christmas threw up in my studio last night

It happened. Earlier than usual this year, simply because I realized late last night that I didn’t need to ask anyone if it was ok to start decorating.

Boom.

Anyway, here are some photos of my little casa. I have had all the decorations for the last several years — some from when I was in college. They are from various places like World Market, Target, and some of the ornaments are from around the world – Russia, Mexico and France. Anyway, check it out. Here are some thoughts when decorating your own place -

- Keep your regular home designs out, and decorate them. Example: Where my bottles are, I added a couple Christmas trees. It just adds more color and liveliness. You can also see that I hung cinnamon sticks, pine cones and a cranberry wreath on top of my frames. I like the layering look. It’s fun, and not perfect.

- Mix classy with trashy. I love the shiny, tacky garland. And I love natural and earthy color ornaments and decor. Mix them just a bit (see my bits of garland), and I think the finished product looks good.

For this area, I hung strings of stuff- The flower-like ones are from Target, the other string is small pine cones, cranberries and cinnamon sticks I put together after seeing it done in a magazine several years back. I also love the little green bows and stockings that seriously date back to like 2006. The cranberry (alright, they are puff balls) wreath is from Target three years ago, and the ornament is from France. There was a time when I wanted an ornament from every country. That last lasted like half of one trip. Nice idea though.

These are some of my favorite Christmas decorations. I have an affinity toward Christmas trees (like bottles), so I have slowly collected different ones throughout the years. Similar to my original set up, they all share a warmth in color – while they may all be different, the sizes and mixed colors make for a nice balance. There’s also a photo of my college girlfriends and I. Nice memory to bring out each year.

The center piece is a mini cinnamon broom from Whole Foods. I LOVE IT! And it smells AMAZING. I had one a few years back from Trader Joes, one of the larger ones. But trust me, if you live in a studio, the tiny one is all you need. Again – gotta love the gold garland… that was purchased my sophomore year of college, and has lived in seven homes since. Ha!

sidenote: my cat just fell off the couch. hilarious.

My version of a Christmas tree. The little Russian dolls were hand painted in, you guessed it, Russia. I actually picked them up at the World Famous (I am actually not being sarcastic) Gem and Mineral show in Tucson, Arizona… one of the best places for amazing jewelry and random pieces like this. The wreath is fake, but I use it every year … maybe that’s sustainability in action?

Here is one big view. I love my cozy space, and I love Christmas decorations. Win. The garland balls 1- 12 represent the Twelves Days of Christmas. I bought them a few years ago from Target (seriously, they sell amazing decorations), and actually kept them up in my last place the whole year.. but not in that you-still-have-your-Christmas-lights-up-in-February sorta way. They’re pretty cool.

I’m going to check out new things this weekend, and see if I find anything fun to add to my collection. Woohoo.

I hope this inspires you to get decorating! (or have me come decorate your place!)

Summer 

Warmed millet, brussel sprout and carrot salad – with cranberries and walnuts

So this is the other recipe I made today which I found from Vegetarian Times magazine, in their October issue. The salad is super healthy, fiber-ous, filled with great vitamins, protein, and is really tasty. I added and changed a couple things around based on preference and what I had. I actually ended up doubling the recipe, my friend, who served as my sous chef, took home half to eat this week, too. Accompanied with the curried carrot soup, this is going to be a great meal. Filling but light. Looking forward to it. Again, this is vegan!

 

Millet Salad 

What You’ll Need – (for one batch)

3/4 lb of brussel sprouts

1/2 lb Carrots – I added carrots to the recipe, a nice autumn addition

olive oil

3/4 cup millet

2/3 cup chopped walnuts – you can toast them on top of your oven while the millet cooks

2/3 cup dried cranberries – you can chop or just leave them whole

1/3 cup parsley – chop it up (I added more than the original recipe)

2 Tbs balsamic vinegar – I added a little more, base it off taste

1 Tbs maple syrup – I used agave nectar instead

Juice from 1/2 a large lemon, add a little zest too

Directions-

Cut the brussel sprouts in 1/4′s. Cut up the carrots. Place both in a baking pan. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and some garlic. Mix it all up. Bake in 475 deg. oven. Depending on how much you are cooking and what kind of oven you have, cook for about 25 minutes. Check on them for a while, stir em around… I like cooking brussel sprouts until they are a little blackened and crunchy. The carrots should be soft. Mmm this alone is a tasty side dish to any meal.

