freebie. free amazon gift certificates rule.

31 March 2009

so, i am really into freebies of any kind as you might imagine. this is one of my recent favorites that i wanted to share thanks to jen....

swagbucks is just a basic search engine not unlike google or ask.com, but with swagbucks you log in and you get awarded a point for a every few searches and then you save your points up for prizes. i am using a search engine all day at least a few times a day anyways, so i get at least a point or two a day without doing anything different than what i normally do (and you get points if people sign up with your referral and do searches). $5 amazon.com gift certificates are 45 points, so i get one sent to my email about every month or so just for doing the things i do anyway.


if you are interested, you should sign up for swagbucks. it can't hurt...free stuff is awesome, i've done it and it is completely legit and they have never sent me a bit of spam which is also great. and so far, i am 1/3 of my way to getting the cupcake courier of my dreams for free! :)

$5 meals! african peanut stew!

30 March 2009

i decided i would like to work on my grocery shopping and challenge myself to be better at keeping track and making my meals a little more economical.

i would like to try to be proactive about sharing some $5 or less meals that i enjoy. some of them might be a little lack luster and not very glamorous looking, but they are good and filling and really work in an everyday situation when you are working with budget and also working with time constraints of working full time. not boring, but just simple. sometimes i find those really easy everyday kind of ideas helpful and i hope you will too!

last night, i tried something sort of different and i really loved the way it turned out. i love soup. i think it is such a wonderful versatile meal and i love that it is easy to store and freeze, but i felt a need to try something different from my normal path. this peanut stew was inspired by my favorite soup at a local pub and it turned out really wonderful, it is really hearty and it is actually not too overwhelmingly peanutty. it also heated up super well the next day for lunch...it was maybe even better the second time around.

african peanut stew
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ingredients:
1/2 cup onion, diced - 1/2lb @ .48/lb = .24
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil = >.10
2 cloves garlic - pressed or minced = .05
1 cup instant brown rice - - 1/4 pound @ .97/lb = .25
2 cups medium diced peeled sweet potato or yam - - 1/2 pound @ .88/lb = .44
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes with liquid - $1.28
1/2 teaspoon salt - on hand/negligible cost
1/2 teaspoon pepper - on hand/negligible cost
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger - on hand/negligible cost
2 teaspoons curry - on hand/negligible cost
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, reduced-fat - approx 4oz = .50
2 cups fat free milk = .50
3 cups (3 ounces) spinach leaves, coarsely chopped - 1/4 bag @ 1.28 = .32
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts - 1.58/lb - 1/8 pound - .20
Green onion or cilantro, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)
total cost = $3.06 makes 6 servings. cost per serving = .51

directions:
1. in a large pot, sauté onion and garlic in sesame oil until translucent.
2. add stock, rice, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and spices. bring to a boil, then turn
down to medium low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. stir in peanut butter and milk. if you are using frozen spinach, add it now...if you are using fresh, wait a few moments to add so it doesn't get overcooked. bring to gentle simmer and cook uncovered for 5 minutes.
4. if you are using fresh spinach, add in and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. remove from heat.
5. ladle stew into bowls and top with peanuts and green onion or cilantro, if desired.

i found that this recipe as is was really thick, so you might want to add more liquid. i did that by using the starchy sweet potato water left over from the next recipe (about 2 cups), but you could also use more stock or milk or water.
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i also ended up having more sweet potato than i needed for this recipe, so i wanted to try my hand at one of recipes in my pennsylvana dutch cookbook from the estate sale this weekend. and it was super simple. (and i also loved the little quote below it about a plump wife)

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(click the image for the larger instructions)

the egg white thing was more a mess than it was worth and i had a hard time getting my patties to get too solid but that could have been because i did not chill them long enough or because i used an emulsion blender to mash the potatoes which perhaps mashed them too well. but these were just sweet little nuggets that took little effort to prepare, so it was a nice use of left over sweet potato. also, make sure you use just white bread crumbs for this...no fancy herbed stuff because it is a sweeter kind of dish. these turned out just fine, nothing fancy but a good little side that was a little different than just a pile of mashed sweet potatoes!

