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May 20, 2014

Homemade Chai Tea Latte


I love the idea of having a signature drink on hand throughout the summer.  And I've been trying to wean myself off coffee, at least in part.  So when hostess/chef Carla from the talk show The Chew demonstrated how to make homemade Chai Tea Latte, I thought I'd give it a shot.  Carla's best suggestion was to make this in quantity.  She was right, as I have been guzzling iced chai throughout Southern California's recent hundred-degree heat waves.  I used my biggest soup pot to make this.  Still, I had to make the recipe twice to use up the case of almond milk that I purchased from Costco.  That was okay too, as it allowed me to prepare about three or four days' worth, and I didn't have to make the second batch until mid-week.  

Homemade Chai Tea Latte

Heat almond milk just to a simmer, being careful not to let it boil, stirring frequently or constantly while heating to prevent scalding on the bottom of the pan.  Add two chai tea bags per carton of milk used.  Proportionally, I used 3 cartons almond milk, six tea bags, three cinnamon sticks, 1/2 c. honey, and 1/3 c. vanilla.  Optional add-ins include ground nutmeg, ground cardamom, cloves, or some sort of chilis.  Once heated, allow tea bags to steep for 4-6 minutes.  Use a funnel to ladle the liquid back into the milk cartons.  Store in fridge for iced chai latte. 

Do you have a signature drink that you enjoy in hot weather?  If you have a recipe to share, please leave a link in the blog comments.

May 10, 2014

Beading with Czech Glass


Crafting with others is often much more fun than doing it alone.  However, traveling with supplies poses some problems, as I discovered when I took all my beads on an out of state trip.  I had a great organizer, so I thought, and was traveling by car, so no problem, right?  But when the organizer tipped on its side, I ended up with a mishmosh of seed beads in a new rainbow combination.  That was four years ago, and the mess was so mixed up I avoided it all this time.  But I've had fun this month finally reorganizing my beading supplies.  The mixed up seed beads ended up in a donation pile to become someone else's problem, but all my other beads are neatly sorted in new see-through bins.  

Often when I go out of town, my souveniers brought home end up being a few strings of beads.  These Czech glass beads were my reminders of my latest trip to Nashville.  I strung them this week as my "power bracelet" in shades of carnelian and gold.

Do you often wear jewelry you've made yourself, or do you tend to give away most everything you make?  What sizes of beads do you enjoy working with?  Feel free to leave a comment on the blog.

May 5, 2014

Pear & Gorgonzola Marinated Tofu


Lazy summer cooking....It's been 95 degrees at my home this week, and I can't bear to use even the toaster oven.  Luckily tofu steaks are great pan fried or served cold, plain.  I bought a case of tofu at Costco, and I'm marinating a package (four patties) at a time.  Great now to eat cold on a bed of greens, as here, plated on a bed of spinach and garnished with pistachios, but it will be sublime in a month or so when everyone in the neighborhood begins firing up their grills.  And the easiest shortcut of all is using your favorite salad dressing as a marinade.  I used Trader Joe's Pear and Gorgonzola dressing for this lunch.  Once dressed, the tofu will last 4-5 days in the refrigerator. 

What are your favorite marinades or salad dressings?  Please leave a comment on the blog.

May 4, 2014

Shirred Eggs with Lentils and Bruschetta


My foodie addiction of late has been Trader Joe's Steamed Lentils mixed with their Trader Giotto's branded Bruschetta Sauce.  The lentils are pre-cooked, so all you have to do is break them up a bit with a fork and mix with the brushetta, which is fresh, not canned.  I discovered this combination through an in-store demo.  I've been trying to eat more beans in my diet, but I am often put off by the texture.  These lentils are perfectly hidden in the bruschetta.  It's great as a dip for pita chips.  I've also used it as the base sauce for delicious homemade pizza.  