While the veggies are cooking, put the millet in a frying pan, on medium, and let it cook for 6 minutes. Don’t add anything to the millet, let it brown, crackle a little. After it browns, add 2 cups of water – or veggie broth if you prefer. Let it boil, then turn down the heat, let it simmer, and then cover. Stir occasionally. Like quinoa, the millet will be ready when all of the water is absorbed.

 

In the meantime, chop up the parsley and toast the walnuts. You’re also going to make the dressing. In a dish, add olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, the balsamic vinegar and the agave nectar. Maybe a little pepper. Stir it up, and taste it. I like the combination of the three flavors… lemony, sweet, and vinger. It’s a really nice dressing.

Check on the brussel spouts. Take them out of the oven, and let settle. Check on the millet. Once all of the water is absorbed, the millet will be fluffy. Take it off the stove, put in a bowl, and let it cool down a little.

 

Now, fold the veggies into the millet. Then add the cranberries, walnuts, and parsley. Fold instead of stir, this will protect the softened vegetables.

 

Taste it! Maybe you like cranberries – add some more. Maybe you need more protein, add more walnuts. This meal was super inexpensive. Brussel sprouts are in season, cooked carrots are a popular fall dish, and most of the ingredients can be found in the large buckets at stores like Whole Foods – making sure you don’t waste or buy too much of anything. This is especially nice when living in a studio, where space is an issue. I love learning new recipes and making them my own. Like I mentioned in the last post, I think this will pair nicely with the curried carrot soup. I’m going to eat it warm, but it might also be nice cold. With the curried soup and the dressing on the millet, it would be interesting to try adding pan fried tofu to this. maybe cooked it in the lemon and agave nectar. Anyway, hope you try and enjoy it. Also, so nice to have lunch already made to fight your Monday blues. Enjoy!

 

Carrot Curry Soup. With pistachios. Boom.

Tonight I prepared two recipes I found in Vegetarian Magazine’s October Issue. I received a six month free gift earlier in late summer, and just received the October, November and December issues this week – Ha! Anyway, I went through them and cut out the recipes I was excited about. Today, I made the curried carrot soup with roasted pistachios AND this warm millet and brussel sprout salad. I’ll post that recipe next. I made both recipes for tonight’s dinner,  dinner tomorrow, and lunch on Tuesday (maybe I’ll freeze the rest)… with Thanksgiving on Thursday, I want something light and nutritious so I can eat a disgusting amount of stuffing, turkey, and pie. Not sure in what order. I. Can’t. Wait.

I changed some things around, based on what I had and how it tasted. Let me know your thoughts. Both recipes are vegan.

Curried Carrot Soup

What You’ll Need

Bag of carrots – the recipe called for grated, I just bought a bag of baby and chopped them up

2 large leeks – The grocery store ran out of leeks, so I bought a large white onion instead and chopped it up

4 cups of water – I didn’t want my soup that watery, so I only added two cups. (Note: maybe use vegetable broth, low sodium, next time)

handful of roasted pistachios – chop ‘em, or don’t. they are a nice crunchy and salty garnish

olive oil

1/4 and 1/8 tsp. baking soda – not sure why the recipe adds this, but maybe it’s a thickening agent?

1/2 tsp. curry powder – what?!! In my humble opinion, that’s definitely not enough curry powder. I think I probably ended up tripling that… so add how much you want based on personal preference. I like spice. I also added cinnamon to mine.

