The week in photos

First off, how cute is this tiny cupcake? I got it from the girl who cut my hair this morning, who baked them herself. I decided that since I’m trying to limit desserts now, an itty bitty cupcake was just the kind of dessert I could endorse.

This is how the haircut turned out. I’m so happy to have some shape to my hair again. Also, now that I have lost 20+ pounds, I think I deserve a pampering. (Holy sticker shock, though. I can’t believe how expensive salons are here).

It’s been really cold and rainy here this week. They’ve even talked about us possibly getting a dusting of snow or an overnight freeze. I know that sounds like nothing, but it’s a pretty big deal in a place that doesn’t get snow.

And now for the gratuitous dog snuggling photos.

Sometimes Sadie comes into the bedroom while I’m working and curls up on the pillows. Such a diva.

I didn’t really want to do this, but since I’m home during the day and get all kinds of random door knockers, I decided to try to find a tasteful ‘no solicitors’ sign. I ordered this removable stick-on from Etsy, and I think it works.

Speaking of Etsy, the shop has been hopping since the weather has been bad. I made this extra special pouf for a customer who wanted a higher-end wool yarn. I definitely wanted to keep it.

And here’s a sneak peek at what else I’ve been working on. I’ll give you a hint — it’s huge!

In the kitchen I’ve been finding ways to use Meyer lemons in my recipes. I don’t know that I love them as much as I initially thought, but it’s fun to incorporate new ingredients now and then.

Plus, citrus fruit is crazy cheap here.

I realized the other day that I still had this sugar shaker sitting out on my counter. That’s just what I need – the ability to shake sugar on my food whenever I want. So I dumped out the sugar and saved the jar for another use.

My new favorite item is my reusable plastic cup. It’s nice to have a see-through portable cup that doesn’t risk splashing water in my face accidentally (a la a Sigg or Nalgene).  This cup works much better, especially if I have a juice breakfast and need to go out and run an errand.

Well, I’m off to get under a blanket with the dogs. Enjoy your weekend!

Vegetarian French onion soup

I have been thinking for months that I needed to find a recipe for French onion soup made without beef broth, but the other night when we stopped into this cute French restaurant before our movie (The King’s Speech, loved it) I decided I finally had to do it.

I found this recipe. It sounded good (and easy), and despite my lack of adorable miniature crocks, I decided to make it in regular old soup bowls.

For once in my life I actually followed a recipe to the letter. Well, I substituted some olive oil so I didn’t use all butter, but other than that I really did stick to it.

First you cut a massive amount of onions into strips, and saute them with a bay leaf. The aroma is amazing.

Then you cook them down some more until the onions are nice and soft.

Here’s where the genius part comes in. The secret ingredient is molasses. Not only does it turn the soup that signature brown color, but it brings another layer of sweetness.

I am not wild about bread these days, but I figured if you are going to eat bread you can’t get much better than a locally made artisan baguette.

When I turned over the bread bag I noticed the key ingredient (sour starter), which makes bay area bread so good.

Toast the bread chunks before you add them to your bowl. My formula is 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes, but if you can broil things without burning them, that works too.

Fill your bowls with soup, top with a slice of bread and a slice of cheese (I tried to find gruyere but ended up with provolone), and broil until the cheese gets nice and bubbly. Just make sure your bowls are broiler-safe!

We also had a mixed green salad — I think it’s always a good idea to have some kind of veggie side with dinner to keep you from filling up on main-dish seconds.

Unfortunately I thought this bagged salad from Trader Joe’s tasted like I had pulled up a bunch of weeds from the back yard. Blech. But I am not a huge bagged salad fan. I guess I have learned my lesson!

Anyway, the soup turned out fantastic, and I will definitely make it again. I wasn’t sure you could veganize the real thing, but now I’m a believer.

South Indian black eyed peas

The other day I was flipping through our many public access channels and came across a show about healthy South Indian cooking. I scrambled to write down some recipes, but only got parts of them, so I attempted to recreate this one at home.

