Tag Archives: homemade

Another Year! | Keeping it Clean in 2015

31 Dec

 

photo-2As I rise out of the wrapping paper debris and general holiday craze and settle in to enjoy a few days off (without any big obligations), I decided that I should get back to posting here.

In the spirit of a fresh start in 2015, I’ve set out to tackle a few household projects that have been looming over my head for the last few months. The biggest? Cleaning the inside of the oven. We cook a lot in our rental oven and are great about keeping the outside spotless (seriously, it looks brand new) but the inside…well that’s another story. Last year, I began a search for a less toxic way to clean the oven (most oven cleaners contain a bunch of harsh chemicals). I kinda gave up for a bit after striking out online & in local stores.

And then Jess found this post by one of our favorite bloggers. It worked like magic using items we already had in our pantry (baking soda and white vinegar). Seriously! I didn’t have to scrub much but be prepared to get on your knees & climb into the oven for an hour or so.

My tips:
1) Clean the bottom drawer/broiler last (I cleaned it first and had to clean it again because it got bits of baking soda paste in it as I was wiping out the oven) — I just washed it in the sink but I wished that I’d done it once at the end versus 2x.
2) Use a dish cloth or soft cleaning rag that you won’t mind throwing out afterwards. (I could’ve tossed the one I used in the laundry but it was a plain white flour sack towel that had seen better days to begin with so I didn’t feel guilty about throwing it away.)
3) The baked on spatter on the oven window didn’t budge…at all. The Kitchn also has a post about this and recommends a Norwex cleaning product. Hmmm, I might have to investigate.

On another note related to cleaning insides…mine…holiday treats and time off at home without a good post-holiday vacation grocery shopping have me feeling kinda ick. It’s not so much a New Year’s resolution. Rather it comes out of a need to get back to basics and pay more attention to what I’m eating — basically my body is telling me that it needs healthier stuff. I’ve thought about doing a cleanse (I’ve had good luck with “clean eating” cleanses in the past). I’m halfway through the book about Whole30 “It Starts With Food”. It’s super educational but I’m not sure it’s for me. I also saw this in our recent copy of Bon Appetit and thought it seemed like a good option. Ah, options! In the meantime, I’ve got almonds soaking for homemade almond milk (for smoothies) and I added some sautéed kale to my leftover pad thai lunch today. Things are looking up.

Have any cleaning tips or healthy eating favorites to share? Tell us!
Wishing you and yours an awesome start to 2015!

xo

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Banana Pup Cups | Let’s Celebrate!

1 Jun

ollieskate

Ollie turns five tomorrow and that’s cause to celebrate! He’s our favorite little clown, who loves to sing, still suckles his “Precious” fleece toy, bounces like a little jumping bean when he sees his favorite humans, and he always has time for a good bum scratch!

We adopted him when he was just 13 weeks old, a puppy mill rescue with a special back foot. He has been a great side kick for Stevie and keeps us all laughing!

In honor of his birthday I created a frozen dog treat recipe, which was really easy to make and only has four all-natural ingredients!

bananapupcups

Banana Pup Cakes
makes 7 frozen treats

Ingredients

2 – ripe bananas
1 – 4 oz container of unsweetened applesauce 
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Steps

1. Mash ripe bananas in a medium size bowl with a fork.

2. Add remaining ingredients and combine using a spatula.

3. Place cupcake liners in a muffin pan.

4. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, filling cups a generous half full. (I got 7 frosty treats out of my batter.)

5. Place in the freezer, our treats were frozen solid in 2 hours.

Notes

  • These treats are great for pups with allergies, Stevie is intolerant to all things poultry, they are vegetarian, wheat, and soy free.
  • If you have difficulty removing the frozen treats from the muffin pan, just flip the pan over and run warm water on it for a few seconds.
  • The cupcakes wrappers are easy to remove and just peel off, no need for non-stick spray.
  • If you are running out of room in your freezer, 6 of these treats fit in a loaf pan, and would save space.

Stevie & Ollie approved!

Meet My New Obsession | Homemade Almond Milk

18 Apr

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Lately, I’ve been the Queen of Unfinished blog posts—so many ideas, so little time. Ugh. Apologies, dear friends!

I’m sharing this recipe with you because I can’t stop making it (or singing its glorious praises). Homemade almond milk. Yes. DO IT! I have friends who’ve been making it for years and I wondered what all of the buzz was about…until…

I participated in a detox last September under the guidance of Simply Inspired Wellness. To call it a detox sounds a bit extreme but this program is about re-setting your systems and ridding your body of toxins that commonly build up with the consumption of processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, etc. It was 100% worth the effort and investment. Afterwards, I felt refreshed, healthier and more educated/aware of what I was putting into my body. Two big post-detox surprises: foods that I didn’t cook at home tasted over salted, and my immediate craving for something sweet after eating a meal, virtually vanished.

