December 14, 2014


Glögg is a Nordic mulled wine that is optionally spiked with stronger alcohol. A friend of mine's grandparents basically do a glögg bar crawl to Swedish bars in Chicago each Christmas season. I partook once. Good times! Now when I am feeling festive for the holidays, I make glögg at home and share it with others.

750 ml bottle of red wine
250 ml inexpensive brandy
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. dried currants
1/4 c. blanched almonds
10 cardamom pods
5 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange zested
1 T. minced ginger

Combine red wine, brandy, sugar, currants, and almonds in a pot.  Place spices in a jelly or tea bag and submerge in the pot.  Heat on medium low for 45 minutes.  Remove spice bag and serve.

December 12, 2014

vegan nacatamal pie

2014.12_vegan nacatamal pie
A friend of ours recently left Colorado to travel the world and teach English. Her first destination will be Nicaragua. In the process of lightening her load, she left us with her crock pot. I thought it would be nice to expand my own horizons and make a Nicaraguan dish for our first crock pot meal. I honestly had no idea what Nicaraguan food was like until I looked it up. It's interesting how we seem to be satisfied with a certain number of ethnic foods (Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian, Mexican) and ignore inspiration from other parts of the world.  Anyway, I made Nicaraguan nacatamal pie - a crock pot version of nacatamales which are fairly similar to Mexican tamales. Instead of using pork butt I made these vegetarian and added anasazi beans though small red beans would have been more authentic to Central American cuisine. Speaking of food diversity, wouldn't it be interesting to have more bean options on our grocery store shelves?

Filling Ingredients:
anasazi beans, cooked
rice, cooked
potatoes, sliced
bell peppers, sliced
tomatoes, sliced
onions, chopped
green olives, minced
achiote paste
black pepper

Topping Ingredients (adapted from The Cooking Bride):
2 c. instant Masa Harina
1 t. baking powder
¼ t. salt
2 c. veggie broth
½ c. olive oil

Mix the filling ingredients in a 6 qt. crock pot.  Mix the topping ingredients and glop it on top of the filling.  Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until potatoes and masa dough are cooked.

December 10, 2014

paracord macrame plant holder

2014.12_paracord macrame plant holder
Just in case we ever need a survivalist stash of paracord, there is some wrapped around our hanging plant... But really, this was a fun craft project. I melded instructions from henhouse and whimseybox. I had to do and undo the project three times until I was satisfied. Luckily it was an easy process. Apparently not all paracord has the same breaking strength so pay attention to what you buy. I bought 550 pound cord which is the most common and what the survivalists go on and on about. Next I plan on making a paracord dog collar for Francois which might actually prove useful someday while backpacking.

November 12, 2014

vegetarian bigos

2014.11_vegetarian bigos
Bigos is an Eastern European stew made of cabbage and various meats.  Its alternate name is hunter's stew.  Shall we call the vegetarian version forager's stew?  Houby (mushroom) hunter's stew?

1 lb. tempeh, diced
3 medium russet potatoes
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3/4 oz. dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in warm water for 20 minutes
3 1/2 oz. gourmet mushroom mix
8 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
10-15 prunes, diced
2 c. sauerkraut, drained
2 c. water + 2 cubes Not-Beef bouillon
1 c. red wine
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 T. tomato paste
2 T. molasses
1 T. marjoram (or oregano)
2 t. black pepper, ground
2 t. caraway, ground
1 t. dijon mustard
1/2 t. paprika
1/8 t. nutmeg
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of liquid smoke

Saute the tempeh until browned.  Bake or boil the potato and then dice. Saute the cabbage, onion, and carrots and set aside.  Saute the mushrooms until they begin to release liquid.  Put everything in a large pot and cook on medium for 20 minutes or more.

November 3, 2014

back porch

We finished redoing our back porch!  It was quite an eyesore and a safety hazard when we bought our house 2 years ago.  Some of the columns were pieced together 2x4's that did not run the full height of the structure and most were minimally anchored to the floor slab if at all.  We replaced all of the columns with red wood posts that our neighbor salvaged from a construction site and we securely anchored them all.  For a clean and simple outdoor space, we removed all of the screens and fencing.  There aren't many mosquitoes in Denver so a screen porch is not very useful.  I can only guess that a previous owner used the space for dogs.  To maintain our enclosed backyard, we built a new horizontal wood slat fence along the driveway side of the porch.  The ceiling and rafters all got a fresh coat of white paint.  I am very happy with how this project turned out! (thanks Mom and Dad for all of the help!)

