Friday, June 10, 2011

"Iced" Chai Spice Soy Latte

Went to Starbucks yesterday and tasted a sample of their Chai Frappuccino. Wow is that delicious! I ended up purchasing one for myself with skim milk. I don't know how I haven't tried this already!

I was inspired by this drink, to try and make a cold chai soy latte at home (note: I don't really use ice in this drink, it's just served cold from the fridge). The result was as tasty as the Starbuck's chai frappuccino, but easier to make than a frappuccino would be from home. Here's how I did it...

1) I brewed 4 cups worth of chai spice tea, but used about 6 chai spice tea bags (you could easily use 8 tea bags to double the tea's strength).
2.) I let the tea cool in the pot for a bit then put it in a pitcher and left it to get nice and cold in the fridge over night.
3.) The next morning I got out my 10 oz mug and filled it about 1/3 of the way with the cooled chai spice tea, and the other two thirds of the way with soy milk.
4.) I mixed in a teaspoon of raw cane sugar to sweeten it a bit. You could always use more or less sugar, to your liking. The soy milk I get is sweetened a bit on its own so you don't need much extra in the way of sugar.

The result was just delicious! And I have loads of the cooled tea left to make quite a few more cold chai lattes for myself :D

What's your iced caffeinated beverage of choice?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Toddler Fun: Felt Board!

Wow, I love that I stumbled upon this how-to via Pinterest today for how to make a felt board for a toddler! I can't even remember where or when I used a felt board in my childhood, but yet I have such fond memories of them from when I was little! Seemed like a great idea for something quick and easy to make for my son to play with, and something new for him to figure out/explore.

Browsing through all of the materials I'd need on the tutorial list, I realized I wouldn't be doing this board today if I went by the instructions the author offered up. So instead I kinda just winged it because I already had a ton of color felt, white fleece felt, some hard/thick poster paper, tape and glue.

Here's a photo of my resulting board. I just kinda used what I had, taped the light/white felt pieces together then glued the taped side to the poster board. Then I went to town cutting up shapes. I tried to go for a large variety so that my little guy could turn the shapes into little things, i.e. a house, car, airplane, etc.

The little dude did very much enjoy the new felt board experience, though after a while he got a bit more enjoyment out of just smacking all the felt pieces off the board and to the ground (I used clothes pin magnets to hold the felt board on the fridge so he could play while I cooked).

I'd definitely suggest reading the actual tutorial I linked to above to make a much neater, more durable felt board. Just wanted to show off my easy-peasy board in case you're not too picky and already have the stuff you'll need to do it simply/quickly at home.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Operation Screw All These Dishes

So I was reading a cooking blog the other day that focuses on minimalistic cooking/kitchens. The author was writing about her experience living in NYC in a small apartment with limited kitchen space. Her logical solution to the space dilemma was keeping only enough cutlery, plates, glasses, etc for a meal for two people, and cleaning them immediately afterwords. I kinda wanted to kick myself repeatedly after reading that post when I thought back to the small apartments my husband and I shared for 5 years, and the ridiculous amounts of plates, cups, mugs, etc we had on hand, which would always just pile up and make the kitchen a disaster of a place. HOW HAD I NEVER THOUGHT OF THIS?

Fast forward to the present, where we are living in a townhouse with a decently sized kitchen and a reasonable amount of cabinet space, and our kitchen is still a disaster area. We moved in right before I gave birth and so I never had time to organize the kitchen the way I would have liked. Add to this a busy husband, and until more recently, a busy me with little time to do much else but tend to a demanding baby, and you might be able to sympathize with my constant pile of dirty dishes and altogether unorganized kitchen.

My son is older now and, God bless him, able to amuse himself for spans of time, and so I got it into my head to improve my kitchen. A month or so back I went through everything and put all of the items we basically never used in a box and later in a yard sale/Goodwill. And more recently, after reading the aforementioned blog, I became enamored with the notion that I really didn't need the piles of plates, bowls, mugs and cups we had sitting in our cabinets, taking up useful space.