I had to reach into the depths of my spice shelf to find some of the ingredients, and I was surprised to find that we actually had them (probably not the freshest, but they worked in a pinch).

I had also never cooked with black eyed peas before, if you can believe it. I guest most beans are pretty much the same, and you could probably substitute whatever beans you had on hand for this.

I thought this turned out really great, and I will definitely make it again. The tomato-y sauce, turned orange by a pinch of turmeric, reminded me of so many Indian dishes I’ve had in restaurants. We poured this over slices of day-old bread, which soaked up the sauce perfectly, but I’m sure it would be great over rice or naan.

South Indian black eyed peas

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cans black eyed peas, drained
1/2 large onion sliced
1 medium tomato sliced into chunks
1/4 fresh mango sliced into chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 whole hot chiles
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black (or yellow) mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt to taste
1 cup tomato sauce

Start by heating a deep skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil. When it’s hot drop in the chiles, mustard seeds and fenugreek. Pretty soon the seeds will start popping like popcorn so watch out!

Next drop in the onions and saute until they’re translucent.

Now you can add your tomato and mango chunks and let them soften and cook down a little.

Turn down the heat to medium and drop in the rest of the spices, the garlic, and the tomato sauce.

Stir all that together, then dump in the black eyed peas.

Cover the pan, and let it simmer over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Remove the chiles before serving.

The best oatmeal

I was starting to get a little sick of juices and smoothies, so I thought I’d try a different breakfast food that I felt was equally healthy. I bought some quick oats, just your standard Quaker can variety, and a bunch of fresh berries. Instead of milk I used almond milk, and that little extra bit of flavor makes all the difference to me.

My favorite oatmeal

1/2 cup quick oats
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup of your favorite berries
Drizzle of agave nectar

Mix up the oats and almond milk in a bowl and microwave them for about 3 minutes, or until you get the consistency you like. Drizzle on the agave nectar (just a little bit!) and sprinkle on your berries.

I love oatmeal, too, because it’s such a great base for whatever toppings you want to put on. Maybe dried fruit or nuts — I’m thinking figs and walnuts — or a drizzle of maple syrup would be better on a different day.

Alapaca fingerless gloves

Mother Nature finally caught up with us the last couple days. It is nasty out there! Chilly, windy, rainy, and every once in a while it starts hailing.

When it’s like that outside it’s always a little chillier inside, too, so I decided I needed some fingerless gloves to wear around the house. The alpaca yarn I got for Christmas turned out to be perfect for this project. I put two of the thin strands together and just did a stockinette stitch with a little ribbing on both ends for stretchiness.

They’re fuzzy and warm and perfect for days like this.

Knit sign, all finished

I almost forgot to share this with you!

After a fresh coat of purple paint, my knit sign is complete. I think it turned out really well. After I did the lettering I felt like it needed a little something extra so I made some crochet flowers with extra yarn I had.

Now I just have to find some shows where I can show it off.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Even though it’s kind of a gloomy day here and I couldn’t get a great picture, I wanted to show you what Mike got instead of flowers for Valentine’s Day.

It’s an orange tree!

They’re mandarin oranges, so they’ll be pretty small, and I’m not sure if we’ll get any this spring or not. But there’s tons of buds on it, and it’s a great addition to our teeny yard, which needed a little something special.

I’ll also be enjoying this gloomy day with my new tea set.

I ordered it from Delight.com when I found out they were closing shop and offering a 40 percent discount. I just can’t believe they won’t exist anymore. I loved ordering gifts (especially for myself!) from their great selection.

Speaking of good places to order things online, have you ever ordered anything from Purl? I got some new knitting needles and they were sweet enough to include some extra yarn samples.

The more I looked at them the more I saw a little cup cozy in there. So I made one.

I spilled a little coffee on the one I’ve been carrying in my purse, so this is my trusty replacement.

I’ve been knitting (and crocheting) up a storm lately, so I’ll have more projects to share soon.

Hope you are enjoying this day with the sweethearts in your life!

Last day of the cleanse

I can’t believe I’m almost done with my cleanse. This morning I had my orange-est breakfast yet.