ready! set! yard sale!

i am a really serious yard saler. like the kind of yard saler that maps things out the night before and then goes to as many sales as possible from about 9 or 10 am until 2 or 3pm when all the sales are pretty much shutting down and i do not have a choice. it's my vice. my weekend treasure hunt. my addiction if you will.

i've learned quickly that few people can handle my stamina. not everyone wants to drive around going to yard sales for 5 hours in a day even if they do love a yard sale. and then i met katy. katy is my yard sale soulmate. she can handle 5 hours of sales without a problem and she is darn good at the hunt with great insight and a keen eye for treasures. katy had been working weekends for the past year, but she just quit her job and i am pleased as punch to have my saturday yard sale date back! in addition, katy is also a really amazing friend so i love that we get to spend that super good bonding time together. who needs a $5 cup of coffee when you can go out and score 5 new dresses for that $5?

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portland is still a little rainy and spring has not fully shown it's face yet, but we couldn't wait to start (given katy's new freedom and all), so we braved the rain and started our yard sale season this weekend!

there were a surprisingly good amount of estate sale and rummage sale listings for a rainy saturday. we went to three church rummage sales. rummage sales are always a favorite for me. rummage sales tend to be better than most other types of sales because a)they are filled with donations from many different families in one place b)the person who prices items is usually not it's previous owner, so you are less likely to run into the "i think my junk is worth so much" kind of attitude and c)the last few hours of a rummage sale often equal half off everything or a great "fill a bag for a few bucks" kind of deal.


rummage sale scores included: 2 silver chains for 50 cents (i have a lot of cute charms that need a place to go), a brand new sealed eyelash curler for 5 cents, little apple pin for 5 cents, and an amazing spinning spice rack that will take care of all of my bulk spices cluttering the cupboard (and it has a little dial that you click and it automatically measures 1/4 teaspoon) for $2.

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we also stopped at a few estate sales. one was in the hollywood district and was so crowded that there was a line outside even though it was well after noon. we waiting in the rain anyway and found made it in to happily pull though piles of old ephemera and vintage treasures.


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weirdest thing i saw this weekend? this really intense life-sized porcelain dolphin head mounted onto a brass wave like thing. i am not even sure what you would do with this. the photo does no justice to how creepy it was. also, they wanted $22 for it.


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my favorite finds today was a bunch of great old cookbooks that came from a few different sales and were about 50 cents each.
i am excited to try out some of the jam recipes this summer in "you can can with honey" booklet. it seems that the honey can act as a replacement for pectin and sugar in most cases if you add it with tapioca flour. it will be an interesting experiment i guess!
most of my heritage is pennsylviania dutch and it's influence is really prevalent in the area i grew up and though i am sadly not very in touch with that history, i was really excited to find this old book about pennsylvania dutch cooking! it was printed in the 50s and though a lot of the recipes are really intense and some involve pigs feet, but most of them are really nice simple old fashion cooking. i am excited to try a few of these things.
i also got a couple of other good baking recipes from the 50s about baking bread, baking cookies and this sweet kids book with step by step instructions and cute illustrations for few basic recipes.
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simple baby things.

24 March 2009

someone wonderful in my life is having a baby in a few weeks and i really wanted to make her a simple little token of appriciation and support. i am not really a baby person. i don't know much about what a new mom needs, but decided on a really simple, but cute handmade bib.

this whole project probably costs about $2 (depending on your fabric of course) or so and takes maybe a half hour, but i think this makes a really sweet gift.

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i used a great pattern from jill and just cut out one layer of flannel (i had this really cute owl fabric that i got on sale at joanns that had been mulling around my craft room for months, so i was excited to use it) and one out of a clean recycled terrycloth towel. then you just need to iron and sew the two parts together (no need to make super perfect edges because you will be covering this stitch with bias)...you might not even need that step, but i found having the two peices already sewn made adding the bias tape easier. next, you just find a corodinating bias tape...i used 1/2", but you can use whatever size you think looks best...and sew it around all the edges and inside the neckline. you could add snaps for a fastener at the top, but i just used some simple velcro squares. and voila! easy peasy baby bib that is both cute and easy to throw in the washer!

