The Easter Egg Emery Dress

The Easter Egg Emery Dress

I’ve had the fabric for this dress FOREVER. Don’t know if you all know but Wal-Mart in most instances has a nice little craft and sewing section, and while our local has slim pickings as far as fabrics go I’ve found a couple of gems, the fabric for this dress included. And I got it for CHEAP, like $3 a yard cheap. It’s 100% woven cotton plaid in the most Easter-eggy colors imaginable: sky blue, grass green, magenta and purple. What’s not to love here? It washed up very soft, has a nice drape, and was itching to be a sun dress.

Easter Egg Emery

A lot of their fabrics are crappy synthetics but if you’re willing to cross the threshold into the dark side and dig in the shelves, you can find some real gems every now and again. I’ve found a few really great yardages for less than $4 a yard. ME likey!

I bought my Emery pattern a couple weeks ago, after seeing SO MANY of these out around the blog world and loving every version I saw. Nearly every review of the pattern I saw said that this was The Dress, it fit like a dream right out of the envelope, and was everyone’s very favorite ever Ever EVER. I knew mine wouldn’t be perfect out of the envelope, but a full bust adjustment should fix that – and it sure did! Since most pattern companies draft for a smaller bust size than mine this has become something I’m getting better at, and this dress has the best set of tutorials for small and full bust adjustments, as well as small and wide back adjustments. I nailed it on the first go around, and was so sure of myself I didn’t even make a muslin. Yes I said it, I didn’t even make a muslin. This is my muslin folks, I was that confident that I could make minor adjustments to the garment itself as I went. Brave soul, because I’ve ruined a couple fun pieces of fabric this way. Cockiness doesn’t translate to wearability I’m afraid, and I don’t have the best math skills. Cockiness + bad math = frogged project in my sewing corner. I went on anyway.

My cockiness paid off this time, because this dress is a Winna! I even had the best and most perfectly sized piece of fabric for the lining, a gorgeous raspberry silk taffeta. Silk taffeta FTW! It has just enough body to hide any, um, imperfections in my person without having to wear a slinky slip or some kind of foundation garment. Back fat be banished! The silk may be a wee bit warm for summer but since my office is kept nuclear winter cold, this and a cardigan will be perrrrfect.

Lining

I’m also feeling pretty smug about matching the plaid on the back. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s not bad for my first ‘real’ attempt at trying. It’s close enough that I don’t feel defeated at doing this. It wasn’t the easiest plaid but wasn’t the hardest either I’m sure.

Back

And did I mention I made it sleeveless? The original pattern was for a short or long sleeved dress, and I didn’t feel like making either. I didn’t make any changes other than to raise the armscye just a wee bit. I also had to take up the shoulders, but I think I’d have had to do that even if I had the sleeves. The dress gapped in the back but taking up the shoulders fixed it without having to make any other adjustments. If I did have to go the adjustment route though it wouldn’t have been too hard, as there are darts at the top and bottom of the back bodice. I really feel like the bodice block I’m getting from this dress is going to be one I use a million times, as it will be really easy to regrade the neckline to be different shapes and keep the integrity of the fit, and can add any skirt I want. I’m loving this already. Get ready to see me in this dress a lot!

In all, I’m sooo pleased with the way this one came out. I’ve already cut out another one in the cutest little print, covered in blackberries and leaves. I’ll be sure to share that one too when I finish, it’s coming together really fast! My birthday is this weekend and I hope to have two new dresses to wear, one for Friday and one for Saturday nights. Wish me luck in my ambition!

 

 

Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies

Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies

I’m not an everyday dessert person. Not 100% sure when in my life this happened, because it was law in our house when I was growing up that my dad and I had to have a scoop of ice cream before bed. I think it may have changed when I was first living on my own and SUPER BROKE all the time, I couldn’t afford two meals a day much less ice cream at night. It’s no coincidence that my weight went up when I had money to buy groceries!

The other night, though, I wanted cookies. And After Dinner Cookie Needs generally go unfulfilled at my house, because by the time I get up off the sofa, pull butter out of the fridge to come to temperature, sit down and wait for the butter to pull it’s life together, and then get out all the stuff to make said cookies, the moment has passed and my lazy ass goes right back to where it was in front of the TV. Who am I kidding, I don’t get up in the first place. This saves me consumption of many calories over a lifetime but on the whole is so unsatisfying.

