Happy New Year's Eve!

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009


Just wanted to wish you all a very happy New Year's Eve! We're prepping for our annual (in its 3rd year!) party . . . so not much time to post. However, throughout the entire week, I've had the opportunity to cook, bake, and make a variety of awesome things that I can't wait to share with you all in the days, weeks, and months to come!

<3





PS: I got this new runner (the one on top, pictured below) at Target for $15! It was half off, and I found it in the middle of the ornament section. LOVE it. Perhaps takes away from the tacky-ness of our balloons :)


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DETOX: Day 4 -- Healthy Crackers


I'm happy to report that at the start of day 4 of the detox, I'm feeling amazing! (Need to catch up? Check out Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.) I have way more energy . . . I've lost two pounds . . . I'm excited now to eat all this healthy food . . . and I've stopped having my cravings. OK WAIT. Not that last one. I still am craving tons of cheese and sugar. Ack! Last night we went out to dinner with our neighbors, and I simply couldn't bring myself to eat just a soup and salad. That's what I probably should have ordered . . . but, instead I got a veggie burger on a white bun . . . with jack cheese . . . mac & cheese . . . sweet potato fries . . . and Stephen and I split a brie/chutney appetizer.

Oh, yeah. And a glass of wine. Blah!

It's going to happen, so I'm not going to fret about it. As well, we're in the crazy-prep time for our annual New Year's Eve bash tonight, where we'll be featuring grilled pizza among other tasty things.

That cake I was talking about craving? I made it! But not really. How is that possible? Well, I made vegan chocolate cupcakes, followed the cream cheese-peanut butter frosting recipe on the Smitten Kitchen site, but used vegan cream cheese, and then came up with my own vegan chocolate-pb ganache. Not super healthy, but much healthier than the original! So that recipe for that hot mess is coming soon, soon, soon!


Back to the vegan crackers we made from scratch. They were inspired by ones posted recently on the Oh She Glows blog by Angela. She bakes/cooks up a ton of tasty and incredibly healthy alternatives to favorites like peanut butter cups, crackers, cookies, etc., etc., etc. When I saw them, I had to try 'em. So, I followed her recipe in essence . . . but changed quite a few of the ingredients to fit what we have in our food supply.



What you'll need . . .
(for the basic part before adding flavor)
  • 1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous (or she suggests brown rice)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked seven grain hot cereal (we used wheat-free, you can sub in steel-cut oats, etc.)

Method . . .
  1. Cook both ingredients in separate pots.
  2. Mix together and let cool.
  3. Separate into two bowls. And let the fun begin.
  4. Please note: the recipes below suppose you are making both kinds of crackers. If you choose to make only one kind, simply double the amounts of the ingredients in that one recipe.



What you need . . .
(for rosemary-"cheesy" crackers -- on right)
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon crushed rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon tahini
  • Handful crushed walnuts

What you need . . .
(for sesame-curry crackers -- on left)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder (depending on how potent you like 'em to be)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (we used black ones)
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave
  • Handful crushed walnuts







Method . . .
(for either recipe)
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. For each cracker type, throw all ingredients onto the bowl with the grain mixture.
  3. Blend each thoroughly (and separately) in a food processor until well incorporated.
  4. Spray some olive oil onto a cookie sheet and take one kind of cracker "dough" . . . place plastic wrap on top of it and then roll it out until thin.
  5. Remove the plastic wrap and cut into whatever-sized pieces you like. Gently transfer to another prepared cookie sheet.
  6. Repeat process with other cracker type.
  7. Bake at same time for 35 to 40 minutes -- flipping over half-way through. Angela says to watch carefully after 30 minutes to avoid burning.
  8. Cool for 15 minutes (this allows them to harden even more). The result is a great, chewy cracker . . . we liked both kinds, but especially the rosemary-"cheesy" ones. And we WILL be making these again. ASAP.
  9. Enjoy with hummus or any other tasty spread. Or add to a healthy lunch . . .


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DETOX: Day 3 -- Smoothies

>> Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The detox is going OK . . . wow is it hard! (Missed the beginning? Read about Day 2 and Day 1.) One of my favorite parts of the day is the morning smoothie. This one's got raspberries, bananas, pineapple, fresh ginger, and soy milk in it. Blended together, it's tangy and makes us forget it's below zero outside (which was the case yesterday . . . BRRR!). Last spring I even tried green smoothies for a while. If you haven't heard about the nutritional powerhouse that is the green smoothie, you can read all about it at the Green Monster Movement site maintained by Angela at Oh She Glows.

