Thursday, March 5, 2015

Vegan Recipe: Vegetable Stock

Soup season is upon us still. I mean really, when isn't it soup season? The thing about store bought soup is that it is often filled with mystery ingredients and of questionable health benefits. Why not make your own soup? Starting with a solid vegetable stock is a great beginning for any soup invention.

Supermarket vegetable broth is perfect in a pinch, but pales in comparison to the homemade stuff. It takes less than 10 minutes to get the stock on the stove, and the ingredients cost less than $5 to make a gallon. This leaves very little room for excuses.

Stock is an excellent way to use up sad, old veggies. I keep a bag in my freezer as a landing pad for shriveled carrots and trimmings, onion trimmings (including the peel), the green parts of leeks, mushroom stems, peppers, and herbs. After a few weeks I just toss them into the pot, cover with water and add a few aromatics: dried herbs, salt, pepper, bay leaves, whole allspice...whatever you fancy.

To keep your stock fill quart-sized Ziplock bags and lay flat on a plate or small tray. Stack the bags on top of each other and freeze. When solid store in the freezer like books on a bookshelf. You can also pour the stock into ice cube trays for smaller quantities to use in recipes that call for a little veggie broth. 

You need:
1 to 2 onions (no need to skin, just whack into about 1-inch pieces)
2 to 3 carrots, roughly chopped (no need to peel)
3 to 4 celery stalks, roughly chopped (tops, bottoms and the leaves)
4 to 5 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch parsley
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns (or 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper)
1 tsp sea salt (or kosher)
Optional Extras: leeks (especially the green parts), fennel, tomatoes, mushrooms, mushroom stems, parsnips

1. Roughly chop all of your vegetables into about 1/2- to 1-inch pieces. It doesn't matter what veg you use, just make sure you have approximately the same amount of each  so the stock has a balanced flavor. Avoid strong-flavors like cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower.
2. Toss all the veg into a stock pot--any large pot will do--and cover with enough water so you can easily stir them around, plus a few more inches. It isn't an exact science, but the more water you have the less concentrated the stock will be. 
3. Place the pot on your burner and turn to medium high. Bring to a boil. One bubbles begin to surface, turn down to medium-low so the water is simmering. It is important to not boil the stock at a high heat or you will evaporate the water too quickly to let the veggies work their magic.
4. Cook for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.
5. When the stock has a nice light brown color with all of the lovely smells of a proper broth, take the pot off the stove and remove the veg with a slotted spoon. Place your strainer over a large bowl or container of choice and, using a ladle or small bowl, pour the stock through the strainer.
6. Divide the stock into containers or resealable bags and cool completely. Freeze for up to 6 months.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Eric has been digging through old photos for a retrospective show of his photography. He has to mine through years of photos and in doing so we have been uncovering a lot of baby photos of the girls. Last night we got sidetracked and ended up looking at baby photos, our hearts aching a bit. How is it that life has moved so quickly?

It hit me that Elise is no longer a baby. That we are done with having a baby in our home. That is fine, people can't and shouldn't just have kids because they can, but it is sad sometimes to realize that another chapter of our life has closed.

I have been focused on helping each girl advance and grow. Crawling, walking, talking, weaning, potty training, sleeping through the night, dressing themselves, reading, etc. All of these things are so good and come with freedoms for both our children and for us as parents. Honestly the idea of going back to sleepless newborn nights could make me cry from exhaustion. However, my heart also knows that it will forever miss those two in the morning snuggles with a tiny baby in my arms, no matter how tired I may have been.

Elise 6 mos.

Last night after we finished looking at photos I went quietly upstairs and watched those girls sleep. Cordelia on the top bunk of her bed, Elise in her big girl bed. I could see the girls and someday the women they will become, but I can still see the baby that they were. I imagine that it will always be this way.


Parenting is a bittersweet business. Each new development means letting go of something that was so precious. I am very happy to be on this journey as a family, but oh how it makes my heart ache as we pass into each new phase. On the one hand I have slept through the night several times in recent months, I am able to communicate with sick children (so much easier than trying to figure out what is bothering a baby). The girls are more independent and confident in themselves, not leaning so hard on us--which is good, really it is so important. I love watching these girls become who they are, letting them follow their dreams and passions is the real gift here. Though I will always have a tear or two to shed for those babies who will never nestle into the crook of my arm at two in the morning. For now it is such a treasure to accept hand-made hearts inscribed with Cordelia's five-year old handwriting, "To Mom I love you. Cordelia" or to have Elise tell me that she just needs a "Mommy nuggle (that is snuggle)." That is just about as sweet as can be.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Interview with Elise

Elise is a bit under the weather today, but she is pretty upbeat. I thought that it might be a good time to interview her as it has been a while since our last interview. Elise is a special girl who often asks, "Mom are you happy?" She also loves to play with her big sister, she loves My Little Pony, she is crazy into music and dance. She doesn't like to eat meals, but always wants a snack. In fact she is notorious for handing me her dinner plate and saying, "I am full, can I have a snack?"