We are a family of 3 and I rarely entertain guests, so this seems do-able for us, but I'm sure some families are so large or busy that this scenario wouldn't be plausible. Now, what I propose to do, is to cut out all but the essential amount of plates, bowls, cups/mugs because these are the big space takers. I'm down to 4 large plates, 4 small plates, 5 large glasses, 3 bowls and 4 mugs. The idea is to simply pick up a sponge and clean our plates, cups, etc right away. That simple. Limiting the amount of plates available to us will motivate us to be sure we clean them right away so they are dry and ready for use the next time we need them. Further motivation will arise from the energy and water we will save thanks to not running the dishwasher 2-3 times a week.

Mind you, I'm not automatically getting rid of all those extra dishes and cups. Some will go into the cabinet in the dining room so if we do have people over, we have easy access to them. The rest will go in a box in the basement until I decide if this whole operation actually works for us. I am all for quickly cleaning dishes right after use. The main thing is getting the h-band on board. To be honest, as I write this I haven't told him my plan yet. I don't forsee him having an issue with it so I'm just going to spring it on him tonight when he gets home :)

We'll live like this for about a week and see how we like it. I'll be sure to write about the experience after the week is up. Ever done anything like this yourself? I'd love to hear how it went for you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Take-Out & Reuse

I have fallen prey to the guilty pleasure that is take out now and again. I'll admit it. There are times when there's nothing in the house to make, and I am NOT in the mood to leave the house, and take out always wins at these moments.

Generally the biggest problem with this guilty pleasure for me is all the extra containers, utensils, packets, etc that I'm left with. Today I found a new, simple use for a couple of take out containers. In particular, those plastic containers that soups come in, and used chopsticks were utilized to replant some sunflowers that I've had growing on my back deck in small paper planters.

The sunflowers quickly outgrew their original homes (pictured), but they are still much too tiny to replant in the yard. I know: I replanted a few only to find them completely devoured the next morning by a stealthy resident rabbit.

I am hoping my sunflowers can do a bit more growing in the take-out containers before I give replanting them in the yard another go. Notice that the sunflowers are propped up by used chop sticks as well. I have some used plastic forks, spoons etc on hand that I'll use for the remaining sunflowers when they are large enough to need some support as well.

A few other things I've used these plastic take out containers for:
- Storing old/dead batteries until I can take them to the proper place in my municipality for safe disposal.
- Cut a hole in the lid and you have a change holder (some contact paper could turn it into a pretty spiffy change holder, at that).
- An airtight container to store kitchen waste before I can take it out to our composter.
- A mixing "cup" for when I need to make a mixture of baking soda and Dr. Bronner's, water or vinegar to help clean up the bathtub, sink & shower dirties.

Do you have any other suggestions for how to get some more use out of old take-out containers?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Toddler Treats: Delicious Scones

Here's a recipe my Mom emailed to me that I really enjoyed, for a healthy whole wheat/grain treat...

Oatmeal Cinnamon Scones

Ingredients (use vegan versions):

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry or all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar (use 1/2 cup for sweeter scone)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup vegan margarine or shortening
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup raisins, optional
1/2 cup nuts, chopped, optional
1/3 cup vanilla or plain nondairy milk (I use soy)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Cut in margarine until mixture becomes uniformly crumbly.

2. Stir in oats, raisins, and nuts (if using). Add milk and mix gently until a soft dough begins to cling together. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and pat it into a 7" circle.

3. Cut into 8 wedges and place them on an ungreased baking sheet. Just before baking, sprinkle scone wedges with granulated sugar for a sweeter taste. Bake 15-18 minutes until golden brown and firm when pressed lightly in the center.

Substitute any other dried fruit you wish: cranberries, chopped dates or apricots, blueberries, cherries, dried apples or pears.

These tender, crumbly scones are satisfying and not too sweet. A good choice for children’s snacks or a Sunday brunch. They are a wonderful way to get your children to eat more wholesome whole wheat if they are used to white flour.

Serves: 8 scones, Preparation time: 30 min.

<-- end recipe-->

A few notes on the recipe and scones themselves...

I didn't have margarine or crisco in the house, but butter worked just fine for me!

Scones are pretty dry, so it's always good to smear on some marmalade or any other jelly/jam that you enjoy, and perhaps even some clotted cream, and you will be in pure heaven!

