Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Family Room Makeover

So I have posted pictures and told you about my work in the bathroom and kitchen. Chris and I worked together on this next project. Despite some early misgivings about the paint color, I feel everything came together beautifully and it is now a place that feels inviting and relaxing.

In true redesign style I will post before and after pictures so you can get the full effect.

The crazy thing is that there are four more totes of books in the office. Despite our relatively short time being alive; it seems we have amassed quite the collection of books.

Very uninspiring if you ask me. It looks cluttered too. Eck. I strongly dislike clutter.

Our beautiful new bookshelves that Chris diligently put together while I was on family vacation. What a wonderful man that I married. We have so many books that each shelf has two rows of books. Good thing for deep shelves.

The left side of the room. I love that everything has a place.

I feel an inspiring piece of art would look great over the fireplace. However, I don't think my husband would appreciate me removing the television. Oh well.

I don't like the shades with our new color scheme. So, I am going to try and find white paper, the kind they put on chinese lanterns, to replace the existing lamp shades. I am also looking for ideas on what to put over the couches to fill up some of that empty wall space. What do you think? Any ideas?

Chocolate Nutty Flax Squares


Last night I was hit with a craving. You know how it goes. You get something into your mind and nothing else will satisfy your longing. Nothing else will satiate your taste buds. I wanted chocolate and I wanted it bad. Good thing I had some dark chocolate baking chips in the freezer.

I dumped some chocolate chips into bowl and melted them in the microwave on power level five. Then I mixed in a dollop of natural peanut butter, a squirt of honey, and some nutty flax cereal. I spooned the mixture into a mold (or you can just spoon it onto wax paper) and placed in the freezer. Once they had hardened I popped them out of the mold onto a plate. It was a delightful treat that fully satisfied my chocolate craving. Chris even thought it was delicious. But I guess you can't go wrong with chocolate, peanut butter, and crunchy cereal :).

This is a great brand of cereal. It stays crunchy even after being in milk for a long time and it was perfect for my crispy chocolate squares!

Come and walk with me...

I am sorry to all of you readers for my lack of posting. I went on vacation (not a good excuse) and haven't felt very inspired lately (an even worse excuse). But I am making a new goal of writing in my blog at least three times a week. I mean, who even wants to read a blog where there is nothing new to read? I sure don't. So come and check back often and I will have new recipes and pictures and exploits for you to read about.

I have a major advantage where I live. I can walk to the library. It is only 3/4 of a mile from my front door. I love going to the library and searching through aisles of books in pursuit of unexpected treasures. Reading nourishes me, and what I love most about a good book is it's ability to transport you to another world. I also enjoy learning and welcome the how-to books that help me grow in my interests find out things I never knew before.

The weather was beautiful and since I had books I needed to return anyway. I set out with my camera, water bottle, and backpack full of books. Do you want to come and walk with me?

Our Humble Home

A few doors down from where we live is the Amish Country Store. They sell spices, dry goods, meat, sandwiches, ice-cream, candy, amish butter and cheese, some vegetables and bonnets :). Walking through the doors always brings a smile to my face.

Every small town has to have their local food joint. Ours is the tiny town restaurant.

We also have the Leopard Cafe. In honor of our school mascot, the Banks County Leopards.

Almost there...

My second favorite place in Homer. The first being my home of course. What a treasure trove of adventure and learning. After perusing the shelves I chose 4 books. Yeah yeah. I always bring home more that I can read in two weeks. But one can hope right? I checked out a book on gardening, one about indoor container plants, 'Jane Eyre', and 'The UNHealthy Truth -How our food is making us sick and what we can do about it'.

I am most interested in the last one I mentioned. I am trying to learn as much as I can about how our food is processed, where it comes from, and how it is affecting our society. The more I know the more power I have to affect change. Even if it starts here in my home with what I choose to eat and how I choose to live.

Back at home. This is the courtyard behind the house. As the weather cools down we want to take out a couple of trees, prune back the hydrangea, and plant some fall vegetables to the left between the fence and the trees.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A new kind of lasagna

I made lasagna last night for dinner. But it wasn't any ordinary lasagna. The 'noodles' that I used were made out of eggs and spinach. You cook them like crepes and therefore don't look anything like lasagna noodles. But that's what makes it cool, right? I saw the idea for an egg noodle the other day when I was surfing the food web trying to plan my menu for the week. I was definitely interested and wanted to try it. In hopes of a great success, I even wrote down what I put in my lasagna so I could share the recipe with you.

