Sunday, November 9, 2014

Put a Cork in it!

Instead of going on some long diatribe about how I've been busy, all kinds of things have been happening and I moved, which meant I ate leftover things from my cabinets for at least a month and trust me no one wants to read about that, I'm just going to jump right in.

Behold, the great doorway makeover of 2014.

So, backing up a teeny bit... I moved! (I loved my old apartment, but the people who owned the building loved it more and decided to sell it). One perk of moving is the chance to clean everything out, but also to get/make new stuff. I'm going to do a couple of posts on how some of the things I made for my old place fit into the new one, but first, there were a few things to do to get this one in shape. It's a "railroad" or "shotgun" style apartment which means it's just a bunch of rooms all in a line, the perk of this is that I have all kinds of space, just in a weird layout.
Now, you can see the first problem in the foreground... because the fire escape is in the kitchen, at the far end, the bedroom, at the front, has an emergency exit to the hallway. It's a really cute vintage looking door (see?)

Although right next to the adorable doorknob with the adorable teeny little key, you can see the problem.... the giant pane of glass, letting people in the hall see into the apartment, and also letting all the light from the hallway in all night. You can see the elegant solution I used for the first few weeks:

Then I decided to make lemonade out of my lemons. By which I mean, a bulletin board out of my giant hallway window.

Step 1:
There needed to be some kind of base - I had initially looked into window decals, but all of those are designed to let light in. Then I looked into contact paper, but apparently it is almost impossible to get out of glass. So, I had to cut a specially sized piece of foam board and wedge it in there. I used double-sided foam tape to stick it in.

Step 2. 
Then I had to attach the cork, which came in a big roll (the cork in the roll is nowhere thick enough by itself- it's probably only as third as deep as a pushpin would go). Getting the cork stuck up there was no small thing. I first tried the sticky tape (this picture is blurry because there was just a lot going on).

This whole thing worked brilliantly until about 4am the next morning, at which point the cork started ripping and unpeeling making a noise like a deadly animal was trying to scratch through the door, which I have to say, is quite a way to wake up in the dark. Charlotte was having no part of it and immediately ran to the other end of the apartment. I ended up gluegunning in the middle of the night, which was a first. Basically, it's just really really hard to get the cork to stick to tape-like things, because the top layer of cork dust comes off covers the tape, and you're totally screwed.

Step 3.
Once everything was attached, I put a little border up, using cute tape, to cover the edges where they didn't always perfectly meet the door.
This stuff also had a little trouble sticking to the cork, and had to be subsequently glued, but I still think it looks cute!

Step 4.
The top is way over my head so didn't seem to have a lot of need for cork, but I did cover it with cute paper on top of the foamboard.

And... the final product!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Herbed Thai Quinoa Salad, Super Refreshing for Hot Weather!

Ok, it is starting to get HOT. That means that I don't want to turn on my oven or eat anything even vaguely warm, so it's time to turn to salads! Coming up are a series of salad posts and I'm not kidding, these are delicious!

First up is this Thai Quinoa Salad with Herbs and Lime Vinaigrette.

I got the recipe over at Once Upon a Chef, and really pretty much made it exactly as instructed (for once), so I'll just link you there.

I will say I used both cilantro and basil and I really wouldn't leave either out even though the basil is optional- it was all the fresh herbs that really made this salad. I know some people don't like cilantro, which apparently to some extent might be due to genetic differences in chemosensation. But here it adds such a fresh taste, I just really wouldn't skip it. Fortunately I'm growing basil on my fire escape this summer, which means I have 3 different kinds (Thai, Greek, and purple) so pretty much around here fresh basil goes on everything!

The other thing you must must must do is use fresh lime juice (now that limes aren't as insanely expensive anymore). When you pick a lime, be sure to pick not the biggest one, but the heaviest one- the ones with thinner skin that seem surprisingly heavy will have the most juice. Bottled citrus juice just really can't compare! And for something like this that is so refreshing, you just need the real thing.

The recipe makes quite a bit (I used a lot of veggies so got way more portions out of it than the original post suggested), which is good because one thing I like about grain based salads is the ability to keep them in the fridge and take portions for lunch. The quinoa also makes it very filling as a main dish. By the last day I had to refresh a bit with some new and more crunchy cucumber and some fresh herbs but in general it lasted quite a while. Once, I even had it with some tilapia on top- I put a frozen filet (from costco) in a ziplock bag with lime, sesame oil, and the same herbs as went in the salad and let it sit until the fish thawed, then just cooked it in a pan. This was AMAZING on top of the salad- it would definitely be something you could serve to guests at a summer dinner party.