When I was planning an Easter brunch, I wanted an elegant presentation with a new twist, so I thought of using this lentil-bruschetta mixture as a base for Shirred Eggs.  Shirred, or baked eggs, is a dish in which eggs have been baked in a flat-bottomed dish.  They are baked simply until the whites have set and the yolks are thickened, and are usually served in the dish in which they were baked.  I cooked them in soup bowls, making for an individual presentation for each guest.  I used a base layer of the lentil-bruschetta sauce, then poured two egg whites and one whole egg on top.  Once cooked, I garnished with sliced avocado.

This is an easy egg dish to dress up my own meal plan, since I can cook a single serving.  I can use my toaster oven for the small dish, and one will take as little as 20 minutes, so I can put a dish in the oven then go take a shower, and breakfast is ready by the time I'm out.  For myself, I use egg whites only, omitting the cholesterol of the yolk. 


What are some ways you use to increase beans in your diet, or your families, for people who don't like the texture?  Please leave a comment on the blog.

May 3, 2014

Mango Smoothie


I posted to facebook a picture of a smoothie I made for myself when Los Angeles was having a 98 degree April day (summer already?).  A few friends asked what I put into my smoothies, so here's a picture of the ingredients:


Mango-Coconut Smoothie

2 Tbsp Chia Seed
1-2 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
2-3 Tbsp non-sweetened Cocount
2-4 pitted Dates
Handful frozen Mango (maybe 3/4 C?)

I put all above ingredients into a mason jar in the morning when I'm making breakfast and let sit in the fridge for the frozen mango to soften a bit.  Then in the height of the afternoon when I really need to cool down I take the jar out of the fridge, simply add soymilk to the top and blend with my immersion blender.  Makes a great lunch when I've been too busy gardening to take a break!  And with the frozen fruit and cold milk, it really cools me off.

May 2, 2014

Ginger-Monkey Bread!

Monkey (Ginger)Bread, Easter 2014

Have you ever attempted a recipe that you knew would come out better if you could bake it with your mom?  I stumbled upon this monkey bread recipe when it was published in 2010 by Food52.  The gingerbread twist was so creative and seemed like such a festive way to celebrate.   It took two years for me to get up the gumption to try to make it in my own home kitchen.  I was spending one of the first of many holidays alone in Los Angeles, and decided to go all out to treat myself.  As usual, I was behind in my baking, but this time I had a hard deadline:  it was Thanksgiving, and since I was alone I had agreed to serve meals to the homeless for a portion of the day, so I had to leave the house for about six hours.  I decided it would have to wait to bake till after my commitment with Gobble Gobble Give, so I left my beautiful bread to rise while I was gone.  You know the punchline:  I came home to a yeast failure.  Though it had failed to rise, I cooked the bread anyway, but the sugary, rock-hard lumps were too dense to eat.

This year, I celebrated Easter at my folks' home, so I took advantage of the opportunity to cook with my mom by pulling out this recipe.  I don't know if it was cooking in a bigger, nicer kitchen, not leaving home till the process was complete, or simply my mom's love put into the baking, but we rocked Monkey Bread!  Between the three of us, it was devoured in a day and a half, with a large volume of coffee.  I was flying high on sugar and caffeine as I boarded the plane to come home, but the gingerbread sure made it feel like a holiday, and I will always remember baking with my mom.

