GIVEAWAY: Starry Recipe Box and Custom Recipe Cards!

There is still plenty of time to read through the archives, submit recipes, and comment to enter! 🙂

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the community that participates in blogs, either by writing them or commenting on them or just finding recipes on them and making them. It’s a beautiful thing, and it makes me want to give back.

I’m doing a giveaway that isn’t really super flashy – this is what you get with homemade – I have painted an astronomy-themed recipe box (see picture) and I have some beautiful recipe cards just waiting to be filled with your favorite recipes. If you make a pinterest board or a list of links for your favorite recipes, I’ll make up to 20 custom recipe cards for you. If you prefer your own handwriting, I’ll just mail you the box and the cards. 🙂

The way you enter is simple: just comment on the bottom of this post! If you want more chances to win, I’ll add a chance for the first time you do these things:

I’ll also enter you once for every comment you make on my blog in the next month (until November 9th). How often do you get to promote good dialogue online while also giving presents? I feel like blogger Santa.

The goal is to get more people talking about recipes and the stories behind them, as well as the processes, like cooking and writing and running and crafting and gardening, that we go through every day. I’m excited to read everyone’s responses and comments, and very excited to get a few more recipes in my inbox!

 

C.R. Gibson Recipe Box Review

img_4821As I usually say,  I receive no payment for my thoughts about recipe boxes I review, and I don’t get approval from the companies before I publish. However, I do receive the recipe box free of charge – just want you to know the situation. Still, I don’t review products I don’t like!

Recipe boxes tend to be serious, in my experience, but what I like about this one from C.R. Gibson is that it recognizes another serious aspect of cooking: it’s all about chemistry. The bright green metal box has a typeface and style that makes it look a bit like the periodic table of the elements, and comes with a cute carrying strap on the top.

Because I’m sort of advocating that more people (and more kinds of people!) keep recipe boxes, not just newlywed ladies like myself, I like that this one has all the functionality of a regular recipe box – even tall dividers and recipe cards to use specifically with this box! – but doesn’t necessarily scream “girly girl.” It’d be a good gift for the dude or lady in your life who wears science goggles for work and also for mysterious pressure cooker experiments.

The box is one in a series called “Periodic Table of Yum,” so you can also check out other items that are connected to the series. I think it works great as a stand alone piece because it isn’t the typical wooden box or paperboard paisley box. I love the little details like the border of “elements” on the cards themselves!

The box is available here if you want to see it; C.R. Gibson helpfully lists recipe boxes under “kitchen organization,” but I think that a box like this could make a really personalized and helpful gift for anyone whose getting started living on their own!img_4822

Recycled Plastic Bag Yarn, Turned Doormat

No matter how a cute a doormat is when I get it, the years of dirt, salt, snow, rain, and who knows what else always tend to wear them about the same – a greyish-blackish blob meant only to be scuffled by boots. That’s why I’m turning the ever-piling-up bounty of grocery plastic bags in my house into doormats.

Obviously, the ideal would be to use the 4 or 5 reusable grocery bags I have lying around the house, but a couple times a month I forget those, and a few other times I get more groceries than they can hold. Over time, that’s become a very packed pile of grocery bags, and because I knew you could make yarn out of them, I chose to try that for my latest crochet project. I have some detail work left to do on two projects for my in-laws, but this is a nice break because it’s mindless for the most part.

  1. I start by flattening out the bag and cutting the bottom and the handles off, so I have a uniform rectangle shape, but it’s actually a circle of plastic.
  2. With it flattened, I cut “strips” that are actually rings of plastic. I try to keep them between 1/2 an inch and an inch, but the final yarn is variable and it all kind of stretches, so don’t stress about width. Just make sure it isn’t less than 1/2 an inch because it’s liable to break.
  3. I loop the rings of plastic through each other and pull tight, to create a “chain” and then add more and more rings to it. Each plastic bag can add 12, 20, even 24 feet of yarn if you make it uniform and thin.
  4. Then I roll it up into a ball and use it just like regular yarn. The more you can make ahead of time, the faster the projects themselves go.

It’s not ideal for us to turn plastic bags into doormats instead of just reducing our use of grocery bags, but it makes me happy to see something useful come out of all this – I save the handles and the bottoms of the bags to stuff in the middle of two layers of doormat to make an extra-thick mat that also uses every single part of the buffalo, I mean every part of the bag. I’ll post a picture when I get one completely done!

Forgetting to Eat!

Does it ever happen to you that your day is so busy and there are so many tasks to be done in a very set amount of time that you just don’t eat at all? That has been today for me – my body has figured that my levels of stress hormones, I guess, mean that appetite isn’t worth having.

It does occur to me that one way to prevent unnecessary snacking is to stay busy (too busy to be hungry!) but for the most part, I think this is a bad habit on my part. For one thing, when my appetite does return, it returns without any rules or reason: it wants all the food, right now, and in massive quantities.

I do have some pretty amazing memories on when my body was running on coffee and fumes, though: in college, A and I sat together in a coffee house for 7 or 8 hours finishing our enormous final projects for a class; people we knew stopped by here and there to chat with us and commiserate about final projects in general, and it felt like the whole world was trying to learn with us. While we realized all of a sudden that we needed to eat at some point that day, and had to take a break, the memory stuck with me.

Perhaps I don’t want a lifestyle that makes me forget to eat regularly, but I do want, once in a while, to encounter projects or challenges so consuming that I don’t need food to focus on them. I like sometimes wondering if something is just outside of my abilities, and trying to push myself. It’s a bit like Julie from Julie and Julia trying to make her final recipe, which involved boning a duck; sometimes, we just want to try something so difficult that our body needs all its attention right there. Hopefully, though, my appetite will return tonight and I can whip up something tasty.