If you're feeling hot and not up to much more interaction with the stove than boiling some water, give this a try! It was bright, refreshing, and a little different- perfect!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rainbow Krispie Treats

This is a post that is WAY overdue. I made these on a freezing snowy day when I didn't want to go all the way to the grocery store, but I also had a giant rice krispie treat craving. I went to the bodega on the corner to see what kind of fixings they had, and this is the result:

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "holy smokes, that must be insanely sweet". And I'm here to tell you, YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW THE HALF OF IT.

So, clearly what we have here are not regular krispies but Fruity Pebbles. That's one thing. BUT, they also did not have plain marshmallows, they had these (not my picture):

Yes, these are strawberry and vanilla marshmallows, just to add that extra little something. I'm normally a Jet-Puffed marshmallow loyalist (Jet-Puffed marshmallow creme being a core ingredient of the family Christmas fudge recipe). And, I had a moment of fear that I would end up like Liz Lemon, who became addicted to off-brand cheez puffs called "Sabor de Soledad" from her corner store. 

Fortunately, no such thing happened, the only result was some very festive looking treats.

I followed the normal recipe- the bag of marshmallows, a few tablespoons of butter all melted together, and then 6 cups of cereal. I have two tricks for smushing this stuff into the pan. 1. get your hands wet, and use your hands. 2. get waxed paper as a barrier and push down on top of it until everything is flat. The waxed paper is much better (and more sanitary), provided you actually have waxed paper. Parchment doesn't really work.

These were insanely sweet. There was not one single natural ingredient in the entire thing. And they totally hit the spot on a snow day staying home from work.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Zoodles Post #2

I posted previously about my zucchini noodles obsession, this is another version, which was also delicious, and is vegetarian if you're into that kind of thing.
 What you need:
-2 zucchinis worth of zoodles
-olive oil
-1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed well and drained
-2 chopped tomatoes (without the slimy guts)
- 1/4c chopped basil

Put the beans and tomatoes in a large saute pan with a little olive oil. Cook them until the beans are hot and the tomatoes are cooked down a bit. Stir in a lot of pesto (like, a quarter cup), then add the zoodles. Stir everything around  until the zucchini is soft and everything is hot. If it's not flavorful enough add more pesto. Once it's all generally cooked stir in the basil. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve. Use basil for garnish.

 This was really good- warm and filling and homey tasting, but also a little different. I took it for lunch and it heated up well- the zoodles tend to make a bit of extra liquid when they sit, but in this case, it worked! Give it a try!

Monday, May 26, 2014

New Wall Art: Put a Bird (or three) on it!

This was a spontaneous weekend project. It happened after a similarly spontaneous living room rearrangement (I am convinced that rearranging the furniture periodically is good for your brain) that left a new piece of open wall.

I found this pinterest board, which was chock fill of ideas, and one of them was this bird art silhouette from over at Tater Tots and Jello, which was actually a guest post from the blogger at Crap I've Made. If I'm going to be perfectly honest, I am incredibly jealous of that blog name, since making crap and blogging about it is a favorite activity of mine.

I was really intrigued because it reminded me a bit of my previous venture into canvas wall art, in that it uses blocking off negative space as a substitute for an actual ability to paint anything that looks like anything (this my previous attempt, which has more than 1600 repins, making it possibly the most popular thing I've ever made in my life).

This one is a little different because the base layer isn't just white paint, this time it is a collage. So, first, you've got to cut up some stuff and make one. This takes a while. I would recommend paper scraps that don't include much white- you want it to contrast with the color of the paint you're using. All I had to cut up were my hoard of back issues of the New Yorker which I perpetually intend to get through. I was a little concerned about this plan since it is so text heavy, but actually there is really cool art in there, so it worked out pretty well. In related news, when you spend your evening cutting up back issues of the New Yorker to make a project you found on Pinterest after spending the afternoon potting herb plants in organic potting soil, you start to wonder what kind of a cliche you have become.

These are my supplies:

This is my collage (do you have any idea how many back episodes of True Blood it took to make this thing? Quite a few). You might see that down at the bottom the pieces are bigger. That is because at that point, I thought the only place that the underneath would show through was in the top third. I did want paper everywhere so the paint would look uniform.

Then you have to figure out what to put on this thing. The original post used pictures from, but they wouldn't print out big enough for what I wanted (I had spent enough time on the collage that I wanted to be able to see it!). So I drew and cut out some really basic birds and leaves. I actually had to cut them out a number of times to keep making them bigger (see the stray one at the bottom?)