2014.11_back porch 1 2014 after

2014.11_back porch 2 2014 after

2014.11_back porch 3 2014 after

2014.11_back porch 1 2012 before

2014.11_back porch 2 2012 before

2014.11_back porch 3 2012 before

October 9, 2014

rhubarb coffee cake

2014.10_rhubarb coffee cake
Everybody likes to talk about rhubarb when it first makes its debut in the spring. Our winter appetites long for something fresh so we accept this tart vegetable as placeholder in our pies until the real fruits ripen. Then it is forgotten until next spring. But seriously folks, you can sparingly harvest rhubarb through fall as long as you keep enough leaves on the plant so it can come back next year! Spread out the tart vegetable love and enjoy the benefits of continuous harvesting and lazy gardening!

(recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

October 8, 2014


Feeling thankful for the thicket of arugula growing along the side of our new patio!

October 5, 2014

galactagogue oatmeal milk stout

2014.10_galactagogue oatmeal milk stout
Way back on Father's Day in June, Eric brewed this oatmeal milk stout and infused it with herbs that promote lactation - fennel, anise, coriander, fenugreek. Honestly, there are hardly enough herbs in it to counteract the anti-lactation properties of the alcohol. Wah-wah sorry mamas! It makes for a good beer name though, right? Plus it's super tasty!

October 4, 2014

plum wine

A few weeks ago we picked up 30 pounds of plums from a friend with a plum tree. The plum tree was still weighed down with plums when we left. We hardly made a dent! We used a handful of plums in a plum upside down cake. We dehydrated about 10 pounds of plums into prunes. AND with 20 pounds of plums we made a 5 gallon batch of plum wine using this basic plum wine recipe. We will let you know how the plum wine tastes in about a year!

September 19, 2014

spinach cheddar mini muffins

2014.09_spinach cheddar mini muffins
My little baby is eating!!! Err, attempting to eat. Honestly he is mostly just playing with his food at this point. There is a serious learning curve for getting different shaped and structured foods to your mouth, feeling said things with your mouth, perhaps chewing/gnawing/tasting them, and maybe even swallowing a bit. We are doing the whole baby led weaning thing. For all of you non-baby people, it is a trend towards letting your baby feed themselves what you're eating (minus too much salt or sugar) rather than spoon feeding them purees. Here is a slightly more eggy and less spicy version of a recipe from the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook:

olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 c. + 3 T. all purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
2/3 c. cheddar cheese, grated
2 c. spinach, torn

Saute the onion in butter.  Mix the dry ingredients. Beat the eggs and milk and stir into dry ingredients.  Fold in the cooked onion, cheese, and spinach. Distribute into mini muffin tin and bake at 325° for 20 minutes.

September 17, 2014

fresh pressed apple cider

2014.09_fresh pressed apple cider
We planted apple trees last summer. They won't be producing a bounty of fruit for awhile. In the mean time we were lucky to find a post on Craigslist Free for apples in our neighborhood. It's a good permaculture reminder of the joy created when you share the excess!

And it gets better. Our friends happened to be pressing their backyard apples with a newly built DIY apple press - basically a holey five gallon bucket and a car jack. We were able to throw our apples into the batch and enjoy some fresh pressed apple cider! Yum yum yum!!

September 15, 2014

green chile sauce

2014.09_green chile sauce
Next year when I make a big batch of hatch green chile sauce to stockpile for the winter, I need to remember to buy the mild-medium hatch green chiles NOT the hot ones. Ego, do not be fooled! In order to make a tolerable sauce, I had to seriously water down this recipe with veggie stock, flour, and butter.

September 14, 2014


2014.09_backyard chicken eggs
Eggs from our very own chickens!! YAY!!! I have wanted this for years! See? Dreams really can come true. We are getting about 4 eggs a day right now. This should taper off over the winter since we don't plan on using artificial lighting to trick them into laying more. 

(p.s. thank you Cait for the beautiful terracotta egg rack!)

September 13, 2014

hatch green chile jelly vs. plum jam

2014.09_jam jelly contest
Wheat Ridge, the lovely town we call home, is hosting a festival today call Ridgefest that involves food trucks, craft brews, local artisans, a homebrew contest, a cottage foods contest, and much more.  Similar to the scope of foods allowed by the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, this contest will feature breads, pickles, and jams/jellies.  It is a fun way to let people know that the Colorado Cottage Foods Act was passed 2012 and that they are now legally able to sell certain homemade foods from their home kitchen rather than a commercial kitchen. 