Monkey (Ginger)Bread 
by arielleclementine
at Food52

Serves 8
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour (if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and a pinch of sugar with the warm water. Set aside to sit for 10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 2 tablespoons butter, milk, and molasses and heat until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool briefly.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg with a whisk or spoon.
  4. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer to low speed. Slowly add the molasses mixture and then the yeast mixture. After the dough comes together mix for 7 minutes, or until smooth. The dough will be sticky (it should stick to the bottom of the bowl), but if it seems too wet add up to 1/4 cup additional flour, one tablespoon at a time.
  5. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead by hand for an additional minute to form a smooth ball. Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours.
  6. Butter the bundt pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Put the melted stick of butter in one small bowl, and the brown sugar in another.
  7. When the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured surface and gently pat into an 8-inch square. Cut dough into 64 pieces and roll the pieces into balls. One at a time, dip the balls in butter, then roll in brown sugar, and place in the bundt pan, making all attempts to distribute the balls evenly.
  8. Cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap, place in a warm spot, and allow to rise for 1 more hour. (Or you could be a gambler and refrigerate the dough overnight, and then let it come to room temperature in the morning just before baking for breakfast). The balls should be puffy and about an inch below the top of the pan.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the monkey bread for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes (but no longer!). Invert onto a cake stand and cool for another 5-10 minutes. Devour!

April 30, 2014

FBLA's Mac & Cheese E-Book

The Food Bloggers Los Angeles have published their first book!  It includes my recipe for delicious Butternut Squash & Sage Mac & Cheese! Only $1.99 for 30, count 'em 30 recipes from my FBLA - Food Bloggers Los Angeles friends, and all proceeds go to Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Check it out!  And please share and hashtag #30macncheese.

Here's our tagline on Amazon.com:
Can you ever have too many recipes for America's favorite comfort food dish: macaroni and cheese? Members of Food Bloggers Los Angeles don't think so. These 30 delicious mac and cheese recipes satisfy all palates, from decadent indulgence to healthy convenience. Choose from gourmet mac and cheese with home-cured pork belly, gluten-free and even vegan variations from top food blogs, including Shockingly Delicious, Sippity Sup, Worth the Whisk and NOURISH Network. And you can feel good about your purchase. Proceeds from sales of "Mo' Macaroni and Cheese" benefit the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Product Details:
April 4, 2014
  • File Size: 10945 KB
  • Print Length: 117 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Booktango (April 4, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
Find it at:
http://ow.ly/w8O1I

April 23, 2014

Making My Own Glass Blown Sun Globes

Picking up our finished ornaments!

I get my love of crafting from my mom.  In fact, her two major loves are crafting and Christmas.  And since I do flat stained glass with lead came and copper foil methods, I was so excited when I saw a groupon from Franklin Glassblowing Studio for a class in the Nashville area.  In the class a student has the opportunity to make either a blown glass ornament or a paperweight.  I knew I would have to take my mom sometime when I was visiting.  As it timed out, I was there just days before her 70th birthday, so I surprised her with the class this month.  

The color mix my mom chose was the Studio Mix.
 About ten mason jars filled with chipped glass in different combinations awaited our choice as we entered the studio.  We signed in with our names, choice of color mix, and preference between making a paperweight or ornament.  The bright workspace was set up with a couple rows of chairs, facing a workstation and kiln, to accommodate the group class.  The owner, Jose, was our instructor.  He walked the group of ten people through the process, then let each of us come up one at a time for our own guided creation.     It took about ten to fifteen minutes for each person to make an object.
Starting off by rolling the hot melted clear glass in the color chips.
The rods were pre-heated in a furnace.  Jose, the instructor, mentioned each hollow rod itself cost around three hundred dollars, and was no good if bent in any way.  He explained it had to be true to form in order to properly shape the glass.  He dipped a rod into the furnace stocked with clear glass then handed it off to a student.  He mentioned he loads about fifty pounds of glass into the furnace weekly; the furnace itself is always kept running, though the gas "mother flame" is shut off when the studio is not staffed.  We saw the clear glass shards bought by the pound as raw material; a paperweight is made up of about 15 shards of clear glass.

Jose explained his background, apprenticing at studios in the Northwest, and was great at making small talk to keep the process interesting.  He was open to questions about the studio and his techniques throughout our class.  Having worked in stained glass at the level of a "professional hobby," I was interested in the workings of a glass blowing business.  The major operating costs for a glass studio is the utility costs.  Jose mentioned his electric bill being around $900 monthly and gas utility being $200-300.  Sitting in the back of the studio was a gas kiln Jose is rebuilding personally to remove his kiln from electricity; his investment in the incomplete kiln is already $20,000.  
Inserting the rod back into the mother flame to melt the colored glass chips into the clear glass glob.

