Sunday, January 26, 2014

Musical Happiness

Rodrigo y Gabriela.  Just the name of the artists brings me a degree of happiness.  I was introduced to the group through coworkers who loaned me their CD's.  They are, in fact, the artists on the first CD I bought for myself since... somewhere in 2006.  I enjoy the energy level of their music.  I enjoy the quality of their playing.  I love that I can't get offended by off-hand lyrics.  I love that they are the perfect music for daydreaming that I am a wonderful dancer.  

My sister-in-law had also come to know and love Rodrigo y Gabriela and employed their music in her workout routine soundtrack.  It is possible to say that *gasp* she was in love with them before I was.  She was a bit surprised that I didn't know of them sooner.  Latin music is a joy to my heart, so how had I been missing out for so long?  Beats me.

So I groove to their music on my mp3 player and daydream of awesomeness, until someone let me know that they would be playing in a nearby city.  Suddenly, I remembered being in high school and being told that No Doubt would be playing in a city near where I lived the same weekend I would have to be in that city... and being on my way to buy tickets when we discovered it was actually the following weekend.  This was going to be my FIRST EVER chance at attending a concert of this nature.  I felt giddy with the sheer possibility alone.  I deliberated on buying the tickets for a while, but... well... I really really wanted them and I thought it would be the bomb diggety.  So I got them.  My sister-in-law and I went.

It basically was the bomb diggety.

This is a picture of them.  Not amazing, as far as photographs go, but this is them.  And I was there.

AWESOMENESS.  That is what it was.  I was somewhat surprised at how much actual sitting  was taking place in the audience.  I had thought we'd be spending way more time on our feet.  I was a bit shocked at how many swear words came out as the artists talked.  But I loved the concert.  I even enjoyed the opening band.  I liked the concert so well that I bought a t-shirt.  It really was an super neat experience to be there and to feel the energy as they played.  I thought it was particularly awesome how the only instruments involved were two specialized guitars (on the CD's I felt like there were other band members playing accompanying instruments... but I was wrong.)  One of the coolest adventures I had in 2012 was going to this concert.  I have fun remembering it even now, as I groove out to Hanuman while I am driving down the road.  If you've never been to a concert, I certainly recommend the experience with a band you enjoy.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Vegan Ice Cream

My church was having a summer function and there was an ice cream competition.  I didn't actually think I would win it, but knowing that there were vegetarians, vegans and some with milk allergies, I decided to get creative and make a vegan ice cream.  After doing some online searches, I came up with some that looked promising.  I actually made two, so there would be choices.  Who doesn't like having options?  I only photo documented one of the two attempts, though, so that's the one I'll be describing here.

I made chocolate peanut butter ice cream, using a bit of coconut cream.  I used chocolate flavored almond milk and made ice cubes out of it.  These ice cubes went into my food blender.  Here I added the peanut butter.  I used the more liquid portion of the coconut cream to help smooth out the ice cream, since I had it for the other recipe.  Then I poured this out into a gallon size freezer container and froze overnight.

 As you can tell, I was not particular about the almond milk or about the peanut butter.  I used what was on hand.  As to the coconut cream, I spent a considerable amount of time weighing my options and reading the ingredient list.  I picked the one I used because it seemed to be the closest to being just coconut cream, without lots of additives.

The end result doesn't look delicious at all in this picture, but it was actually pretty good.  I would definitely do it again.  The only thing that I really would change for sure is that I would make it just before I intended to eat it rather than leave it in the freezer overnight.  Vegan ice creams do not fare well when left to freeze solid.  This proved to be true in both cases. Keep this in mind, should you venture out on your own with a non-dairy ice cream.  Happily, both were enjoyed anyway.

Have you made ice cream at home?  What tips or tricks helped you?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sew Sew Sew Merry Christmas!

Once upon a time there was a girl who was generally a Christmas non-decorator and unskilled at many things crafty, particularly things involving sewing machines.  You may recall from a previous post that sewing machines scare me.  Maybe this is on account of fairy tales about pricking fingers and dying/sleeping.  Nevertheless, there was a cute idea to try.  My sister-in-law had made some Christmas stockings from sweaters, and invited me to do the same.  I opted in, because they really were cute!

