Rediscovering: soda crate

Looky what I found.

Back when I first moved to Des Moines (for the third time) in 2006 I asked my mom to find me a soda crate so I could make it into a little herb garden. I pulled out some of the slats and lined it with plastic, then filled it up with dirt. It was a total fail. Seedlings are hard enough to grow with their own little dishes with a grow light. This setup just wouldn’t work, and larger plants would need more depth for roots, I think. The plants died and I gave up.

But I found the crate in the garage today, and thought it was worth rescuing. I cleaned it out and tried to push the slats back in.

Me: What do you call that thing you use to pound in stakes?

Mike: A tenderizer?

Me: No, like garden stakes.

Mike: Oh, a mallet.

Me: Do we have a mallet?

Mike: Yeah. It’s in the garage.

Me, to myself: Of course we have a mallet. All guys have mallets. Duh.

So anyway, I pounded in the stubborn slats and got it looking back to normal. Only now i don’t know what to do with it. I already have a magazine rack, and I don’t really have knick knacks small enough to display in the holes. Also, now that I have pounded the heck out of those slats with a mallet, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to get them back out, should I want larger openings.

For now, it’s just sitting in the entryway looking retro. I love it.

New items in my Etsy shop!

TGI-Furlough because I’ve actually had time to work on some more crafts this week. I wanted to do something spring-y, and because I was on a thumb tack roll, I thought I would make some more of those. I also made some in magnet version. A few of the sets use vintage fabric or vintage buttons.

But I am in love with the little orange polka dot ones. Can you tell?

I’ll have more of these for sale later this month at Craft Saturday. Hope you can come!

BBQ bean balls

This recipe is from some of our friends in the impromptu vegetarian group we formed here. There was already a group, but they seemed a bit … not like us? I don’t want to be a part of a vegetarian group that takes itself too seriously. I am doing this for my reasons, and I don’t really care why anyone else does it. It just helps to know cool people who also eat this way, in a town that reveres bacon above all else.

Anyway, I heard that this was adapted from Veganomican, a book that’s been on my want list for a long time. But I rarely use the cookbooks I do have, so I’m getting by without it. It kind of fills the need for a meatball like dish that you can put in a crock pot and take to a Superbowl party. Usually I just eat it for dinner with some starchy side.

BBQ Bean Balls

28 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 T. barbecue sauce, plus 1/3 c. for later
2 T. olive oil plus a little extra for baking
2 cloves garlic minced (I threw in a shallot this time and it was delish, too.)
1/2 c. plain bread crumbs
1/4 c. vital wheat gluten (you’ll find this in the baking section)
Pinch of oregano
Pinch of thyme
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes (how’s that for a measurement?)

I ALWAYS use KC Masterpiece barbecue sauce for this. I’m from Kansas – I pretty much have to. Actually, I just really like it.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mash the beans in a mixing bowl until no whole beans are left. Add remaining ingredients and mix with your hands.

Roll mixture into walnut sized balls and place on a nonstick baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the balls.

Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove them from the oven and in a bowl, mix up 1/3 c. barbecue sauce and 1/3 c. water.

Move the balls into a baking dish, pour the barbecue sauce on top, and put them back in to bake for 5-10 minutes.

I’ll be honest — this is not the most attractive dish you’ll ever prepare. But I think you’d be surprised how tasty they are. And I imagine they have significantly less fat than the oily meatballs you usually find in a Crock Pot.

I always end up adding a little more barbecue sauce to my plate, just because they get dry really easily. Or maybe because I just love the sauce.

Home fries revisited

One of the first recipes I ever posted on this blog was for my unabashedly buttery home fries. They are always a hit because the combination of golden potatoes, salty butter and a kick of cayenne pepper is heavenly. I made them again last weekend, this time adding a bit of green pepper into the mix because it sounded good. And I think I like it even better.

So here’s the recipe again. Do treat yourself.

Home fries

2 large golden potatoes (or 4 small ones), thin sliced into 1-inch pieces
1/2 an onion, thin sliced
4 T. butter
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. cayenne pepper

1. Heat a large skillet over medium and melt your butter. Then add the potatoes and onions. While they’re cooking, season with salt, pepper and cayenne.

2. Cover, and continue cooking on medium about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. At this point, taste your taters, and if they’re a little bland, hit ’em with a little more seasoning (and if you’re brave, another pat of butter).