What I love about this concept is how versatile it is. It is like a crepe, but naturally gluten and dairy free, as well as low-carb and high protein. You could make them savory or sweet. I bet mixing the eggs with cinnamon and vanilla and filling them with spiced apples or fresh fruit and coconut cream would make an awesome dessert. Or you could make "tortillas" by mixing the eggs with some fresh cilantro and tomatoes, then fill them with beans and top it off with some green or red salsa. The options are endless.
For my filling I used sauteed onions and mushrooms, spinach, and artichoke hearts mixed in with my spaghetti sauce. You want the mixture to be thick as the noodles won't absorb much liquid.
Looks just like real lasagna! I thought it tasted fabulous too! The texture was a bit different as the noodles were airy and a little spongy. But I enjoyed that part of it and thought it worked well. It was seasoned perfectly, and the noodles really absorbed all the good flavors from the sauce. After eating this I felt completely satisfied and nourished.

Egg Noodle Lasagna (gluten-free)
7-8 eggs
8oz. frozen spinach thawed and squeezed dry (I bought 1lb. bag of frozen spinach and put half in the noodles and half in the sauce)
1/2 tsp italian seasoning
Salt and Pepper

olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion finely diced
8 oz. mushrooms sliced
8oz. spinach thawed and squeezed dry
14. oz can artichoke hearts rinsed, drained, chopped
24 oz. jar spaghetti sauce
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste if it needs it
1 cup of provolone cheese (it would also work really well with a different cheese like feta or mozzarella or a mixture)

Beat eggs until frothy, add spinach and seasonings. Heat up a non-stick pan and pour 1/4 cup batter in at a time. I had to use my flipping spatula to spread it around because the spinach made it a bit difficult to even out. After about 30 sec. you can flip and let it finish cooking on the other side. It goes quick once everything is good and hot so you have to work fast. You should get about 10 crepes.

In another pan, heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil and add your onions and garlic. After that has cooked for a few minutes add the mushrooms. It may seem like a lot, but it cooks down. After the onions have starting to brown and the mushrooms are soft turn off the heat and set aside. Add the spinach and chopped artichoke hearts. Make sure you squeeze all the excess water out of the spinach and artichokes because you don't want the sauce to be runny. Then add your spaghetti sauce.

Grease an 8x11 pan and cover the bottom with sauce/veggie mixture. Layer with egg noodles, and you will have to tear a few apart to fill in the gaps. Add another layer of sauce and keep going until you run out of noodles and finish with a layer of sauce. I made mine with three layers. Then sprinkle your cheese on top, and I finished it off by sprinkling more red pepper flakes but that is completely optional. I like my lasagna spicy.

This was also my first time using our oven. I found out it has a backlit panel on top. It worked like a charm and looks even cooler. I am a blessed woman.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How about a soba noodle?

Okay, okay. So this is my third post today. I have two great reasons for this. First, I have so many pictures and recipes that I have been wanting to post about and today seemed like a good day to do it. Second, I need to work out and I am putting it off.

But really, this recipe is awesome, and if you like ginger and lemon you are going to love it!

My normal routine is to plan out my menu and go grocery shopping on Monday. I usually plan out meals Monday-Friday and assume that there will be leftovers for us to eat over the weekend. That way we spend less on groceries and there is less waste. However, sometimes there are no leftovers and by Sunday I have to scrounge to try to make a meal out of the random ingredients left in my cupboards and fridge. Last Sunday the randomness consisted of leftover ginger root, spinach and shrooms that were about to go bad, and soba noodles.

This is going off topic... but have any of you ever tried soba noodles? They are made out of buckwheat. Many people think buckwheat is a grain, but it is actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb and sorrel making it naturally gluten free and quite nutritious. Soba noodles are traditionally from Japan and commonly served either chilled with a dipping sauce or served in a hot broth. I have been wanting to try these for awhile and was able to pick some up a few weeks ago.

I searched the internet, and found something on Simply Recipes for a lemon ginger sauce with mushrooms and soba noodles. I won't post the recipe on my page, because I still am learning proper food blogging etiquette and I don't know what the protocol is for posting a recipe that I didn't create or change drastically. But you can click here to get the recipe.