Eric and I will be competing against each other!  I made a hatch green chile jelly and he made a tart plum jam.  We shall see what happens!

September 12, 2014


2014.09_patio 02
This patio project is actually old news.  I finished it mid summer but neglected to post about it on the blog.  The patio stones are 2' x 2' reclaimed concrete pavers from an office building's raised floor system.  The notched corners, once for the raised floor pedestals to lock into, now are reminiscent of a tile floor pattern.  The pavers are gray though they look a little red in this photo because when we got them they were sticky with carpet glue so we had to scatter sand on the surface.  Hopefully in another year the weather will wear away all of the glue and the sand can be swept away.  Below the pavers is about 1" of sand for leveling and about 4"-5" of crusher fines.  We used ProFlex paver edging around the perimeter.  This patio should stay put!  (thanks Dad for all the help digging and filling!)

For furnishings, I refinished a weathered red picnic table that the previous home owner left behind.  The base frame is painted a creamy white and the horizontal surfaces have been sanded down to wood and coated with a natural beeswax/linseed oil finish.  I think I will go with a darker wood stain when the picnic table needs to touched up.

And what a view of the chickens!
2014.09_patio 01

Here's a little backyard before and after:
2014.09_patio 2012 before   2014.09_patio 2014 after

August 22, 2014

flannel bag

Phew! We just got home from a road trip. I was worried about how our 5 month old would handle hours of sitting in the car. He does fine on short car trips around town (I can't wait until I carry him around in a bike carrier!) but for hour long car rides he gets irritable. In hopes of avoiding 12 hours straight of crying in the car, I gathered all of the distractions I could think of including this homemade flannel bag with felt pieces. Why a bag instead of your standard felt board?  I thought it would be more portable, it can be hung from the head rest, and it can store all of the felt pieces!

road trip theme
2014.08_felt board bag road trip

make your own monster faces (copied from this site)
2014.08_felt board bag monsters

The felt board concept actually didn't interest him this time around but I think he will enjoy it soon enough. And to his credit, he did amazingly well sitting in the car for hours! PHEW!

July 23, 2014

spring rolls with carrot ginger dipping sauce

2014.07_spring rolls with carrot ginger dipping sauce
It's summer, it's hot outside, and we don't have air conditioning so, Self, please refrain from the stove at least a few nights a week!!  We've posted about spring rolls here before but here's a twist on our old standby that includes more colorful veggies like red peppers and beets!  The sauce is pretty great too!  Thanks again to a recipe from Martha Stewart's Meatless cookbook.  Have I ever mentioned that one of my favorite leisure activities is leafing through cookbooks from the library?  I wonder which cookbook I will borrow next...

rice paper wrappers
radish sprouts
3 carrots, julienned
3 candy cane beets, peeled, julienned
1 cucumber, julienned 
1 red pepper, julienned
1/2 lb. firm tofu, sliced into long strips

Sauce Ingredients:
3 carrots, chopped
1/4 onion, chopped
2 T. fresh ginger, peeled
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 T. tamari
1/4 t. toasted sesame oil
black pepper
1/4 c. sunflower oil
1/4 c. water

Soak rice paper wrappers in warm water until just pliable.  Put the rice paper wrapper on a plate, load it up with veggies, and roll.  Dry off the plate between spring rolls so you get a good sticky surface to pull the wrapper taught.

For the sauce, blend everything but the oil and water until smooth.  Then add the oil and water while the the blender or food processor is running.

July 20, 2014

garlic harvest

2014.07_garlic harvest
Garlic varieties: Silverwhite, Polish Hardneck, Mechti, Red Toch

I harvested most of our garlic crop today. Polish Hardneck is the definite winner in terms of size and quality. We were a little late in harvesting the Mechti...a lot of the encasing skin disintegrated, so those bulbs will not store well.

