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March 29, 2017

Matcha Latte and Baking


Japanese Matcha, finely powdered green tea leaf, is known for its extraordinary antioxidant properties and calming effects.  By consuming not just a steeped liquid but the full leaf in the form of the stone-ground powder, the nutritional profile is heightened.  Amino acids like theanine are elevated in Matcha leaves by covering the plant in shade for the last three weeks of growth before harvest.  Matcha bars are popping up around town, as devotees have coalesced into a following.  A highlight of my weekend was visiting Shuhari Matcha Cafe in Venice with a group from Food Bloggers Los Angeles. 

Traditional Matcha Tea Ceremony
The Shuhari staff demonstrated a traditional tea ceremony and taught us how to make Matcha.  The most important element to their ceremony was the tea water, controlled at a careful 85 degrees F.   We sampled cold mochi ice cream and delicious pound cake.  


Pound Cake in Chocolate, Matcha, and Traditional Vanilla
We enjoyed the private garden at Shuhari where our organizer talked about the history of Japanese tea ceremonies and the Samuri warriors who originated matcha.

Matcha Sparkler
Matcha Macaron
I had heard of and had drunk matcha before our tour, but I didn't know much about the history, and certainly hadn't used it in baking.  Turns out there are a hundred ways to use the fragrant powder.  One of our members posted a round up of tasty matcha treats in Los Angeles published by Eater.  I'm thinking of starting to bake with matcha with a simple pound cake like this one from Food & Wine magazine.  If you're looking for idea inspiration, here are a couple of round ups that were fun to browse:  from Food & Wine and from Cooking Light.

What's your favorite out-of-the-mainstream ingredient to use in baking, or another non-traditional mode? 

March 23, 2017

Crockpot Vegan Butternut Mac N Cheese


I was intrigued by a food blogger's recipe post for a mac and cheese that was not only vegan, but made in a crockpot, and featured butternut squash.  I couldn't wait to try it - but of course added my own twists, so I'm publishing my own recipe here, with a nod of thanks to the original by Kathy Hester at Healthy Slow Cooking.  

Like Kathy, I cooked my mac in my low-tech, standard size crock pot, which I believe holds 2.5 quarts.  It's a manual version and cost me $12 when I finally had to replace it this year, after my decade-old one was wrecked in an unfortunate dog-food incident.  The bigger crock pots may affect this recipe negatively, as the lower volume will make it hard for the sauce to properly coat and cook the pasta.  My recipe differs from hers in that I did my measuring in my shopping - I used whole cans and bags of prepped veggies, so most ingredients didn't have to be measured out.  This convenience shopping may not be economical, but if it gets me to eat my veggies, there's an objective in mind.  Also, I encourage anyone to add veggies your family loves - peas, mushrooms, cut up cauliflower florets.  I'm partial to mushrooms, and I added the basil as well. 

Please leave me a comment with your favorite vegan or crock pot meals.  I'd love to hear what you're cooking!

Crockpot Vegan Mac N Cheese

1 large (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice
2 (2 lb) bags Trader Joe's cubed butternut squash
1 (4 in) sprig rosemary
1/4 -1/2 tsp minced garlic

Add all above to crock pot bag and heat, covered, on low for 6-8 hours.  Be sure to include the liquid from the can of tomatoes in the crock pot as well.  

In the evening, add nutritional yeast and soymilk to the crockpot and blend with immersion blender.  

1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 cups soymilk
1 box whole wheat elbow pasta
(optional) 1 bag Trader Joe's Mushroom Medley (seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and parsley), roasted
(optional) 1 cube frozen minced basil

In the evening, add nutritional yeast and soymilk to the crockpot and blend with immersion blender.  Once pureed, mix in the pasta, mushrooms, and basil and cover on low heat.  After 20 minutes, stir and test the pasta.  If sauce is too thick, add a bit more liquid (milk or water).  If the pasta is not yet al dente, continue to cook, checking every ten minutes until done. 

March 21, 2017

Hasselback Potatoes


I gave in today.  I experimented with the latest food trend, Hasselback Potatoes, which is just a baked potato, fan cut and roasted with seasonings.  And for all my pooh-on-trends attitude, it is oh-so-good.  Simple and easy, even a first time novice like me can get it right.


The key is to slice the potato as thinly as you can cut, leaving just a thin strip of the bottom still connected.  Envision potato chips; go for 1/16 inch slices, and you'll probably achieve an eighth of an inch, which will work just fine.  A tip is to set the potato in the cup of a wooden spoon.  The spoon will prevent you from cutting all the way through the potato, while leaving an even depth of cut to fan the potato.  Once sliced, fan it out and drizzle with just a bit of olive oil.  Shake Smoked Paprika and garlic salt, and stuff every other ridge or so with sliced sharp cheddar.  

Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or until potato is tender.  I covered the potato with tin foil after about 20 minutes of baking so as to prevent the cheese from burning, but if you like your skin extra crispy, you might not need to do that.  

Serve with sour cream, scallions, or any other favorite potato topping.  I served mine with classic Onion Soup Dip for extra zest.




March 20, 2017

How I Came to Care about Health.....Mine and Yours



Recently, I achieved my first level of accomplishment in Toastmasters, the "CC" or Competent Communicator, which signals that I have completed ten speeches and the first manual of study.  It took about two and a half years for this achievement.  My first speech in Toastmasters was an "icebreaker" intended to tell a little bit about myself.  I set out to explain how I came to care about health, mine and yours. 

I was raised in the midwest on bubble gum and soda pop....literally. My grandpa owned a Pepsi distributing company in Southern Illinois, and his brother owned the distributorship in the next county over.  I spent my vacations and summers playing with bottlecaps in the Plant, using stamps meant for labeling bottles as toys. 

my Grandpa's Plant

Grandpa "Rosie" Rosentreter in his office at the plant

My grandfather and my brother riding the forklift

My grandpa and his brother, Harold, grew up on a dairy farm, where they first added an orange drink to their line.  In the 1930s-50s that became their own soda line.  Then they became Pepsi bottlers when one mixed syrup and actually bottled the drink, then distributors when it was commercially/centrally made.  The plant was sold in 1986 when my grandfather got cancer and  passed away. 
 
My grandpa's brother, Harold, riding his team in a parade
Our family bottling label from the 30s-50s
I moved around several times growing up, first from Illinois to Utah.  I had a systemic allergic reaction to Salt Lake City when I was in high school, and fought allergies, asthma, and chronic bronchitis as a teen.  I had to figure out how to activate my immune system.  I hated steroid inhalers that make me shaky.  The first step to stopping an asthma attack is to keep myself from getting so anxious it snowballs. 

In my twenties I moved to southern California to work in entertainment as a freelancer.  As a union Assistant Director, I keep film and television productions on schedule and on budget, coordinating between all departments and physically running the set as part of a team.  It's a physically demanding job with long hours, steadily 14-16 per day when I'm working.  When I'm not on a show, looking for work is a full time job.  And I have to stay positive.  

Myself with Betty White
I started blogging for fun, to share my love of crafting, cooking and baking. I made my logo from the still life at my house, and turned to my collection of cookbooks to explore, while chronicling local events.  Setting out to write about one positive thing each day kept me optimistic as I began my union career, and gave people in the union a way to get to know me, as I was businesslike and too busy to chat much on set. 

Squirrel at my birdfeeder used for my blog logo
A pie competition
To keep some inter-generational contact in my life while living states away from family, I started volunteering with kids as a 4-H leader.  I grew up in 4-H and understood the impact it had in my own life.  Being a leader at summer camp was great fun.  Volunteering gave me roots in the community I had chosen.


As a kid, I grew up ice skating and playing softball.  I have to admit as an adult I'd become fairly sedentary, apart from work.  



One of the biggest health influences in my life has been watching my dad struggle with weight, diabetes, and subsequent joint issues.  I've seen him struggle emotionally and observed how his health struggles have hindered him physically over the years.   While I had a great metabolism growing up, I realized a pattern of slowed metabolism in the late thirties, and knew without good habits, I would be woefully unprepared. 


around 2001 at Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga
around 2014
I tried to take proactive steps as an adult to find exercise habits that worked for me.  I'm not perfect.  I'll never be a marathon runner or gym rat.  While the process of establishing healthy habits is ongoing, I know I have to be original and yet true to myself to make them stick.  I got a dog in part to encourage myself to walk, and took group classes in hula hooping.  I made friends, and had a ton of fun hanging in a park on weekends to hoop.  I explored gardening for pleasure at my small guesthouse backyard and experimented with vegetarian cooking.   Renewing my commitment to being healthy is something I have to do over and over again.  But it's important to me, so I come back. 






All these life passions came together when I decided to obtain my Health Coaching certification through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and slowly build my own coaching business, Golden Hour Health Coaching.  By helping others explore their motivations, set and obtain health goals, I am finding my own passion for living well. 






March 4, 2017

Mourning Chance


I lost my beautiful, ten year old, first dog, first child, best friend, baby boy Chance on October 11th, 2016.  He was with me for a quarter of my life, and through most of my adult growing up.  I had to make the choice to let him go, something I've never had to do for another pet.  The hole he left in my heart is unspeakable, and I've had trouble telling his story.  His name came from the fact he took a Chance on me, a first-time dog owner who had the great luck of having him fall in my lap unexpectedly in the first place. 