I didn't have any butter or fresh herbs so I left those out, and I added some leftover chicken and 2 cups of chopped spinach. Let me tell you, the sauce is out of this world, and I am having a love affair with those soba noodles. The lemon and ginger really shone through, and the bold flavors paired so well with the earthiness of the buckwheat. We ate it as a chilled salad, and I thought it was even better the next day. So if you do attempt this recipe, try to make it a few hours ahead of time or even the day before to let the flavors fuse together.

Mission #2 Repaint Kitchen - Complete

I finally got the supplies and painted the kitchen yesterday.

I did come across an unexpected challenge though. First off, when I started taking off the plates to the switches and outlets I saw they were all completely painted and stuck to the wall. I had to pry the plates off and you can see from the picture bad it looked. On one outlet, the plate broke in half because the paint was so thick! So I scraped, puttied, sanded, and wiped down to get it ready for painting. Just a wee setback, and it looks much better. We are also going to get new plates to replace the old ones. Gotta make it look good.

This picture is not upside down by the way. That's how they put in the outlet.

After I cut in the with paintbrush.

Our new and improved antique yellow kitchen! Outlet and switch covers coming soon... as soon as I go to Home Depot to get some.

It was hard to get a good picture, but I really think it brightens up the whole room. It is even more fun to cook now in my happy yellow kitchen.

Coming Soon... Missing #3 Repainting the living room.

Making Milk from Rice

I have made another culinary discovery. I can make milk with rice, and it tastes great :)!
For awhile now I have been on the alternate milk wagon. I have never really liked cow's milk. Then a couple years ago I started doing research about what they feed the cows, how they process it, and what they add to the milk. Let's just say, for me it was an easy choice and for the most part I try to stay away from dairy. Besides the occasional bowl of ice-cream and cheese on my pizza :). Fortunately, there are many substitutes, and I have tried hemp, coconut, almond, rice, and soy. I like all of them for different reasons and different uses. Unfortunately, they either have so many additives and fillers to preserve it and give it a certain consistency, or they are super expensive. I am sure many of you can relate, we are on a pretty tight budget for food, and I try to be thrifty and save money where I can. That is why I was so excited to find a recipe for making it myself. I found it off of Kim's blog at Affairs of Living, and you can find the recipe and other helpful info here.

Basically, you start with 1/2 cup short grain brown rice. Rinse and place in a bowl to soak for 6-8 hours. Rinse again and place in a large pot with 6-8 cups of water. Then you can either cook it on the stove for an hour or put it in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.
After it is done cooking, place in a blender and blend well.

After it is blended up you can let it cool down and put it in jars to go in the fridge. Or after it has cooled for a bit, you can add a tablespoon of miso and let it culture for 12-24 hours. Stir it every so often, but don't use a metal utensil(it reacts to the fermentation process). I have gone the miso route both times I have made it so far and I love it! It gives it a slightly sweet and more complex flavor. You can taste it along the way and once it is the way you like it, you have the option to add flavors like dates to sweeten or cinnamon and vanilla, or after it is done culturing put it in jars and place in the fridge. If you look at the recipe on Kim's site she can give you a bunch of ideas to change up the flavors and more information on why homemade rice milk is better for you.
Letting it culture and create some awesome probiotics!

Enjoying my rice milk with a big slice of banana bread!

I don't have any pitchers that would work to keep it sealed tightly, so I put the milk in old spaghetti sauce and peanut butter jars. Both times I have made it I haven't added any sweeteners or extras besides the miso and I think it is delicious. Next time I make it though, I think I will try a variation of brown rice and amaranth and use some dates to sweeten. I will let you know how that goes.

If you try making some tell know how it turns out :).

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What's cooking?

Yesterday was the big day. I told my friends and family about my blog. haha For some reason I was nervous about it. But they have all been so encouraging and supportive which gave me even more motivation to keep going. Thank you all for your kind words. I appreciate them more than you know!

Even though I haven't blogged much in the last month it doesn't mean I haven't been cooking. Here are pictures of some things I have made. Like I've talked about before, most of them were precipitated by things that needed to be used up. I think it is a great challenge, and the more things I can use up and make a meal of that I don't have to throw out, the more victorious I feel!