July 19, 2014

coconut curry red lentil soup with dried currants

2014.07_coconut curry red lentil soup with dried currants
Thanks to the little baby now at the center of my life, I have a new appreciation for single vessel meals that have the flexibility of being abandoned without overcooking.  Brace yourselves for more soups, stews, and casseroles on this blog!  I know... how stereotypical American...  well, so is my inspiration for this soup!  Good old Martha Stewart (or one of her ghost writers) inspired me to take a different spin on my usual red lentil soup by adding coconut milk and dried fruit.  Yum! 

olive oil
1 1/2 c. carrots, diced
1/2 c. onion, diced
4 T. fresh grated ginger
half a head of garlic, pealed and minced
1 1/2 T. curry powder
1 T. salt
8 c. water
2 c. red lentils
1 16 oz. can coconut milk
dried currents

Saute the carrots, onion, ginger, and garlic in olive oil until the onion is translucent.  Add the curry powder and cook for a minute.  Add the salt, water, red lentils, and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Use an immersion blender to partially blend the soup.  Serve with dried currents and cilantro.

July 8, 2014

veggie empanadas

2014.07_veggie empanadas

Man, let me tell you, our friends know how to cook!  We got through the early weeks of new parenting thanks to the delicious meals that they dropped off.  Now that we are further into the parenting thing and we don't have food arriving at our doorstep, I am looking for ways to enjoy quick homemade meals.  One way is to make a larger quantities of food when you do cook and freeze the surplus.  I bet you'd pay big money for one of these empanadas from the freezer section of a health food store!

Veggie Empanada Filling Ingredients:
black beans
summer squash
chili powder
lime juice
olive oil

Spinach Empanada Filling Ingredients:
steamed spinach
chili powder
queso quesadilla
lemon juice

Empanada Dough Ingredients (recipe from Veganomicon):
2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. corn meal
2 T. sugar
1 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 c. non-hydrogenated vegan shortening
1/2-3/4 c. cold water
2 t. apple cider vinegar
Precook/premix the filling ingredient.  Since I was making a big batch of empanadas, I quadrupled the dough ingredients.  Mix together the dry ingredients for the dough.  Add the shortening in pea size chunks as though you were making biscuits.  Stir in the cold water and apple cider vinegar.  I needed a bit more than 3/4 c. cold water but maybe that's the desert climate of Colorado...  Lightly knead the dough into a ball.  Roll out the dough on our floured counter.  Refrigerate for an hour on parchment paper and wrapped in plastic.  Roll out the dough some more.  Use a bowl to stamp out circles.  Stuff em, fold em, and make the edges pretty.  Bake for 25 minutes at 400° F.

July 7, 2014

early july fruit harvest

2014.07_fruit harvest red currents

This past week, we've harvested some of the first fruits from the yard since we moved in January 2013. Unfortunately, there has been late frosts both this year so we haven't gotten any fruits from our 7 fruit trees. (Ok, there were three pears and I put plastic bags on them to try saving them from the birds and squirrels, but that just dried them out! Maybe I did it too early or the sun is just too intense here in Colorado).

Fortunately, we planted a redcurrant bush last fall, so we got a decent harvest from that (above). I made a redcurrant/rosemary freezer jelly.

2014.07_fruit harvest lime
Yes, this is a lime that we grew. Our lime tree has had a single lime on it for the past 6 months. I've had it outside in the shade and a squirrel finally decided that it was time to harvest. I found the lime in another planter with a tiny bite out of it. I saved it and ate it with chips and salsa, and with empanadas.
2014.07_fruit harvest gooseberries and volunteer nantucket cherries
I was excited to identify a patch of brambley bushes in a corner of our yard as red nanking cherry. And they happened to have a handful of ripe cherries on it, buried in the middle of the brambles–the birds must've gotten all the more exposed ones. Shown here with a few gooseberries mixed in. Both are pretty tasty!

July 6, 2014

how to adjust Hunter Pro-Spray sprinkler heads

2014.07_sprinkler system spray adjustments 01

2014.07_sprinkler system spray adjustments 02

With all of the changes we've made to our yard, we've needed to make adjustments the sprinkler system that came with the house when we bought it. Eventually we hope to convert a lot of the heads to drip but for now we have capped a few and adjusted to spray direction for many.  This post is really just a note to self for how to adjust the spray heads next time since we have to look it up every time and use trial and error.

Our sprinkler heads are Hunter Pro-Spray.  There are different colored heads which indicate reach, and how narrow or wide of an area the sprinkler can cover.
  1. To set the left edge of the coverage area, twist the silver ring counter-clockwise until you hit the spot.
  2. Twisting it at least 360º will reset the spread angle to the minimum, usually 90º.
  3. Then twist the silver ring clockwise to expand the spread to the desired angle.
From what we've read the screw on the top should adjust the distance the sprinkler spray but we did not see much of a difference when we tried it.