You can blame the internet for the fastest peanut butter oatmeal cookie on the planet, then. The dough for these was made, baked and in my mouth in under 20 minutes. THIS IS DANGEROUS TERRITORY FOLKS. This means that you can have a warm cookie in under a half an hour flat with no Hard Butter Barricades between you and glory. The recipe is so easy you can memorize it, the stuff it takes to make them is always on my larder shelves. My inner fat kid is shaking with glee about this.

The good news is these are healthy, as far as cookies go. They clock in at 87 calories per the website I found them, they are gluten free and don’t have a ton of sugar. Of course, my addition of chocolate chips throws all of this data to the wind with reckless abandon, but whatevs. It still doesn’t raise the calorie content that much. Want to feel even better about yourself? Make them with freshly ground peanut butter, the kind that is made of just peanuts with no salt or oil or anything that you grind yourself at the health food store. See? Sainthood for these cookies.

Just make them, you’ll thank me.

Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies

Saintly Peanut Butter Cookies
Makes about 18, adapted from here

½ c. peanut butter, the less additives on that PB the better
½ c. brown sugar, either light or dark
1 large egg
1 ¼ c. gluten free rolled oats
½ t. baking soda
½ c. semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the peanut butter and brown sugar together until well incorporated, you can’t exactly cream these the way you can with butter, it just doesn’t get as light. I’d say let the mixer go for a minute or two.

Add in the egg, beating well to incorporate. Add in the oats, baking soda and chocolate chips, stirring well to combine. Coat your hands with a bit of oil (coconut, olive, canola, whatever you want), and roll the cookies into roughly 2” balls with your hands. Space them evenly on the cookie sheet and give them a smash so they are about ½” thick. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-9 minutes until they are lightly browned. Cool, remove to a plate, and resist eating them all at once. They keep well in an airtight container for a couple days but are best warm.

Just stuff….

Just stuff….

How’s your 2014 going so far? Did you make resolutions, or did you resolve not to this year like I did? I didn’t have a letter to the year this year, didn’t feel that I needed to have a conversation with it like I have the last few. No, this year I had a conversation with myself, and I think I listened.

tree

What do I want out of this year? Well, like many of us I want to be more organized. I want to streamline my life and my stuff, and feel the lightness of my physical load. I’ve cleaned out my closet and my dresser (I swear, Honey, I did, I just have lots of clothes), and I want to do one room a month in my little house. Next up: Laundry room and sewing corner, as these are both in need of some love.

Speaking of my sewing corner, I want to sew more of my wardrobe this year and you guys are going to see more of that process, because sewing has become far more than a hobby to me, it’s become a passion and a way of life. I’m still learning but when you sew you should always be learning, I think. And I have a lot to learn still.

hawthorn

I took a knitting class in January/February, as I decided that if I’m making more of my wardrobe I should probably learn to knit my own sweaters because I don’t have enough to do already, and am blissfully learning how to not drop a stitch and how to fix it when I do. Knit, purl, knit, purl.

I want to make more time for myself to knit and sew, and I only have a few short hours in the evenings (due to my strict bedtime schedule, I’m such a weirdo), and to do that I need to plan my dinners better. My new crockpot is helping with that, and we’re eating more leftovers because I’m cooking more leftovers. I’m hoping to morph this way of life into a weekly menu with a grocery list and recipes that I can share with you. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet successfully but I’m working on it.

Other small things, too, like bringing my lunch with me to work more often so I can control what I eat better and save money, I want to beef my savings account up again, we want to buy a house, I need to quit buying shoes (or at least cheap shoes. I’m allowing myself to only buy good, sturdy but stylish shoes, classics I can wear a while, and I have to get rid of at least one existing pair when I buy them. It’s difficult to part with a big chunk of money when I do this and I can only afford to do this a couple times a year, but my feet are already thanking me.).

All of this means I’m going to have more to blog about, more to share with you, and I hope you continue to follow me. I hope you’ll comment and cheer me on (sewing sometimes needs a cheering section, especially when you’re ripping a seam out for the third time like I did the other night). There will be some more blog changes coming up too, a new web page, maybe a new title. Nick has offered a couple of times to help me with this and I’m ready to take him up on it. Let’s face it, I’m a little old-fashioned and the web page stuff gets the best of me. It’s better I leave this to a professional with more patience than I possess.