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i also made a little pacifier holder for her. it is basically just a some cute ribbon and a bit of velcro stitched at one end to form a loop to hold the pasifier and then a little clip (i got a 2 pack of suspender clips from joanns, but you could also use little name badge clips from an office supply store) sewn on to the other end that clips to the baby's shirt. again, i know very little about babies, but my coworker tells me this is a very valuable little tool to keep pacifers off the floor.

ooooh my darlin clementine..vegan cake!

18 March 2009

last week, i realized that my big wonderful bag of clementines (left over from the clementine cupcakes last week) were getting a little shriveled and i was just not going to be able to eat them fast enough to safe them. then i remembered that i saw a recipe on the vegan yumyum blog about candying clementines and a clementine cake, so i got to work!


step one was candying the clementines...
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when you candy citrus, it makes the peel and rind completely edible. i had about 8 or 9 good clementines left, so i pierced them 8-10 times and added them to about 3 1/2 cups of sugar and 2 3/4 cup of water in a big pot and let them simmer for about an hour (according to lolo, you can simmer these for 1-2 hours, but the longer you simmer - the more bitter they will be).

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i was hoping to get a nice sweet candied clementine out of this process that i could maybe eat up with some cream fraise or something, but mine turned out quite bitter after an hour and i am not sure that i could deal with the idea of eating them just as they were. it might have been some mistake i made along the way, but after i drained the clementines out, i did end up with clementines with edible peel that were great to blend up for the cake and also some wonderful clementine flavored simple syrup for drinks and desserts in the future (make sure you save that part!).

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next, i started making the cake. i blended up the drained clementines with my emulsion blender to get about 1 1/2 cup of puree and added it to: 1/2 cup vegetable oil - 1 1/4 cup soymilk, or other non-dairy milk - 1/4 cup sugar - 2 cups all-purpose flour - 1 1/2 tsp baking powder - 2 tsp baking soda - 1/2 tsp salt. and i baked it for about 45 minutes on 350.

i also attempted the fondant on lolo's site, but i failed and it became more of glaze...which was less pretty, but very yummy. really, you just need to make sure you look at the vegan yum yum site because her photos are a million times more elegant than mine and she has a lot more detail on the process which is really helpful.

after all was said and done, there were some things that didn't work out just right, but it made a really good vegan cake with a nice balance of savory and sweetness. i brought the cake to work and my coworkers all were really into it and i got a ton of compliments, so i will call it a success.

pink lemon cupcakes

as i mentioned in my last post, i had a "cupcake baking cheer-up a friend date" this weekend which was pretty great. there is something really wonderful about being in the kitchen and working on projects together while you are doing a little soul pouring and then in the end, there is this pretty little sweet product. and let's face it, you can't help but smile when you see cute little cupcake all decked out with pretty frosting and sparkle sugar.

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we pulled out the baking books and supplies and just started to wing it a bit. and yes, those are tiny cupcakes on the spatula on top of my cupcake book, next to my cupcake spoon rest...i am a big nerd. we decided on coconut lime cupcakes (see my last post) and a batch of pink lemon cupcakes. as you can see both recipes are really similar with a few small exceptions, so we really just made a double batch of simple vanilla cupcakes and divided it in half and did the citrus-ing to them and switched up the frostings a bit and the result was two completely different tasting cupcakes that were both really delicious.


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basic lemon cupcakes!
makes about 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon

beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
add sugar. beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the mixture. add the milk and vanilla. mix to combine.
add the zest and the lemon juice and blend thoroughly.
scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
at this point, heather threw in a handful of shredded coconut to add texture and flavor, but that is optional. i personally didn't like that texture, but a lot of people loved it.
bake for 22-25 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

grenadine frosting!

