Monday, January 6, 2014

2014 Moon Phases Calendar

I made one of these moon calendars 2 years ago and everyone loved it so much that I decided to do one again this year. I have been saving up a bunch of security envelopes to make art with and this seemed like a great use of them. I purposely left the calendar black and white because I thought it would be fun to print out on a colored paper—card stock works best. The calendar is free so download it and pass it around to your friends.

I apologize for not getting this out on or before the first, but my grandfather passed away New Years Day and we traveled to Iowa to see family. It was really healing to be around everyone and I'm glad we were able to get there and back safely despite pretty terrible weather here in Chicago. Overall I'm thankful that the dust is settling from the craziness that was 2013 and am looking forward to a healthier, more stable 2014. Maybe I'll even blog again this year :)

Happy New Year everyone, enjoy! Download the calendar here.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes // The BEST Gluten-free Cupcakes Ever

OH MY. These cupcakes are amazing. Moist, spongy, light, excellent flavor. I have eaten so many in the last couple of days that I might just have eaten a years worth of sugar. But so worth it.

My husband's birthday was yesterday and I wanted to make him some of his favorite foods for the little get-together we had at our place in the evening. On the menu was buffalo cauliflower with ranch dressing, spinach cream cheese stuffed mushrooms, sweet potato fries, and chips and hummus. When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted he said, "Blueberry lemon! Make it really lemony. Like LemonHead lemony." It turned out he actually wanted lemon cake with blueberry frosting but I had already planned for blueberry cake with lemon frosting. He decided that would do. And really, they turned out AMAZING.

I did some searching for a basic gluten-free white cake recipe and came across this post by Keep It Simple, Keep It Fresh that suggests using Thai Rice Flour from the Asian market. I had no idea how well this would work out, especially since I would be veganizing it as well, but figured I'd give it a shot and try a test cake the night before the party just to be sure. The Thai Rice Flour was easy to find at my local Asian market, and it was less than $2.00 a bag. One bag is more than enough for this recipe, but if you decide to double it you'll want to get 2 bags.

To veganize I wanted to use ingredients that would retain the pure white appearance of this recipe. Even though I'm usually not a big fan of using Ener-G Egg Replacer, it seemed like the best bet. Flax eggs would be too "healthy" tasting and would appear as flecks in the cake and banana would have too distinct of a taste. It turned out to be the perfect binder and was completely undetectable. Unsweetened soy milk was just the right thickness and flavor. Unfortunately I couldn't figure out an easy way to make this refined sugar-free, but if you do please let me know!

The cupcakes were a huge success, everyone at the party was surprised to hear that they were gluten-free and vegan. Our last guest stopped by at 2:00am, tried one, and said, "No offense, but this is the best vegan and gluten-free thing I have ever eaten!" No offense taken!

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes or 2 9-inch cakes. Adapted from Keep It Simple, Keep It Fresh

Ingredients for cake:
2 1/2 cups thai rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups vegan sugar
Ener-G Egg Replacer for 4 eggs
1-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Directions for cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together rice flour, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl whisk together the soy milk, vanilla, and olive oil. Set aside.

Mix your egg replacer according to the directions on the box. Make sure you have mixed it well and there are no dry chunks. The mixture will be thick and frothy. In an electric mixer, beat the egg replacer and sugar on high for 1 minute.

Slow the mixer speed to low. At alternating intervals, start incorporating the dry and liquid mixtures until they are completely combined and the mixture is smooth. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into cupcake pans lined with cupcake papers to about 1/2 inch below the top of the paper. When all the papers are filled, tap the pan on the counter a couple times to make sure the batter spreads evenly. Then, dip a metal spoon in cool water and use the back of it to smooth out the tops of the batter.

Bake for 20-22 minutes at 350 degrees. If using a coated pan lower your baking temp. to 325 degrees. If using 2- 9" pans, bake for 40 minutes.

Ingredients for frosting:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup Earth Balance, softened
2 organic unwaxed lemons, juice from both and zest from one

Directions for frosting:
Place all ingredients in electric mixer. Mix on high until completely combined and smooth. Place in fridge until ready to use. Spread on cupcakes after they have completely cooled (or the frosting will melt into a terrible mess).

This recipe will change your mind about gluten-free cupcakes! There are so many possibilities, I can't wait to try some other combinations!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Quick Salted Caramel

I've been working all morning on clearing clutter out of our home and reorganizing our entire basement storage unit. This has been a continual project for me and about once every couple weeks I go at it again. We are working hard to simplify our lives and dump the extra weight of all this stuff. It is becoming easier every time to let go of things that we don't need, even if they have a small amount of significance.

I finally sat down for lunch at 1:00, starving. I had some soup and salad that was delicious and healthy, but felt like I deserved something a little sweeter after carrying my husbands gigantic amps down the stairs alone. I desperately need to go grocery shopping so there aren't many options in my cupboards, but I found just the right ingredients to make some quick and easy salted caramel.

The main ingredient here is brown rice syrup. It already has a very caramel-like flavor and is a sugar that is easier to digest for those who have problems with refined sugars. But the sea salt is what makes it really great. I used a course Hawaiian gourmet sea salt, Himalayan pink sea salt would also be lovely. This is not the kind of caramel you would pull out of a wrapper, but I bet it would be a delicious apple dip or drizzled over ice cream. Honestly, I just ate it with a spoon.