Have a great weekend, all! I’ve got some fun stuff in the works for next week. Oh, and keep your fingers crossed that I’ll find my camera, please? I’m going in search this weekend and really hoping it pops up.

wiggle

Olive Oil Cake with Orange Marmalade

Olive Oil Cake with Orange Marmalade

Guys? Guys. So I made this cake.

What cake?

This cake. A whole cake. A layer cake, of a Sunday evening, just because I wanted cake.

Because I wanted cake.

It wasn’t a birthday, it wasn’t a holiday, no company for dinner, it wasn’t because of some pre-lenten must-eat-all-the-sugar cake feeding frenzy. It was, simply, because I wanted cake.

(I have to say, as I write this someone nearby is outside in the rain barbecuing chicken and it smells heavenly. Now I want barbecued chicken. Anyway.)

I made this cake for me, and for Nick of course, but mostly for me. I never bake cakes just because. I bake them because people are coming over, because we’ve been invited somewhere, because it’s a holiday and I’m one of The Bakers in my family, et cetera, et cetera et cetera. Do I ever bake a cake just for me? Never. Or, rarely.

She’s a simple cake, though, with humble larder ingredients, just a few eggs,  no butter, no mixer involved. Me, a whisk and two bowls. An hour of sitting on the sofa watching That Touch of Mink, et voila, cake.

The cake by itself is a beaut, but I made a ton of Satsuma mandarin marmalade around Christmas time after buying a boatload of them and some Clementines at the grocery store and finding we’d crapped out on eating them. We always devour the first two bags with reckless abandon, and then *poof* the orangy magic is gone and they sit in a bowl on the table composting. So I made marmalade, and we aren’t even marmalade people.

I adapted my recipe from here, cutting the oil back to just one cup, and lowering the sugar to 1 1/4 cups. The orange liqueur if you’re using it is plenty sweet, and even if you use all orange juice and not the hooch it’s still sweet enough. Cake doesn’t have to hurt your teeth to be tasty.

Also, no frosting on this one. I considered making a nice dark chocolate glaze to pour over the top layer, but meh. It sounded fussy and it was late and Sunday and rainy, and just like that the thought was gone. I used a bit of powdered sugar on the top just to make it pretty, but it would have been just as lovely without it.

While this cake is humble, simple, and let’s just be frank, not a looker, she makes up for all of it with a gentle crumb, moist (and I hate that word but it just fits), orangy and lovely and perfect, with a cup of tea and an old movie. And while this is the simplest of cakes, don’t keep it from company. It’s most definitely a crowd pleaser.

Olive Oil Cake

Olive Oil Cake with Orange Marmalade
Makes 1 9″ cake, serving, 12ish.

2 c. flour
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. EACH baking soda and baking powder
1 c. good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 c. milk
3 eggs
Zest of one large organic orange
1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
1/4 c, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or more orange juice
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. orange marmalade
Powdered sugar, for dusting, if desired

Preheat oven to 350*F, line the bottom of a 9″ cake pan or springform pan with parchment (if your pan has sides less than 2″ tall, separate into two cake pans, this is a tall cake). Spray with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour through the baking soda and powder together with a whisk. In another smaller bowl, combine the olive oil through the vanilla extract, whisking together until incorporated. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry with that same whisk, mixing well so there are no lumps. Dump it into the pregreased cake pan (or pans), and bake at 350*F for an hour or a bit more, until a cake tester comes out clean (If you’re using the two cake pans, start checking after 30 minutes). Remove from the oven and set aside on a rack to cool, about an hour.

Remove cake(s) from pan(s). If you used a single tall cake pan, bisect the cake across the equator and gently lift the cake top to a plate, with the top of the cake laying on the plate (trust me). Gently shmear the marmalade on the exposed surface of the cake and top with the upper layer. Use the plate you set the top on as a vehicle, this cake needs a bit of gentle handling and even pressure. If you used two cake pans you’re home free, level out the top of the lower cake layer with a knife, apply marmalade, and top with the second cake half (use the more handsome of the two as your upper cake layer). Dust with powdered sugar and serve in large wedges.