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - room temperature
6 oz softened cream cheese
2-3 tablespoons of grenadine
2-3 cups powdered sugar

bring cream cheese and butter to room temperature and beat together until creamy.
add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until desired sweetness and texture.
add grenadine one tablespoon at a time. grenadine is a syrup, so it can easily overwhelm your frosting with that syrup-y flavor...just be sure to add it a bit at a time until you get a taste you like.


these sort of reminded me of a little cocktail in cupcake form and i really loved them. nothing cures a hung over sunday with a little cocktail cupcake.

ps...i promise i will start blogging and making things OTHER than cupcakes soon!

coconut lime cupcakes!

yesterday was st. patrick's day. i guess don't feel any great attachment to the holiday because i feel no great attachment to its catholic roots or history and i'm not irish (as far as i know). but in case you are really into the whole green st patty's day thing, i have something green for you!

these were actually something we made up this weekend completely unrelated to st patrick's day. my friend, heather, was feeling really down this weekend, so we decided there was no better solution for that than to bake up some yummy cupcakes!

we actually made 2 types, but i will post the other in a bit.

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lime cupcakes!
makes about 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1+ lime
handful of shredded coconut (optional)

beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
add sugar. beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the mixture. add the milk and vanilla. mix to combine.
add the zest and the lime juice. we wanted to get a really tart cupcake with a really distinct lime flavor, so we probably used about the juice of 2 limes, but one lime is good for a more mild flavor.
scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
at this point, heather threw in a handful of shredded coconut to add texture and flavor, but that is optional. i personally didn't like that texture, but a lot of people loved it.
bake for 22-25 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.

coconut frosting!

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - room temperature
6 oz softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2-3 tablespoons coconut milk or coconut cream
2-3 cups powdered sugar

bring cheese and butter to room temperature and beat together until creamy.
add coconut milk and extract and continue to mix.
add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until desired sweetness and texture.
the coconut milk makes this really wonderfully light and fluffy if you allow it to beat for an addition few minutes. if you would prefer a more thick piping consistency, you only need to beat this up until fully combined.

this is seriously the best coconut frosting i have ever made. it was light and fluffy and had really great taste to it and was not at all too sweet. i am kind of adverse to too much sweet in a cupcake frosting...which might explain why just about all the frostings i make are cream cheese based. i think cream cheese is a good balancer. i am considering adding the left over coconut frosting to some lemon crepes later this week even. stay tuned.

we topped the cupcakes with some shredded coconut that i died green to give it a spring-y look. how do you dye coconut? well you put regular shredded coconut in a jar or tupperware with a couple of drops of liquid food coloring and just shake the heck out of it until the color disperses through the coconut. easy peasy.

my love of mason jars continues...in pie form!

09 March 2009

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so, you know how i made that post about how much i love mason jars? well, on my list of all the amazing things to do with mason jars, i had almost forgotten that i saw the post on not martha about these tiny jar pies about a year ago, but they had quickly fallen to the bottom of a busy to do list...and then a post from little birdie secrets reignited my obsession and i just had to make these!

i had a bunch of 8oz jars and 4oz jars left over from summer jams, so this was a great way to put them to work. i found that the tiny 4oz jars were actually perfect for a cute little hand held portion of pie, but my boyfriend, bryan, thought they were too small to consider a portion...we can both agree a portion size depends on the person i suppose.


i used a basic pie crust recipe:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) of cold butter
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
about 3/4 cup cold water

making a good pie crust is not that difficult, but it can be time consuming and it is all about technique, i found this tutorial at smitten kitchen incredibly useful for this part!

then, once you have your crust ready and it has had time to chill roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch or so. i found that there was not a really great technique to lining the jars, so you can just carefully grab a section and shove it in and just do some pressing along the sides.

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i made 3 different fillings just to try some things out. i made a really basic traditional pear and apple sweet pie filling. i also wanted to experiment with simple dinners, so i also made a really easy (aka lazy) vegatarian chicken potpie (which was basically some frozen mixed veggies, sauteed onion, faux chicken strips, cream of mushroom soup, and some rosemary and spices of your choice) which i plan to heat up again tonight for dinner.

i would recommend not over filling them because even though they are tiny, they sure will bubble up, so next time i would make sure there is a bit of extra space for the filling to bubble up and move a bit without a volcanic erruption.

