December 19, 2010

homemade shelves

Phew. Almost done building these shelves. I just have to apply a finish to the backer and attach it.... but I think that can wait awhile...

This showcase/storage shelf was my first attempt at building furniture. I am no novice to wood working though. In high school I built sets for theater and in college I built models for architecture presentations but those are much less precise or practical.

There are many things I would like to have done better on this project, but hey, you have to start somewhere. The shelves are made of red oak veneer plywood which is decent looking but reclaimed solid wood would be even sweeter. The cuts were done with a hand held circular saw so the edges aren't perfectly straight. I used low-VOC, water-based stain and lacquer. I tried to match the color of our dining room table but with the limited choices in low-VOC stain colors I couldn't exactly. The edges are joined with pocket screws which are my new favorite thing - no fancy dovetail joints for me! In the end, while I see room for improvement, I am also happy with how good my homebrew bottles and canning jars look now that they are off the floor.

By the way, the Boulder Tool Library did indeed open! It was too late for this project, but future projects will benefit! Yay!!!

December 8, 2010

raw hummus with flax crackers

Since beans are such a cheap source of protein compared to nuts, I decided I would focus my second attempt at raw food preparation on beans. I went with a basic hummus with a few raw modifications. The ingredients were the same - garbonzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt. One difference was that instead of cooking the beans, you sprout them. To do this you soak them overnight and then drain them. Then for 2-3 days you rinse and drain them every 8 hours until they have a little tail. You can buy raw tahini at a store or you can soak sesame seeds in water a couple hours before you blend everything.

My review - the raw hummus was pretty good, but I am going to stick with cooked hummus because it is creamy and delicious. Not having to boil the beans was nice though... I've read that many raw peeps make a "hummus" from zucchini or some other non-bean thing for the creamy goodness, but that sort of skirts my quest for cheap, raw protein.

Oh, the best thing I learned from this experiment was that raw flax crackers are delicious! We bought ours from the store but making them at home is supposed to be super easy - dehydrator, flax seeds, water, flavors. Good thing I just found a dehydrator at the thrift store!

November 28, 2010

make something day: ginger brown ale

The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday, a day in which stores hype up the x-mas shopping season and crazy shoppers wake up super early to stand in long lines and catch some "deals". Eric and I do not participate. In fact, we are so good at breaking traditions that it is nice to sometimes create new traditions. Established alternatives to Black Friday include Buy Nothing Day and Make Something Day so we decided to make something!

For our first annual beer brewing extravaganza on Make Something Day, we made a ginger brown ale which includes cinnamon, cloves and orange peel. Mmmmm... Looking forward to this one!

November 25, 2010

pumpkin swirl brownies

Happy Thanksgiving! Perhaps these vegan pumpkin swirl brownies will satisfy your sweet tooth? I followed the recipe on Eating Appalachia.

November 13, 2010

pickle soup

I am 100% polish american. When I visit family in Milwaukee, I usually end up going out for a meal at a polish restaurant. As a vegetarian this usually leaves me to choose from eating potato pancakes or pierogi. I am quite content with this situation but one polish restaurant I went to had pickle soup and I was totally thrilled. Seriously, who thinks up pickle soup?! Ah my ancestry...

onions, potatoes, pickles, veggie broth, sour cream, fresh dill

Cook the onion in oil until transluscent. Add the potatoes, pickles, and veggie broth. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Blend. Temper sour cream and mix it in. Add some fresh dill.

November 8, 2010

raw gingerbread men

I know, I know, it's a little early to be talking about holiday cookies but ever since the stores started stocking holiday treats a week ago (eggnog, candy canes, holiday chocolates) I've been craving gingerbread men. I felt a little played by the system so I figured I would satisfy my gingerbread craving in a nonstandard way - with raw gingerbread men.

In a food processor, I blended up almonds, dates, honey, oil, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and a pinch of salt. Then I rolled out the mixture and shaped some raw treats!