Tuna Noodle Salad with Fennel and Preserved Lemon

Tuna Noodle Salad with Fennel and Preserved Lemon

We’ve talked before about how tastes and foods stick in our heads until we just have to get of our arses and make them. I woke up on Sunday morning and after coffee and cruising the interwebs, I realized I wanted tuna macaroni salad. I NEEDED tuna macaroni salad. But the version I make most times has a ton of mayo and is heavy and it just didn’t sound quite right. I make it a lot in summer, on a cool weekend morning before the heat climbs the walls of the valley, so it has plenty of time to cool and the few simple ingredients have time to mingle and get to know one another. The one I made yesterday was a bit different, not by much but it has fennel, which I don’t normally add, and a big hit of lemon, which I also don’t normally add and now I’m wondering why the hell I don’t, because it made this AMAZING.

The end result of this is still a cool, creamy pasta salad, with lots of bright springy flavors since we are now in March and I feel like it’s time for this. Northern California hosted some much needed rain over the weekend and between you and me it can rain all month long, we need it so bad. But I want cleaner, brighter flavors and veggies and springiness too. Sundresses and rainboots for a while, I guess.

On another note, I made preserved lemons a few months back, as a friend of ours has a very stout but robust Meyer lemon tree in his yard and begged me to take a few grocery bags home (!). Who can turn down giant bags of Meyer lemons, amirite? I came home and squeezed, zested and preserved my little black heart out for a few days, canning lemon juice for lemonade this summer, making limoncello, and preserved lemons, as well as my dear mother-in-law’s amazing rosemary lemon roast rub (which has now become our very favorite). It was a friggin’ ton of work but I have a whole cabinet of lemony goodness, and didn’t waste a bit of those lemons. I should do a post on the preserved lemons too, because they came out so damn good and are stupid easy. They add a huge boost of flavor and a bit of savory sweet saltiness to dishes. If you think I’ve lost my mind and have no idea where to find them, you can get them at fancy-pants gourmet grocers or Indian markets a lot. In the absence of one of these options or the will to go find them, you can use good old fashioned lemon zest and it’s just as tasty.

Pasta Salad

(I really have to find my real camera, sorry for the blurry cell phone pics as of late.)

Tuna Noodle Salad with Fennel and Preserved Lemon
Serves 4

For the salad:
2 cups of small pasta (elbows, mini-wheels, mini bowties, etc.)
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and fronds saved
1/2 small red, orange or yellow bell pepper
2 stalks of celery
2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1″ long matchsticks
3-4 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 small can of tuna (the regular ol’ sized can, water or olive oil packed, you choose)
1/2 of a preserved lemon, rinsed well, white pith and lemon flesh removed and discarded, and chopped finely
-OR-
Zest of one lemon

For the dressing:
2 T. good quality olive oil
3 T. lemon juice (if you’re using zest instead of preserved lemon, zest off the whole lemon before squeezing)
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. fennel fronds, from
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Start a pot of water to boil for the pasta, and boil according to package directions. When it’s done, drain and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, fennel fronds, mayo, and taste. Adjust for salt and pepper to your liking.

Very thinly slice the fennel bulb, or if you have a mandoline deploy it for the slicing. Chop the bell pepper and celery, matchstick the carrots, slice the radishes, and add to the bowl, along with the fennel and the preserved lemon or lemon zest. Drain the can of tuna and add to the bowl, and give everything a good stir. Add the pasta while it’s still warm, and combine everything well. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Iced Sugar Hearts

Iced Sugar Hearts

Hi all. I’m going to keep this one short and sweet because if you see this and say ‘oh, I want to make these!’ you only have a wee bit of time before V-day to get these done. I know, I’m sorry, I normally write these posts during my lunch at work but today was so busy, and I went to the gym, and blah blah blah the day got away from me. What I’m about to tell you sounds like a lot of things, but they’re tips and tricks that help to make this go smoothly with minimal frustration. Icing cookies is never quite as bad as I think it’s going to be, and the prep and practice make for perfect cookies.

Without further ado, a couple of things about cut-out cookies:

1. Yes, you need to chill the dough for at least 2 hours, You can go the way of the freezer, but be very diligent to check the dough every little bit to make sure it hasn’t frozen. This will piss you off, I promise.

2. Bake these for the time given in the recipe, don’t be a hero. Use a parchment liner on your cookie sheets so they don’t brown too much, and pull them when you think they are almost but not quite done, you can tell because they are just barely golden where they touch the paper. They are perfect at that point and will firm up more as they cool.

3. The recipe means it when it says to leave them for a few on the pan before moving them to a rack, but don’t leave them on the rack to cool completely as they can steam and get funny on the bottom.

