Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vegan Snack: Walnut, Cilantro, and Jalapeno Pesto

For the first time, I am attempting a pseudo cleanse (via veganism) until Christmas. It's only been a couple of days and I really miss cheese, but I assume that will get easier as the days go by.

My amazing Aunt Paula made things easy on me, unknowingly, and brought a jalapeno, cilantro, and walnut pesto dip that is so delicious and simple that it's out of control. It has a thick, creamy, satisfying texture that I often associate with non-vegan foods. I think I'll be eating this quite a bit over the next month. We ate it with crackers and sliced jicama, but I think it'd compliment just about anything "dip-able."

Cilantro image source.

You can find a recipe here, or simply by typing "jalapeno, cilantro, and walnut pesto" into your search bar.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Here's a little peak into what I've been up to when not entertaining my boss (she's 7 months old now, by the way--she's mobile!). The pieces are slowly coming together, but eventually my shop will open. And these will find new homes.

1. Burned natural wood earrings.
2. Earrings made of suede scraps.
3. My messy little craft corner.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Family Feasts

 It was a busy long weekend of food and family. After a fun day in Peoria with Jake's HUGE family, we hosted my TINY family in our apartment. All minor issues aside (like the turkey not being cooked the first time around), it went without a hitch. I made a pretty traditional holiday feast to see if I was capable. Turns out, I mostly am.

After almost a whole week of feeling over-full with fatty foods, I've decided to go vegan for the stretch of time between now and Christmas. The goal is to focus on fruits, veggies, and nuts with some occasional beans and quinoa for protein. Wish me luck! And please, share some of your favorite vegan snack foods. Snacks are always what ruin me!

PS- It's Cyber Monday, so be sure to spend your dollars at places like etsy, Renegade, and Big Cartel! Those big box stores don't need your money.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Believe it or not, that male body form and the plate tectonics print have finally been hung in their appropriate homes. The clutter seen in so many photos has finally been cleared. Sometimes it just takes a little rushed desperation (in the form of family visitors).

Dress: Thrifted while in Iowa, then shortened. I thought the dark corduroy would make the perfect fall dress. $5.00
Shoes: Favorite fall boots with faux shearling on the inside. Vintage, $4.00
Tights: So old I'm calling them free.
Bow: Included in a giant bag of hair accessories, $.10
Approximate Total: $9.10

Happy Day of Feasting with Loved Ones!

Jake and I are headed to Southern Illinois to spend the day with his family, and then hosting our own dinner for the first time as a family on Saturday. We're in the center of my Iowa and Indiana family, so we'll be feeding eight. YIKES. We bought a decent supply of beer from the brewery around the corner to keep everyone happy and entertained. I'm thrilled to have my dad, his sister, and the rest of our family to my home here for the first time.

If I'm not around tomorrow, have a perfect weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thrift Bounty

Chicago can hold its own in thrift stores, but nothing compares to Cedar Rapids. We made a special trip to two Goodwills when we visited a couple weekends ago. Goodwill of the Heartland is one of few Goodwill regions in the Nation that hires and trains people who face obstacles to regular employment. Go, Goodwill of the Heartland, go!

Each item below is vintage.

Key-shaped key hook. This fulfills a somewhat desperate need in our home, where keys can never be found.

Brass grasshopper. Brasshopper.

Mail organizer in a beautiful copper color, with gorgeous detail. Also fulfills a pretty desperate need.

Four matching glass jars, topped with my favorite shade of orange. I can't wait to fill these with beans, rice, orzo, and quinoa!

Pyrex carafe for keeping spare toddy, and a vintage crank grinder made of glass. Unfortunately it is no longer very functional, but it is stinkin' cute and will make a good receptacle for toothpicks or something of the like.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Outfit 11/18

Dress: Vintage nightie, bought for its print and precious lace bib and due for an altering, $5.00
Tights: Big box super clearance, $3.00
Shoes: my mom's from the 80's and in perfect condition!
Approximate total: $8.00

Monday, November 21, 2011

Leslie's French Onion Soup "Recipe"

Last week, Thursday specifically, I went on a bit of a cooking spree. It's my favorite way to spend a day off.