Me: Hi Elise, how are you feeling today?
Elise: Uh, I am just petting Lucy.
Me: But how do you feel?
Elise: A little bit not good.
Me: I am sorry to hear that, what doesn't feel good?
Elise: Um, my throat (pronounced froat).


Me:How old are you?
Elise: I am two and a half! And how are you?
Me: I am great,thanks.


Me: What is your favorite food?
Elise: Um, uh, pigs in a blanket? That is my favorite.


She crawls under our electric organ and bumps her head. I give her head a little rub.
Elise: No Mom, don't mess up my hair. (I am thinking this is her sister's influence)
Once everything is fine we resume our interview.


Me: What is your favorite thing to do?
Elise: Build castles.
Me: What kind of castles?
Elise: Lego castles and block ones. And the ones that somebody gave me at church.

Me: Who are some of your friends?
Elise: Alaina (Cordelia's school friend) is my friend. And Charlie... and everybody is my best friend. Everybody is my best friend.

Here she paused to stack up some foam and sing a My Little Pony song. This song if you want to hear it.

Me: What would you like to do today?
Elise: Have a snack. I want to go have a snack.


Me: What do you like to do with Grandma Sue and Grandpa Mike?
Elise: I like to do projects and have a snack. Please can I have a snack right now?

Me: Pretty soon we will have a snack, but you just had breakfast. What kind of snack do you want when it is snack time?
Elise: Hmmmmm, sunflower's seeds. Do we have those? Those sunflower's seeds?

Me: I think we might have some sunflower seeds.
Elise: (Grabs my hand and yanks). Then we should just go and see if we have those.

Me: Alright we can go and get your snack. Thanks for letting me ask some questions. Is there anything else you want to tell me?
Elise: No. Can we have a snack now?


Monday, March 2, 2015

Project: Affordable Bathroom Floor Upgrade

So the state of our bathroom floor can definitely be filed under first world problems. Yeah, it wasn't very pretty, but it was fine. 

I was bothered that no matter how I cleaned the floor it still looked dirty. I also just didn't love the tiles, they looked like something from a truck stop bathroom. Just blah and dated. I was sick of looking at them.

Even though I would love to do a full bathroom renovation it just isn't in our budget. So I just resigned myself to the unbearable weight of unsightly bathroom floors...let me tell you it was a terrible burden. I don't know how we made it for so long, but by digging deep we found the courage to live seemingly normal lives in spite of our bathroom floors. They haunted my dreams.

Then, last week, I stumbled upon a few different posts about peel and stick tiles I decided that might be a good upgrade until the bathroom renovation fairy visits my bank account. 

I stopped by Menard's and priced the tiles. They ranged from $0.69-$1.50. Our bathroom only needed about forty tiles, this was an upgrade we can afford, plus the tiles are removable (with small effort) if we decide to do a more significant upgrade down the road. I grabbed two boxes of the tiles (they are also sold individually) for a total of about 60 tiles and less than $60 with plenty of leftover tiles for use on a future project (downstairs bathroom) and a little room for error as Eric and I learned how to install.

The process was fairly straightforward. Floors were swept and cleaned. We placed a tile right over the top of a pre-existing tile. Then pushed our next tile up against it, pressing firmly to minimize seams. 

We did discover that we had to pull up the quarter round and now plan to re-paint the quarter round (which we are still putting back into place) for a cleaner look as the old paint was in less than stellar condition.

Eric had a brilliant idea for cutting clean lines in the tiles; he used an old school paper cutter, the kind with a blade arm. He first checked to ensure that the paper cutter was cutting in straight lines. He used a utility knife for the non-uniform lines around the toilet and in a few wonky    corners. We used the paper backing that peeled away from other tiles for tracing paper, to outline those wonky areas and make a template for cutting, as it was about the same and was less wasteful. 

Eric ended up doing most of the detail work as I have a slight tremor in my hand that makes my work a little uneven. So be sure that someone with a steady hand does detail work if you try something like this.