4. Rerolling and cutting more cookies works great with this recipe but refrain from rerolling more than once, as they start to get tough after that.

5. For the icing, you can use egg whites or meringue powder, I personally prefer the meringue powder as I can taste the egg in the icing otherwise, many people can’t but I SO can and it squicks me out. Your choice. Meringue powder is infinitely easier to find than it used to be, you can get it at Michael’s, JoAnn’s, Beverly’s, Hobby Lobby, Sur la Table, etc. etc. etc. It keeps forever too, I had a can for honest to goodness about 8 years before it was gone and it worked GREAT right up until the bitter end.

6. The only way to get the really red color like I have on my hearts is to buy gel or powdered food coloring, which is a big o’l dose of Red 40. I know, me and all my healthy whatever. The flour was organic non-GMO and the butter local and organic and I topped it with this nonsense. But aren’t they pretty?  You can use all natural food coloring if you prefer but folks always ask how you get the One True Red and this is it.

6A. The icing tastes like powdered sugar. Straight, tinny powdered sugar. You can add a bit of flavored extract but I’d stay away from Vanilla, as it’s colored and will make your beautiful pristine white icing a funny Old Snow color. Use orange water, rose water, almond extract, etc. Use about 1/8 t IN PLACE of some of the water, not in addition to it.

7. The recipe gives you an icing that is very stiff piping consistency. If you want it thinner (spreading consistency), use a spritzer bottle to apply more water, stirring between applications to get the consistency you want. Old baker’s trick. You can use the stiffer stuff to make outlines with a pastry bag and then fill and ‘flood’ your icing if you must, but the only time I’ve ever done that is when I want perfectly smooth tops to write on. When I’m applying sprinkles and stuff I don’t get too nuts with making the icing flat. The thinned out version applies pretty smoothly with an offset spatula.

8. Finally, PRACTICE FIRST when you’re using a pastry bag and doing fine detail. It’s worth wasting a bit of icing on a piece of waxed paper to get the shakes out of your hands before attacking your cookies. I personally prefer to stand over my work than to sit, as I have more control that way, and I noticed last night that I have a very strange, Zen breathing technique when I’m using a thin piping tip. Slow inhale, slower exhale. It’s very relaxing, actually.

One last thing – let these dry flat before you stack them and put them in their gift bags. The icing dries really fast, literally within a half an hour, so it doesn’t take long. That said, be sure to add your sprinkles if using before the icing gets too set, or else they won’t stick. Most of all, HAVE FUN! Homemade Valentine’s are the best, y’all.

Iced Hearts

Hills Family Sugar Cookie Cut Outs, from Epicurious

Makes up to 6 dozen cookies, depending on the size of  your cookie cutters

ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Sugar Cookie Glaze

  • 1 egg white
  • Pinch of salt
  • A few drops of vegetable oil
  • Up to 1 pound of confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons of cream

Royal Icing

  • If using egg whites: 3 large egg whites at room temperature and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • If using meringue powder: 3 tablespoons meringue powder and 6 tablespoons warm water
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: 1 to 2 drops of glycerin
  • Food coloring

preparation

Sift the flour with baking powder and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter for a full minute, then add the sugar and beat at medium speed until light, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla until fluffy and very light, another 2 to 4 minutes. With a wooden spoon gradually work the flour into the creamed mixture. Divide the dough into two portions and wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least several hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 400°. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick, using more flour for the rolling pin, sprinkled on the dough, and additionally on the floured surface as needed to prevent sticking. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and place on cookie sheets.

This dough works beautifully if gathered and rerolled; if it gets too soft, chill for about 15 minutes.

Refrigerate or freeze the cut-out cookies on their baking sheets for 10 to 15 minutes so they will retain their firm edges as they bake; if you’re in a hurry, go ahead and bake the cookies immediately. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until cookies are puffed and only just barely starting to brown at the edges: Start with the shortest amount of time and watch carefully, especially with very small cookies. As the cookies are fragile right out of the oven, let cool slightly before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

When cool, glaze and decorate as desired.

Makes up to 6 dozen cookies, depending on the size. This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled.