***side note: I am exploring raw food preparation because it is an entertaining change of pace with different flavors and textures. On a whole, I personally will stick to my rice and beans (and local, seasonal fruits and vegetable) diet because I think it is more affordable, practical, and ethical. From what I can tell, raw foodists rely on a lot of nuts ($$) and non-seasonal produce.

October 30, 2010

sweet potato hash

I let out a little yelp when I saw sweet potatoes at the farmers market. They are pretty rare here because of our rocky soils and our short growing seasons. It's a shame though. Sweet potatoes are so flavorful! I think the farmer selling them must be a big fan too.

1 medium onion, diced
2 large baked sweet potatoes, peeled, diced
1 c. lentils
1/2 package of silken tofu, crumbled (optional - adds some moisture)
1 c. frozen corn
2 T. canola oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Cook the onions in 1 T. canola oil over medium heat until translucent. Add 1 T. canola oil along with the sweet potatoes, salt and pepper. Mix and then let it cook for 5 minutes with out stirring. Repeat until the potatoes have nice crusty, golden edges. Add additional canola oil as necessary

In the mean time cook the lentils in 3 c. simmering water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain the cooked lentils. When the potatoes are ready, add the lentils, silken tofu, and corn. Cook for 5 minutes without disturbing, stir, cook for 5 minutes without disturbing. Eat!

October 28, 2010

deluxe grilled cheese with pear and marmite

I perused the interwebs for ideas of what to do with all the pears I bought from the market. I saw mention of a grilled cheese sandwich with pear and bacon somewhere. It sounded so deep, dark, sweet, and rich but I don’t eat meat… My solution: replace the bacon with marmite. It’s really good stuff. More Americans should give it a chance, especially vegetarians and vegans. It provided the complex, umami flavor I was looking for in this sandwich. Yum!

October 25, 2010

October 23, 2010

bike storage rack from scrap

We already had one store-bought bike storage rack, but needed a second one, so we built one from a scrap 2x6 and 2x4 that I found. This rack can actually hold four bikes. The support arms are ladder hooks from the hardware store. The adjustable height mechanism is shown below--thanks to our friend Rory for the design! The top nuts are turned to fine-tune the height:

October 21, 2010

multimodal camping

I'd been wanting to do this carfree backpacking trip for two years--we finally did it, so I wanted to document it here. 17 mile bus ride + 5 mile bike ride + 5 mile hike!

October 11, 2010

community supported agriculture: season summary 2010

We picked up our last CSA share for 2010. For a last hurrah, the Pachamama CSA members gathered at the farm for a potluck and pick-your-own pumpkin fun. Now I'm craving some apple doughnuts...

October 9, 2010

the hitching post

Apologies for the month long blogging silence at the height of harvest. Don't worry we put the time to good use. After 6 1/2 years together, Eric and I got married! It was a beautiful day...

We held a short ceremony outside. It had been raining all morning. Luckily the rain stopped before we needed to start. For a little whimsy, I entered to The Bridal March played by kazoos scattered throughout the audience. For the remainder of the ceremony music, our friend Justin played ukulele. Reverend Ed Searl officiated. It was great.

We were able to have the reception in the main sanctuary space of the Unitarian Universalist church that Eric grew up attending. The wood vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows provided a perfect ambiance. We didn't have to do much to make the space special. We set up tables, chairs, linens, etc. with the help of our parents the day before the wedding.

At each table, we placed a small bouquet of organic field flowers. We picked up the flowers from the Oak Park farmer's market via Heidi Ong at Illinois Specialty Cut Flowers. The table bouquets included basil that made the room smell delicious all night. My bridal bouquet was totally awesome too! Sunflowers and cabbage flowers!?
For drinks we had a self-serve table of generic brand sodas, liquor, local wines, and a keg from Chicago's Metropolitan Brewing.
Obviously the food was great. We chose to have our wedding in September so that our celebration could make full use of local, seasonal, organic produce. Our caterers Michael and Wendy Howe at Village Gourmet Cafe and Catering did a great job developing a custom menu that featured all of these things. And thanks to them, I learned that pickled asparagus and pickled tomatoes are amazing!
Our friend Susan made a beautiful, delicious, vegan wedding cake. She traveled across the country with a suitcase full of baking supplies!! Two layers of the cake were chocolate chunk and one was autumn spice.
Oh and months ago, our friend Lou designed and screen printed our invitations!


