Rainbow Party

Yesterday I had a rainbow party! I woke up, put on my brightest clothing (pink shirt, yellow sweater, blue polka dot skirt, and my rainbow socks!) and got to baking. You see, I had several layers to make for my rainbow cake!

Rainbow socks & baking

I decided to make red velvet cake for the red and purple layers. I used this recipe from Bitter Sweet. I doubled the recipe and then split it between two layers. For the center layers of my cake I used this amazing vegan white cake recipe from My Vegan Cookbook. SO TASTY! Since it specifically warns against doubling the recipe, I actually made it twice, then divided each batch into two colors. I sloppily iced everything with this white vegan cake icing as guests arrived! It was a mess, but soooo tasty.

Rainbow cake!

Alex got a few rainbow candies and made pink lemonade. We also made fruit and veggie platters in rainbow order, and our friends brought some more rainbow foods! It was a deliciously colorful feast :)

Rainbow fruit

I didn’t have to do much decorating, as we already have lots of color in our apartment! I did pull out my rainbow quilt. [The party was originally going to be a picnic in the park, but we were rained out. Austin needs the rain though, so no complaints here!] For the table, I laid down some sparkly cellophane, then arranged all of our rainbow food :)

Rainbow feast

Such a fun day, all dedicated to rainbows :) It was a great way to put some color into a gray and rainy day!

Menu Planning

Last summer, my husband Alex and I decided to go on a low-fat vegan diet. He stayed on it for the planned 3 months (during which we also cut out processed sugar), and I decided to stay on it indefinitely. Of course, since I do most of the cooking, he’s on the diet at home still 😉 We also cut out most processed foods, including faux meats. As a result, even though we ate relatively healthily before, we are much healthier now! But it also means that we cook a lot.

Menu planning is key. Since we both work full-time, it’s hard to go shopping every day. Knowing exactly what we need for our meals means we can make one quick trip for several days worth of food, without wasting any money on items we won’t use. So I set aside time to research recipes and plan meals ahead of time. It’s a great strategy no matter what your diet.

Menu Planning

1. Find a couple good cookbooks and/or online sources. I like to have both, so I can search depending on my mood. My current favorite cookbooks are Color Me Vegan and Big Vegan. Some great online sources are Pinterest (check out my meal board), Whole Foods, and Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.

2. Pick out your recipes. I like to pick a 1-2 that are intense (because I love a challenge!), 3-4 that take 30-60 minutes, and 1-2 that are very quick and easy. It’s good to have a variety. I also try to use recipes with  some overlapping ingredients, especially with things like parsley that come in a big bunch. If you find more recipes than you need for the week, tag them for later use.

3. Plan your week. Going out Wednesday? Leave it blank. Are Mondays always exhausting? Choose an easy meal. Can you use leftover rice from one meal in another? Plan it out. I use “The Eat Sheet” from Mommy Tracked – it’s a great printable menu planner that includes space to list ingredients (pictured above).

4. Grocery shop. I usually get 3-4 days worth of food at a time, making sure to always have staples (e.g. grains, canned beans, olive oil) in stock. This way the veggies are fresh, and I have room to shift the menu a bit if need be. (Side note: I use this grocery list)

5. Cook! Since everything is planned out and ready, there’s no last minute scrambling (or snacking for two hours while you try to figure out what to cook…or is that just me?) You just get to have fun trying new recipes and recooking old favorites :)

Well, I hope that’s helpful. I know it’s really come in handy for me! Frequently one week’s menu will last a week and a half (if we have dinner at a friend’s on night, decide to have leftovers another, etc.). Since I only buy food for a few days, I can wing it in between shopping trips. Sometimes I leave a couple days blank just to experiment!

Weeknight Chili

Tonight I made Nava’s A Big Pot of Really Good Chili (cut in half), served over brown rice. Actually, I halved everything except the spices (woops!), but it tastes delicious 😀 A little spicy. I like serving chili over brown rice to add a bit more heft. Plus it’s healthier and more filling than chips or bread. I added the suggested corn toward the end, and topped with tomatoes and cilantro – yummm!

Nava's A Big Pot of Really Good Chili

When I’ve made chili before, I’ve used dried beans soaked overnight, and it takes several hours to cook. This is a great chili for weeknights. It uses canned beans, which cook much more quickly, and it’s very tasty! I bet it would also be great with a pinch of cayenne, or topped with chopped green onions. Let me know what you think if you give it a try :)

Hiatus

Happy Saturday :) I’m been having a great start to spring so far. What about you?

I’ve been cooking a LOT – it’s really fun to eat something totally new each night :) But it has been eating (ha!) away at my schedule, too. I’ve been enjoying some time with friends and family. I’ve been knitting – getting so far on my blanket! And I’ve been working a ton. All good things, but also keeping me away from the computer (which can be a good thing).