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i put them on a silpad to keep them from moving around when taking them out of the oven (i would say this is a pretty crutial step so you don't end up with an oven coated in pie filling) and baked them for about an hour at 400 degrees. the nice thing about little clear jars is that is it very easy to see when your pies are actually done when they reach that nice golden brown color, so just keep checking on them. the 8 oz ones took a bit longer than the 4oz jars.

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the wonderful thing about these is that you can keep them frozen and just take them out for homemade pie on demand. they also would make absolutely wondeful gifts either all baked up or frozen with instructions on baking.

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the pies are easy to pop out of the jar by just slipping a knife down the side and a bit of tapping, but i also think they would be just fine eaten right out of the jar!

pie in jars is just the begining. i am now a bit addicted and cannot wait to try out little cupcakes in a jar or other fun desserts and things. my world has been rocked a little by the idea of cooking in jars. yeah, i am that much of a nerd.

honey cupcakes

08 March 2009

when i made the plan to make the bubble tea cupcakes, it occurred to me that not everyone at the party might be such an adventurous fan of the bubble tea so i wanted make half the cupcakes a more basic flavor, but still exciting and somehow matching the bubble tea theme. i decided to see what i might be able to do with honey because it seemed like the perfect accompaniment for green tea!

it turns out honey cupcakes are simple and amazing! i don't know why it never occurred to me to do more baking with honey before! the honey just adds a bit of sweetness and flavor that i think worked out wonderfully in cupcake form. next time i might try to up the vanilla flavor with some vanilla bean.

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this is a really easy cupcake to make, so have no fear even if you don't bake very often! it is certain to impress a crowd!

honey cupcakes!
makes about 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
add sugar and honey. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to mixer bowl. Add the milk and vanilla. mix to combine.
scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
bake for 22-25 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.


honey cream cheese frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tbs honey
2-3 cups powdered sugar

bring cheese and butter to room temperature and beat together until creamy.
add honey and continue to mix.
add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until desired spreading consistency.

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bubble tea cupcakes

one of my dearest friends, jenny, was having a brunch birthday party yesterday and i was in charge of the cupcakes (because a birthday without cake is just wrong). i debated for awhile about what kind of cupcake to make...do i make a classic and decorate like wild? or do i make a fun exciting flavor that might be less about aesthetics? i decided to go for the second option.

jenny loves bubble tea, so i decided to go with that and see what i could come up with. i decided on a green tea cupcake with a tapioca green tea frosting.

after i made this choice, i needed to go on a wild hunt to find green tea powder (matcha) of some sort. after trying 3 other stores around town, the 4th was the charm...i finally found a small jar of organic powdered green tea from the food co-op on alberta street. i want to say that in this recipe, the green tea powder defies all of my rules of thriftiness because it costs $11 for a tiny little jar, but it was worth it for a friend's birthday. if you're interested in trying this recipe out, you might want to plan ahead and buy matcha online.

that being said, the cupcakes were sort of weird and different, but they were a big hit at the party! i think they turned out really well and were not very complicated to put together. definitely worth trying if you are a fan of bubble tea or sweet green tea! on with the recipe...

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green tea cupcakes
makes about 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon (+ or -) green tea powder (matcha)

beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add to mixer bowl. Add the milk and vanilla. mix to combine.
add green tea, all powders are of different strengths so i suggest adding smaller scoops at a time until you get the desired flavor. if you add too much, i imagine it could make your batter taste bitter. my powder was not very strong, so i ended up using a teaspoon or more. also, keep in mind you are making a green tea icing, so you might want keep the cupcake a little more subtle for balance.
scoop into cupcake papers about half to two-thirds full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes).
bake for 22-25 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean.


bubble tea frosting
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
2-3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1+ teaspoon matcha green tea powder (see the above note on matcha)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons small dry instant tapioca (i just used the kraft brand, you can find this in any grocery store with the instant puddings)
4 tablespoons milk


in a small saucepan, combine the dry tapioca with the milk and bring to a quick boil. remove from heat and let stand for about 5 minutes until tapioca is softened (it will look sticky, but don't worry it will separate when added to the mix). set aside.
bring cheese and butter to room temperature and beat together until creamy.
add half of the sugar, the green tea powder, and the vanilla. beat until combined.
add the tapioca a bit at a time until you get the texture you like.
gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