Royal Icing (I made the recipe on the side of the Wilton Meringue Powder Can, and I made half, but this one is really similar)

Before you start, make sure that all utensils and containers are clean and grease-free. Have ready several small containers for dividing the icing and tinting it with different colors, if desired. You will need to keep the royal icing covered with a damp cloth, plastic wrap, or tight fitting lid or it will dry out. Royal icing will keep, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for about one week. This recipe is proportioned for the firmest-textured icing; adjust the texture with the addition of water or sugar as explained below.

If using egg whites, combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar and beat until the icing is thick and holds billowy peaks, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add glycerin for extra shine, if desired.

If using meringue powder, whisk the meringue powder and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the water and beat on low speed for about 5 minutes, until icing is thick and holds billowy peaks. Don’t overbeat or the icing texture will become hard to work with. Add glycerin for extra shine, if desired. To adjust the consistency of icing: To thicken, add sifted confectioners’ sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking thoroughly until you reach the desired consistency. To thin, add warm water a few drops at a time, mixing with a spoon. Piped outlines and details require the thickest icing; flows of color over a whole cookie or in sections can be somewhat thinner.

Royal icing hardens very quickly when exposed to air, so cover with a damp cloth, plastic wrap, or container lids when not in immediate use.

Divide the icing into separate containers for each color to be used. Tint the icing with small amounts of food coloring until it reaches the color desired.

To use, icing can be spread onto cookies with an offset spatula or table knife—even painted on with small, previously unused paintbrushes, such as the ones that come in a child’s paint box—or it can be piped through a pastry bag and tips. For simple, plain outlines, use a zipper plastic bag with a tiny hole cut from one corner.

Makes about 3 cups of icing.

 

Homemade Veggie Burgers

Homemade Veggie Burgers

Last year when I was on one of America’s most popular weight loss plans, I was eating an enormous amount of soy burger patties, ones that had been canonized by the plan for only being two points each, because I could put them on a light English muffin (also two points!) and have a really low total point lunch with a green salad and fat free salad dressing. And looking  back on that, yeah, I lost 15 lbs and felt great about myself, but I was eating processed crap because whole foods don’t fit into the scale of their system very tightly. Being a Box Reader, I flip these items over now and look at the list of components that comprise the ‘food’, and, well, you know the rest.

I quit the cult and gained back half the weight from normal eating, which was to be expected. I also ditched eating all the ‘light’ and ’100 calorie’ and ‘thin’ versions of stuff because, well, yuck. I was eating so much of that stuff because I could and it made me feel like trash. The 100 calorie ‘cookie’ packs are supposed to be satisfying, but you either get 40% of a real cookie or you get a bunch of wafer like what-have-yous in a bag that are a far cry from the real thing. While no one made me eat these, the treats I normally would have gone for (peanut M&MS, you know I missed you) were verboten. Dismounting soapbox.

Disclaimer: if you follow or have followed this plan and have found success, I commend you. Making and achieving a weight loss goal is nothing to sneeze at, and you should be very proud of yourself. I know you worked hard on your journey. Keep up the good work! While I found success I didn’t like the direction I was steering on (and felt I was being steered in by the community of) this plan. By no means do I discount the system as a whole, it has given and will continue to give amazing results to many, it just wasn’t for me.

One thing I liked was the quick lunch options, though, and I like veggie burgers. Yes, carnivorous, bacon loving little me. I like veggie burgers. I like their flavors, and portability, and their ability to be reheated in the toaster oven at work. I decided I’d set out to make my own.

I cobbled together a bunch of different recipes to come up with this one, which is gluten-free and can be made egg-free (though you can use regular flour in place of the rice flour, and I use a regular egg). It’s got a handful of different ingredients, but you can riff and add just about any hearty veggie (I’d steer away from winter squashes but that’s about it), in place of the carrot, mushroom or bell pepper, or sub in different spices for the one listed (curry powder would be fun, no? Maybe some smoked paprika and chili powder and some black beans for a Mexican veggie burger, with corn subbed in for the carrot?). The nice thing is it makes a fat burger that bakes up well, can also be grilled, and can be cooked then frozen wrapped in wax paper to grab and take to work or a barbecue or what have you. There’s nothing not to love about these. I’m a Meat Lover (capital ML) and find these very satisfying. Give them a try!