Removing the red-hot glass glob from the flame for shaping.

Starting to shape by rolling the hot glass on a flat surface.

Blowing the glass ornament to inflate it and introduce an air bubble inside the glass.

Continuing to roll and shape the glass on a work table.  The instructor inflates the glass further while the student forms the neck of the ornament using tongs.

Using tongs as a hammer to break the ornament from the rod by vibration traveling down the rod to the glass.

The formed ornament broken off from the rod.

Adding a string of clear glass to the top from which a hook can be formed.

Stretching the clear glass and snipping it off to form a hook.

Bending the hook into shape once snipped.

Moving the finished ornament into the kiln for firing so that it tempers as it cools.

 Jose explained that if the object was left to cool in the air, the hot interior would cool slower than the outside, causing the glass to shatter.  Thus firing in a kiln is necessary to mitigate the cooling process.  Thicker pieces of glass (such as paperweights) stay in the kiln longer than thinner ones.  A computer controls the temperature of the kiln, and certain cooling points are maintained for varying lengths of time.  So our pieces were left in the kiln to be picked up a few days later.  We didn't mind the additional visit!
Other display pieces in the studio window.
After everyone had made their objects, Jose demonstrated making a larger piece, such as a vase or bowl.  He didn't talk us through this process as much, working deftly and quickly with the hot glass.  It took about 25 minutes to make a large wavy bowl.  For anyone in the class who wished to take it home, he attached a price of $200.  This class was absolutely a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for my mom and I.  I plan to hang my ornament in my kitchen window, while my mom is saving hers for her Christmas tree.  Either way, we'll always remember this birthday.
A lampshade on display in the studio.

April 13, 2014

Roasted Bell Pepper & Rosemary Hummus


The hand-me-down food processor I inherited recently is opening up new worlds for me in the kitchen.  Last night I had a housewarming party to attend whose hostess I knew to be gluten free.  Rather than buying a bottle of liquor I took the time to make hummus from scratch.  It gave me an opportunity to use the fresh herbs from my garden and try something new.  I've been addicted lately to a soybean hummus at Costco; if I'd only known how easy it is to make it myself.  I love the wide range of flavors that one can come up with by creating your own hummus from scratch.  The soybean hummus will be next on my list of experiments.  I have a feeling I'll be making hummus more often than buying in the future!

Roasted Bell Pepper and Rosemary Hummus

1 tub (8 oz.) Trader Joe's Tahini Dip
2 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/3 c Roasted Red Bell Pepper (I used Trader Joe's jarred version:  bonus points if you roast your own)
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
1 can organic Garbanzo Beans

Rinse the beans and remove their hulls.  Throw all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more lemon juice or a bit of salt if needed.  Serve with veggies, cheese crisps, or seeded bread. 

February 17, 2014

Maple-Miso Roasted Fingerlings and Potatopalooza at the Kerekesh Home

My Maple-Miso Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

I was a lucky guest at a festive Potatopalooza party thrown by Erika Kerekesh, blogger at In Erika's Kitchen, with food by Judy Lyness, blogger at Two Broads Abroad.  I love sponsored events, like this one put on by the Idaho Potato Commission.  The opportunity to spotlight one ingredient can be enlightening, especially when it's one used on such a daily basis that it often goes overlooked. 

What do I get out of attending an event like this, as a blogger?  Well, besides meeting a bunch of really cool and like-minded people, and getting food samples and new recipes to take home, I find motivation to blog.  I was still thinking about potatoes long after the party, so I decided to experiment with a glaze on roasted spuds.  These maple-miso roasted fingerling potatoes were sweetened to just the right note.  They were so tasty I forgot to photograph them, so the picture is of the chilled leftovers the next morning!  Forced to pull them out of the fridge to complete the blog post, the leftovers made a perfect filling for my egg white breakfast omelette.