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annie loves them!!

simple vegetarian chili

05 March 2009

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vegan chili has always been something i adore particularly in the cold winter months, but for some reason have never actually tried making from scratch. i'm not sure if i perceived it as being too complicated or hard to master, but after trying this really simple recipe, i'm regretting all these winters i have spent without it! it's simple and takes about 30 minutes from start to finish...and it is so filling and delicious. it's the kind of hearty food that warms you up from the inside.

corn bread waffles:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs

preheat waffle iron according to manufacturer’s instructions.
in a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt. add milk, oil, and eggs, stirring until smooth. pour batter onto hot waffle iron, and bake, in batches, according to manufacturer’s instructions. set aside and keep warm.

best easy veggie chili in the world

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and ground pepper
2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise (no need to peel them)
2 carrots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cans (19 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
about 1 cup dry TVP - textured vegetable protein (optional)

in a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. cook until they beginning to soften, stirring occasionally (about 4 minutes).
add zucchini, carrots, chili powder, and cumin. cook until carrots are crisp-tender (about 6 to 8 minutes). add beans, tomatoes, corn, TVP and 1 cup water. simmer until slightly thickened and carrots and TVP are soft, (about 8 to 10 minutes more).

scoop chili on top of the waffles and garnish with your choice of toppings!

easy vegan cheese sauce mix.

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i am not vegan, but i love to try new things and new twists on classic favorites (particularly if it makes those classic comforts a little healthier). this recipe is from "the complete idiot's guide to vegan cooking" by beverly lynn bennett. i was on the hunt to find something simple to bring my vegan coworker who was stuck at home recovering from surgery and when i came across this, i thought it was perfect! you can make a batch of this mix, put it in a jar and keep it in the fridge for up to two months and it takes almost no time to prepare after that! this is like the healthy eqivelent of that orange kraft mac and cheese mess!

3/4 cup raw cashews or almonds
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup nutritional yeast
2 TB. arrowroot
2 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. paprika

place cashews, oats, and sunflower seeds in a food processor and process for 2 or 3 minutes until finely ground. scrape the sides down and add nutritional yeast flakes, arrowroot, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and paprika, and process for 1 minute longer.

transfer mixture to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

to prepare cheese sauce from mix: whisk together 1/2 cup vegan cheese sauce mix and 1 cup of water or soy milk in a small saucepan, and cook over medium heat, whisking often, for 2 or 3 minutes or until thickened. this makes 1 cup vegan cheese sauce.

you can use this on just about anything, i love it over some pasta with steamed broccoli, but it would also be wonderful as fondue or so many other quick meals! it just makes me happy to have a super easy 10 minute, no fuss healthy meal available in the fridge when i need it! and with a cute label, it also made a super easy and lovely gift for a vegan friend!

the quicker and easier vationation would be to replace cashews, rolled oats, and sunflower seeds with 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or other flour of choice, and simply stir together with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. i have not tried that variation yet and i'm not sure how it would effect the flavor, but i am going to try it out next time i make it.

the dig.

portland, oregon is full of thrift stores, but many of them are overrun with the hip crowd that tends to snatch all the good things up very quickly. but then again, there are a few gems. the dig is definitely one of those hit or miss kind of places, but when i score there, i tend to score big. it's just out of the city limits in milwaukie and it's nested on a street with a long stretch of some of my favorite thrift stores (i lovingly refer to this at the "milwaukie thrift corridor"). the dig only has clothing, accessories, and shoes...which could be a pro or a con depending on what you are looking for. one thing i like about the store is that they do try to keep a good range of sizes in stock and and some of their clothes are really affordable! cheap plus sized fashions are often hard to come by, so that is pretty special to me. the prices there are well below the standard overpriced goodwill stores. this weekend, i stopped by with my friend heather on my quest to find some summer dress kind of shoes and i ended up walking out with 4 new dresses and 4 new pair of shoes...i only spent $22! One of the dresses was a simple grey casual winter dress and it was only $1 and the other 3 dresses were $3 or $4. amazing! here are two of my favorite dresses from the day:
IMG_7196 IMG_7224

there were also 4 pairs of shoes that were well loved before me, but for $1.50-$3 each, i think they have a lot of good wears left in them! heather also found an amazing vintage green velvet jacket in perfect condition and it was $10 (probably the most expensive thing in that store, but the kind of thing that would sell for at least $30 or $40 at a vintage shop...i think it was an amazing score).