Shrimp Scampi

I have lately been cutting meat all over the place – not avoiding it entirely, but switching to less of it. HOWEVER. Husband will stand for only so much of this, and I sometimes choose to add meat or fish back into the diet for his happiness. In this case, I was able to choose a perfect combo: by picking shrimp, I satisfied his desire for tasty proteins, but because shrimp ain’t cheap, he could accept the smaller portion. Marriage, it seems, is a never-ending negotiation and compromise.

In the case of shrimp, though, it’s a delicious compromise. Starting with a big pat of butter, some garlic, and some pepper flake, I sautéed the shrimp from thawed-and-gray to hot-and-pink. The sauce was thinner than I wanted, perhaps due to some water still left in the package from the thawing process, so I turned to my trusty dusty chickpea flour, as well as a little parmesan and Colby jack cheese, until the sauce was thick and yellow and garlicky, the way I wanted (if not exactly the traditional, gorgeous scampi sauce that I was loosely emulating, at least at the start. If you want real scampi, there are many, many recipes).

The scampi was served atop the tomato farro I discussed earlier this week, providing a fibrous and tasty base. The excess sauce enriched the tomato, which was flavorful but not creamy. Husband and I both fell on the bowls with abandon, but when the time came to decide about seconds (we’d snarfed half of what I made), Husband surprised me by holding back. “I want to eat it,” he said. “But I want to be able to have it for lunch tomorrow.”

I know Husband just wanted tasty food the following day, but I cannot help drawing a parallel: the reason I want to eat less meat and animal protein of all kinds isn’t from some dislike for them. I just want there to be some tomorrow; with the evidence of how much more energy it takes to produce meat, it makes sense to use less meat and more carbs as we try to transition to cleaner energies and to walk lightly upon the earth. I don’t think you have to be a tree hugger (though I might be one…) to see the benefit to using slightly less energy in our lives, on the off chance that it will help us have more to use in the future.

How I Changed my Food Formula

It was pretty easy to predict how my meals went when I was living in Spain or when I lived alone in the States. My volume formula, if I’m honest with myself, went like this:

  • 50 percent carbohydrates (pasta or bread, usually)
  • 20 percent meat or meat substitute like lentils, tofu, or chickpeas.
  • 20 percent sauce/flavorings (often creamy or cheesy!)
  • 10 percent veggies/other plant-based foods.

It’s not the world’s worst proportion, but whenever the sauce/cheese crept up, or the carbs held steady, my meals might look small on the plate but were actually calorie packed. The formula that I’m aiming for these days is more like this:

  • 40 percent veggies – salad as a base, or roasted tomatoes.
  • 30 percent meat substitutes like lentils, tofu, or chickpeas, with maybe 10 percent of that coming from meats used as flavorings, like a few pepperoni on top of a dish.
  • 20 percent carbs (often in combo with the protein, like farro or quinoa)
  • 10 percent sauce (still creamy or cheesy, but in the smallest quantity possible while still being delicious!)

This means I’m getting similar volume to my meals, but I’ve subbed in more nutrient rich foods. Sauces like the butternut squash and gouda pasta sauce  allow me to actually replace sauce volume (which would have been butter or more gouda!) with a vitamin rich veggie. When this affects flavor negatively, I try to keep my sauce “pure” and just use very little of it.

I’ve been amazed, now that I think with this formula, at how a lot of the foods I crave most are actually equal proportions fat-laden sauce, meat, and carbohydrates: almost no veggie, and not even lean meats and whole grains! My transition, when I can, is to eat the flavors I love but not in the quantity I love – spreading those flavors out over a big baked potato or a tasty pan of farro has been helping me to realize that there are some healthy foods that are also craveable (see kale chips!).

It’s not a perfect system, but this is how I tend to behave when I’m not following a recipe at all; some combination of a small amount of sauce, a big pile of veggies, and small amounts of meat and carbs for texture and flavor, yields a regular-sized meal that doesn’t sacrifice flavor.

Roasted Garlic and Tomato Farro!

I have had a bag of farro in my cupboard for a long time – it’s an “ancient grain” that lives in the same aisle of the grocery store as the rice and quinoa. It has a lot of fiber and protein, and was a favorite of my grad school buddy M, who was vegetarian and always looking for something hearty to supplement his diet. I made one farro salad for a party, but I still have community-garden garlic and the last dregs of the tomato plants, so I thought I’d try this out. I got inspired by this recipe I found on Pinterest, which seemed to mix some of my favorite earthiest flavors and obviously, this blog has been all tomatoes all the time lately.

The key, I realized, was that if my tomatoes were already swimming in water (last canned batch of tomatoes had a lot of excess liquid), I might as well prepare the farro in the tomato juices, rather than separately in water. It worked like a charm – I prepared the farro in the juices according to the directions on the farro package, and soon I had big, thick kernels that looked a bit like that cereal “sugar smacks” if you remember it from your childhood. My grandfather ate it all the time, which was definitely not as healthy as eating farro but does make me endeared to the idea.

In the end, just a little garlic and salt were all the chewy kernels and various-sized tomatoes needed. I used it alongside a shrimp scampi I’ll post later, but it didn’t need oil or a lot of fancy spicing – the combination of home canned tomatoes and the nuttiness of the farro were enough to be one of those dishes that are simple without being bland. Not to mention, surprisingly filling: I didn’t have to layer on the scampi sauce to fill like I was getting a whole meal when I used this as a base instead of pasta.