bread, flour tortillas, crepes and pizza was a good thing?
What it came down to was this. I wanted to look back on this time and be able to fondly say, "Without that lay off I wouldn't have lost those last 10 lbs of pregnancy weight!" I want to turn this crappy layoff into something good, you see! Totally vain, I know.
Another reason, and slightly deeper and less superficial reason is that I truly believe in the power to deny oneself things. I love the process of disciplining ourselves and being able to say "no" to ourselves. Its therapeutic and cleansing for me on many levels.
With that said, I have had many moments in the last week of wanting to drop Mike off at the nearest Pizza Hut and telling him to deliver pizzas so I can eat a brownie!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Handmade Burberry


Over seven years ago when I was pregnant with my first I dreamed of owning a Burberry diaper bag. Of course, with a price tag of over $1000, I knew that wasn't going to happen. I am not usually one for designer things, necessarily, but I have always been drawn to the classic Burberry print bags.
So a few months ago while thrift store shopping I came across a Burberry print women's pant suit. It wasn't the Burberry brand, but it had that same classic print I so love. I bought it for $7 and really had no plans for it at the time...just couldn't leave it on the rack there in the store.
So in my craft room it sat until last month, when I finally decided to put that fabric to good use and make myself a large Burberry tote. Big enough to hold diapers, a laptop computer, notebooks, and makeup.


I made friends with the owners of the local leather shop and they let me pick through their leftover scraps to find a leather piece for the bottom and some straps (under $15 for all the leather). They even sewed in the straps for me since my machine isn't nearly heavy duty enough for thick leather.
**note** I did all of this before the layoff. I wouldn't consider spending any money on things of this nature right now**
All in all, I spent under $40 for my very own Burberry bag. It has a magnetic closure and a heavy duty lining.
I am so happy with the final outcome and I even have enough material leftover for a matching wallet.