Once you settle on a design, you have to outline it. What I did, was to hold it down, and lightly brush the paint outwards all the way around it, to make a slight outline of the birds.

Using that, I could then trace the outline with my brush (see, no real painting ability needed!).
I went through the whole area around the birds, and realized I was kind of sad because there were some parts of the collage I had gotten kind of attached to (although I had tried to capture some of them under the birds).

I decided to make it sort of purposely undone at the bottom, to allow some color to balance out the higher up birds, and I like how it looks. Unfortunately, since I had done a bad job on purpose at the bottom, I ended up having to redo it using my many leftover scraps.

Then just cover it over. As with the grey hallway art, this takes a ton of cheap acrylic paint. I made it so brush strokes sort of pulled down to almost over the bottom part, leaving about 1/5th of it still colored. In case you are wondering, this whole enterprise made an enormous mess:

Then it was time to hang it! I'm planning to spray it with an acrylic fixer, but want to give it a full day to be sure it is all dry underneath, since there a a few different layers of paint and modpodge going on.

I like how it turned out it's colorful, and also way different than anything else I've got going on.

You could pretty much make any pattern here, Just be sure the resolution of the cut up pieces for the collage are small enough so that whatever cut out you put on top allows you to see different swatches of color. Have fun with it!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Zucchini Noodles: Better Than You'd Think.

I have a new obsession, and they're called zoodles. Yes, zucchini noodles. My childhood self is watching this all unfold in horror.

Actually, my childhood self would have been pretty psyched to get to use my noodle maker:
It looks like a normal peeler but it has these little teeth. You scrape it across a vegetable (squash type veggies are the most successful, the sweet potato was a disaster), and it creates these awesome noodle shapes. Apparently there are a few different options for noodle makers, but this one was easy and cheap and does the job. See?
For my maiden zoodle-making voyage, I decided to go basic and just had them with a meat sauce that isn't very interesting in and of itself so I won't even go into it. Use whatever you like. You're going to want to warm up and soften up the zoodles. You do NOT need to boil them. I saute, either in a little water, or in a little oil, just for a few minutes until they are pliable.

Then, top and serve!
You will end up eating more zucchini than you'd expect, and remember that it is very light so you may want to err on the side of a more filling sauce with some protein if it'll be a main dish.

There is definitely more of this to come!


Monday, May 19, 2014

Dear East Coast,

Please, please, pretty please, make a donut like this.

It can't be that hard. In California you literally can't go a block without driving past a place that makes these things fresh. No, this is not even remotely close to some stale Dunkin Donuts donut from a store that doesn't even appear to have an oven. 

It's always the little things that you miss, so if you could get right on this, that would be great.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Two-minute Take-it-to-work Salad

I usually like to take my lunch to work. It saves money, and makes me avoid eating pizza or something that comes from a truck (a delicious delicious truck) every day. But, sometimes you are just not on top of it enough to have anything to bring, which usually means I run around the kitchen dumping random food items into little tupperwares and eat lunch feeling like a toddler. 

NO MORE! I have discovered the easiest, fastest, salad on earth.

I don't think this can even legitimately be called a recipe.
Yes, it's in a tupperware, on my desk. Part of being the easiest fastest salad on earth is that no work is involved other than dumping stuff in a container, shaking it up, and carrying it away with you.

The superstar of the dish is something I just noticed at Trader Joes: the frozen Melodious Blend, which has a couple kinds of lentils, green garbanzo beans, and some tomatoes.
Basically, here is what I did. Get a pencil, because it's pretty complicated.
Dump an amount of Melodious Blend that is slightly less than you think you'll want to eat into the tupperware (this is because this stuff will end up being way more filling than you predicted as you poured out frozen beans in the cold morning light). Cut up some bell pepper (or whatever you've got). Dump that on top. Squeeze half a lemon over the whole thing (you could also use vinegar, you just need some acid). Drizzle a little olive oil over the whole thing. Sprinkle some spices straight on there. I was going for easy, which means no thinking, so I used Mediterranean blend, salt, and pepper. Put the lid on it and give it a shake.

It's frozen, but since all the beans are little and separate, don't even worry. Just take it with you, and by lunch time it is a perfect chilled salad temp. If this thing isn't driving to work, and waiting for you to go to the gym, and then waiting for you to toil all morning before you eat it, you could probably microwave it and get a nice warm lentil salad, or do it ahead and leave it in the fridge. But really, the beauty here is in having a healthy option that involves no planning whatsoever.

The next day (today!) I made another version:
This one had a little bit of kale in there, and used creole seasoning (again, a mix, for pure easiness). Both were great! You can see my plating here is just as elegant as it was yesterday.