After drooling over the idea of french onion soup with the roommate, and then witnessing a friend devour a good lookin' cup the following weekend...the time came. I requested my mom's recipe, one that is superbly savory and is a real flavor punch to the mouth. It's more like an onion stew than a brothy soup, but a little sweet without being bitter or overwhelming.

Here is the "recipe" she sent me, unedited (though I included  a few personal notes in small italics):

Leslie's French Onion Soup

lots of different onions (enough to fill dutch oven)
butter and olive oil
lea and perrins (good amt) Worcestershire sauce
bay leaf x 2
beef consomme x 2   I subsituted with a box of organic beef broth
beef broth (lots)
dry sherry (add into soup when mixing)
touch of white wine (about ½ cup)  I used about half of the bottle...rather, I used the whole bottle, but the other half went directly into my drinking chalice.
salt and pepper 
toasted french bread
*texted addendum from my mom: "take the time to caramelize the onions. it takes a long time over medium heat, but it adds a ton of flavor. the white wine and lea & perrins are absolutely essential!"

The lack of quantity and order of operations was a little daunting, as I've never made this soup before, but I succeeded despite my recipe adversity! Fortunately, as an only child, I spent a lot of time helping my mom cook and understand her cooking style. Extra garlic, extra pepper, and taste taste taste!

If you think you might want to try this out, I can absolutely estimate for you the quantities I used. Still, I think it's a fun challenge to gather the ingredients and do a little flavor problem-solving.

Above is only half of the amount of onions we used, which totaled about 5lbs in the end. We caramelized them in two batches to make things easier.

I also made very, very delicious and very, very ugly spanakopita (Greek spinach & feta pie), combining these two recipes I found on Punchfork. Three observations: 1) Phyllo dough is hard to work with! 2) Lemon juice in the filling is an essential special touch, but I skipped the nutmeg and parsley 3) Resist the temptation to take it out of the oven until all of it is a really nice golden brown. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Going Wireless

First, I accidentally bought the wrong one. After returning the first one and ordering the correct model, I realized I'd received an incompatible cord. When attempting to order the cord I needed, the only retailer carrying it had put a hold on orders for two weeks in celebration of Sukkot. But now, finally!, I have all the pieces I need to take photos with my wireless remote. It is, from my and Liz's research, the only wireless remote currently compatible for my D3100. I love it!


Here are some silly photos we've taken since it's all come together:

Happy Friday! We'll be seeing some visiting buddies, attending the Battle of the Jug Bands, and feasting off of the cooking rampage I was on this week. Spanakopita! French onion soup! Organic roast with horseradish from my dad's garden! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm hoping to do a lot of work on my forthcoming etsy shop this week!

(though there is nothing to see quite yet...)

So, if posts are sparse, I apologize. Have a wonderful pre-holiday week. Eat your vegetables!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Birthday Party!

 My handsome roommate/perma-boo, Jake, turned 30 last week. It makes for good "you're old!" fodder, because he's more than three years my senior, but honestly he looks younger now than he did five years ago.

Here in Chicago, I pampered him with a hot lather shave at a barber shop. In his words it was, "neat but terrifying and a little painful." Afterward, I surprised him with a sushi dinner under the "stars" at home. We drank champagne from my Long Island trip out of my Great Aunt Dot and Uncle Bill's wedding flutes from 1956.

Over the weekend, we made the pilgrimage back to Iowa to visit my family and our family of friends. We were fortunate enough to go play at our old coffee stomping grounds. Jake made me a delicious macchiato, and I reminded myself how much I love making drinks. I made the latte above--I still got it!