Overall the whole process took about three hours and covered our bathroom and bathroom closet. We are really pleased with the results!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Sunday Quote: Ardent Zealot

Eric and me 2008

 Falling in love is very real, but I used to shake my head when people talked about soul mates, poor deluded individuals grasping at some supernatural ideal not intended for mortals but sounded pretty in a poetry book. Then, we met, and everything changed, the cynic has become the converted, the skeptic, an ardent zealot.”
~E.A. Bucchanieri

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Date Night

Last night was kind of a work night/ date night. Eric had his opening reception and lecture for his installation (I will give you the full run down when Eric takes photos). We showed up a bit early and the place was empty so we thought it might be a no show event. We were wrong. 

People began to file in and soon enough there was quite the crowd assembled in front of the gallery.

Eric before his lecture, just being a serious artist. We wandered around the gallery as Eric inspected all of the elements to make sure that everything was in order and ready for the show.

Keeping it casual and classy in between skulls and a bathtub full of fake blood. 

Skulls, a pile of thirty and fifteen jawbones.

Giving his lecture to a big crowd. He really did well, explaining a very broad concept.

After Eric's lecture we got to enjoy a piano concert. His exhibition is part of the larger Humanities Festival, so there have been a lot of events lately---it's wonderful! We really enjoyed the concert.

After the concert we went with some friends to a local distillery that was surprisingly awesome.

The vodka distillery serves vodka drinks and I am a lightweight so I just had about a third of a Moscow Mule. It was good, but the ginger flavor was not my favorite.

When it was time to head home we said goodbye to our friends and hit the road. It was such a lovely evening out and it was so relaxing to know our girls were safe and happy at home with my mother.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Phone Photo Friday: 2.27.15

Last Phone Photo Phriday of the month!

These sisters often end up dressing like twins.

Overlooking our town.

Lucy likes to interrupt movie nights.

Little mid morning entertainment.

Cordelia and I had a mother/daughter date with pottery painting.

Shopping with this kid.

School project.

Elise and her friend play during Cordelia's dance class.

Girl loves to twirl.

Morning sun and bed head

The girls dressed as Eric and I all on their own.

Finger painting.

Eric and Elise at dance class.

Cold and cloudy winter day.

Sisters being weird in the hotel room in Cheyenne, yes back again.

Hotel breakfast...or at least drink.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Not Time for Tulips

My mother sent me a picture of the irises that are starting to push their way up through the soil in her yard. I went out front and could see that my tulips are also eagerly beginning to grow. It isn't unusual for tulips to bloom through a snowy yard, but it is still a bit early for that kind of thing.

We have had a pretty mild winter, but there are still cold days ahead. 

I feel a bit like the tulips though; if I go through the motions of spring then maybe it will come a bit early. Eric and I are talking a lot about meals on the back porch and keeping windows open. 

We aren't there yet. We are in the winding down of winter. Snow days are fewer and farther between. Soon enough the warmer days will outnumber the cold days. Then I can start seedlings and let the girls out back to play away the day while I work in the soil.

For now though I am content to look at seed catalogues as I sip on hot tea.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vegan Recipe: Easter Pandolce

Easter is coming, ready to start on your menu? Here is a recipe from my friend Kate for her Vegan Pandolce...
Vegan Easter Bread |
Buttery, rich and decadent, Easter Bread is my favorite thing about this spring holiday, and if I had to choose one bread to take with me to a desert island, it would be this gorgeous veganized version of Italian Pandolce studded with dried fruits and nuts and flavored with a hint of cardamom and fennel.

When veganizing this classic Easter Bread it was easy enough to substitute vegan butter, but replacing the eggs, which give the bread a distinct richness and color was a bit more difficult.After a bit of experimenting I discovered that by adding a little bit of saffron to the mix, the lovely yellowish color was a dead ringer for the original.

Many of you have a lot of questions about vegan baking...about baking in general, so I have put together a few pointers and tips to help make your life less stressful.

Baking Bread Lesson #1:
Don’t be afraid of bread making. Just follow the directions closely and don't make any random substitutions when you don’t have the ingredients, i.e. water for soy milk.

1. Always pre-measure your ingredients. It doesn’t take any extra time, and you will save yourself from forgetting if you added one or two teaspoons of baking soda, or realize that you don’t have enough flour or sugar when you are halfway through the recipe.
2. If you are serious about baking, buy a kitchen scale so you can accurately measure your ingredients. Not all measuring cups were created equal, and some vary as much as a Tablespoon. Trust me, it's worth $20 to shell out for this Ozeri scale.
3. If you don’t have a kitchen scale use the dip and sweep method rather than spooning the flour or sugar into a cup.