So how am I feeling after three days of eating more fruits and veggies? Staying away from refined carbohydrates? Eating far fewer cookies? What do you think? I feel GREAT. But I am starting to miss "real" baking. I found this recipe for a chocolate-peanut butter layer cake on Smitten Kitchen I'm just dying to try! Like I said, this new diet is hard. And I write diet in the true sense of the word . . . it is in no way a calorie restriction. That just doesn't work for me. Or anyone, really. A diet needs to be a lifestyle change. So, I'll need to adapt my baking accordingly. Don't fret, though. This means more exciting recipes for all you (never home)makers!

Last rambling thought: I'm even thinking about going vegan again . . . at least 80% of the time. I already eat a primarily-vegan diet. Pizza and my favorite sandwich often get in the way, however . . . filling my stomach with so much cheese and white bread. I just need to find a healthier way to get my fix. Hmmmm.

By now I can hear you begging me to stop talking about all this stuff and give you the smoothie recipe already. OK!


What you'll need (to make two smoothies)
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • Fresh ginger -- to taste and minced
  • 1 cup soy milk

Method . . .
  1. Throw everything in a blender.
  2. Blend until fully incorporated. Check for clumps of frozen fruit.
  3. Serve and enjoy right away. Though, I imagine you can refrigerate for later, too.
  4. Want to make it a green smoothie? Throw in a handful of kale! No joke: It doesn't impact the flavor too terribly much . . . and kale is SUPER healthy. The green bugger pictured below is made exactly the same way . . . however, I used water instead of soy milk. And added that lush handful of kale.



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Richard Simmons: Dazzling Desserts

>> Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Yes. This is for real. And we've been baking our way through it for a few months now. If you want to skip to the recipes, follow these links:
Now more about the man and the book: The Richard Simmons Private Collection of Dazzling Desserts. I didn't believe it at first either . . . but when I found it at a local used book store with a $4.00 price tag, I just had to make it mine. Basically, it's a book full of desserts that are made relatively healthy . . . with poems and other prose written by Richard himself.

He also makes several cameos . . .




What's better is that I've actually worked out with Richard. He came to my college for a health fair my senior year . . . and I was one of the lucky few who got to join him and his sequin-adorned short-shorts on stage. So, it's like having a friend in the kitchen with me. A close friend who, like me, enjoys sweatin' it out to the oldies.

Surprisingly, many of the desserts in the book look, well, good! My friend Erin even suggested I start a Julie/Julie-like project where I work my way through the entire book. Maybe.

What do you think?




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DETOX: Day 2 -- Miso Soup


Day 2 of the detox, and we're doing swell. OK. For Stephen our "diet" is pretty much normal eating. For me, it's a bit different. I think we've been over it already, but I eat WAY too much sugar. All the time. Last night I got my first real craving. So, I broke out some cocoa-covered popcorn (this really tasty, "guilt-free," vegan kind made by Lesser Evil) . . . seemed to do the trick.

What exactly HAVE we been eating? Here's the breakdown:

  • Breakfast: First, a huge mug of tea with 1/2 lemon squeezed into it. Later, a fruit smoothie (though I may do a few green smoothies, too) . . . and we've been adding some whole grain cereal for energy for running.
  • Snack: Fruit or veggies.
  • Lunch: SOUP. Today I'm giving the recipe for miso soup. Ours is more of a stew because we throw tons of kale and shiitake mushrooms into the mix. We also add a piece of whole wheat bread with some almond butter and a piece of fruit (blood oranges, anyone? -- they're my favorite!).
  • Pre-run snack: raw coconut-carob chip "cookies".
  • Dinner: Steamed broccoli and brown rice with a mixture of sesame oil and soy sauce on top. This isn't really filling us up, so tonight we're going to make it a stirfry with some tofu.

That's pretty much it. Now, again, it isn't a detox in the true sense. Our friend Kevin and his brothers came over to visit last night, and we all split a fancy beer. So, basically -- we do what we can. I think any effort to eat better is a good step for me at this point.

