Monday, October 1, 2012

Black Feather Wreath--Just in Time for Halloween!

I like to think that if Miss Havisham had a wreath hanging somewhere in her crumbling, Gothic estate, it would look like this. I wanted to make a Halloween wreath, but I wanted something more dark and creepy (but still elegant) and less cutesy. This beautiful wreath from The Art of Doing Stuff was my inspiration. I used a 12" styrofoam wreath form, two 6' feather boas (one was thinner and cheaper, the other was more full and had silver sparklies!), grey "creepy cloth" from the Dollar Tree (it's sort of like cheesecloth with a very open weave), three black styrofoam crows from Dollar Tree, two faux peacock feathers, and some sheer ribbon in Tornado Blue.

I used copper wire to make little U-shaped fasteners (like big staples) to hold the boas into the wreath form. First I wrapped the thinner boa around the form leaving gaps (like a candy cane). Then I wrapped the thicker boa around, filling in the gaps. I used my makeshift staples to hold the boas in place. Then I layered on strips of the grey cloth. I pulled the feet off of the birds and put them on wooden skewers, to which I tied lengths of ribbon. A couple peacock feathers and a simple bow at the top and my wreath was ready to go! This was a super easy, quick project. You could make it more conventionally Halloweenish by using orange or purple ribbon, replace the peacock feathers and crows with skeletons or bats. Spiderwebs instead of gauze? The possibilities are endless . . . Be creative and enjoy!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Breakfast Cookies!! Flourless, Eggless, Peanut Butter, Banana, Chocolate Chunk Oat Cookies

What makes me get out of bed in the morning? The promise of chocolate chunk cookies. Cookies might be a bit of an overstatement--these are sort of like portable oatmeal. But good, peanut butter, banana, and chocolate filled oatmeal. I ran across a recipe for Gluten Free, Egg Free Cookies at The Family Kitchen. They sounded promising, but I had to make a few changes because:
1) My husband despises coconut, so we never have it in the house
2) I only had 1 overripe banana--substitutions had to be made

Here's what I did:
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 c. unsweetened applesauce (if you have two additional ripe bananas, you could use them in place of the applesauce)
2 Tbsp. oil (I used vegetable, the original recipe said canola or olive)
1/2 c. natural peanut butter (I used crunchy--yum! You could substitute almond or cashew butter)
2 c. old-fashioned oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt (I used a pretty generous 1/4 tsp.)
3/4 c. dark chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix together the mashed banana, applesauce, oil, cinnamon, and salt. Put the oats and baking powder in a large bowl. Add banana mix. Stir in peanut butter until well combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Drop mounds of dough on a Silpat-lined baking sheet (I used a heaping tablespoonfuls). The dough does not spread much, so if you like a thinner cookie, be sure to press the mounds flat. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. With my cookie size, this batch made about two dozen.

I highly recommend eating these cookies warm--just like oatmeal. I woke up this morning and microwaved a couple of them for about 12 seconds. Perfect! These could be gluten free if you buy gluten free oats and chocolate. If you omit the chocolate (or use unsweetened), the only sugar would be what naturally occurs in the other ingredients. I'm thinking that a ripe, mashed avocado could be used in place of the peanut butter for people with nut allergies. Also, if you have some sort of aversion to eating chocolate in the morning (because you're crazy), I'm sure you could use dried fruit in place of the chunks. Be creative and enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Reusable Sandwich or Snack Bags

I'm back! Now that law school is over and we're back in Michigan, I'm hoping to have a little more time to devote to crafting. Regular readers might notice that the blog has a fresh look--just a little makeover to get me out of the old rut. I finally broke down and joined Pinterest . . . and quickly became an addict! I've been pinning lots of healthy snacks to take with me to work. This, in turn, got me thinking about ways to transport my yummy treats.

I like the ease of Ziploc bags--not too big or bulky, easy to slide into a purse. But I hate throwing them away (it is such a waste of money and I don't feel great about contributing to the amount of plastic going into landfills). At the same time, I don't like washing zip-top bags out; they are never quite the same. So, I set out to make my own reusable snack bags. There are LOTS of tutorials on the web for making reusable sandwich bags. Some DIYers opt for designs constructed entirely of fabric--they're washable and there are fewer concerns with food safety. Because I'm not the best at routinely washing textiles (I have a drawer overflowing with dish towels to cut down on how often I have to do laundry), I wanted something that could be brushed out or wiped out quickly and easily. In the end, I decided on a PEVA tablecloth from Bed, Bath, and Beyond with a fun, circusy print. I can't say for sure that it is food grade material, but it is PVC and chlorine free. And it's a tablecloth, so it seems reasonable to assume that the maker anticipated some contact with food. Ultimately, it is a personal choice and you should use a material that you are comfortable with.