The detox was also my true introduction to almond milk. I bought the boxed, unsweetened kind to add to my smoothies and morning coffee. It was a little watery but I didn’t notice it at all in my smoothies. Coffee on the other hand? Well, it was kinda gross—and something about the acidity of the coffee made the almond milk curdle a bit. Ew.

But I digress, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago, that I had homemade almond milk in an iced coffee from a local bakery/cafe. On a menu sign next to the espresso beverages, “house made almond milk” appeared in a lovely hand lettered font. Well, I’m a sucker for anything “house made” so I figured I’d try it. Hi, homemade almond milk, I think I love you. And the rest is history.

It’s certainly a little bit more expensive to make at home, but 100% worth it. It’s super creamy and a little bit naturally sweet (I didn’t sweeten it). It’s delicious in coffee, especially iced. I’ve also been eating it in this breakfast cereal recipe that I make a batch of on Sunday night (just the grains) and take to work for breakfast all week (I add the almond milk, cinnamon, ginger, a pinch of pumpkin pie spice, raw pecans and a little maple syrup).

The first 2 times I made almond milk, I used organic raw almonds (skin on), a blender, cheesecloth and a strainer. It’s a bit messy and a little wasteful (I tossed the cheesecloth when I was finished) but worked fine. I made my most recent batch using a nut milk bag (a bag made of super fine mesh). It was much easier to use, very easy to wash and strained out even the tiniest bits of almond meal (that the cheesecloth & strainer combo missed).

My almond milk keeps in the refrigerator just fine for 5 days or so. I usually double the batch if I plan to use it for things other than my morning coffee. Jess also really likes it too.

And finally…here is the link to the recipe that I used. This blog (theKitchn) is worth perusing—we’ve found some good recipe gems.

Happy making!

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Let’s Celebrate! | Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treats

22 Sep

Every family has their own little traditions or occasions to celebrate, ours included. 🙂 This post is a celebration of Ollie. We found him on Petfinder and knew that we had to give this little brown Boston Terrier, a puppy mill survivor, a proper home. A home where he always has a toy to comfort him, a brother to play with, homemade treats to snack on, and someone to cuddle.
ImageMy favorite memory from the first week Ollie lived with us, happened at my parents’ house, my childhood home, in Dracut, MA. It was my Aunt’s 60th birthday and the family had decided to go out to lunch and then have cake and ice cream back at my parents’ house. After lunch, Kate and I made sure we were the first to arrive back at the house. Then Auntie came in and called out for Stevie “Where’s my Stevie?” “Come and see your Auntie!” All of a sudden, to her surprise, this tiny little white flash came running down the hallway! She had the biggest smile and greatest birthday surprise — puppy love from the newest member of our family!
In honor of Ollie’s adoption anniversary we took him to the Somerville Dog Festival in our neighborhood on a recent Sunday afternoon. A field full of games to play, prizes to win and free treats to sample… any dog’s dream. Followed up by some homemade dog treats for the boys to enjoy. Yay!

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Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dog Treats
Recipe credit: Adapted from an original recipe by Courtney Danyelle Georg (instagram handle: triceracourt) 

Makes 40 – 60 treats (depending on the size & shape you choose)

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 eggs
1 cup 100% pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 TBS natural peanut butter
1 TBS ground flax
1 TBS honey
3/4 tsp cinnamon

1) Preheat the oven 350 degrees

2) Line two baking sheets with parchment

3) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine all the ingredients

4) The dough should be dry and come together in a ball when mixed

5) Add a few drops of water if the dough does not form a ball while mixing

6) Remove dough from bowl and place on a floured work surface

7) Using a rolling pin roll dough out to 1/2″ thickness, cut out shapes using a cookie cutter shape of your choice

8) Bake for 20 minutes, then take the baking sheets out, flip over each treat, and then rotate trays before returning to oven

9) Total bake time: 40 mins

10) Turn oven off after 40 mins and let cool in oven on the baking sheets

Stevie and Ollie loved them — they couldn’t get enough! Also, we made a little package for our dog walker to share them with her pack 🙂

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Happy baking! Enjoy the recipe — I’m sure your pups will! Below is a photo of Ollie with the prize he won at the Somerville Dog Festival. He carried all around the festival and all the way home on our walk. What a character!