Screw it – add cinnamon. It’s a nice, autumn-y touch. :)

Directions-

In a large pot, heat up the olive oil, probably like two splashes of it. Add the baking soda (Note: this feels like a science project) Then add the cut up carrots and onions. BOOM. Just kidding. Stir ‘em up, close the pot, and let everything cook for like 15 minutes or less. Stir every couple minutes, and watch for the veggies to soften.

Add 2 cups water and curry powder. Let it cook a little. Then pour the soup into your blender (if you don’t have an immersion blender, ugh, sad face). Blend up, maybe add some black pepper.

Serve with pistachios on top. Maybe some raisins too, if you want something a little sweeter. If you aren’t going veggie, this might be nice with a savory, roasted rosemary chicken. Yum.

Seriously, this soup is SO easy, cheap, in season, and delicious. Carrots are one of the super veggies, spices are good for you system and your soul. And really, who doesn’t like pistachios?

Additionally, cook while listening to Mariah Carey, have football on mute, and you’ll have yourself a golden Sunday.

 

 

 

chickpea curry with cranberry almond quinoa

While I wait impatiently on Election Day, I decided to prepare my favorite Indian dish – a spicy, savory chickpea tomato based curry, and sweet delicious quinoa with cranberries and almonds. Looks pretty tasty, right? It’s not only delicious, but it’s super cheap, and super easy.

Here’s what you’ll need -

For the curry -

can of chickpeas

can of chopped tomatoes – I like the fire roasted ones with garlic

a yellow onion

garlic

fresh ginger

a little olive oil – to cook the onions, garlic and ginger

turmeric – a tsp

cumin – a tsp

coriander – a tsp

cayenne pepper – to taste (I made this batch a little too spicy)

garam masala – on top, after it’s cooked

veggie broth – two cups, maybe three depending on how long you cook

For the quinoa -

two cups veggie broth

one cup quinoa

handful of cranberries – I prefer to unsweetened ones, but they are sometimes difficult to find

1/4 cup slivered almonds

cinnamon stick

couple bay leaves

Directions-

Give yourself about 30-45 minutes to cook. First start on the curry. Chop up the onion, garlic and grate the ginger. Add all of it to a pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Cook it up til the onions soften. About 10 minutes.

 

Next, and this is the tricky part, open up the cans of tomatoes and chickpeas. Pour em in. Add the veggie broth. Then add the turmeric, coriander, cayenne pepper, and cumin. Stir it up. Ha – I told you, this is a super simple and inexpensive meal. Initially the spices cost a bit, but they last forever.

 

Cover and stir occasionally. After reaching a boil, turn down the heat, and let it simmer for about 35 minutes. In about 20 mins, start the quinoa. Add the veggie broth, quinoa, cranberries, almonds, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves. Reach a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes – until the broth is gone, and the quinoa has a white rind around the grain.

 

A couple notes – I didn’t have cranberries this time, so I substituted currants instead. Turned out ok, but wasn’t as sweet. In fact I added a little Raw Stevia to balance out the cayenne pepper I overdid. I think I’m trippin over the election. In addition, I totally forgot to add the veggie broth to the curry. Fail. It dried up super quick, and the chickpeas weren’t as soft as they should’ve been – it also didn’t take a lot of time for the curry to cook. Kinda gross. So I added a little broth and let it simmer a little more. Much better. I’ve seriously made this dish half a dozen times, and today I screw it up.

Hmmm anything else I forgot? Don’t think so. This dish is served nicely with naan, if you aren’t stressin’ about carbs. It’s also nicely paired with sliced pears in cinnamon and honey… again, a nice cooling taste to add while eating this spice-rich meal. And oh yah – it’s vegan, and pretty healthy in it’s fat-carb-protein ratio! Enjoy!

throw a Halloween party – on Nov. 1st.

While Hurricane Sandy did prevent my office from having our Halloween party on Tuesday, October 30th, we really can’t complain – our families and friends were safe, and our homes, unlike many in New York and New Jersey, were left in one piece.

That said – I wasn’t about to not have our Halloween party. Especially after buying decorations and makins for delightful food.