Maple-Miso Roasted Potatoes

1 bag Fingerling Potatoes
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Sherry Vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. White Miso Paste
1/8 tsp. Liquid Smoke 
Salt (to taste)

Whisk all glaze ingredients in a small bowl.  Clean, dry and dice potatoes to a roughly even size.  Pour glaze over potatoes and mix well to coat.  Bake at 450 degrees in greased 8x8 pan for about 30 minutes, till glaze is caramelized and potatoes are crispy on the outside but creamy inside.  Garnish with smoked paprika and serve warm. 

Pictures below from Potatopalooza:

Creamy Twice Baked Potatoes

Layered Pizza with Blue Cheese and Shaved Potatoes

Perfect Potato Blintzes
Bonus recipe from the Potatopalooza Party:

Potato Kale Lasagna Muffin 
Recipe by Erika Kerekes, In Erika’s Kitchen
 
1 bunch kale, curly or Tuscan (dinosaur)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound Idaho® potatoes, scrubbed (do not peel)
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk or part-skim)
1⁄2 cup prepared pesto sauce
1egg
1 1⁄2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1⁄2 cup grated parmesan or Romano cheese
Equipment: 12-cup muffin pan
1.  Wash the kale well and strip the leaves from the stems (discard the stems). Chop the leaves finely. It’s okay if some water clings to the kale leaves.  
2.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and kale and saute about 5 minutes, until the kale is wilted. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside. 
3.  Slice the potatoes paper-thin. (It’s easiest to do this with a mandoline, v-slicer or food processor.) Toss the potato slices with the salt and let sit about 5 minutes. 
4.  In a small bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, pesto sauce and egg together.  
5.  Preheat the oven to 350° F. 
6.  Assemble the mini lasagnas: Spray each cup of the muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray, or brush it with olive oil. Build the lasagnas in layers in each muffin cup, starting with a layer of potato slices, then adding a small dollop of the ricotta-pesto mixture, a teaspoon of cooked kale, a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella cheese, and a sprinkle of grated parmesan or Romano cheese. Continue building the mini lasagnas in this manner, finishing each one with a layer of potato slices and a sprinkle of mozzarella and parmesan.  
7.  Bake the mini lasagnas about 40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender, the cheese is golden brown and the lasagnas are cooked through. Remove from the oven and let sit 5 minutes before attempting to remove from the pan. Use a small offset spatula or blunt knife to un-mold the mini lasagnas and transfer to serving plates. Serve immediately.

February 2, 2014

Mom's Amaretto Sauce


Author Rick Bragg tells a story about making his mom's mashed potatoes:  he tried the recipe from his mom over and over, but couldn't get it just the way she made it.  He went back to her, repeatedly asking why the two dishes hadn't matched, and the only response she gave over and over was, "You have to feel it out.  You have to practice."  Finally one time he watched her prepare the potatoes, start to finish.  He witnessed the ingredient she had left out from the recipe when she'd given it to him.  His mom stirred in a large dollop of mayonnaise! 

For this month's Valentine themed meeting of Food Bloggers Los Angeles, I decided to make one of my mom's tried and true standards:  Amaretto Sauce.  She normally serves liberal amounts of this sauce over sliced strawberries.  I lightened her dessert by using the sauce as a dressing over a spinach-berry salad.  This gives the flavor, but without as much volume of sugar, as you're not using as much of the sauce, and makes a vegetable palatable while letting the berries shine through.  

I think my version does justice to the dessert I remember growing up.   It's a treat to be enjoyed in moderation, or on special holidays, like Valentines. 

Mom's Amaretto Sauce

1 c. Brown Sugar
1/2 c. Amaretto
1 1/2 c. Sour Cream

Blend all ingredients, and serve over fresh strawberries.