3 tbsp brown rice syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil, in liquid form (run the jar under warm water to liquify if it is solid)
1 large pinch gourmet sea salt

Scoop the brown rice syrup and coconut oil into a small bowl. With a spoon or fork, stir vigorously until well combined. The mixture will be lighter in color and gooey. Sprinkle the gourmet sea salt on top. Eat and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Earl Grey Poppy Seed Muffins

It's no big secret that I am kind of a sloppy baker. With all the time it takes to figure out substitutions for foods I can't or won't eat, as long as the end result tastes good I'm not too worried about if they're pretty. That was definitely the case with these muffins. My gluten-free flours made the color of the muffins much darker than the original white-centered wheat version. And I'm not so great at using squares of parchment as muffin tin liners, the folds always end up inside the muffins, creating weird looking edges. But who cares, they taste delicious!

I've been without a camera for a little over a week now (my SD card died and took all my Garfield Park Conservatory pictures along with it). I actually made these muffins yesterday sans-camera, so I snapped a few pictures of the last two muffins this morning so I could share my modifications to this delicious recipe. I modified a recipe from Raspberri Cupcakes to be gluten-free, vegan, and refined sugar free.

(makes 12 muffins)
4-5 Earl Grey Tea bags, or about 4-5 tsp loose tea leaves (since the gf flours have a stronger taste I would suggest making the tea as strong as possible)
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used rice but almond, coconut, or soy would also be good choices)
2 1/2 cups gluten-free self-rising flour mix (see below)
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 stick plus about 1 tbsp Earth Balance non-dairy butter, melted
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax seed + 6 tbsp boiling water, whisk and let sit until gelled)

Gluten-free Self-Rising Flour Mix:
(from Gluten-free Goddess)
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch or potato starch (not potato flour)
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
3 3/4 tsp non-aluminum baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners or use folded squares of baking paper. In a small saucepan, warm the milk until it is almost boiling. Put the tea bags in the milk set aside to infuse and cool, dunking them a few times to release more tea flavor. Whisk together your self-rising flour mix and sift mixture into a large bowl. Add coconut palm sugar and poppy seeds and use a whisk to combine. Add milk mixture, Earth Balance and flax eggs and use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently fold and combine the mixture until it is smooth. Spoon mixture into the prepared tin.

Gluten-free flours often make for a thicker batter—this is normal! But you may find that the mixture is too stiff and doesn't spread into the tin well. To fix this, use the back side of a metal spoon to gently push the batter down into the tin. If the spoon is sticking to the batter dip it in cool water first. To smooth out the tops of the muffins dip your fingers in cool water and use them to smooth the batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Try your best not to over-bake them as it will dry them out.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Peanut Butter, Banana, Oatmeal Smoothie

Smoothies might be one of my favorite things. I often make them in the morning or after dinner as a dessert replacement. Peanut butter banana is one of my favorites mostly because I usually have the ingredients on hand and I'm lazy. A friend and I have been sharing our smoothie ideas with each other on Instagram and her latest gave me the idea to blend some oatmeal in with this one. It is easy, delicious, and good for you. Oats have many significant health benefits, and if you are gluten-free like I am, they can help boost your nutrition.

I'm pretty terrible at measuring ingredients when I make smoothies, so this is an estimation of what I did. Add more or less of anything as you wish.

-1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used rice)
-1 ripe banana
-1 heaping spoonful of natural peanut butter
-1/4 cup gluten-free old fashioned oats
-1 tbsp liquid sweetener (maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, etc.)
-4 ice cubes

Put everything into a blender and blend on high until well mixed. The oats will still have a little texture to them, if you want it to be smoother just blend longer. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New 1980 Records Releases

I've been working hard on the packaging for some new releases from 1980 Records, my partner Bill's label. He has been at this for quite a few years and things are really starting to take off, with a lot of really great local bands and musicians lined up for releases. This particular release is for Chicago musicians Dust Bunnies. The tape will come out sometime in February.

You wouldn't think it, but a lot of work goes into each of these tapes. Beyond the time the musicians spend writing and recording, Bill does a lot of communication and promotion for each release. I print all the covers, cut them, score and fold each one individually with a bone folder, print the stickers and place each one by hand, and assemble. 100 tapes takes me a couple hours plus printing time. It is a labor of love, but well worth it!

We're still working on the website but check it out! You might discover something interesting. And if you do consider supporting us by buying some music so we can continue to make more great things!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Featherweight Cardigan

Over the summer I started recycling yarn from thrift store sweaters to use in my knitting. Although the process takes some time, I feel it is completely worth it when I end up with 1,500 yards of yarn for a couple bucks. If you've never recycled sweater yarn before there are a couple of tutorials online and I will probably do one in the future as well. First you need the right kind of sweater (seams not serged) and then you need to cut the seams and deconstruct the pieces of the sweater. Then each piece is pulled apart and put onto a knitty noddy to create the skein. The skein then soaks in water and is hung and weighted to dry.

This yarn was recycled from a sparkly gray and silver sweater that was very unflattering. It is a very soft yarn and is lace weight. I hung onto it for a few months trying to figure what to do with so much yarn, and then I found the Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig and fell in love. It's called featherweight because it is knit with lace weight yarn on larger needles which means it is very light and soft. The pattern calls for a size 6 needle but I had to go up to a 7 to get the gauge.

Because of how thin my recycled yarn is there were many times that it snapped as I was unraveling it from the sweater, so there were more breaks in the yarn than I wanted. It took a lot of patience because there were many rows I had to un-knit back to the beginning so that there wasn't a knot in the middle of the fabric. I'm so glad I took my time to make it right because it is turning out beautifully! Right now I am working on the sleeves and then I just have to knit the edge and weave in the ends. I'm so close, but have had very little time to sit down and work on it in the last few days. I can't wait to wear it!