Here are a few pics for some party creation inspiration.

Make cupcakes. I prefer mini. They are cute. Little. Fun to decorate. Plus, large cupcakes go to waste and are messy to eat. This is also a decoration, so dress em up. People aren’t crazy about dessert at parties – they want something sustainable (pizza) to go with their beverage (whiskey). So make this fun, but don’t stress out!

Buy a mini cupcake tin. They also work for mini quiches, mini whoopi pies, cookies, and something bacon-wrapped – I’ll leave that to you to decide.

Next. Decorate. Mentioned in a previous post, I bought everything I needed from Amazon. com and Party City. Again – look for coupons online! You don’t need fancy noise making monsters or large cemetery displays to make your decorations rad. What I bought -

a couple bags of cob webs – make sure to spread em out!

black fall leaves

table netted cloths – black, blood-stained, and creepy

Something to hang – I chose paper lanterns and cheesy bats

This year, I found plastic wall decorations of zombies and creepy frames-these were fun and spooky

crepe paper. duh.

For food – I bought pizza and beer. Alright. I also bought a load of things to make for appetizers. Buy some apples, cheese, cured meat, and some veggies…make your own display tray. Cheaper than buying one, and this way you can decide what to include. Make sure to have veggie and vegan friendly options. Surprisingly, there are some options in the freezer aisle – spring rolls, falafel balls. Chips and guac. (a classic) Also – artichoke dip. Everyone loves it. And I know  you do, too.

**  Note – Yes. I would normally cook more items to share. But given this was a work party, after work, after the storm… time is everything. Choose your battles.

Another note – Make your spread pretty. Use bowls and plates to display everything. Bags of chips makes me think frat party. Ok for a Netflix Breaking Bad marathon. Not ok for a work event. Additionally, I always save the catering trays that places like Au Bon Pain use when catering. We work with them a lot for big meetings – wash em, reuse em. Win.

Lastly. I created a photo booth for folks to take pics in their costumes. Set the scene, and create a frame out of decorations that will be a nice backdrop. Check out what I’ve done here. Super cheap. Definitely worth it. For the photo booth – set up your laptop (I’m a MAC user), and use the photo booth app. You can change the settings to snap four pics in a row – hilarious.

That’s it! Have fun – don’t give yourself a lot of work. Set things up in advanced, and enjoy the party!

what I learned at Whole Foods…

…how to eat a pomegranate!

Silly to post about this? Perhaps. But if you’re like me, you end up eating only half the pomegranate. The other half is either juiced from being smushed by accident, has stained your clothes, was thrown away mistakenly with the rind, or thrown away purposely out of haste.

Anyway. Simply cut the fruit in half. Then in a bowl of water, peel out the fruit. The rind floats to the top, and the pieces of fruit don’t squirt everywhere. Peel all the fruit, throw about the floating pieces of rind, then pour out the water. Crazy easy, and you actually end up enjoying the fruit.

Enjoy!

mason jar bathroom organizing

I hate finding bobby pins everywhere. Or Q-tips at the bottom of your bathroom cabinets. If your bathroom is small like mine, you probably don’t have a lot of counter space to hold hair clips, tweezers, cotton balls, etc. I saw this project done on a couple other blogs, and decided to take it on… turned out pretty great. Below are step by step instructions – and photos! – for how to do this. One note: I spent exactly $25 on everything. Next time, I’m going to use recycled jars, which should reduce the cost like $8- $10.

Final product:

for the record, living alone means not caring about having tampons out in the open. boom.

What you’re going to need:

1. A drill – if you don’t have one, buy one. Mine cost $60 – it plugs into the wall, which means crappy batteries won’t be an issue. Trust me.. invest in one, and you will not only be pleased with your purchase, but damn will  you feel independent.

2. A piece of wood – pick out the size you want. I bought everything I needed at Ace Hardware, and they actually sell scrap wood for $1 a piece. Perfect.

3. Rubber fixtures – one for each mason jar. These are what attach the jars to the wood. They are found in the plumbing section.