overall, a good day at the dig. sometimes i go there and find nothing, but i do think "the dig" is a great place to stop in and check out if you have a moment or are on the hunt for that perfect cheap outfit of your dreams. also, you should sign up for their email list because sometimes there have fun sales!

for the love of mason jars...

04 March 2009

i buy a lot of bulk foods. pretty much anything i can buy in the bulk section was ending up in piles of bags in my cabinets and turning into a mess and i forget that i have something because it's at the bottom of the pile. it was just messy and i had been looking for a solution that i could be happy with for awhile...then it finally occurrd to me that the solution was in my life all along! mason jars! why have i not realized how much i truly love mason jars before this?! i've always had them for canning and i constantly see then at thrift stores for a few cents, but i suppose i never took the time to see the potential in a mason jar!
this weekend, i sorted all my bags and filled various sized jars i've been collecting (just fyi, a lot of jars at the thrift store do not come with lids or they are rusty, but that is not a problem because you can buy a pack of 10 at most grocery stores for less than $4) and i got some sticker paper and made up some fancy lables for each one (i used this darling template) and BAM! lovely organized cabinets that make it so much easier to keep stock of what i have and what i need and created super easy access!

other wonderful things to do with mason jars (many of which i hope to encorporate into my life soon!):
+ can things! (obviously!)
+ make sun tea
+ flower vase (this is particularly lovely with the colored glass ones)
+ easy mood lighting when combined with a few christmas lights
+ festive and adaptable candle holders
+ easy recycled cups (great to take on the go and some how the perfect picnic additon)
+ wonderful photo displays
+ gifts in a jar
+ sewing kits
+ infusing vodka

basically the moral of the story is that mason jars are amazing and you can always afford to have a stockpile of them to use for any occasion!

clementine cupcakes...

clementines are in season for about $4 for a big box and they seemed so perfect for some sweet sunshine on a dreary winter day...

IMG_7136
clementine cupcakes!

makes about 15 cupcakes

zest of 3 clementines
juice of 3 clementines
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar

preheat the oven to 350. mix together flour, baking powder, zest and salt in a bowl. in a separate bowl, stir together milk, vanilla, and juice, mix. cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer, and add the eggs. slowly add in the dry mixture and then the milk mixture.
fill your liners about 3/4 of the way full and bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes clean. let cool before frosting.


clementine icing!

  • 1 stick of butter, softened (8 tablespoons)
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon clementine zest (about one clementine)
  • juice of about 2-4 cementines
  •  
  • beat butter until light and fluffy. slowly add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla & clementine peel. add juice...this is the only slightly tricky part: add the juice little by little until you reach the consistencey you like for your frosting. just add it little by little while it is mixing.  for a stiffer frosting, you can just add the juice of 2 clementines, but i was going for a more fluffy smooth frosting with a lot of flavor, so i added juice from about 3 1/2 clementines and it was just about right. 


  • IMG_7144
they were seriously yummy! some of the best cupcakes i have ever made i think!


well hello there!

welcome to my new blog. i've been thinking a lot lately about documentation and sharing and how important those things are to me and wondering what i can do to make that happen more often. this is my solution! this blog is not all about one thing, but about all the things i love. i am a thrifty lady in some many ways; i love a good bargain, digging in thrift stores, cheap meals, recycled crafts, and so on and that is what this is about. i want to document not just the cheap, but the gems. the lovely simple things about life that make me happy.

i doubt this will be come one of those amazing blogs with amazing updates every single day because i just don't have that kind of life. i work full time as a receptionist and sometimes things get pushed aside, but i want this to be a good excuse to take the time out. enjoy!
 
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