September 9, 2010

bike trip to fort collins

Over Labor Day weekend we went on a bike vacation to Fort Collins (50 miles each way). We rode Saturday morning, stayed overnight Saturday and Sunday nights, and rode again on Monday morning.

On our way there, as we got closer and closer to downtown Fort Collins, we encountered more and more costumed people on bikes. It turned out that Tour de Fat was going on that very day. We caught the tail end of things but at least we got to see a giant puppet of Tony Danza give the crowd a hug!

In addition to New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins has Odell Brewing Co and Fort Collins Brewery. After checking out Tour de Fat we headed over to Odell's to sample 12 of their beers. Aww yeah!

It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that we ate tempeh for every meal. Avogadro's Number makes their own tempeh which they serve in their restaurant and distribute across town (picture from the Fort Collins Food Co-op).

We ate at many veg friendly restaurants. One of the restaurants we ate at was Tasty Harmony. We were excited by their raw menu items so we got the raw vegan cheeseburger with onion triangles and sprouted chickpea hummus followed by a slice of raw coconut cream pie. We decided it would be fun to start preparing more raw foods so you might be seeing more of that kind of thing around here.

Other than eating and drinking in Fort Collins, we mostly just relaxed and meandered. We happened upon a bike show in an art gallery and a film at Lyric Cinema - an independent movie theater. Maybe someday Boulder will have an independent movie theater...

On our ride home, we slowly approached what at first was a funny little cloud behind a mountain. Later the cloud consumed the entire horizon. It was from the wild fire in the mountains just west of Boulder. So spectacular and solemn!

August 29, 2010

bloody mary

In our fast paced world, it's important to slow down every now and again - perhaps with a nice long brunch and perhaps with a bloody mary.

4 oz. tomato juice
1.5 oz. vodka
dash of lime juice
dash of hot sauce
dash of vegan worcestershire sauce
dash of celery seed
dash of black pepper
dash of salt
many green olives and miscellaneous veggies

August 18, 2010

car share

As mentioned in the previous post, we moved! Our new location is near a bike path so I can get to work and near a bus stop so Eric can start getting to work in another month after he wraps up his thesis! Other bonuses are that we gained square footage and we're allowed to get a dog. Unfortunately, my dreams of gardens and chickens and food cellars have not come to fruition just yet. Ah well, someday soon enough...

As for the logistics of hauling our stuff across town, we considered doing some sort of organized bike move, however, given our current time vortices - Eric finishing his thesis and our upcoming wedding - we opted to utilize eGo CarShare, a local, non-profit car sharing organization. As members of eGo, we can rent any of their cars parked around Boulder or Denver at an hourly rate. We make our reservations online and we have an electronic key that allows us to use the car when its our turn.

There are several of these kinds of organizations across the country including ZipCar, a widespread for-profit company. It's a fantastic way to reduce car ownership. They fulfill people's random car errand needs like buying furniture from craigslist or taking a pet to the vet. I can now attest that they also work marvelously for moving across town!

August 17, 2010

impromptu solar cooking

We moved into a new apartment, which has better solar access (read: worse shading) than the previous. I noticed that the aluminum threshold gets very hot, so I decided to throw on some turtle beans and do some impromptu solar cooking. It got up to 134°F, which I know is nothing compared to actual solar ovens. I'll still have to boil these, but the hot soaking will reduce the cooking time.

August 16, 2010

boulder is getting a tool library

(photo source: takomabibelot)

I'm excited that Boulder is getting a tool library. Our friends Libby and Tristan built their tiny house/gypsy wagon primarily using tools from a tool library in Santa Fe--proof that you can accomplish a lot without requiring your own woodshop and expensive tools! I'm hoping for a thickness planer I can use on salvaged wood.

Boulder's Tool Library is happening through the efforts of the Center for ReSource Conservation and Adam Jackaway, who went through the same graduate program as me. You can vote here every day until September 10, to help the idea win a $20,000 grant. Read more about the tool library: here.