For dinner, we joined about thirty of our closest friends at the Tic Toc for our favorite fried foods, stiff drinks, and Katie's homemade cupcakes topped with mini Jakes. We finished the night by cashing in a free keg party at our regular bar. Seen above, we all celebrated our love for him by wearing our best Jake ensembles--mostly western or plaid shirts tucked into jeans, with a big belt buckles. Cory, on the left, made an homage to the hospital employed Jake of yore.

Friends, I am in love with you! And the birthday boy seemed to have a perfect time.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hummus with Chickpea Flour (besan)

As a huge fan of hummus, I've tried probably a dozen times to make a good, smooth batch at home. Maybe it's my food processor's fault, but my attempts are always grainy and speckled with chunks of canned chickpeas.

With this dilemma, paired with my distaste for using anything from a tin can, I experimented with hummus made from chickpea flour (besan). Results: delicious, smooth, and creamy.

Besan Hummus
Recipe adapted from this one

2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup chickpea flour (Garbanzo)
2-5 garlic cloves, to taste
1/2 tsp salt
1 lemon, juice of
1/4 cup tahini
2 TBS olive oil
1/4 tsp cumin, ground*
1/4 tsp cayenne*

1. Gradually add the water to the chickpea flour in a cold saucepan, whisking until mixed as well as you can (there may be some lumps). It will seem runny and peculiar--that's okay!

2. Bring the flour and water mixture up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally. You'll notice that it begins to thicken.

3. After 10 or 15 minutes, you should reach a thick pudding consistency. Turn off the heat, let the mixture come to room temperature. Continue to stir ocassionally.

4. Once cooled, add besan mixture to your food processor. Add all other remaining ingredients. Blend well, until you are pleased with the consistency. It may still seem a bit runny, but will continue to get thicker.
5. Transfer to a storage container and allow to cool in the refrigerator for about an hour to fully set and thicken. Serve as you please, with your favorite dippers or sandwich. I prefer to top my with olive oil and sumac, and use pitas to dip. Happy eating!

A few notes about finding ingredients:

Chickpea flour/besan is easily found in any Middle Eastern or Indian grocery, for CHEAP. I purchased my 4lb bag from Sanabel for just $4.00. It seems versatile, and I look forward to using the healthy flour for many new recipes. Buy your tahini and olive oil there, while you're at it.

Middle Eastern groceries--typically family owned-- are a wonderful resource, when on a budget or feeling adventurous. Load up on spices and nuts! While at Sanabel, I also found a 12oz bag of natural, raw almonds for $3.50. That feels a little like stealing, frankly, as I'm familiar with paying twice as much for half as many at grocery and health food stores.

At the Middle Eastern Bakery and Grocery, we purchased these six spices and sauces, two large bags of fresh baked pitas, 1/2 pound of fresh feta, and six fresh baked spinach pies (entree sized) for $35.00. I'm not sure you could buy just the chia seeds and fresh block of feta for $35.00 at Whole Foods.

  • I can't wait to go back and get some baklava.

    (PS I am trying to clean up the look of my blog. I don't get along with Photoshop very well, so my banner has been a patient with its appearance!)

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Outfit--Andy D and Electric Six

    I was able to enjoy a sunny day off with Jake on Friday, so we ran around town before heading to the Electric Six show at the Double Door.

    Top: Reconstructed by yours truly, $.50
    Shorts: Old Steve & Barry's jeans cut off, $7.00 originally
    Tights: ??? So old we'll call them free
    Shoes: Beloved Justin's, $4.50
    Earring: Unpolished agate studs, made myself
    Bow: Included in my giant thrifted bag of 90's hair accessories, about $.05
    Approximate Total: $12.05

    The highlight of the night was seeing Andy D open. The D stands for "dreams." I can't recommend catching this guy live enough-- you'll laugh while you dance. Support his Kickstarter here, and do some dancing here:

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    DIY Dishwashing Detergent

    Natural, Homemade Dishwasher Detergent
    recipe from DIY Natural

    1 cup Borax
    1 cup Washing Soda (found easily in the laundry aisle of grocery/drug stores)
    1/2 cup citric acid (cheap at a Middle Eastern grocery)
    1/2 cup kosher salt
    -white vinegar as a rinse aid-

    Borax- $5.00/76oz
    Washing Soda-  $3.50/55oz
    Citric Acid- $2.50/8oz
    Kosher Salt- $2.00/16oz
    White Vinegar- $3.00/128oz
    Approximate Total: $16.00

    By my loose calculations, it cost me just over $2.00 to make a 3 cup batch of homemade dishwashing detergent. 