Veggie Burger

Tempeh Burger Patties
Makes 8 patties

1 – 8 oz. package tempeh
2 T minced shallots
2 T minced onion
1/2 c. grated zucchini, grated on the small holes of your grater, then squeezed to emancipate excess water
1/3 c. grated carrot, also grated on the small holes of your grater
1/3 c. minced red, yellow or orange bell pepper
1/3 c. minced cremini mushroom
2 T corn or potato starch
1/4 c. brown rice or AP flour
3 T Italian seasoning blend
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (I love Worcestershire, personally)
1-2 dashes Tabasco sauce
1 t. Tamari or Soy sauce
1 egg or egg substitute to a one egg equivalent
Salt and pepper to taste

Open your tempeh pack and break the tempeh into pieces, placing them into the work bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped (4-6 pulses should do, keep an eye on it) and transfer into a large mixing bowl. No food processor? Finely chop the tempeh into bits and put it into a large mixing bowl.

Add the ingredients from the shallots through the egg to the bowl, stirring well to combine. At this point, taste and adjust your seasonings, does it need more soy, more Worcestershire, just salt and pepper? Don’t freak out about the raw egg, it’s just a tiny taste. I won’t tell. Adjust to your liking, and give another good stir.

Preheat oven to 350*F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil a 1/3 c. dry measuring cup, and scoop and level out the mix in the measuring cup. Drop this onto the baking sheet, and pat to make a burger-sized patty, about 4-5″ in diameter. Repeat until all the mixture is gone, evenly spacing the burgers on the sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, remove burgers from the oven and flip over, then bake again for another 8-10 minutes until they are lightly browned and firm to the touch in the center of the patty.

Alternately, you can form these into patties and grill them. To do so, tear a bunch of squares of wax paper and form your patties, then stick them in the fridge for a couple of hours so they firm up. Preheat your grill to 350-400*F, and flip the burgers tempeh side down onto a lightly oiled grill, using the wax paper as your vehicle and removing it once you get the burger on the grate. Grill for 8-10 minutes per side until lightly browned and firm to the touch.

If you’re freezing these, cook by either of the means listed above and cool on a rack so they don’t sog out on the bottoms. Once cooked wrap individually in wax paper or freezer paper and store in a zip-top bag. You can reheat them in the microwave for a minute, in the toaster oven for 10ish minutes, or toss them in a lightly oiled pan to reheat.

Not Pad Thai

Not Pad Thai

Nick is out of town for a few days for work, which leaves me and Ted home alone. I love being home by myself, the freedom to eat popcorn and wine for dinner, watch back episodes of Mad Men one after another until I pass out, I can sleep in the middle of the bed like a boss (which I don’t – I try, I start there, but I migrate back to my side by morning.).

I miss my husband, though. It’s lonely. Ted misses him too. As I type this he wanders from room to room meowing, which he never does unless Nick is out of town (normally he sits right in front of me and yells at me). Poor cat slept by the front door for a spell last night, I think he was worried. Silly little thing.

One thing I do love about being home alone is making or not making special little things for just me for dinner, my little treat to myself and special way of taking care of me when I’m home alone. Maybe it’s a light bistro salad with just a poached egg and some bacony bits, or maybe a weird savory oatmeal that has appealed to me for a while that I can’t bring myself to make for dinner when Nick’s home (Look! Porridge! Fun, right?). And one thing I love that is healthy and filling and tasty is this Not Pad Thai I found at Can You Stay For Dinner. I’ve made this for Nick as well and he really likes it, it’s light but fills him up. I make a half order of the recipe below for just me often when he has plans in the evening. Light, fills a hankering for Thai food, and is laden with veggies. Lots of wins in a one-pan dinner. One-pan dinner, another win!

{Sidebar, I was chatting with one of my mothers in law a bit ago about a study she read that suggests we should be eating two pounds of vegetables a day. TWO POUNDS of vegetables a day. I wouldn’t have room for bacon if I ate that much vegetation. Just saying.}

This recipe goes lickety-split if you pick up a bag of angel hair shredded cabbage in the produce section. You can certainly grab a regular head of green cabbage, but the bags are even more convenient. While you’re there grab some mushrooms, if you don’t have any at home. You just need a few. If you feel like you need a bit more protein or are especially hungry, add some shredded cooked chicken or a few cooked shrimp to the mix along with the sauces and garlic.

Here it is, gently adjusted for even faster meal prep. Make it, eat it all, and go to bed skinny.