Today's recipe is for the miso soup we ate yesterday . . . and likely will eat again today. I recommend using lighter miso -- like a white -- but we used barley miso, so just go with what you like.

MISO SOUP

What you'll need . . .

  • Handful shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 4 to 6 scallions, chopped
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, shaved
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/4 cup miso paste





Method . . .

  1. Put water and all veggies/mushrooms into a large stock pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Drop the heat down to a simmer and set your timer for 10 minutes.
  3. Take pot off heat and stir in the miso. This part can be tricky -- you need to make sure it all dilutes.
  4. Serve and enjoy (makes about 4-5 servings).

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Oh, hello! And DETOX: Day 1

>> Monday, December 28, 2009


Good morning! Today is the first day of my full work week off. Jealous? Don't be. It's time off long overdue . . . and with only a few concrete plans, I intend to make the most of it (RELAX). Hope everyone had a great holiday! We certainly did. However, if you're anything like me, you're likely waking up these days in a post-cookie-madness sugar haze (it feels like a hangover to me, though I've had only little to drink if anything). I've decided to do something about that.

Yup -- a detox.

Not really a hard-core one. It's more detox-ish than full on . . . anything is better than subsisting on a diet of cookies alone. I am somewhat following Gwyneth Paltrow's, but with a bit more food . . . need to fuel the running. So today's share is actually something way healthy. I've decided to re-create my favorite chocolate chipper -- chocolate chip-coconut cookies -- into a raw cookie. Now, those of you out there who eat a raw diet (or dabble more than I have) might have some suggestions to make this recipe healthier, more raw -- I imagine the carob chips aren't raw technically, etc.

Please, please, please share your thoughts. I'm new to this whole genre, but most eager to learn.


Coconut & Carob "Cookies" (more like energy chunks)

What you'll need . . .

  • 1-3/4 cups raw walnuts
  • 3/4 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 package vegan carob chips (I used Sunspire)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes


Method . . .

  1. In a food processor, blend together the oats and walnuts until well incorporated.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients. I first combined the walnut-oat mixture with the agave, almond butter, and vanilla extract. Then I added everything else. Just keep mixing until everything is covered.
  3. Line a cookie sheet (or plate) with plastic wrap or wax paper. Drop heaping tablespoons onto the sheet (I found it helpful to really PUSH the ingredients into the tablespoon and then press down on them once on the sheet to flatten slightly).
  4. Refrigerate for a few hours to harden. Or just eat like dough.

They're REALLY good. Remind us of these energy chunks we used to buy at our beloved natural foods store in Ithaca. Anyway, stay tuned for more fantastic, detox-friendly recipes all this week as we gear up for the new year. We're also working on our resolutions. One of mine is to spend less time on the couch. But as I type this -- Stephen's on the couch playing our new favorite game: New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Best game ever. And I plan to join him . . . NOW.

Pssst: Don't forget to submit your FREEKEND to us!!!

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Happy Holidays!

>> Thursday, December 24, 2009

Vacation is FINALLY here! I'm just hoping it doesn't go in a flash, which is usually the case. We're PA-bound in T-minus 3 hours . . . but before then, I still have gifts to wrap, clothes to pack, and a variety of other tasks I should have completed yesterday to, well, complete.

Yesterday was tough. I think the workday lasted longer than any other workday EVER. But it wasn't all bad . . . I got to wear some comfy flannel-lined pants and slippers:


But now I'm happy to bid farewell to work until the new year. On that note, likely I won't be posting that much over the next four days, so please be patient with me :) Just so ya'll know, we're nearing (never home)maker's first giveaway! As of this morning, we have 219 subscribers . . . w00t! So exciting! When we reach 250 -- that's when I'll post info about the giveaway. Just a little gift to you all for the love.

Don't forget: You have until January 3rd to submit your FREEKENDs to us. We can't wait to hear from you. And if we don't -- we'll share what we did. No hard feelings.

Have a great holiday, and watch next week for some awesome posts featuring my family! Now here's a question: What's your most central holiday tradition? Here at the (never home)maker household, we're dorks, and we like to take a nice 6-mile jog around my little hometown around 5 or 6 PM on X-mas eve . . . we listen to all the church bells ring, look into all the cozy homes, and admire the lights strung about town. Looking forward to doing that this evening.