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Summer of Love | Picnic Recipes Galore

25 Jul

Summer is for harvesting garden goodies, hanging out outside — picnics, hammocks, BBQs & early morning outdoor bootcamp — cold brewed coffee, fizzy fruity delights, cooking with farm/our container garden fresh ingredients, crafty endeavors, new friends & romps with the pups. Phew…all that and we’re back in BlogLand with a vengeance!

We celebrated our first anniversary (and 7th year of togetherness!) over the weekend & it was filled with commissioned art (thanks to Nan Lawson, Flowers In May & the fact that paper is a traditional first anniversary gift), yummy food & sentimental goodness (Remember when I wanted a set of these ? Well, Jess surprised me with a vintage 1940’s set in mint condition. *swoon*).

custom illustration by Nan Lawson

custom anniversary illustration by Flowers in May

I had ambitious plans to surprise Jess with a romantic outdoor picnic — filled with smartly designed paper goods, mason jars upon mason jars, yummy food reminiscent of our wedding catering — spread on a handmade little blanket/quilt made out of fabric from our wedding. But I participated in ArtBeat as a craft vendor on Saturday & totally ran out of time (despite planning the picnic menu & starting projects months ahead of time).

my table at ArtBeat! Opal & Ollie Etsy shop opening in August! stay tuned…

So…the weather forecast wasn’t promising & I decided, the morning of, that we’d either eat inside or on the deck. Oh, and, I didn’t finish the blanket but I made really great progress & will finish it one night this weekend. We used an adorable picnic blanket as a tablecloth that our friends Cobi & Sarah gave us as a wedding shower gift. K.I.S.S., right?

Now on to the good stuff!

The menu (with links to recipes & my notes)…

Deviled eggs | Recipe: Mark Bittman (basically your traditional deviled egg recipe: hard boiled eggs, dijon mustard, mayo, S&P) | I topped each with a tiny bit of dill relish instead of paprika.

BLT corn salad lettuce wraps | Recipe: Joy the Baker | This charred corn salad was incredible. I used high quality bacon & oven roasted it. Charring corn in a small apartment kitchen over an open gas burner flame is amazingly fulfilling! I wondered if the corn would actually cook & it did…perfectly! It turned a darker yellow as the kernels crackled & blackened. Mess warning: the stovetop was eat-off-of-it clean before this endeavor & corn shrapnel was everywhere after 3 ears of corn were nicely charred. Well worth it though!

Best berry salad | Recipe: Our very own!

Chocolate yogurt snack cakes | Recipe: Smitten Kitchen | Ah-mazing! I added a teaspoon of espresso powder to the recipe to bring out the depth of chocolatey goodness & dusted the cooled cakes with a little bit of powdered sugar. I’d make them again in a heartbeat. Oh, I had trouble finding whole milk yogurt (weird because I remember seeing it years ago – before the shelves were overflowing with a million brands of Greek style yogurt) so I opted for 2% Swiss yogurt.

Coconut rice pudding with fresh mango | Recipe: Mark Bittman (traditional rice pudding from How to Cook Everything, see very bottom of this post for recipe) | I substituted light canned coconut milk for the cow’s milk. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract after the pudding finished cooking. I served it cold with diced fresh mango to mimic the flavors of Jess’s favorite mango sticky rice dessert from a local Thai restaurant.

Home-brewed Arnold Palmers | Recipe: Tyler Florence | The slushy & bright homemade lemonade makes this drink extra special. Definitely prepare this a few hours ahead of time as all of the components need to be nice & cold. Served up in a mason jar with tiny heart etched in the glass (by yours truly!).

mis en place: chocolate yogurt snack cakes

roasting corn!

the spread!

Arnold Palmer with a twist

Rice Pudding (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)

Ingredients:
2 cups water

1 cup long or short-grain rice (I used arborio)
dash salt
2 cups milk (I used canned light coconut milk)
3/4 cup sugar, or more to taste (3/4 cup was plenty for our taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom (I skipped the spices because I knew I wanted to top with mango)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:
1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; stir in the rice and the salt. Cover & cook over low heat until almost all of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

2. Uncover, pour in the milk, and cook, stirring frequently, until about 1/2 the milk is absorbed. Stir in the sugar and spices and continue to cook until the rice is very soft and the milk absorbed. About halfway through the cooking, taste and add more sugar if necessary. 
3. Spoon into custard cups and serve warm or cold, garnished with whipped cream. I served it topped with diced fresh mango. 

This keeps well for 2 days, or more, covered and refrigerated. Serves 8.

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