Beans, zucchini and tomatoes over couscous

This is another one of my go-to weeknight dinners. I got the recipe from a blogger at work, changed it just a little, and have made it over and over again.

Recently I’ve started buying dried beans and then soaking and cooking them myself. Beans are cheap either way, but cooking them yourself does seem to bring more flavor (and perhaps less salt) than using the canned ones. If I have the time I’ll do it, and for this recipe Great Northern beans work great.

Beans, zucchini and tomatoes over couscous

1 large zucchini, partially peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste


1 cup couscous, dry
1 1/2 cups water
pinch of salt

I like to peel a few strips off the zucchini skin, but leave a few for a little color.

In a big skillet saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Toss in the zucchini and cook a few minutes more. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs.

Add the remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat about 15 minutes until it’s thickened and bubbly.

For the couscous, bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the couscous. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Loving: pepper grinder

I found this great pepper grinder on sale at for only $8. We ruined our old one by setting it on top of an oily stovetop, which made it produce oily clumps of pepper, if anything at all. We promise to be nicer to this one.

I just love the little detail at the top.

I don’t see it on sale anymore, but they do have this darling blue one, also for $7.95. But I have to warn you that it’s very dangerous to click over there if you just want to look.

I filled it with India tellicherry peppercorns from Penzeys.

Because not only do we have gay marriage in Iowa we have a totally awesome spice store.

Breakfast of champions

One part organic vanilla yogurt (with a little swipe of cream on top)
One part Heartland Granola cereal
One part fresh blueberries

My thumbtacks in Country Living

This is pretty exciting. When I first heard about it I wasn’t going to believe it until I saw it. And then today I saw it!

The May issue of Country Living magazine features my little gingham button thumbtacks in a spread about all things gingham and adorable. Mine are the blue and purple ones.

I have plenty of these little guys in stock and can make more (or make them into refrigerator magnets).

The story behind the fabric is that it was used to make a baby blanket years ago. My mom gave me all the leftover scraps, and this is what I did with them. I always thought they were cute, so it’s nice to know someone else does, too.

Recipe archive

Need an idea for dinner tonight? Or a dish to take to a potluck? Here you’ll find links to all of the recipes I’ve prepared for my blog, with photos and tutorials. Yum!


Home fries Huevos rancheros
Potatoes, eggs, peas and cheese Vegetarian biscuits and gravy
Yogurt-blueberry bowl Carrot muffins


BBQ Bean Balls Broccoli rice casserole
Beans, Zucchini and Tomatoes Over Couscous Easy egg salad
Easy tostadas Inside-out egg rolls
(Not) beef stroganoff Onion and herb pasta
Pesto Genovese (with pasta) Potato enchiladas
Quick veggie curry Shipwreck stew
Sweet pea risotto gratin Sweet potato and black bean burritos
3-bean chipotle chili Tofu-wild rice casserole
Tortilla soup Vegetarian Cassoulet
Vegetarian chili mac Wild-rice stuffed acorn squash
Pita Pizzas Green fajitas
Fresh tomato sauce African Groundnut Stew
Super cheesy manicotti Zucchini bread pudding
Guilt-free mac ‘n cheese Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie


Baked beans Deviled eggs
Guacamole and taco spice blend Nature’s powerbars
The perfect roasted asparagus Quinoa with corn and scallions
Ratatouille Healthy tofu hummus
Red quinoa salad Sweet potato fries
Green beans with shallots Fresh cucumber salsa
Applesauce Spinach tartlets
Aunt Lark’s tabbouleh


Apple crisp Meyer lemon coffee cake
Muffin tin pies Nectarine Tart
Pants cake Strawberry rhubarb pie
Strawberry rhubarb crisp Strawberry shortcake
Zucchini bread Rhubarb shortbread tart
Devil’s food cake Pumpkin bars
No-knead bread


Chocolate crinkles Chocolate sandwich cookies
Nestle tollhouse chocolate chip cookies and red velvet sandwiches NY Times chocolate chip cookies
Snickerdoodles Peanut butter ball cookies
Candy stripe cookie sticks Sugar cookies
Chocolate Suzies Peanut blossoms


Chocolate-dipped strawberries Mini puddin’ pies
Rice pudding Caramel apples