That’s a spicy…spice rack!

I’m happy to introduce Jackie, my first guest blogger! I work with her and she is loads of fun and when she mentioned her latest home project to me, I thought it would be a great addition to my blog. (PS: Jackie is also a fellow Vitamix owner!)

Welcome Jackie!

So, this is my first foray into guest-blogging, and the pressure is on not to let PY down. My husband, Ross, and I are notorious weekend DIY-ers; this weekend was no exception: projects included installing new floors in the basement and finding a solution for our cluttered countertops. After seeing several cute magnetic spice racks on Etsy, we decided to try our hand at making our own. The process was surprisingly simple, and cost under $50.  Naturally, the first step is getting all of the necessary supplies. Fortunately, for this project supplies are easy to come by and relatively inexpensive. You can find a variety of food-grade spice tins at Specialty Bottle. (http://www.specialtybottle.com) For this project, we ordered a mixture of 2.5 oz clear-top round tins and 4 oz clear-top square tins, figuring the mixture would accommodate our varied collection of spices. 

Next, we ordered a pack of 50 1/4″ x 1/16” neodymium magnetic discs from Emovendo magnets. (http://www.emovendo.net/magnets/discs/) This size is great for putting 2 magnets on each tin, but if you prefer single magnets, I would recommend going the next size up. You can hang your spice tins on any magnetic surface; we had a $5 magnetic wipe-off board hanging in our kitchen already which turned out to be the perfect size for a small spice rack (don’t have one of those? Head to Target or Michael’s to pick up your own). Continue reading

Open sesame: How to make roasted sesame milk

For all of you looking for milk alternatives and are wanting to try something besides soy or almond milk, give this a try. Sesame milk (contains no milk) tastes wonderful and is almost reminiscent of a “peanut-buttery milk”.

Roasted sesame milk

Ingredients:

2 cups of water

3/4 cups of sesame seeds

Directions:

1. Toast sesame seeds in oven @ 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

2. Place all ingredients in Vitamix blender and secure lid.

3. Start machine at Variable 1 and quickly increase to Variable 10. Then, switch to high.

4. Blend for about 2 minutes or until desired consistency.

5. Strain using cheesecloth or nut milk bag (shown below) and/or add sweetener if desired.

After I strained the milk, I only had a tiny bit of nut pulp left. You could add this to a bread dough (e.g., banana bread). I added mine to my compost pile. (Click here for post on how to compost apartment-style.)

6. Store in the refrigerator or enjoy immediately! (I store mine in an “upcycled” glass peanut butter jar.)

Notes:

I used my toaster oven to toast the seeds, so it was pretty quick. Actually, the sesame seeds that I had were already labeled as “roasted”, but the recipe I used said that toasting seeds improves the slight bitter flavor of the “milk”, so I wasn’t taking any chances.

The recipe makes 2 cups, but the batch that I made in the pictures is only 1/2 of the recipe.

I made this using my Vitamix. I’m sure you could make it in a regular blender, but because it does require that you blend for about 2 minutes, I would be afraid that a regular blender couldn’t handle it. (It was when I tried to make things like this, that I burnt out several “regular” blenders and decided to get a Vitamix. Click here for more information on how to purchase a Vitamix (30-day money back guarantee–so if you don’t like it, you can always send it back–although I doubt you will). Using this link will provide free shipping (a $25 value).

A day…eh hem, I mean, “a couple of months” late, but NOT a dollar short

I know it’s been a while since my last post and I just realized that the last post I left you with ended with me putting myself at risk for botulism. Well, I’m happy to report that no, I did not get botulism from my cake in a jar. I’ve just been busy with school and honestly haven’t had anything overly exciting to blog about…not that posts about blending up weird concoctions of various fruits and vegetables or nuts is a real page-turner scroller (?).

On to the post…which is a little bit late, but better late than never, right?

For those of you who know me, you might know that I spent months thinking about my gifts for R. (Check out this post to find out what I gave R for Christmas last year.)  Continue reading

Bake (and eat) at your own risk

Yeah, this title might totally be the way R would describe some of my past baking (and cooking) “experiments”. Remember that cake-in-a-jar that I baked back in October 2010? Well, immediately after making them, I sent them off to my sister and BIL who are currently serving in A-stan. All except for one lonely jar. I stuck this one away at the bottom of my fruit basket with all intentions of “opening” it about 3 weeks after I baked it. (Three weeks is about the time that it takes for a package to arrive over to my sister.) Well, about three weeks later, I did indeed hear from her that the pineapple cake-in-a-jar was delish and she then requested zucchini bread-in-a-jar, which you can read all about here. Needless to say, I forgot about the cake-in-a-jar that I had saved to try later. One month passed. Then two months. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been eyeing the jar on my baker’s rack and every time I see it, I decide that I’m going to open it…and then I get distracted and forget about it. I think part of me was (subconsciously) afraid it wasn’t good anymore and I would get some sort of stomach bug from it. And that’s coming from the girl with the iron stomach. Well, I saw an “encouragement” from my friend A (see her blog here) to “write” blog entries so she would have something to read tonight, so A, this post is for you.

Here’s what the cake-in-a-jar looked like after 3 months. No obvious mold. Good.