July 5, 2014

using a plastic planter as a bait hive for honeybee swarms

2014.05_bait hive

Eric made and hung a simple bait hive this spring.  The hope is to lure, catch, and transfer a swarm of bees that are looking to relocate anyway from the bait hive into your backyard hive.  Often a healthy hive of well established bees will make a second queen and half of the bees will leave with her to build a new hive.  Before they leave, the bees will scout out ideal locations (high above the ground, hollow, enclosed spaces) and then vote on where they'd like to resettle.  It's a democracy after all.

According to research by Thomas D. Seeley, documented in the excellent book Honeybee Democracy, honeybees most frequently choose cavities with volume around 40 liters (around 10 gallons). Eric thought about buying a 10-gallon plastic planter, but we had a 7-gallon planter laying around, so we used that. Eric covered the top with plywood and attached the bait hive with screws to the tree for smooth removal in case we do need to transfer a swarm some day.

We don't own a ladder taller than 6 ft., so we borrowed a neighbor's ladder to mount the hive. Eric uses a long stick (with a nail on the end) to periodically insert a cotton ball soaked with lemongrass oil into the hive.  The lemongrass oil is similar to queen pheromones which is supposed to entice the scouts.

  2014.05_bait hive cottonball stick

July 1, 2014

chicken coop

2013.12_chicken coop 01

Eric spent the warmer days this past winter building our chicken coop.  Isn't it beautiful?  It is based on one of the simpler designs from Building Chicken Coops for Dummies.  All of the lumber and sheathing is reclaimed wood from Craigslist free.  The siding is reclaimed fencing from our back porch.  The roof is corrugated metal.  The walls, floor, and roof are all insulated (R-19 roof, R-13 walls and floor).

2013.12_chicken coop 02
With insulated 2x4 walls, a 4' x 4' footprint only provided about 12 sf of chicken living area, but with the 48 sf run, this will be enough for 6 chickens. Construction was made easier because regular wall framing with 16" o.c. studs was not required.

2014.01_chicken coop 06
Interior structural sheathing with plywood and OSB. No exterior sheathing (to save weight), just asphalt paper (found in the garage when we moved in) for a water and air barrier, and the cedar cladding on top of that (spaced out with 0.25" furring strips for a rain gap, of course).

2014.01_chicken coop 07
R-19 cellulose insulation for the roof (2x6 rafters). This used a lot more insulation than I thought, since it didn't get passed through the cellulose blower machine to loosen it up. Next time I'd probably use fiberglass batts, but cellulose was convenient because the rafter spacing was not 14.5" so batts wouldn't fit without trimming.

2014.01_chicken coop 08
Fiberglass batt wall insulation, covered with asphalt paper.

 2014.01_chicken coop 03
Finished coop, still lacking a run.

The window is a reclaimed triple pane from our local Habitat for Humanity store.  Eric positioned it so that the roof overhang shades the window during the summer but allows plenty of sun during the winter.  There is a wireless temperature sensor inside the coop so we get alerts to close or open up the ventilation areas (removable 1" foil-faced polyisocyanurate rigid foam triangles). The sensor was also used to monitor the heat lamp/temperature during the first 10 weeks when chicks need supplemental heat.

2014.05_chicken coop 09
The 1/2" hardware cloth for the 4' x 12' run was the most expensive component! A nice side effect is that the mesh is closely spaced enough that snow piles on top so the chickens won't be snowed in. Half of the chicken run can be separated to be used as a chicken tractor.

2014.04_chicken coop 05
The whole back wall swings open for easy access for cleaning.

2014.03_chicken coop 04
As for the chicks, we got 2 Buff Orphingtons, 2 Ameraucanas, 1 Silver-Laced Wyandotte, and 1 Rhode Island Red.  These chicks are already teenagers now.  At four months old, they look pretty much look full grown.  We expect they will start laying eggs when they are six months old which will be in October!

June 30, 2014

cloth baby wipe spray

2014.06_cloth baby wipe spray

What's with this blogging hiatus?!  Well... we had ourselves a baby!!  We also built a chicken coop, got chickens, restructured our covered porch, started a garden, planted grapes, hung a bee swarm trap, installed a patio, brewed beer (galactagogue oatmeal milk stout), brewed apple jack, hosted family, and ate many tasty meals.  We will catch you up on some of the highlights in a bit, but first I want to do a little record keeping and post the recipe for the cloth baby wipe spray that we've been using.

16 oz. filtered water
1/2 oz. olive oil
1/2 oz. baby soap/shampoo
a couple drops of tea tree oil