Anyhow, if you're looking for a backup plan that you can keep in the freezer that will make you feel all nourished and healthy and give the illusion of being totally on top of this whole lunch thing, this is for you!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cilantro Lime Pesto- Put This On Everything, Now!

I've had some kitchen issues, all of which were kicked off by a mouse who wanted to come in from the cold, set up camp in my oven, and refused to take any bait from any kind of mouse trap. He was finally vanquished, but had caused oven issues (in addition to the grossness factor), and until this morning when a replacement one arrived, my oven was non-functional. If it actually would warm up like it's supposed to, it might not be a big deal, but it's almost May, it's 45 degrees and raining, and I want to bake things!

The first thing I did to baptize the new oven was to roast cauliflower, which is one of my favorite things. I got the idea for the pesto from a friend, who told me a few weeks ago about a cauliflower-pesto combo that I've been thinking of ever since! I love pesto, normally, but this one is a little different and extra delicious. It also couldn't be easier.

What you need:
-big bunch of cilantro (I used a bunch and a half)
-juice of one lime, and zest
-1c olive oil (except, I used 1/2c oil and 1/2c water, and it worked just fine)
-1/2c nuts- I used 1/4c walnuts and 1/4c almonds
-3-4 cloves garlic
-a little salt
-red pepper flakes (or, jalapeno!)

What to do:
Put it all in the food processor or a really good blender, and push go. See, told you it was easy! Taste it, you want it to be balanced, not overpoweringly garlicky or salty, it should be fresh and bright and tangy. See how beautiful and green it is!

I roasted the cauliflower with olive oil, salt, and cumin, just toss it in those and stick it in a 400 degree oven (turning once or twice) until nice and brown. The beans were just cooked in a pan with cumin and corriander- super easy. I am really looking forward to having this on some fish or chicken, too (or you could do tofu, if that floats your boat).

Honestly, I want to put this stuff on everything!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The World's Most Refreshing Kale Salad

Ok, don't fall over in shock or anything, but I actually have a brand new recipe. It's been a kind of long hiatus- I was busy, I made some stuff that was good that I didn't take pictures of, some stuff that I took pictures of but that wasn't good, and some stuff that I was to lazy to post. Somehow all of the snow this winter put me into some kind of coma. Charlotte loved it. So, now, let's just forget about all that and get back on track.

At this point, it is thisclose to being April, and it is STILL cold around here. I have had soup, and stew, and things made in the slow cooker and I am sick of it  all! So today I decided that I can't be forced to comply with this madness, and I'm just going to go right on ahead and eat as much summery food as I want.
Exhibit A.

My Mom used to make this really good salad when we had enchiladas, with avocado, and grapefruit, and red onions. This is sort of a riff on that, and I must admit, avocados would be the icing on the cake.

-kale (4 cups, when it has been cut)
-1 pink grapefruit, supremed
-a smidge of red onion, sliced thin (less than a quarter of a small one)
-2/3 can of garbanzo beans
-1 small red pepper, julienned
-1/8c chopped cilantro
-1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar or citrus juice
-1/8 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp pepper
-1/8 tsp cumin 
-queso fresco (which I used) or avocado, crumbled or chopped depending which one

What to do with them:
Kale- when I make a kale salad, I like to cut it in very thin strips. I take out the pieces of rib that are by themselves but if they're attached to a leaf then I leave it (hey, fiber). Then I "massage" it which is less exciting than it sounds. Basically, grab it in your hands, almost like kneading bread, just to sort of soften it. It really makes the end product so much more appealing. Then, chop the pepper and cilantro

Garbanzo beans- you're not cooking these or doing anything so really wash them super well so that they don't have any of the slimy broth from the can.

Grapefruit- you're going to need to "supreme" the grapefruit. You have to slice off the peel, including the white pith. Then, very carefully slice along the membrane that separates the sections, so that you have a little section of just the inside part of the section. Go along for each one, and do that. This website has really good instructions

Dressing- mix the oil, vinegar, and spices. It is not a ton, but the grapefruit also makes liquid that contributes to the salad.

Combine it all....

Toss, and serve! It's really good- the grapefruit just bursts in your mouth, it really is the most refreshing salad in the world! In the queso fresco vs avocado debate, it's worth pointing out that taking the avocado choice is the obvious way to veganize it.

One of the reasons I'm so into kale salad is that it's one of the few salads I can think of (involving actual greens) that stands up in the fridge for leftovers. Tonight I had it with some leftover arroz con pollo but tomorrow, this is lunch!

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