I guess if I had had sweaters at home that needed repurposing, this would have worked. I did not.  Instead, I went to the local used clothes shop and scoped out their selection.  I set eyes on a sweater that I absolutely adored... for this project.  I turned it down, however, due to the coloring.  It didn't seem like the proper Christmas colors.  I kept looking.  All over.  Do you know how many ugly sweaters there are in this world, just crying to be made into something less ugly?  More than you care to see, that's how many.  And in the end, I walked out with two sweaters.  The one pictured is from the sweater I liked the best, because I liked the bling.  Doesn't it kind of look snowflake-like?

So here's the thing, it's really a rather simple project.  (I had sister-in-law supervision while working on mine, granted, but it was still pretty straight forward.)  I turned the sweater inside out.  Then, using a store-bought stocking from another year as a template, traced a pattern in marker on the sweater.  After that, with the sweater still totally intact, the two layers of the sweater were pinned together.  Then, it was sown together.  After the sewing was done, than the cutting took place.  Leaving the sweater uncut until after all the sewing is done helps keep the material from sliding and otherwise wreaking havoc on your Christmas cheer.

I then cut a scrap from one of the ribbed sections of the sweater and used this as the hook to hang the sweater.  (I had a bit of help with this, because seriously, I kept making it all whickety-whack and needed help to get it to hang correctly.)  Didn't it come out so nicely?  Look at it!  Just adorable!!  And what's even better is that I actually MADE it.  Woohoo!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mish Mash of Food Attempts

It has been forever since I've posted, and I feel a bit badly about that.  I have taken many, many pictures to share of things I've tried, and then somehow never made it here to share with you.  So here I am, showing several at once.  It's kind of a cheater's method, but it gets me back in the game and saves you from reading long passages on things for which you may not really want to read more than a line or so.

So here goes.

Sometimes I miss iced tea.  I don't drink it anymore and haven't in years, but I remember fun things like placing a pitcher with tea bags out in the sun and then drinking it.  I remember sitting and chatting for hours with iced tea  It is more of a pleasant memory thing.  I do drink herbal tea.  I thought that iced herbal tea might have a similar experience as iced tea-I-don't-drink-anymore.  Here is my attempt to make it, using cranberry tea, which is a joy to my heart all by itself.  Just so you know... this was not the greatest attempt ever.
Next up, vegan cheesecake.  I am not vegan, but since I have family who is I gave it a try.  The two pictures show it plain and covered in fresh strawberries.  These were edible.  They tasted decent.  I used a cookbook intended for children who were vegetarian (as opposed to using a regular recipe and trying to veganify it).  I would rather try a new recipe for the next round.  

I was looking at a store that has all kinds of veggies and grains and vegetarian options.  This always is an adventure for me.  I enjoy discovering new foods, or long lost loves that I thought were not available.  Whilst travelling along gleefully in the produce department, I came across these carrots.  All naturally colored.  Aren't they delightful?  I made a roasted root vegetable dish with them (it included beets as well as sweet potatoes and probably regular potatoes.)  They don't taste much different, but they do make it more interesting.  As to the recipe they were in, I don't know that I'll feel that courageous again for a little while  I really don't care for beets, but I wanted to try with them anyway.

I made sweet potato chocolate chip cookies, from a recipe a friend shared with me.  These didn't sound too different from pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, so I felt relatively sure they would turn out well.  Which they did.  They were a hit!  They've even been requested by name!  That has got to be a good sign.  I have always made my without egg (I use an egg replacer) and with semi-sweet chocolate chip cookies which state they don't have dairy in them.  This works for the health-vegans, but perhaps not for ideological ones or for people with dairy allergies.

Next up, caramel popcorn balls.  I made these for Halloween and passed them out to the kids of my coworkers who came to visit us at work.  (I did check to make sure this would be okay, since it wasn't store-bought.)  This may seem less adventurous to some.  However, I had never made any, so this was a first for me.  I had a lot of fun with it.  They were sticky but set up nicely and had a pretty good flavor.  I'll probably do this again.

Finally, I made frying pan bread.  You can't really tell from the photo, but that bread is about the size of a large dinner plate.  I kid you not, I "baked" it in a frying pan.  Technically, it was an electric skillet, but the same idea.  It is so much faster than in an oven, and works really well.  The flavor is great.  The joy is that the recipe is super duper basic.  If you are trying to figure out a low-ingredient-list bread, this would work.  It is ideal in use-only-food-storage instances.  And for those of you who are vegan, this works for you.  Non-vegans can change their fat, I used olive oil.  This, too, was a great hit which has been made many times over since my first attempt.  LOVE IT.  Special thanks to my Chilean friend for sharing the recipe and walking me through the steps.

 There you have it, several of my cooking adventures from 2012.  Let me know what you think!