Most importantly be patient with the dough. Think of it as a living, breathing thing; a little baby of yeast and flour. It will grow if you treat it tenderly and give it a warm environment to thrive.

Veganized Italian Easter Bread: Pandolce
Adapted from the Vegan Feast Kitchen

1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp dry active baking yeast
1/4 tsp saffron

1/2 cup (4 oz) almond or soy milk

1/4 cup (2 oz) granulated sugar

3 Tbs vegan butter (I love Earth Balance)
Grated zest of one orange
4 tsp orange flower water (optional if you can’t find it)
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup golden raisins, dried currants, and chopped dried apricot (or cherries, cranberries, dark raisins...really any kind of dried fruit you like chopped)
1/3 cup chopped lightly toasted pine nuts, pecans, walnuts, or pistachios (or a combo)

1. In a small bowl or glass measuring cup combine yeast and saffron. Add warm water and let sit for about 7-10 minutes, until bubbly. (The older your yeast is the longer it will take.)
Vegan Easter Bread |
Yeast bubbling in water
2. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until it bubbles around the edges. (You don't want it to boil because too hot of liquid will kill the yeast.) Add the sugar and margarine and stir to dissolve. Let cool for about 3 minutes or until it is just warm to the touch. Add to the yeast/water mixture.
3. Pour the milk mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add orange zest, orange flower water, vanilla, salt, fennel and ground cardamom. Stir in wheat germ and 1 cup of flour. Beat slowly at first and then gradually speed up to about medium so you don't splash the flour everywhere.
4. As the wet ingredients combine with the dry gradually add the flour in 1/3 of a cup at a time. Resist the temptation to add it all in at once. You will regret having to clean up the flour later.
5.Once the dough has come together you can either turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface to knead it with oiled hands, or change to the dough hook and knead it in the bowl while you are cleaning up the dishes. Knead about 5-10 minutes or until dough is smooth like a baby's bottom.
6.When the dough is smooth, turn out into a lightly oiled bowl. Coat the top with a tiny bit of oil then cover with a clean, damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1.5 hours. If the dough isn't rising don't get frustrated. It can take up to 2 hours depending on the altitude and how old your yeast is.
Vegan Easter Bread |
Bread dough rising.
7. Take the dough out of the bowl and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Pat it into a rectangle and sprinkle with dried fruits and nuts. Roll it up like a cinnamon roll and fold the ends. Knead gently by folding and rolling until the fruits and nuts are well-distributed throughout the dough.
Vegan Easter Bread |
Pat the dough out into a rectangle and sprinkle with dried fruits and nuts. 
8. Cut the dough in half and roll each half on a lightly floured surface into a 24-inch long rope. Twist the two ropes together and form into a ring on a parchment lined baking sheet, tucking the ends neatly together. Set aside for about 15 minutes while the oven is heating up.
Vegan Easter Bread |
Twist the ropes into a circle. 
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with olive oil or melted margarine. Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes or until a deep golden brown and sound a little bit hollow when tapped.
10. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Spread with a powdered sugar lemon icing or dust with powdered sugar.

Vegan Easter Bread | 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Favorite Things

Today I thought I would keep it random and title my post Favorite Things. This way I can pretty much just free flow through blogger. So join me will you?

Eric has a new art installation exhibit that opened yesterday. Remember all of those skulls we have been makings? Well they are all part of a larger installation (skulls are for sale). Read an article here I will post a full review soon!


Overheard conversations between the girls:
Cordelia:I just did a somersault Elise!
Elise: Be careful Delia.
C: I am practically the best sommersaulter.
E: Oh, okay Delia...

This darling French fruits poster. You can find it on Etsy, but I suppose I could make my own in an hour. Might be a fun painting exercise.

My friend Sarah got me hooked on the Timehop app which is a lot of fun, it mines your social media from the same day years prior and reminds you of what you were up to. It is a treat to see random photos from when the girls were little.

The return to coffee drinking. I am not having a ton of coffee, but I missed the ritual. There is something about holding a cup of coffee or tea that forces me to just chill out and enjoy the moment. 

We had a great Sunday night dinner with two other families.  After dinner the kids were playing downstairs. Cordelia came up in a leotard and skirt that she had "borrowed." She was pink cheeked and excited. Running over she said,"Mom I did my first ever cartwheel!" I smiled, imagining the attempt had been pretty amusing,"Wow! Congratulations," I said.
She responded,"Yeah, but none of the other kids really admired it."

Ummm, what's not to love about a stuffed tapir?

I am also still loving Instagram. I am @mariarosewimmer if you are on Instagram. 

What are you loving these days?

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