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(never home)maker House Tour

>> Wednesday, December 23, 2009


It's always fun to do a little house crashing, am I right? Well, we've got two tasty tours of our own space for your hungry eyes . . . right here on (never home)maker! See, besides cooking, baking, running, racing, and living the healthy life -- we really enjoy decorating our humble abode. We bought our home a little over 2 years ago. It's a modest 2-story -- tipping the square foot scales at just over 1200, with three bedrooms, 1 lonely bathroom, and a teeny kitchen.

Though it may not be glamorous, it's where we live. It's where we eat and sleep. It's where we write. It's where we create and take photos of all the good food you see on our site. So, don't be shy . . . just slip off your shoes and wander around for a while. We even cleaned the bathroom for you!


OUR HOUSE:

We feel we're always painting or ripping up carpeting. Really, since we moved in, we took this baby from the 1980s (and beyond) to our times . . . in no time at all. On our HOUSE TOUR, we take you room by room through our place. Sprinkled along the way are some handy links to how-to posts (how to rip up old carpeting, how to pick out paint color, how to hide clutter, etc.). It's always changing, so check out what it looks like right now!


OUR KITCHEN:

Needless to say (or to write?), we spend the majority of our waking hours inside our TINY KITCHEN. We've had to come up with some creative (and not always expected) ways to use what we have. But we've been turning lemons into lemonade (and flour into bread, zucchini into soup, etc.) with some major success for a while now. We were even featured on Apartment Therapy for our smart use of a small space. Go ahead, take a peek!


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Sweet Potato Ravioli with Tofu Ricotta


Yet another vegan favorite from the METHOD archives: Before this recipe, I had never made pasta before. Ever! I don't technically have the best tools to make pasta anyway -- just my mixer and a rolling pin. And the interesting part is that I didn't carefully read the recipe before beginning. Always read your recipe!!! The one I followed was actually for wheat ravioli with sweet potato FILLING.

I discovered this situation half-way through the process, and then had to make some rather vital decisions. The life of my pasta, after all, was on the line.

However, I'm proud to report that I essentially invented the pasta myself with a little experimentation and educated guessing. It's VERY good . . . and if you choose to make it yourself, you'll find it gives you an incredible sense of satisfaction. I mean, you're making PASTA! Don't you only buy that in stores? And don't all the fresh and "good" kinds in the store have eggs in them?

Yes. And, sadly for vegans, yes.

Homemade pasta is an excellent meal to make for a Sunday evening. My husband and I have started a tradition where we cook and bake pretty much all day Sunday . . . and then eat a gigantic, Thanksgiving-like meal in the evening. It allows us to master complicated recipes, eat some extraordinary foods, and -- awww -- bond.




SWEET POTATO RAVIOLI

What you'll need . . .

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup unbleached white flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method . . .

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil; add peeled & diced sweet potato to the water.
  2. Once the sweet potato is softened, drain, mash and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the one cup of flour and salt.
  4. While the motor is running, slowly add in the oil and mashed sweet potato.
  5. This next part is tricky depending upon how much sweet potato you have. Add the second cup of flour (again, while the motor is running) in small heaps -- until the dough becomes a ball and isn't too sticky. You may need to add more or less flour depending on the consistency you observe. Go with what looks right to you.
  6. Flour a work surface and divide the dough in half. Roll each piece as thinly as possible using a floured rolling pin.
  7. Cut 2" - 3" circles out of dough using whatever you have to do so. I, in fact, used the top of my baking powder container! You may also manually cut with a knife . . . or cookie cutter. As Tim Gunn would say, "make it work!"
  8. Make tofu ricotta (below these glamorous pasta photos -- notice the fancy pasta cutter).





TOFU RICOTTA (From Post Punk Kitchen)

What you'll need . . .

  • 1 pound firm tofu, pressed
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • handful fresh basil leaves, chopped fine (ten leaves or so)
  • dash fresh black pepper

Method . . .

  1. In a large bowl, mush the tofu up with your hands, till it's crumbly.
  2. Add lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and basil. Mush with hands again, this time you want it to get very mushy so squeeze through your fingers and mush until it reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese. May take 2-5 minutes.
  3. Add olive oil, stir with fork. Add nutritional yeast and combine all ingredients well. Use a fork now, because the oil will make it sticky.




PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

  1. Take one pasta circle and place about 1 tablespoon of tofu ricotta in it.
  2. Place another pasta circle on top and press the edges together.
  3. Also press the edges lightly with a fork.
  4. Repeat until all the pasta and ricotta is gone.
  5. You may boil the pasta, however, I chose to toast it. So, heat two to three tablespoons of oil in a large pan.
  6. Brown ravioli on medium-high heat.
  7. You may enjoy this way with some butter . . . or make the following mouth-watering sauce.

FANCY, but EASY CHAMPAGNE SAUCE
(again with the alcohol)

What you'll need . . .

  • 1/2 can of roasted garlic pasta sauce.
  • Balsamic vinegar (about 1/4 cup) to taste.
  • A bit of dry champagne to taste (not necessary, but I had a bit sitting in my fridge).

Method . . .

  1. Mix everything together.
  2. Heat over medium flame on stove.
  3. Top ravioli.
  4. It's also nice to sprinkle some nutritional yeast on top!

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Happy X-Mas to the Cats

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Again, we're not crazy cat people. But we felt it was appropriate to celebrate the holiday this year by giving our cats something special of their very own. (Who are these crazy kitties? Find out -- meet the cats!) OK. It was also a gift to us. An attempt to get these two furry beasts off our furniture and onto their own bed . . . where they can shed all they like.

Despite what you see in these photos, though, it's not working. Scully was more interested in the bed's price tag -- she chewed it and chased it around the living room. And Rivey only seems to sleep on it when he can force Scully off.

Oh, well. Don't they look just absolutely thrilled?


PS: If you're a Home Blog fan -- specifically of those concerned with Home Cooking -- consider nominating some of your favorite blogs for a Homie Award on Apartment Therapy. Just follow this link. And, you know, if you happen to like us here at (never home)maker, you could always nominate us (neverhomemaker.blogspot.com) too . . . just sayin'.

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Take a Cooking Class with Friends


My friends are seriously the coolest people . . . EVER. Not just because they love playing hours of Beatles Rock Band as much as we do. Not just because they share in our love of beer-cheese fondue. Not even because they're just so darn cute (I mean, LOOK at them!). No, it's because they take the time to visit us . . . and do other cool things with us.

Like what? Like participating in an apple pie baking workshop. Oh, hells yes!









In mid-October, we all drove from our separate cities to the The New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY. The mission: To create the most amazing apple pie possible. The weather was incredible -- it was the weekend before NY's first snowfall, and the leaves were nearing their peak. Canandaigua is a cute town that sits at the top of one of the Finger Lakes in upstate NY. As the Center's name implies, there's also a lot of great wine (and beer, actually) in the area.

Of course, we did a bit of taste testing . . .




Anyway, among many things that day, we learned some valuable tips and tricks for making flaky pie crust.

  • Use shortening AND butter -- and don't blend the pats of either ingredient into the flour very much. The pockets of fat help create the flakes in the end result.
  • Cider is an awesome liquid to substitute for water in apple pie crust. Don't worry, though, if your crust looks darker as it bakes (something about how the sugars make it caramelize).
  • Mix by hand. And -- your mixing is "done" when the dough has reached a "shaggy mass" consistency.
  • The words "shaggy" and "mass" together make my friends laugh even to this day.
  • When you roll out your crust -- again -- you should see big chunks of fat (see my BEAUTIFUL example below -- I'm a star student. Hah!). That means you're moving in the right direction.
  • If you eat too much of the raw dough, you may not have enough left to cover your pie.





In the end, my favorite part was not having to clean up after myself in the kitchen. Oh, and they gave us free wine . . . AND watched our pies while they baked, allowing us to roam around for a couple hours. From experience and what I have heard, all the pies turned out wonderfully. The whole day was perfect: food, friends, and -- yeah -- fun.





Bottom line? TAKE A COOKING CLASS WITH YOUR FRIENDS. It's a great way to spend your time . . . it's educational . . . it's tasty, etc. And if you're in the NY area, check out The New York Wine & Culinary Center -- we're already planning our next class. Hopefully something that involves chocolate.

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