Thai green curry Sauce with chicken and veggies of over quinoa
Garden fresh tomato soup w/ roasted okra croutons on the side

Baked wild rice, fresh pea, and goat cheese zucchini boat

Twice baked potatoes with chicken, spinach and goat cheese

Quinoa, corn, and black bean salad with lime and cilantro

Those are some of the things that I have been up to, but unfortunately I have no recipes. I am trying to get better at writing down what I put into the recipes I create. Hopefully, one of these pictures will give you the inspiration to look in your refrigerator and create something of your own.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

iphone app-cakes

This was several weeks ago, but I was too proud of myself not to post about it.
I love baking and decorating cakes and so I volunteered to make the cake for my older brothers birthday party. I am working on figuring out how to make healthier cakes and icings, but for this cake I was given strict instructions not to 'healthify' his favorite chocolate buttermilk cake recipe. haha I guess sometimes you just don't mess with a good thing.
He really likes video games and my original idea was to try and make an Xbox cake. Chris and I were looking for ideas online and we came across a picture of cupcakes where each one represented an iphone app. We quickly forsook our previous idea and went to work on cupcake logistics.

We picked out the 24 apps that would go on top of each cupcake. Then Chris drew them out to figure out how much fondant to make and how much of each color we needed.
I had never worked with fondant before and it was a challenge to keep it from sticking to the counter when I rolled it out. But after I learned to keep the counter heavily coated with powdered sugar it worked better. I cut out circles of each color, placed them in a ziploc between squares of parchment to keep them from sticking, and chilled them in the fridge to make cutting easier.
We got out sharp knives and cutting boards and went to work.
It was incredibly rewarding to see each one finished and look so much like the actual app on an iphone. After they were all done we stuck the finished pieces to the frosted cupcakes with water. Chris and I had a great time working on this together. I feel like we both worked out of our strengths and collaboratively we came up with an app-cake masterpiece! Boo yah.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Life In Homer

Big news... I moved to Homer, GA!

My husband has been looking for a different job for awhile and he sent in countless applications and had several disappointing interviews. Finally, about 3 weeks ago he went in for an interview and they hired him two days later. In one week we found a gorgeous house to rent, packed up and moved, and he started work. Every time I stop and think about how it all happened I just have to praise God. There is a great peace in being confident that you are right where God wants you.

We are located about an hour north of Atlanta. Life is a bit different here in Homer, GA. First of all, we moved from a tiny 1br 1bath apartment, to a rather large 3br 2bath house with a courtyard off the back of the house. I think our dog Bowdon is still adjusting to having so much space. Our house is right in the middle of downtown Homer. Two doors down on my right is City Hall, across the street is the Chamber of Commerce and the Courthouse, and two doors down on my left is an Amish Grocery and Deli. The town is pretty small, and when I look outside sometimes I imagine I am in an episode of the Andy Griffith show. I like this different pace of life though. I can't believe how helpful and welcoming everyone has been. Just the other day I walked across the street to the Chamber of Commerce to try and get some info about the town. I spent 45 minutes talking to two wonderful ladies who want to take me to lunch and give me a tour of all the historic sites and interesting things in Homer. They gave me phone numbers of people I should talk to. Then even offered to pick me up and take me the next chamber breakfast meeting to introduce me to all the members. It is very refreshing to be greeted with such open arms, and I look forward to getting to know these great people.

The old wallpaper

Sometimes, things have to get worse before they get better.

The last two weeks I have spent quite a bit of time unpacking and cleaning. But my first big project was taking down the wallpaper and repainting the bathroom. I have been working on it sporadically throughout the week and finally finished yesterday. I love the color, and how crazy happy it makes me feel each time I walk into our newly painted bathroom. It is funny how the small things make such a difference. It would have been much easier just to leave the wallpaper and not worry about it. Especially since we are just renting. But I am so glad we fixed it, and it means the difference between a smile over a frown every time I walk in. Definitely, worth the effort and investment no matter if we stay here a long time or not.

The new look!
The color is soothing green tea and it turned out darker than the swatch. But we both still like it.

What are a few small things that you could change that would make the difference of a smile instead of a point of frustration in your life? Maybe painting the inside of a drawer you favorite color. Or purchasing an attractive bowl to display fresh produce and encourage you to eat healthier. Or putting on music that inspires you when you are cleaning the bathroom. I find that when I consciously try to add that little touch of grace to things that normally are not pleasant, it gives me the ability to be more in tune and grateful for the blessings of today.

I have so many recipes that I will be sharing soon! So stay posted.