4. Mason jars! Use an old spagetti or jam jar. I chose to use different sized jars, because I knew I wanted to hold long items (like mascara) and small short items (like bobby pins).

5. Automotive circular hose clamps – one for each mason jar. Found in the automotive or plumbing section

6. 8 screws – two for each mason jar. These will be used to screw the fixtures into the piece of wood

7. 2 big screws – to attach the piece of wood to your wall. Because I have cement walls, I needed cement screws. Check with an employee at Ace to help you figure out which screws are best.

8. Paint – I used what I had left from a previous project (see bathroom cabinet)

9. Flat head screw driver

10. A good eye, a piece of string, or a measuring tape – to make sure you drill the screw in at the right level.

Here’s how to do it -

First, paint the piece of wood. I wanted  just a lite, rubbed-on coat. I took a paper towel, and lightly painted the wood in the direction of the grain.

Drill two holes in the wood – on the outer sides. This will be where you screw the piece into the wall. If you want to get fancy, and make your piece extra sturdy, use a large bit to drill into the wood a little bit, then finish with a smaller bit, and go all the way – this will create a holder for the screw.

 

Next, organize each mason jar with a clamp and rubber fixture. Decide what order you want the jars to be placed on the piece of wood. At this time, use your screw driver to tighten the clamps around the jars. Remember: lefty loosey, righty tighty. :)

 

 

Stand them up, and put them in the order you want. Next, measure out the distance between each jar on the wood. You will use your drill to screw in the rubber fixtures.

 

 

Finish drilling in the fixtures. Helpful hint: It may be easier to do this with the mason jars OUT of the clamps. Simply loosen the clamps, and put the jars back in after you’ve attached the wood to your wall.

Attach the piece to your wall – mine is in the bathroom – and there you go! A pretty simple, and somewhat fast project that will create space in your bathroom, recycle jars (if you are smarter than me) and decorate your space in a unique and artistic way. Next, I’m going to make one for my kitchen to store utensils – mine are currently in jars as there is no drawer. Thanks!

squash and KEEN-WA boats!

My mother passed this along via WebMD and I was immediately excited to try it. Check out the recipe, and see the step by step instructions below. Very simple, super easy, delicious, and vegan! In an effort to buy sustainable, local food, this recipe is great to make in the fall – Squash and pears are available locally, and the summer season of fresh herbs is just ending…

perfect and festive for fall

What you’ll need -

1. 1-2  kabocha squash – if you can’t find kabocha, you can try acorn

2. Quinoa! about 1 cup

3. 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (I cook quinoa in it, more flavorful)

4. honey

5. olive oil

6. 2 1/2 cups fresh spinach

7. 1/2 cup fresh basil

8. a pear

9. lemon juice from one lemon

10. a shallot

11. cardamom

12. salt and pepper

First, cute the squash in half, and then pull out the seeds. Make two parts honey, one part olive oil, and spread it around the open part of the squash. Lay them open-part down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes at 425 degs.

While the squash is baking, put two cups veg broth, and one cup quinoa in a frying pan. Cook on high til it boils, stir, and let simmer – with it covered – for about 10-15 mins. Don’t let it stick to the bottom or over cook. It will fluff when done.

veggie broth adds nice flavor when cooking quinoa

After the squash are cooked, turn em the other way, open side up, maybe add a little more honey, some pepper, and cook for another 15-20 minutes. They’ll be done when they look a little caramelized on top. 

While the squash continue to cook, cut up the spinach, pear, and basil. In a bowl, combine the quinoa, lemon juice, minced up shallots (uncooked), and cardamom – to taste. Let the quinoa cool down a bit before adding the greens.

Add the basil, spinach, and pear to the quinoa. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When the squash are done cooking, let them set for just a second – they will be soft, and could brake open a little if you handle too quickly. Lastly, put the quinoa mixture in the squash, and serve.