I want to tell both his beginning and ending, but this post is more about my grieving, as I've had so many friends lose pets recently, or perhaps am just hyper sensitive and noticing more since losing my baby. I didn't know how to memorialize him when I lost Chance, and I would have loved to have a list with different options in one place.  Some of these were craft projects I made myself, some are things I ordered from others, and some were gifts.  They've helped me to mark the importance of my Chance, and of his death, in my life.


Firstly, I knew I'd have to decide what to do with his ashes.  When Chance was sick with pneumonia about ten months before I lost him, I took the time to search for urns, so that I wouldn't have to do that in a hurry or when bereaved.  I have multiple pets, and I knew I'd want urns to be in keeping with each other, but be distinguishable.  I searched online and also specifically searched Etsy.  I found two ceramic vases or urns that I could use ready-made, but ended up ordering one custom made from the same person's site.  Artist HeamarKat is located near me in Long Beach, CA.  I spent about $50 per urn for three urns, including shipping.  I didn't know which I'd use first, but when the time came I was ready for Chance.  Because the urn is ceramic and I live in earthquake-prone area, his ashes are in a bag inside the urn, so if it ever does break, I won't lose anything.  I should mention the urn came plain--next I'll tell about how I personalized it.

The crystal sculpture came from 3D Laser Gifts.  I bought a LivingSocial voucher that was offered in the fall for folks to use as Christmas gifts.  I'm not sure I chose the right photo for it, as they made his paws look huge.  The side table where I placed his urn next to the sculpture sits in the corner of my room, at the foot of the couch, and I have to admit that I like seeing his face peering up at me when I sit down.  With the voucher, I spent about $30 for it.  I think they run them often on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, so hunt around a bit before purchasing direct from the site. 


The crematorium made an imprint of Chance's paw on a rough clay circle.  It didn't look finished, and they actually put a big gash in the clay next to his pawprint, so I didn't want to affix it to Chance's urn.  Instead I got some sculpey clay from the craft store and made a reverse print from the imprint they had made.  I'd never used sculpey before, so I did a few practice prints to see how much of the clay I should use, and which color I would like best - I bought a silver and a brown.  In the end, I chose what I felt was the best print for his urn, which came out to be about three inches round.  The smaller test prints I used jewelry findings to make a magnet, a keychain, and an ornament for my Christmas tree.  The ornament one is made of the silver sculpey so it will stand out against green.  I think it was the first print I made, and it was a bit offset in the circle of clay, which turned out to be a good thing as I could write his name and the date of his passing using a sharpie.  I spent under $15 on the sculpey material for all these tokens, and baked them in my toaster oven so they are solidly finished.  




I also had a tag made for my keychain with Chance's picture on one side and his birth and death dates on the back.  If you order from k9.com use type B2 to get a photo only without a color border.  They're about $10. 


I've had the square magnet with the drawing of Chance for a long time.  I order magnets in that style from Zazzle.  They're cheap and make great personalized gifts.  The pawprint magnet shows the shimmer of the silver sculpey I used. 


I've gotten a few ornaments printed each year for the last several years from Picture It On Canvas.  They have great holiday templates if you want to include a frame or text.  They offer several different styles, but I usually order the metal ones.  And they often run sales--I wait until I see a 72% off coupon to order.  I wanted Chance on my tree, and to mark the occasion of this painful year, so I used the photo of his urn when the light first shone on it.  The shape I used above is their "metal benelux."



Before Chance died, I used a nose impression kit ordered from DogEarDesign on Etsy to make an impression of his snout. I wanted someone local to cast it, because I was afraid of the mold being lost or damaged in shipping.  But I couldn't find anyone around me, so again I turned to Etsy, and I found the most wonderful, sympathetic soul in Brenda of BrendaKesslerDesigns.  She cast one nose with a hole to be worn as a necklace, and one without to be affixed to Chance's urn.  She also scanned the pawprint that the crematorium had made, and reduced it to size to make a necklace medallion of Chance's exact pawprint.  Both charms had a lovely tag on the back with his name, birth and death dates.  I wear them every day.  Lastly, I had gotten an Origami Owl locket some time ago, where I kept all of my babies' puppy teeth, as well as a whisker from Claire, and a bit of nail clipping from Chance (he had notoriously long nails).  I did eventually take the locket off the chain when it once opened.  I am keeping it at home until I am ready to permanently glue it shut. 