When I opened it, I did hear the seal “POP”. And it didn’t look dried out and still smelled delicious. It came out of the jar pretty easily. Only a little part of it was left behind in the jar. Continue reading

If they sell donut holes, where do all the bagel holes go?

For those of you following my adventures in the kitchen through this blog, you know that I love trying to make things from scratch, like fruit leather, Shanghai soup dumplings (xiao long tang bao), or green tea  and birthday cake ice cream. Many of you probably are wondering why in the world would you make yogurt from scratch [or insert food], when you can buy them for 0.40 [insert insanely cheap price] at the store? Here are some of the reasons I’m up for the challenge of  DIY food:

1) Sometimes things really do taste better homemade.

2) Sometimes things really are cheaper homemade.

3) It’s “greener”. It reduces packaging waste and doesn’t contribute (much) to my carbon footprint.

4) I can control what goes into what I make. I don’t need to add preservatives, unecessary colorings or flavor enhancers.

5) It’s fun to know “where your food comes from.”

6) It makes me feel more “domesticated”. ( :

Making food from scratch doesn’t always make sense. Some recipes take way too long to prepare and only taste slightly better than store-bought like my Taiwanese pineapple cakes. But nonetheless it’s fun.

So, I wanted to share with you my attempt at homemade bagels. Continue reading

Vitamix does fruit roll-ups

On their website, Vitamix boasts that this amazing “blender” can tackle 52 amazing food feats. Well, I’m proud to say I’ve discovered food feat #53.

Before Christmas break, I stuck some apples in the fridge…and forgot about them…until yesterday. Now, when it comes to apples, I’m pretty snobby. I really like a crisp, crunchy apple. I do not do mealy apples. I’ve recently discovered honeycrisp apples (or as R likes to call them: “honeycripsy” apples) and if any of you have ever ate one, you know exactly what a delicious apple should taste like. Sorry Gala and Fuji but I’ve found a new love. But, I deter. Back to the old, mushy apples in the fridge. Yesterday, I pulled them out of the fridge just to see how “bad” they really were. Secretly, I was hoping that they were rotten and I could just toss them. But suprisingly, they “looked” decent. Well, I knew they weren’t good enough for this “apple snob” to eat directly. So, I remembered that I had been wanting to try to make fruit leather from scratch. Do you remember eating Fruit Roll-Ups as a kid? I thought this would be the perfect way to use up my “old” fruit.

Here’s what I did:

Continue reading

update: Thirty before 30

I fully intended to update you on the progress of my TB30 list the day after my 30th birthday (which was about 2 months ago). Better late than never, huh?

Although I wasn’t able to finish everything on my list, it was still loads of fun trying to.

Here’s a repost of my TB30 list with some added commentary from yours truly. Continue reading

I searched the world…

When it comes to gifts, my husband, R is the hardest person to buy for. He either doesn’t need it, already has it, or it costs a million dollars. (Literally. Think 50-foot yacht.) I’m sure many of you wives can relate. Well, I learned some years ago, that the best gifts are the ones that are personalized. And when I say personalized, I don’t mean buy something from Things Remembered and engrave his name on it. If any of you know us, R loves flying stunt kits. (Our first date was to St. George Island for kite flying.) So, this was my gift to him a couple of years ago. It’s a picture mosaic made up of our pictures. This picture doesn’t do it justice. Up close, you can see that all of the little pictures are pictures of us. (That’s R with his parachute kite on the beach at Tyndall AFB.)

Continue reading

Hello YouTube: How to make green tea ice cream without an ice cream maker

For me, part of the idea of living fully is to live simply. And in trying to embrace living simply, I’ve been practicing how to become more self-sufficient…which in the kitchen translates into learning how to make as many things as possible from scratch instead of buying it already pre-made. Living simply in the kitchen also means trying to get away with as few speciality appliances as absolutely necessary (e.g., the ice cream maker).

One of my minor obsessions this summer was making homemade ice cream without an ice cream machine. Click here,  here and here to read about my other ice cream making adventures.  Continue reading

5-minute plastic bag ice cream

I’m not sure what my obsession this summer with ice cream is all about, but for some reason, I keep Googling different ways to make ice cream So, far this summer, I have made mango ice cream, strawberry ice cream (both in the Vitamix), green tea ice cream and sesame seed ice cream (both on the stove and by mixing my hand) and my latest adventure yesterday was “How to make 5-minute plastic bag ice cream”. Here are the simple list of ingredients: Continue reading

making tai yang bing (Taiwanese Sun Cakes)

Tonight I attempted to make Taiwanese Tai Yang Bing.

Picture 006

The recipe I used calls for 3 different doughs: a water dough (the blobs on the left), the oil dough (the blobs in the middle) and the filling (the light-colored blobs on the right). The ingredients are simple. Mostly flour (all-purpose and cake), confectioner’s sugar, maltose, shortening and butter. Surprisingly, they weren’t as hard as I thought they would be to make. Continue reading

summer DIY projects

Today I started feeding my DIY composting bins.Picture 001

So far I have put in shredded newspaper (soy-based ink), banana peels, garlic skins, strawberry hulls, hair from the carpet, used paper towels, leaves from under the carport, dryer lint and the hard outside of a cauliflower (all chopped up of course).

Picture 002

Here are a couple of pictures of the process of making DIY composting bins. Continue reading