As for the actual construction, I used the same method I did for my Microwaveable Potato Bags Essentially, I cut two strips from the tablecloth, each measuring 15.5" x the width. I put the right sides together and sewed a seam along each long edge. Then I flipped it right side out and cut it into about 7.5" widths. I folded each piece as pictured at the right (the short folded portion becomes the flap that covers the opening). Then I sewed along the unfinished edges, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance. I trimmed the raw edges so they would be nice and even (and a little less than 1/4"). Then I flipped each bag right side out and pushed out the corners with the tip of my scissors. To finish, I topstitched along the side of each bag, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance. This hides the exposed edges on the inside. I opted not to add any sort of closure to the bags, but you could easily use Velcro, zippers, or snaps if you were worried about spillage. My top flaps overlap far enough that I'm not worried about any food sneaking out. figure one 60" x 120" tablecloth should make 16 sandwich-size bags and about 14 half-size snack bags. Not bad for a $12 investment! Be creative and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Baked Vegetable Egg Rolls

Plenty of things make me homesick. Snow. Mittens. GM cars. But egg rolls really get me. We've been in St. Louis for over three years and I haven't found any Chinese restaurant that I love as much as Golden Moon, my hometown favorite. I experience egg roll withdrawal if I don't get a fix every few months. But, to tide me over between visits, I finally decided to come up with my own recipe. I wanted to go vegetarian, because I'm pretty indifferent about meat in egg rolls and leaving it out altogether makes this a pretty cheap recipe to make. I also like substantial egg rolls. None of those matchstick, barely-there-filling rolls for me. So I double wrap them.

Egg Rolls:
About 1/2 head cabbage (green or red, I've used both)
1 lb. Bean sprouts
3 grated carrots
A few ounces sliced mushrooms
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
4-5 scallions (white part only, sliced thinly. I've also used a bit of minced white onion in a pinch)
Dash ground ginger or freshly minced ginger
3-4 Tbsp. Oil (I like grapeseed oil, but peanut or vegetable would work)
2 tsp. Kosher salt (use less if using table salt)
2 tsp. Granulated sugar
Soy sauce
1 package (about 20) egg roll wrappers

First, thinly slice the cabbage and put in a colander. Salt the cabbage and allow it to drain over the sink. You can do this the night before, placing the colander inside a large bowl in the refrigerator. I wash the sprouts and spin them dry. When the ingredients are prepared, heat the oil in a wok over med-high heat. Add the cabbage and allow to cook down for 1-2 minutes before adding in the sprouts. Allow some of the moisture to cook from the mixture before adding in the carrots, mushrooms, and scallions. I like to clear a little space in the bottom of the wok, adding a touch more oil if necessary, then putting in the garlic and ginger. Keep your heat high to cook off the liquid from the vegetables. Once most of the moisture has evaporated, add the salt, sugar, soy sauce to taste, and pepper. Stir and cook for another few moments. Drain the filling in a strainer and allow to cool. This step is important! You really want to let the moisture drain out of the filling or you'll end up with soggy, burst egg rolls. To fill: I use two wrappers for each roll, but you could certainly make a smaller size. Place the wrappers on your work surface, with a point closest to you (like a diamond). Spoon as much filling as desired (I probably use 1/4 to 1/3 cup per roll) onto the lower half of the wrapper. Fold the point nearest you over the filling, then fold in the sides (points should overlap in the middle), then roll the rest of the way up. Roll them snugly, but not too tight or they will burst in the oven. I keep a small cup of water nearby to wet the edges of the top point of the wrapper, creating a seal.

Continue until all of the filling is gone (or you run out of wrappers). The amount of filling will vary based on the size of the cabbage, how long you cook the vegetables, etc. It may take some trial and error to figure out how much filling should go into each roll. Place the finished egg rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet. I spray mine with grapeseed oil from a Misto, but you could brush them lightly with oil, or use cooking spray. Bake in a 425 degree oven until the bottoms are golden brown (probably 5-9 minutes, but I just keep a close eye on them). Turn and allow those sides to crisp. You could of course deep fry the egg rolls instead.

I think these actually taste better out of the fridge. I freeze whatever I won't eat within a day or two by individually wrapping each egg roll in wax paper and storing in a gallon freezer bag. Then I just pull them out one at a time and reheat them in my toaster oven. This is a great recipe for using up stray vegetables. I've thrown in sliced pea pods, extra mushrooms, whatever I have on hand. I note that you can use red or green cabbage, they both taste great, but a word of warning: red cabbage turns the filling a Grimmace-y shade of purple. These egg rolls take time, but the tasks can be broken up over several days, and they are worth the effort. Be creative and enjoy!