The vintage chain that I first used eventually broke as I would take it on and off over my head, so I ordered a 24" Spiga silver chain from Dreamland Jewelry.  I found the longer length to be a great way to keep the charms near without having people ask about him, as I could hide them inside my shirt on days when I didn't want to tell his story.


A few years ago I did some photos of Chance and Claire to use to make silhouettes.  It came in handy when I found a Living Social voucher for a customizable silhouette necklace from Monogramhub.com.  The "My Dog Is Next To My Heart" necklace is available in a choice of breeds, or you can upload your own photo.  I had Chance's made in sterling silver from the photo below.




I've long had a dream to have artwork of my pups in lots of different styles.  My facebook friend Amy Estep painted this lovely watercolor of Chance.  She works in acrylics or watercolors, and I specifically requested watercolor, since I don't have anything of the dogs in that style.  We became friends because we are both active in rescue.  She can be found on facebook or by email at gentlewinds2003@yahoo.com.  Contact her directly for pricing.




Talented artist Lyn Hamer Cook occasionally runs contests on her facebook page for a "Pet of the Week."  I sent her the above photo of Chance, and she painted the 8x10 oil painting of Chance below, along with three other dog paintings.  Each pet owner had a weekend to garner "likes" on facebook of our individual paintings and the winner of the contest received the painting of the pet.  Because I'd just lost Chance, lots of people rallied to help me receive the painting, and I'm so thankful.  Find Lyn on the page "Dog Art by Lyn" on facebook or at her etsy shop linked above.  An 8x10 oil painting is typically about $100. 




A friend gifted me with this Mourninglight with Chance's picture and inscription, and it's been so comforting.  I bought battery operated votive candles in the after-Christmas sales, so I don't have to worry about flames around my pets.  I ended up putting this votive in my bedroom and light it as a ritual as I go to bed, when I would normally have been putting Chance up to sleep with me.  It's a soft nightlight and my last kiss to my boy before bed.  Either a black and white or color photo can be used.  They cost around $30. 




One thing I knew I would want to do at some point is to plant a memorial garden in Chance's memory.  Lu Worman paints beautiful pet portraits on large smooth rocks perfect for a garden.  I know her through rescue on facebook at Petrocks, but she also has an etsy shop called Lovepetrocks.  I took so many photos of the stone she made for me because it has such detail.  I found myself taking it in anew from a different angle each time I looked at it for several weeks.   Prices vary depending on the size of the rock you order.  







This pillow is a great huggable item when I'm missing my boy.  I love the halo and angel wings they add.  You upload three images in order of preference, and their digital artist will send you a proof before printed.  A second image added to the back is an additional charge.  For this two sided pillow, it was about $75 with shipping. 

One thing I've not gotten, but looks really neat, are the stuffed likenesses of your pet made by Petsies.  They're lifesize and life-like, custom made to match your photos.  They run about $200. 



I was able to mash together a photo of the first moment I saw Chance with one of the two of us on the day he died, thanks to my phone.  I printed the photo out myself as a 5x7 using the machine at the local Walgreens, then trimmed and laminated it at Kinkos.  I punched holes in the laminating material and added some ribbons to create a bookmark.  I actually made a few of these, and one of them I keep in the glove compartment of my car.  I don't know how often I'll pull it out, but it comforts me to know he's near and available whenever I need a reminder of how very loved he was.  This was another craft project that cost me under ten bucks, for printing, laminating, and buying the ribbon.


Here's Caitie with the bookmark for a bit of size reference--of her or of it, I'm not sure.  She wanted to be helpful and involved when I was trying to photograph the object.  ;o)




Another friend through a facebook pet page has done a digital portrait of Caitie in the past.  I had just taken a welcome photo for our facebook page about a month before Chance died.  I wanted to keep his memory alive on our pet page, but to make it obvious that he had passed on so that people who were new to our page would understand.  So I asked Sir Luke's mom to add angel wings to this photo.  She did a lovely job.  I've kept this as our cover photo since it was finished.  If you'd like to contact her about a digital portrait go here or email sirlukethedoodle@gmail.com.

 

Another way I paid tribute to Chance was by making a donation to the local shelter.  Though Chance didn't come from a shelter, I knew he would want me to pay it forward.  It was a rainy day about a month after he passed, when I felt ready.  I got about 25 blankets from the local store and took them to East Valley shelter to drop them off.  I know the animals there appreciated the small bit of comfort I was able to bring to them. 





The hardest part of all this has been moving on--changing my icons and even my phone case to pictures of the girls, to reflect my current status and avoid having to answer questions or state that I'd lost my baby.  It took me months to design a phone case without Chance, and especially to be ready to change my google icon on my emails, on Skype, and other online sites to be one of me with just the girls.

My new profile/icon pic, just me and the girls.


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