Sunday, January 26, 2014

Out with the old....In with the....old?

 Submitted by Linda
Stamping is kind of like fashion, in that styles and looks go in and out all the time. So occasionally, one must go weed through her stamps, trying to decide if they stay or go. I even ask myself the same questions as when I'm in my closet: "Have I used it lately?" "Is it still appealing?"

So I try to keep stamp sets which are timeless, and still functional. This oldie but goodie is from 2006, and was the Ronald McDonald House set at the time. As a kindergarten teacher, I feel strongly that the crayon vibe is always in style, at least for me.  So I pulled this out because I needed a housewarming tag for "Michelle's friend Carrie who is now my friend Carrie", who recently moved from the desert to within my 2-mile radius!!!!

I used ink and blender pens, and added some puffy heart contraband (non SU) stickers.
The gift was a hand stitched flour sack towel for Carrie's new kitchen. The design was so big, that I wasn't able to cinch up the cellophane with a cute ribbon, so I just attached the tag with some washi tape.
If you have a good memory, you may remember that this is one of the towels I stitched while Craig was in the hospital last February.  Boy, are we thankful to have that experience behind us. And what could be better than having a stamping buddy who lives in my neighborhood?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Brown Rice Casserole

Submitted by Michelle
I started teaching in the early 1990's and at that time my cousin Kathy was in college.  She did her undergraduate course work at Ithaca College in New York.  I visited her there once, and found Ithaca to be one of those towns that my LA friends would label as "crunchy granola." You know, the kind of place where people recycle, eat organic foods, have long hair, wear tye-die t-shirts and are referred to as tree huggers.  This was long before recycling and eating organic was in vogue.  Gluten allergies hadn't yet been discovered, and vegetarian eating habits such as Mario Batali's Meatless Mondays and Mark Bittman's vb6 (eat vegan before 6pm) were unheard of.  Kathy always has been a sort of trail blazer in our family, and during her Ithaca years she became interested in eating and cooking vegetarian.  Kathy passed on her love of vegetarian cooking to me by giving me several cookbooks, including the one pictured above.  

Now that the holidays are over, I've been attempting to eat more healthfully and trying to incorporate more meals centered around vegetables.  (Neither Kathy or I could ever be full blown vegetarians -- we love a good hamburger or steak just like the rest of the carnivores in the world. ) In my quest to eat vegetarian 3-4 days a week, I dug into Deborah Madison's Greens Cookbook and tired a few new recipes, including a brown rice casserole.
Clockwise from top:
Italian parsley, cilantro, tofu, zucchini, mushrooms, garlic, red bell pepper, celery, carrots, and onions.
The recipe was intriguing because it had so many vegetables in it, as well as tofu.  I've not been very successful with cooking tofu but a casserole seemed like a good place to give it a try again.  
I began by sautéing the onions in olive oil and butter until they were brown.  
I then added the cumin, garlic, celery, carrot and red bell pepper, along with some vegetable stock.  I covered the pan so the vegetables would braise and soften.
The mushrooms and zucchini went in next.  
I had some left over brown rice that I had cooked a few days prior, though you could use freshly cooked rice.  I added cheddar cheese to it.
Finally, I mixed the cooked veggies in with rice and then folded in the tofu.  The entire thing baked for about 45 minutes, and though not the most glamorous of dishes, it was quite tasty. You could definitely substitute in other vegetables like butternut squash, yams, eggplant or cauliflower, and if you had to have meat, chicken would be a nice alternative to the tofu.
Though it doesn't look much different than the previous picture, this is a photo of the casserole after it is baked.  Both David and I enjoyed it as a main course for dinner, and I took the left overs for my lunch several days in a row.  David came up with the bright idea of sprinkling some feta cheese on top as a garnish.  The recipe calls for cilantro or parsley as a garnish, but I think the cheese was pretty good too.

Brown Rice Casserole from The Greens Cookbook

4 cups cooked brown rice 
1/2 block of tofu (8-9 ounces)
1 large onion
2 medium carrots

2 celery stalks
1 green pepper
2 medium zucchini or 
other summer squash 
6 oz mushrooms (I used crimini)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
3 minced garlic cloves 

1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional) {I opted out.}
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 cup mushroom broth 
or vegetable stock or water
6 ounces grated cheese (jack, muenster, cheddar, Gouda, etc.)
Fresh herbs: parsley or cilantro, thyme, majoram, for garnish

If you don't have left over rice, cook some brown rice. Set the tofu on a slanted board or pan to drain, and prepare the vegetables. Chop the onion, carrots, celery, pepper, and zucchini into pieces about 1/2-inch square. Quarter mushrooms if they are small, and cut them into sixths or eighths if they are large. Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes. 