I was almost out of produce so I just made apple-carrot juice (3 big carrots, 2 apples). It was pretty tasty.

I don’t think things will vastly change tomorrow, as I plan to keep eating pretty much the same. The only thing I’m dying to do is add back some acidic foods. I can’t tell you how much I miss bananas!

Speaking of bananas, have you downloaded these Valentine fruit stickers yet?

I’m not gonna say that any food is totally completely off-limits, but my goal is to cut out refined sugar, white rice or bread, dairy products, and as many processed foods as possible. I’ll probably still have juice for breakfast, then regular meals for lunch and dinner.

We’re having pecan-crusted tilapia, veggies, and dark chocolate-dipped strawberries for our Valentine’s Day treat. No conversation hearts, no Reese’s hearts, no red velvet cake this year. It’s very tempting, but I think I can resist.

I’m trying to make some adjustments around the house to facilitate healthy eating. I got rid of our butter dish, and turned the cookie jar into a jar of quick oats for oatmeal.

I want to go to World Market and get some more glass jars to keep lentils, beans, quinoa, and the like in. I’m thinking it will help if I open up my pantry and see all these cute jars of healthy foods lined up rather than a mess of half-full bags of things.

I also went through my recipe binder and took out all the desserts and super-rich recipes — everything that I’d now call a really special occasion recipe — and put them in a different binder. That gave me an excuse to go to Target and get a new cute one!

I had cut all of these articles out of magazines about healthy meal and snack ideas, so I moved those up to the front in case I need something quick and can’t think of anything to make.

I don’t know why, but I had a really hard time breaking up with these guys.

But eventually I decided to get rid of them completely. Out of sight, out of mind. On the plus side, I’ve been having Moroccan mint iced tea during the day and it’s really good. I forgot I had so many great teas in my pantry.

And finally, I reworked my grocery list so it has all things I’d like to see us buy regularly on it.

It’s such an easy thing to do – just make yourself a Word document with all the things you need from different departments and print out a few copies to keep posted on the fridge.

When I get some free time I’ll be reworking the recipe archive on here, too. Mike has some ideas for making it more user-friendly, so we’ll play around with it.

Hope you get to watch the Grammys tonight, and have a sweet, relaxing Valentine’s Day. I know we will!

Kale chips

Did you know you can buy kale chips in a package just like regular chips?

I haven’t tried making my own yet, because I usually use up all my kale in the juicer. But I thought I’d try these when I needed a Superbowl snack option, and they were pretty tasty. The chili-lime coating definitely helped them seem more like snack food.

I also sliced my first mango this morning. Can you believe I’ve never actually bought a fresh mango before?

I put it in a breakfast smoothie, but it definitely didn’t achieve the same shake-like effect that frozen mango chunks have. I think I’ll stick to fresh mango for salsas or eating plain.

I’m now on week 4 of my cleanse, and I feel pretty great. I don’t need as much sleep at night, my pants are loose, and I almost never feel hungry during the day, despite eating way less than I used to. I’m starting to get into a routine with shopping and cooking. Eating out remains a challenge, but at least it’s easier here where most restaurants offer brown rice instead of white and have much smaller portions.

Another mood booster – it has been absolutely gorgeous here for something like 3 straight weeks, with some days of near-record highs. My neighbor’s tree is actually blooming in our backyard. It feels like spring!

Quinoa burgers

These are the best veggie burgers I’ve ever made.

Normally I have a lot of problems with burgers that are too dry, fall apart, or just generally don’t resemble a burger in the traditional sense. But the secret here – binding your burgers with hummus – is genius!

Plus, this recipe is vegan and gluten-free, so it’s a home run.

Quinoa burgers
adapted slightly from savvyvegetarian.com

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (I used my mix of red and white quinoa)
1/2 cup hummus
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari
4 tablespoons brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil, coriander, paprika and garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon thyme
Pinch of salt and pepper

Mix everything in a big bowl. Divide into four patties. Heat a little olive oil and brown for about 5 minutes on each side.