Blanket - Halfway done?Game nightFresh veggie tacos and millet1953 Chevy truck - yumYummy asparagus and eggs dinner

You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged since Sunday. I’m taking a little hiatus from blogging…but don’t worry, I still love you 😉 I just need to spend some time elsewhere at the moment. But I’ll be back next week! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Bloglovin’ for updates!

Well, I’m off with the husband to a cactus & succulent sale at Zilker Botanical Gardens, then Whole Foods, then worrrk. Have a great weekend!

Quick & Easy Chinese

We got this book from Crate & Barrel last summer, and let me tell you: I LOVE IT.

The recipes are definitely quick & easy. I did have to buy a couple special ingredients, but they weren’t hard to find (I just didn’t usually have them on hand). The directions are clear and concise, and nothing is too complicated. And, of course, a great cookbook comes with great photos! Not every recipe has one, but they don’t need them since most of the dishes are ones you’ve seen before.

My favorite recipe from this book is Spicy Beef Lettuce Cups (although I use faux meat instead of beef). I had the dish once at P.F. Chang’s and was amazed. I’m so happy that I can cook it for myself now! I actually hosted a dinner party using just recipes from this cookbook, and it was a hit. They’re so much fun to make, and easy to modify.

I still have several recipes I want to try out 😀 I know I’ll be using this cookbook for a long time to come!

Komforte Chokolates

Why all the k’s? No idea. But as for French Toast Chockolate – why not sooner?

Komforte Chockolates

I’ve tried hot pepper chocolate and lavender chocolate, but never savory chocolate. Savory flavors + chocolate = genius. Plus, I’m all about adding chocolate to my favorite breakfast foods. And the simple, easy-to-read packaging (in bright, appropriate colors) only increases my interest. On second thought, I think I’ll try all three :)

A Tasty Upcycle

Typewriter Waffle Iron

Designed by Chris Domino in his Typewriter Series, a seemingly useless item has been given a new life as a typewriter waffle iron. As noted on Treehugger, this represents an ideal reinvention since it has minimal modification. Recycling the typewriter would be good, but upcycling it saves the energy of recycling and keeps the soul of the original product alive! Plus it puts a new and fun twist on a loved product :) Looks tasty!

Handmade Holiday: Sweetness

In addition to the Holiday Bread in a Jar and Peppermint Marshmallow recipes, I thought I would share a few that I’ve found online that just look delectable. These are recipes that I think would be great for holiday parties, for a quiet night at home, or to give as gifts!

Eggnog Fudge by Recipe Girl (who also has a list of amazing Christmas cookies):

Eggnog Fudge

Hot Chocolate on a stick by Giver’s Log:Hot Chocolate on a Stick

Homemade Cocoa and Chocolate Ganache from In Jennie’s Kitchen :homemade hot cocoa + chocolate ganache recipe

Gingerbread men from Joy of Baking: Gingerbread Men Recipe

Crunch Top Apple Pie by Paula Dean on the Food Network:Crunch Top Apple Pie

Holiday Bread Jars

Homemade Holiday Bread in a Jar

My friend Mary and I love giving home-baked gifts. And since she is an amazing chef, I asked her to help me come up with one we could bake in jars and mail to friends. She created this amazing recipe for holiday bread!

Ingredients:

  • 8 8-oz Ball jars
  • 2c flour
  • 1-½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¹⁄₈ tsp nutmeg
  • 1c buttermilk
  • 1c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ c vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1c peeled, diced apple
  • ½ c dried cherries (you can substitute raisins or craisins)
  • 1c chocolate chips

Instructions:

Recipe & ButtermilkChop ApplesZest over bowlWhish wet and dry ingredients

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease Ball jars.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, sugar, eggs, oil, zest, and vanilla.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry mix. Give three good stirs (should be about half-way mixed) and add apples, cherries, and chocolate chips. Stir to combine. [Don’t overmix! It’ll make it tough.]
  5. Fill jars about ⅔ full. Bake 35min or until done.
  6. Cool completely. If they’ve overflowed, scrape off a bit so you can put the glaze and lid on (and taste it ;))!
  7. Then spoon 1 tbs of the glaze* on each and top with sprinkles (optional).
  8. Package them up pretty and send away 😀

*Glaze: Mix 1c powdered sugar with 1 tbs orange juice (from the one you just zested!).

Put into ovenCook 35 minutes or until donePour on glazeAdd sprinkles

I hope you’re enjoying my Handmade Holiday Blogathon! Feel free to share your favorite handmade gifts/recipes/tutorials, too :)