Heat the olive oil and the butter and fry the onion over medium heat until it is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, nutritional yeast (if using), cumin and salt. Stir until blended and cook for 1 minute. Add the carrots, celery, green pepper and 1/2 cup of the liquid, cover pan, and braise the vegetables until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and mushrooms and cook 7 to 10 minutes. The vegetables should be nearly, but not completely, cooked. If the pan gets dry while they cook, add a little more liquid. 

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the vegetables with rice and cheese. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Gently mix in the tofu, and put mixture into lightly oiled casserole. Add a little more liquid to moisten. Cover with foil and bake 1/2 hour. Remove foil and bake 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh herbs. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Granola 101

January 3, 2014
Submitted by Michelle
Over the Christmas break I traveled east to see my family in Utica and Manhattan.  I hadn't been there for a year and I didn't realize how much I had missed everyone, particularly my cousin Kathy, until I was there.  

Kathy (a.k.a. Kazzer) is the sister I never had, and though we live on opposite coasts, we talk, text and email frequently. We both share the love of cooking and during 2013 Kathy sent me several care packages containing her delicious, homemade granola.  To be honest, I never really liked granola until I tried Kathy's recipe, and now I can't get enough of it. With the cost of a postage stamp going up to 49 cents this month, I figured it was high time I learned to make Kazzer's granola myself.
The ingredients are simple: oats, coconut, nuts, dried fruit, maple syrup, honey (which didn't make the photo shoot) oil and cinnamon.
All the ingredients except for the dried fruit are mixed together in a large bowl and then baked for approximately 20 minutes. 
After the mixture is baked to a golden brown, the dried fruit is mixed in and the granola is ready to eat.   I eat it every morning with with non-fat yogurt and fresh fruit.  I've also been known to eat a big handful mid-afternoon when the munchies kick in and I'm trying to eat something a bit more virtuous than Lay's potato chips.   

Kazzer's Granola (adapted from Mark Bittman)

6 cups rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking, and not steel cut)
1 cup sliced almonds, NOT roasted
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts, NOT roasted
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Dash kosher salt
1/3 cup grapeseed oil or other very neutral oil
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped, or dried cranberries

Heat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, all nuts, coconut, cinnamon, salt, honey, and syrup. Spread evenly on two baking sheets and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the mixture browns evenly. You want it to get as toasty as possible without the nuts burning at all, so it's really important to check it frequently toward the end of baking time.

Remove pans from oven and immediately add even amounts of the dried fruits to each pan and mix to combine. Allow to cool to room temperature, then store in airtight containers in the fridge. It will keep for a long time.

Needless to say, different nuts and fruits can be substituted, and you can use all honey or all syrup--I just happen to like these combinations best. Never use nuts that are already roasted, or they will burn during cooking and ruin your whole batch. Final note, I use Bob's Red Mill oats and coconut and really like how fresh they taste.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Rebel and a Stitching Update

Submitted by Linda 
My friend Gaby, who is recovering from a broken wrist and a broken leg, gently reminded me that I hadn't updated the blog in quite awhile. And while she is laid up, she can only watch so much TV, so I finally have something to post - Just for you, Gaby!

Of course my holidays were busy, just like everyone else's, but I also didn't feel like I had anything 'fresh' to post. I am quite a traditionalist, so I decorate with the same stuff every year, and ya'll have seen it all before.

I had a wonderful Christmas with my family, and two weeks off is always great.  On Christmas morning Craig surprised me with a new (bigger, better) camera!  It's a Canon Rebel, and it's been rebellious already, ha! I had a hard time getting my Mac to recognize the camera, so I've been eager to download the pictures to see how well the Rebel works.
One of my wishes was to take close up (macro) pictures of cards and other fun things for the blog. Here's a shot of my fairy garden and I love how you can see the bike and the tiny pebbles. Do you see the turtle in the foreground? I little blurry - I'll have to practice.
My mom has been a cross-stitch factory these days.  She made this snowman, which we promptly sewed into a tiny pillow.
Here's my macro shot. We can see every stitch!
And this snowman came on her 'thank you' card.  I feel another pillow coming on.
I've been doing my own share of stitching this season. Michelle had wished for a cross stitch to display during the holidays. I like stitching these Mill Hill kits, so I chose this chickadee design. I love how it looks Christmasy, but could also be up during January, too. And best of all, I was able to accomplish my second photography goal: to take a photo with a blurry background! Yahoo! I guess I'll now forgive the Rebel for being rebellious at the beginning of our life together.
All, that to say, Happy New Year. Here's to a happy and healthy 2014!