Spinach-Berry Salad

1 bag fresh Baby Spinach Leaves
1/2 bag frozen Strawberries
1/2 bag frozen Blackberries
Pine Nuts as desired

Thaw the berries overnight in the refrigerator.  Toss all ingredients and serve.  Dress with Amaretto Sauce above.



What family recipes have you tried to duplicate, and to what success?  How have you been able to keep the tradition but make them healthier?

FBLA Chocolate Party 2014 Recipe and Resource Links

Desserts

Savory Dishes

Champagne/Sparkling Wine Recommendations

  • Jaume Serra Cristaliino Brut Cava by Eating RulesJaume Serra Cristalino Brut Cava ($7 “but tastes like $20+”) -- Andrew Wilder of Eating Rules
  • NV Presto Prosecco Brut ($10-$12), a “price performer” -- Alison Ashton of Nourish Network
  • Brut Roederer Estate Mixed Vintage ($20) -- Jennifer Daskevich of A Little Gourmet Everyday
  • Colbert Eco Brut (sugar-free organic sparkling wine; $25) -- Caren Magill of The Fit Habit
  • Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvée ($10.99). “When serving mimosas there is no need to buy expensive bubbly, but naturally you don't want to serve your guests headache-inducing sparkling wines or champagne either. The Brut Cuvée is Barefoot's most traditional bubbly and tastes of green apple and jasmine with hints of kiwi and peach flavors which bubble up for a crisp finish and, in my opinion, make a delightful Mimosa,” said Priscilla Willis of She’s Cookin’.
 

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

January 28, 2014

Crockpot Oatmeal with Pumpkin and Blueberry


I'm a single girl, with a tiny kitchen.  I don't have all the utensils and appliances.  If I do, they're the smallest capacity made, and I haven't used them often.  Even though I don't have kids to cook for daily, I'm trying to learn how my kitchen tools can make my life easier, like my crockpot.  I've heard that oatmeal can be made in a crockpot, left to cook overnight and ready the moment you wake.  So I finally decided to experiment.  And it turned out wonderfully!  Brain food on a morning I was headed out to take an exam in an 8AM class (for those that know me clearly not at all, I am not a morning person, so I needed all the help I could get).  

This was also a great opportunity to test a new condiment line formulated by my friend Erika Kerekes of In Erika's Kitchen.  She makes three flavors of Not Ketchup, including the Blueberry one I sampled as a topping for my oatmeal.  The tangy sweetness added an extra dimension to the fall flavors in my porridge.

Key to using the crock pot are the Crock Pot Liners.  They make cleanup a snap!  The versatility of this recipe means this essential basic will be utilized on a regular basis.  When made in a (lidded) crockpot, whatever liquid added into the recipe will not evaporate away, so the proportions are important.  As long as the ratio of oats to liquid is constant, add in whatever combination of dried fruits, nuts, and spices sound tasty to you.  Or, vary the grain with quinoa or amaranth for a hearty morning stew. 


Winter Breakfast Porridge for Two

1 cup oatmeal
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 Tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp coconut
1 Tbsp crystallized date bits (or 4 diced fresh pitted dates)
1 Tbsp hemp seeds
1/4 cup canned plain pumpkin
3 cups soymilk

Place all dry ingredients into the crockpot at any point during the day, covering with the lid.  Just before bed, add the canned pumpkin and milk and mix.  Turn crockpot on low and leave overnight, up to eight hours, covered.  In the morning eat as is or top with a generous drizzle of Blueberry White Pepper Not Ketchup. 

January 1, 2014

Lights! Camera! Action! ~ Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn. 2014 Rose Parade Float


I was honored to spend the week between Christmas and New Years helping out with the Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn's float for the 2014 Rose Parade.  This is the week known as "deco week," which is the most intensive period of effort for the float, though volunteers work year round to make the float a physical reality. 