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Lightened up Pad Thai for Two
1 T. sesame oil
2 10-oz. bags of angel hair shredded cabbage
1 1/2 c. sliced mushrooms
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T soy sauce
1 T fish sauce
2 t. brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 T fresh cilantro or Thai basil (or regular basil) (Or both cilantro AND basil, go crazy!)
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
Lime wedges and sriracha for serving
2 T. chopped dry roasted peanuts, also for serving

Set a large frying pan or wok over medium high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes, until crisp-tender.

Add mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.

Add garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar and stir well to combine.

Add eggs and stir constantly, scrambling them into the hot cabbage mixture.

Serve immediately topped with peanuts, cilantro/basil, scallions and sriracha.

 

Homemade Almond Milk

Homemade Almond Milk

Well, Happy 2014 to all! How were your holidays? Hell, how was your 4th quarter? All is well around Casa de Young, we’re coming in to this new year strong if not a bit bewildered by the whole 2014 thing and the general lack of rain in California (we’re talking scary apocalyptic drought, folks). Trying to stay positive and enjoy the, oh, 72*F afternoons we’ve been having. Makes going for a walk at lunchtime very pleasant!

So, how does one go from a post about Bacon Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies to a post on homemade almond milk? Simple: the overindulgence of the holidays left me sluggish, bloated and feeling like I needed to get my life together so my pants fit again. Been wondering why I’ve been wearing so many skirts, locals? It’s directly related to the amount of butter and cocktails consumed between 11/28 and 12/31. Feeling a little Jabba and jiggly, and it’s high time to knock this shit off.

Bon Appetit’s January issue had a ‘centerfold’ on how to make your own nut milk. As I’m sure you are well aware, nut milks in general are prevalent on the store shelves, with many people eschewing soy milk these days. I’m a carton flipper and ingredient reader, and in doing so I’ve noticed many of these nut milks are so crammed with excess sugar that it negates much of the health of them. The chocolate and vanilla flavors are the worst, with some of the most popular brands having a significant amount of added sugars. We all know that almost EVERYTHING is more tasty with sugar, just like nearly everything tastes better with bacon. Neither of these things belong in nut milk though.

I’ve made the recipe a solid half dozen times in the last few weeks, because it’s so darn easy and tasty. I’ve only made almond milk, but they say you can use pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, etc. I’m thinking hazelnut would be tasty and plan to make that one soon.

The price is right on this, too. Most of the boxes of nut milks at the store are $3.50 – $4 for an 8 cup carton, and the single cup of organic almonds it takes to make 4 cups of nut milk costs me about $1 from the bulk bins at my little local mart (so, $2 for an 8 cup amount). Since I’m always trying to save a buck and a tree, I can forego the processing plant and the packaging, making this at home (so satisfying!) and storing it in one of my cute pitchers (so cute!). It’s perfect in smoothies and tastes so good in coffee.

almonds

 

(Sorry for the ugly picture, soaked almonds are less than photogenic and I can’t exactly find my ‘real’ camera right now so this is from my phone)

Almond Milk
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine
Makes about 4 cups

Special equipment: a blender and a flour sack towel/couple layers of cheesecloth

Soak 1 cup of almonds (unsalted, skins on, regular old boring-ass almonds) in water overnight in a bowl or jar, making sure to cover them with enough water to have an inch or so over their nutty little heads. Soak at least 12 hours but you can go for a bit longer. The longer they soak the creamier your milk comes out.

After soaking, drain and discard the soaking water and add the nuts to a blender with 4 cups of hot water (not boiling, just nice and hot). Clap on the lid, remove the little clear thingy on the top to let steam escape but rest your flour sack towel/cheesecloth over the top and hang on tight (you want the heat to go out so you don’t blow the top off, but hold on to the cloth so you don’t end up with ground almonds and water all over your house). Blend for 2 minutes (you can let go of the lid after the first few seconds without fear of flying nut bits).

Spread your cheesecloth or flour sack towel over a large bowl with a spout or your chosen storage vessel if it’s heat safe (I use my 8 cup Pyrex measure). Pour the contents of the blender into the cloth, gather the ends up so as not to let out any of the grit, and squeeze out all of the almond milk. Discard the contents of the towel (or use in muffins if you’re feeling thrifty). Add a pinch of salt and sweetener of your choice if desired: honey is tasty as is maple syrup or agave, but plain tastes mighty fine as well. Let cool to room temperature and then store in the fridge. Lasts about a week if you don’t drink it faster.