And find one near you: List of tool-lending libraries.

July 31, 2010

pesto pizza & ramblings on local food legislation

Yum! For dinner tonight, we made pesto pizza on a cornmeal crust, topped with our first tomatoes of the season and cheese from Windsor Dairy.

Ingredients for large corn meal pizza crust:
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. corn meal
1 T. sugar
1 t. dry active yeast
1/2 t. salt
2 T. olive oil
1 1/2 c. water
Onto the rambling! Windsor Dairy is great. They sell excellent artisan cheeses made from local, organic, grassfed cow's milk. The cheeses are just the gateway. The REALLY cool thing about Windsor Dairy is that they offer raw, unpasteurized grass-fed cow's milk to the masses. The way they do this is a little complicated but it is still effective. In Colorado, legislation allows you to consume raw milk from a cow that you own. Windsor Dairy offers a "cow share" program, where you buy a share of a cow and then pay a monthly boarding and milking fee on that cow and in return you can consume a weekly installment of raw milk.

This is significant to Eric and me because when we started getting into local food in Illinois, we were shocked to find no small-time dairy operations. I mean surely there must still be a few devoted small farmers, right? The thing is, there are laws. To sell milk, you need to own a lot of expensive equipment to process and pasteurize the milk to government standards. The standards are often prohibitively expensive for small processors: "Get big or get out." It's crazy though because you honestly don't need to pasteurize milk if its fresh, local, and from healthy, grass-fed cows. In fact it is way better for you than pasteurized milk trucked to you from CAFO cows. So why is it that the consumer doesn't have the right to choose?? In Illinois, we did end up finding a guy who would sell us raw, grass-fed cow's milk. It was totally under the table and we did it because we're that kind of people, but the point is that it shouldn't be so convoluted for the regular person to sell or buy quality food.

While I am on the subject, the government doesn't just inhibit small dairy, they also inhibit small, local food processors (people who make granola, jams, pastries, pickles, sauerkraut, etc). Small economies have unfair competition with grocery stores thanks to all of our subsidies to agribusiness. As if that weren't enough, you need a license and a commercial kitchen to sell food. You can't just sell your excess jars of jelly or custom cakes occasionally. To sell, you basically need to make a business commitment. I mean you can sell, but it's not so legal. Even if you try to do everything right, the city of Chicago may still swing by and destroy your granola. Unlike Illinois, Michigan recently took a really positive step in this arena by approving a cottage industry farm bill. People selling less than $15,000 a year in goods in Michigan no longer need a license nor do they need a commercial kitchen. They just have to label what is in their product and who/where it came from.

In conclusion, it is time for us all to change local food legislation in our states!

July 23, 2010

cold brew coffee

Cold brew coffee is great in the summer because you can make iced coffee without having to make hot coffee or espresso first. It's easy too. You just put coffee grounds and water in a french press and let it sit in the fridge overnight. Cold brewing makes a less acidic and smoother tasting drink than regular coffee. Supposedly it has less caffeine too...

We've tried two different water-to-coffee ratios:
2:1 - this concentration is good for mixing with milk or water. I actually used the same grounds four times before discarding them.

4:1 - close to the usual french press ratio
Neither really stands out as a favorite, but 4:1 is less work.

I've also been enjoying a lot of cold yerba mate, which like coffee brews in cold water just fine. A french press works great for mate, as does the ol' jar + bombilla method.

July 19, 2010

egyptian falafel

I bought fava beans at the market because I hear "it's the thing to do."

After falling prey to this food trend, I decided to do some reading on the bean. Here's my favorite factoid - "These ancient beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants and among the easiest to grow. They were the only beans Europeans ate before they discovered America and all its legumes." (NPR article) I like that.

When I looked for meal ideas, I landed on Egyptian falafel... because regular falafel is delicious! Egyptian falafel is unique from everywhere else in the Middle East because it uses fava beans instead of chickpeas. Internet people make claims that Egyptian falafel is superior. I enjoy such claims so I went with it.