The overall parade theme for 2014 was "Dreams Come True," so BTORA's float titled "Lights! Camera! Action!" fit right into the spirit of the parade as well as the character of Burbank as a community.  Home to Warners, Disney, NBC, and many other entertainment vendors and companies, Burbank has earned its title as "Media City."  The 2014 float centered around a classic movie theme, with an evil villain tying a heroine to railroad tracks, and stealing the train in an effort to dispose of her.  Our heroine's hope is a handsome cowboy on a trusty steed, who is coming to rescue her while the train's conductor frantically pursues the train.  All the expected movie props and tools, including a makeup table, lights, camera, and bullhorns, are present on the stage. 


I spent several different sessions volunteering at the warehouse.  At various times my jobs included trimming blue statice petals into a pile while discarding the stems and seed, cleaning buckets, setting up for lunch, counting water vials and lids, and prepping trays cut red carnations with rubbery floral glue.  The tangible results of my labor were the conductor's blue overalls and the red carnations that fronted the train.  My favorite part of the float was the back, where a "fake wall" revealed the movie scene to be nothing more than a staged set.  

video

The best part of this year's involvement were the friends that I brought along with me as first time volunteers.  My neighbor Cleo joined in for one evening and helped to make conversation with a group of people I didn't know.  And my best friend from fifth grade came into town with her husband to attend the Rose Bowl as fans of their alma mater.  I picked them up on the 29th, and was able to get them on as volunteers though normally that late in the week they are closed to new volunteers.  By the end of the day, my friend's husband was actually ON the float placing white Button Daisies.  It was fun to be the hero and give them a vacation experience they will never forget.

Burbank's float was awarded the Fantasy Trophy, an award with prestige and bragging rights!













December 25, 2013

Peanut Butter-Chickpea Blondies with Dark Chocolate Chips


The cookie exchanges held by Food Bloggers Los Angeles and by my craft group have become a big part of my holiday tradition here in Los Angeles.  I missed both of them this year, as they were held on the same day as a final for my psychology class.  Hoping beyond hope that my schedule would change, I prepared in advance anyway.  I was even able to find a friend in one of the groups to take my cookies for me and bring back a plate, so I was able to participate de facto with the craft group.  But what I've most enjoyed was the fellowship and festive spirit of the parties themselves, so my friends were dearly missed.

Each year I like to try one new recipe, though it wouldn't be Christmas without a few family traditional cookies.  In keeping with my new health studies at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, I searched far and wide for healthy cookie recipes this year.  Still working with limited space (especially counter space) in my kitchen, I was particularly looking for a bar cookie that I could make with ease in a single pan.  I was also gifted with a small used food processor recently so that opened up a lot of new possibilities for me.  I came across a post by Ambitious Kitchen that fit the bill.  Their Chickpea blondies are packed with protein but taste like the best peanut butter cookie I've ever had.  The ingredients just fit into my three-cup food processor, and the 8x8 baking pan size allows me to have a treat without being overwhelmed with the yield.

I was proud to take this to several different groups this year, including the seniors at the rehab facility where my good friend is an activity director.   It felt good to know I was providing a small seasonal treat that was good for the body as well as the soul.



Peanut Butter-Chickpea Blondies w/Chocolate Chips
Recipe by Ambitious Kitchen

Ingredients
Cooking Spray
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup all natural almond butter or peanut butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup or agave nectar (I used honey, making this recipe non-vegan)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegan (or regular) chocolate chips plus 2 tablespoons sea salt, for sprinkling


Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray 8x8 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  1. In a food processor, add all ingredients except chocolate chips and process until batter is smooth. Fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips, I like to use dark chocolate because it has less sugar but it's up to you. Note:
    Batter will be thick and super delicious, so you could actually just eat it on it's own!
  1. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips on top. (The batter
    may stick to your spatula, so I like to spray my spatula with nonstick cooking spray first.) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and edges are a tiny bit brown. The batter may look underdone, but you don't want them to dry out!
  1. Cool pan for 20 minutes on wire rack. Sprinkle with sea salt then cut into squares. Makes 16 blondies.
Notes
I also added an egg to the batter, making it more cake-like, but not vegan.
You can use your favorite nut butter, just make sure it’s all natural.
Feel free to add in other things according to your dietary needs like nuts, dried fruit, or other types of chocolate.


Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 bar (1/16th of recipe) Calories: 120 Fat: 6g Carbohydrates: 13.5g Sugar: 6.9g Fiber: 1.8g Protein: 3.5g


October 13, 2013

Lentil-Pumpkin Vegan Loaf with Tomato-Balsamic Glaze


The part of transitioning to a healthier diet that is most difficult for me is celebrating my holiday traditions.  Well, that and having to eat vegetables.  I became vegetarian as a child in the early eighties, long before "fake meats" and meat substitutes.  I taught myself to detest the odor of meat, let alone flavor.  So when told something has "real meat flavor" I am automatically put off.  Therefore, my holiday entrees generally center around pasta, such as a lasagne.  

In my quest to learn how to cook and to eat more vegetables, I have been experimenting with a few veggie loaf recipes.  But I don't generally like the texture of beans either.  This recipe for a lentil-pumpkin loaf satisfies all my concerns:  the pumpkin masks the taste of the beans, and the mushrooms add an extra meaty texture.  The walnuts add a "holiday" flavor and crunch.  The sweetness of the tomato-based glaze makes it palatable to even my sweet tooth. 

This is actually the first time I've ever cooked beans myself (though of course I ate them as a kid).  It helped to do most of the prep the night before I wanted to make this dish.  I also added a few new-to-me ingredients to my pantry:  nutritional yeast and liquid smoke.  The nutritional yeast adds a nutty, cheesy taste to a vegan dish, while the liquid smoke, though used in small amounts, adds that meaty Umami flavor.   


The Food Bloggers' Los Angeles monthly meeting gave me the excuse to try this recipe before the holiday season.  We've had a pumpkin-themed potluck before, so it was fun to do something innovative and new for this meeting.  It was also fun to do a savory main dish rather than a sweet dessert.   The meals at our FBLA meetings are often my only home-cooked meals prepared by another now that my family lives states away, so I really look forward to our group both for the company and the food.  We had about ten members show up at this meeting, actually a small group for most of our get-togethers.  The synchronicity that comes into play with no planning involved is astounding:  though our group may be as large as thirty people, there is never any duplication of dishes. 

 

Lentil-Pumpkin Vegan Loaf

Loaf
1 cup uncooked Lentils
1-15 oz. can plain Pumpkin
2 1/2 cup Vegetable Stock, divided
1 cup chopped Walnuts
1-4 oz. can Mushroom Pieces, diced
1 medium Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
2 tsp. fresh Thyme
2 tsp. fresh Rosemary
1 Tbsp. Salt
1 cup Oats
1/2 cup Whole Wheat or GF Flour

Glaze
2 Tbsp. Balsamic
2 Tbsp. Tomato Paste
1 Tbsp. Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Mustard
1/2 tsp. Salt

Sort and rinse lentils.  Bring 2 cups low-sodium veggie stock to a boil, then add the lentils and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Keep partially covered and cook until very soft, about 20-45 minutes.  Add a little more liquid if needed.  Allow to cool completely.  [This step can be done in advance.  I like to do it the night before.  Also, I crush the walnuts by putting them into a ziplock bag and using a rolling pin to break them up.]

In a large bowl, mash the cooked lentils and pumpkin together.  Add walnuts, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and all other ingredients except oats and flour, mixing thoroughly.  Add the oats, then the flour, until you have a consistency close to cookie dough.

Press into a greased 8x8 dish.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk together glaze and spread evenly on top of the loaf.  Bake about 45 minutes or until the loaf is cracked and glaze is dark.  If cooking in a small oven, cover with foil for the first half of the baking time.  Allow to set for a few minutes before cutting and serving.
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