    At a tablespoon per run, I will be able to do 48 dish loads with that $2.00. 

    The added bonus, of course, is that I know that my kitchen is free of unnatural chemicals.

    Stored in a coffee can I'd saved from Trader Joe's (I use this coffee for cold press toddies, and the french press gets the good beans from the local shops). Labeled clearly with both what it is (for safety) and what it's made from (for future convenience).

    The leftover ingredients will be saved to make other cleaning supplies, like laundry detergent. From Gardners 2 Bergers has a nice compilation of natural cleaning recipes. Meanwhile, I am tempted to use up the citric acid by  creating and then devouring some super, super Sour Patch Kids.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Fake a High Bun

    I covet the "high bun" hairstyle, mostly because it is equally cute and lazy. Dirtbag fashionable. For now, my hair is barely long enough to even to put in a high ponytail, let alone make a ferocious bun. So, I've just been waiting.

    Last week, the 1990's came to my hair rescue via Village Discount. Behold, the flouncy butterfly clip. It cost me pennies, in a bag of probably 25 hair accessories (read: scrunchies) for 90 cents total. MMM! Cheap fashion.


    If someone can figure out how to make these, I would gladly buy a few in bright colors.

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    DIY Ethical Hair "Extensions"

     Do ever you start to feel like maybe you look too "normal"? I suppose it's difficult to blend in much when you have a facial piercing, large visible tattoo, and occasionally wacky outfits...but I started to feel it recently anyhow. 

    I'd been considering putting a few bleach-blonde extensions to frame my face, as bleaching my own hair only  ends up it breaking off. BUT extensions are expensive, and human hair travels down a peculiar road that I am not especially comfortable with. Feather extensions, while pretty, are an even more sordid practice on a level similar to fur coats. I'll avoid making this political, but I'll include a few resources at the bottom if you choose to pursue the information. 

    These colorful "extensions" were my ethical solution. Quick, cheap, and a craft statement. They took about 5 minutes to put in, and will last as long as I choose to leave them in.

    1. Cut a length of embroidery floss (yarn would work too) about twice the length of your hair, 
    2. Carefully select a lock of hair about 1/4" square in size, sure to isolate only the hairs you want to braid (flyaways will snag and pull)
    3. tie the floss at the top of your chosen lock--as close to your scalp as possible--with the two tails of floss falling at equal lengths
    4. Do a simple 3-strand braid! My three strands were the two embroidery floss lengths with my lock of hair serving as one strand.
    5. Tie a good knot with your floss at the bottom of your braid. Trim the excess thread at whatever length you choose. I chose to cut my thread tails off completely, but it's equally cute to leave them long.
    6. Bonus: add an embellishment, like charms or ethically-obtained feathers, at the bottom. 

    Excuse the messy hair, it's my windblown bed-head. Today has been warm and sunny, so walked down to a delicious lunch at Glenn's Diner down the street. Our lovely server stopped me in the middle of ordering to ask about my extensions, then exclaimed, "I'm totally stealing that, and you're going to hate me for it!" Not true! Please, steal my idea! 

    If you try out it, send me a photo? 

    I'm having a difficult time finding a reliable source for human hair extension information, so rather than link you to something I don't totally trust, I'll recommend you watch
    Good Hair, Chris Rock's interesting documentary about hair in the African American community, with a great focus on the sourcing of human hair extensions.

    A story from the Seattle Times that explains some of the issues regarding feather extensions.