The only catch to these trendy beans is that there are 3 steps to process them. First you have to pop them out of the pods. Then you parboil them for a minute in some salty water. Finally you peal off the outer skin to reveal a bright green bean. After eating the Egyptian falafel, I've decided it's worth the effort.

Serving Size: 12 small falafel balls

Egyptian Falafel Ingredients:
1 lb. fresh fava beans in the pod (1 c. shelled and skinned)
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 T. parsley
1 t. cumin
1 t. coriander
1/2 t. salt
dash of cayenne pepper
1 T. flour

Toast the cumin and coriander in a dry pan. Put all of the ingredients except the fava beans in a food processor and blend. Add the shelled fava beans and pulse a few times until it reaches a desired consistency. Form balls. If you have time, let them sit in the refrigerator. Pan fry or bake.

I went all out and made homemade pita's using this recipe. We cooked them on the grill instead of in the oven to keep the heat in the kitchen down. To grill them, we coated the dough discs in olive oil, put them straight on the grill, and cooked them for 2-3 minutes on each side.

July 14, 2010


We got kohlrabi and carrots in our CSA. I couldn't resist slicing them up thin and making coleslaw. For the dressing, I used a recipe that Eric developed last summer. It's really good. While I was at it, I threw balsamic vinegar tofu, apricots, and garlic bread on the grill. We had ourselves a delicous summer feast!

Coleslaw Dressing Ingredients:
1 T. yogurt
1 T. miso mayo
1 T. peanut oil
1 T. agave nectar
1 t. garlic powder or fresh clove
1 T. toasted sesame seeds

Mix together the ingredients for the coleslaw dressing. Slice or shred veggies like carrots, kohlrabi, cabbage, etc and toss them in the dressing. Let things sit in the fridge until ready to serve.

July 11, 2010

July 10, 2010

knowledge is power!

I'm pretty excited about this switchplate with built in temperature and humidity sensors that I bought for my parents' bathroom. They had been having a problem with moisture from showers staying around too long, so I had them buy a new exhaust fan that actually exhausts the CFM that it's supposed to. Although the relative humidity sensor doesn't automatically control the fan, knowing the relative humidity can help you decide if you should manually run the fan for longer. For example, if the RH is 40% or higher and it is cold outside, you will probably get condensation on the inside of the exterior wall[1].

The separate 3-way switch is also pretty cool: pushing it down makes the fan run for a preset amount of time, like 30 minutes, without requiring the bathroom light be on. Both the switch and the switchplate are available from EFI.

tiger lily flower buds

I remembered hearing somewhere that lily flowers are edible. My parents have a ton of tiger lilies in their yard, so I decided to try eating them. Most of the plant is edible including the small potato-like roots. When cultivated for the root, the unopened flower buds are removed to stimulate root growth[1]. This explains the presence of the flower buds aka "golden needles" in Chinese and Thai cuisine.

I battered and deep fried some of the flowers, and added the rest to a stir fry. When eaten raw, they have a slight peppery flavor.

On a side note, echinacea is growing everywhere in Illinois!

July 8, 2010

wedding season continued

I was not kidding about it being wedding season. We went to central Illinois last weekend to celebrate the wedding of our friends Tom and Susan. (big smile)

The food at their reception was AMAZING. They had a thoughtful meal that featured lots of local, organic produce. If you happen to need catering in central Illinois, I would definitely recommend contacting Ben and Kate Lubchansky of Urbana's Community Supported Kitchen.

Oh and check out Tom and Susan's clever table decor - homegrown herb pots.

June 29, 2010

wedding season

We went out to Seattle this past weekend to celebrate the marriage of our friends Pat and Fawn. Congratulations you two!

Since this blog is about DIY things, I thought would share the clever things they did to keep it real. They chose to have a small wedding in the park (overlooking Puget Sound and Mt. Rainier), personally written vows, an ordaining friend, a reception at the parent's, zero-waste catering from Cameron Catering, an art canvas guest book, gifts of homemade felt flower pins and luggage tags, and a flickr group for people to post photos. Now that's what I'm talking about!