I think this would be paired quite nicely with a piece of salmon, or rosemary chicken and garlic mashed potatoes. Great meal if you were hosting a dinner party. Maybe pumpkin-something for dessert. For one person, or two, these alone are great, and very filling… Eat the extra quinoa mixture cold for lunch, or cook up another squash the next day.

Enjoy, and happy fall!

hurricane cleaning

While I consider myself a Type-A clean freak, I too have clutter. Messy piles. And – shudder – hidden messes. Good thing Hurricane Sandy has come, and forced me to stay inside and clean!

Living in a tiny studio, I’m very fortunate to have two – that’s right – TWO closets. The one I worked on today is the storage/coat closet. I hold coats, my way-too-many-Christmas-decorations, cleaning supplies, cat food and litter, and everything else that is ugly, but needed, when living in a house.

Here are the before and after photos. Let’s be honest, my goal wasn’t to make it pretty. And I spent NO money in this process. But here are a few helpful pointers to use when cleaning out your closet.

before

after

First off, dump out all the crap. Seriously, dump it out. And then sweep out the dust. Dust is gross. Spiders and bugs like dust. And spiders and bugs are gross. When you dump it all out, check out what you have.

1. Empty box of sparkling water from Costco – RECYCLE AND GET IT OUT.

2.The empty bag of paper towels – throw it away, and remember to buy more.

3. Tools and jars and bottles and cleaning supplies that are all over the place. Think about how to put them all together.

4. A brand new litter box that your crazy cat, Olive, never used.

4. Boxes and more boxes.

DUMP IT OUT!

it’s like showing strangers my dirty laundry

Now. Check out what you have. What I realized quick was that I wanted to build another shelf – that was reachable without a stool – to hold my cleaning and laundry supplies. I found the extra shelf I never used when building my Ikea cooking block, and rested it on top of the bar. Consolidated all of my supplies up there. No mess now on the ground.

Please. Here is a recommendation from someone who hates clutter and keeping crap for no reason. There IS a reason to keep the box from a Kitchen Aid. Or the box from your drill. Moving is a b*tch, and if you keep the boxes that hold things other boxes can’t, it will make moving a heck of a lot easier. Said boxes replaced the litter box, and are now on top.

I then cleaned and gave away the litter boxes. Consolidated all of my grocery bags and recycled bags into one, and hung it in the back corner. No one needs that many bags until you need that many bags. So put em all together, and keep the clutter out.

Think about the things you use each week. Maybe your drill. Tools. The broom. Make them available, so that you don’t have to rip everything apart to find them when you need them.

And yes! By organizing all your unwanted but necessary crap, you WILL realize you actually have not one but THREE umbrellas, and therefore need to no longer purchase them EVERY time it rains.

Cheers to that. And cheers to Hurricane Sandy. Well, not really, but you get my point.

happy halloween, y’all!

I love Halloween. Working as an office manager, I get the privilege of decorating our office… and you better believe I’m taking that opportunity. At some point I’ll blog about the space and how I’ve designed it. Until then, check out the start to decorating for our Halloween party next week. All items were purchased at either Amazon.com or Party City – all were on sale. Huge recommendation – before you EVER buy something online, Google coupons for that store. I searched for discounts for Party City and found a $30 off if you spend $100 – Plus free shipping. Discounts are out there, you just need to take a moment and look.

I love a great center piece. I  love bringing basic pieces together to create a nice, final display. Here I bought I basic black netted cloth, a couple paper lanterns, cob webs (most important), gourds,and a paper, sparkly candle piece. It’s a little cheesy – but it’s Halloween, and it’s fun. Add a few sparkly, black leaves… perfection. One tip on cob webs. A little goes a long way. The best cob webs are the spread out ones… fine strands, super creepy.

Normally, I prefer making crafts, getting creative… but let’s be honest, some years there is just no time. Instead, get creative with the cheaper Halloween decorations – no need for the $150 Vampire – and see what you can do.

I’ll soon be building a photo booth stage, layout the makings of a good pumpkin carving station, a couple recipes for amazing cider, and everything else that makes a Halloween party amazing.