I excluded the dried fruit from the scones I made because I was making these as a healthy snack for my 18 month old, who is still too young to handle anything as chewy as dried fruit.

Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Toddler Eats: Veggie Lasagna

In my constant quest to find healthy foods that my 18 month old will eat, here is another potential option to feed your toddler in order to provide him with lots of healthy veggies in a stealthy sort of manner...

Check out this Hearty Vegetable Lasagna recipe. I made it the other day and was very happy with the results. I even managed to find a whole wheat lasagna that I could use in it, for added nutrition.

One tweak, or addition I made to the recipe was to add more of a variety of vegetables than the recipe called for. I stuck with the mushrooms and peppers, but also threw in half a small zucchini that I had left over, chopped into small pieces, as well as a few leaves of baby spinach which I chopped up finely. I'd recommend that all the veggies you add to the lasagna be chopped very small (pea sized at the largest) so that they're very easy for the little ones to chew.

I scaled the recipe in half too because it's just my husband, son and I who ate it. An 8x8 casserole dish works just fine if you scale yours down by half too. This reheats wonderfully so we ended up getting a few meals out of it, which makes it even more worth the effort to make, in my eyes.

Know of any recipes that have lots of nutritious veggies mixed in to make them more palatable to the picky toddler? I'd love to hear about them! I'm always looking for new recipes to try :D

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dying Brown Eggs

So today we dyed eggs! I am really in love with the rich colors that resulted from dying brown eggs. The h-band seemed pretty impressed with the results too.

Here's the instructions on how to dye brown eggs again, for anyone who missed my last post which contained this link.

I am equally amazed at how much my 1 year old son was content to sit and watch as the eggs soaked in the cups of dye. Periodically he'd yell out the name of a color (usually green) and point, and that meant that I should bring the egg up and check on its progress.

Tomorrow I'll be hiding the eggs around the house while my husband feeds the boy breakfast, and we'll see how he likes his first Easter egg hunt. I crocheted some egg cozies to add a bit more color, decoration and cushioning for the eggs, especially considering they will be getting handled by a 1 year old :D

Have a happy Easter if you are celebrating it tomorrow!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

It's Earth Day once again. I have never been great at doing something grand to celebrate. I just do what I do every day of the year, in trying to be as sustainable and eco conscious about the water and energy I use, reducing the amount of waste we generate, recycling, etc. It's nice to reflect on what we do to live greener lives today, and to think of how we could potentially be more earth-friendly in the future.

With that in mind, I came up with a list of ways I'd like to live even more sustainably in the coming year...

- I'd like to cut out any use of paper towels. I use them VERY sparingly as it is, but I really do need to designate certain cloths which I'll use to clean the toilets, so that I don't feel compelled to use paper towels over cloths.
- Eat a whole lot more fresh fruit and veggies, and shop for them locally. We are lucky to live close to lots of farms and 2 farmers markets that will be stocked with local produce very soon. I just have to make the extra time and trip to them every week, on top of going to the grocery store.
- Get outside more! Especially this summer. This way I don't need the air conditioning on so much too, as I won't be in the house. I am working on making our small outdoor space into a fun, shady place just for this purpose. I'll be looking for deck furniture on craigs list and in thrift/antique stores too instead of automatically buying something new that I could get for cheaper in a used but good condition.
- Drive even less. I'm lucky enough to not need to drive very often. We live in a town with a decent amount of things to walk to. So when I want to get out of the house, I will have to try and find us lots of fun things to do within walking distance.

Earth day falls very close to Easter this year, so I thought I'd share the few things I am doing to celebrate in a greener way...

- I found an Easter basket and stuffing (made from wood) from my local Goodwill store this year. Spent a whopping $1. 98 on those items
- We are going to dye the organic brown eggs we have (and be sure to actually eat the eggs when the Easter egg hunt is done). I found this great write up on how to easily dye brown eggs with household supplies (no egg dying kit necessary, or the extra wasteful packaging that comes with it).

What are your plans for greening the year ahead, or even just greening Easter?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Just Listen

This has to be my favorite Bon Iver song. It's hauntingly beautiful.