Thursday, December 20, 2012

Vegetarian Lemon Orzo Soup

A couple of weeks ago I realized Trader Joe's carries bags of orzo, which was in the back of my mind. I wanted to try it out, but couldn't figure out a good reason. This weekend I decided to pick one up for soup. I had some extra lemons and decided that lemon orzo soup was on the menu. I didn't do research beforehand though and figured I could just use the 2% milk I had at home or powdered milk for the broth. I was pretty surprised when I finally got home and looked up the recipe and realized the milky-colored broth was actually made from a combination of eggs and lemon, as indicated by the real name for it that I hadn't heard before: avgolemono!

I did some searching around online & most of the recipes were made with chicken broth. I wanted to make it vegetarian, so I used way more veggies and spices to add flavor. Using information from these 3 recipes from:, and, I came up with a delicious, filling soup that my boyfriend and I have been savoring all week. The most complicated part of the recipe is tempering the egg and lemon mixture with the broth, but a bit of patience helps make such a delicious and flavorful soup that it's worth taking the time to do it. I also had some plain chicken tender quorn in the freezer, so I tossed a bit in to add in that chicken-y element. Between the quorn and eggs, this soup was not vegan. I'm not really sure how to get the same broth without the egg (although you could just use lemon juice instead) and you can add chicken as well as chicken or veggie broth instead of water.  I personally don't think this soup needs to be served with bread since the orzo adds a lot of carby type foods to the meal, but some people might like a bread to soak up the flavorful broth. Even after rewarmed, this soup still has a nice flavor and thickness. I will definitely be making this easy, bright & lemony flavored soup again!

Vegetarian Lemon Orzo Soup (~6 meal sized servings):

1 medium-large onion, diced
3-4 carrots,cut into half moon slices
5 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup of cut leeks (I used the frozen leeks from Trader Joe's)
5 cloves of garlic (or adjust to taste if you don't like it that much) diced or dried garlic powder to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
8 cups of water
1 cup frozen spinach or a couple of cups of fresh spinach, chopped if not baby spinach
1-2 teaspoons of tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried oregeno, or more to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 teaspoons of dried parsley or ~1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste (more salt than pepper in this recipe)
 8 oz dried orzo
juice of 2 lemons
3 eggs
toppings such as: fake chicken-y thing, real chicken & cheese

  1. Prepare veggies. In a stockpot, warm the oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery & leeks to the pot and saute until onions become translucent. 
  2. Add fresh garlic, if using, to pot and continue to cook for about a minute. Add the water, spinach & spices (besides parsley) to the pot. 
  3. Allow the soup to simmer for a while, letting the flavor develop. If using quorn or other frozen/coldish meat things, you can add them in after at least 30 minutes & bring back to a simmer.
  4. In a separate pot, cook the orzo according to directions and then add to soup. 
  5. In a decent sized bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice. Once well combined, begin tempering the eggs with the simmering broth and adding to the soup once warm enough. 
  6. Allow mixture to reach a simmer again, add parsley and taste. If needed, adjust seasoning, salt & pepper, but the soup should be lemony tasting and you don't want to overpower that!
  7. Remove Bay leaf before serving. Eat alone or top with chicken, cheese, etc.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pouches, la primera!

I realized I've been on a kick of making pouches and bags of all sorts and yet I haven't really posted any except for the folding grocery bags. These first couple are small ones and my first experiences with zippers. I was scared of zippers because my mom always avoided sewing them growing up. After picking up large bags of zippers for very little money in the LA Fashion District, I decided I needed to figure these things out. I don't have a zipper foot for my sewing machines, but I just try to get as close as possible to the zipper teeth along with taking advantage of the right and left placement of my needle and take my time. The results might not be perfect, but they're pretty good and I'm learning. I lined both bags for more durability.

 The large pouch currently houses my buttons and snap type items. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but the ribbon should have been on the side where the zipper is located once closed, I think.
When I had jury duty this past summer, I needed some entertainment. Along with a book, I decided I needed a way to take along my pigma micron pens so I could doodle while hanging out and waiting. That's where the small pouch came into existence. I wanted something that would let me easily see the caps for the color and size information, while holding them easily while mobile (i.e. no table top.) The top part of the pouch is completely encircled with the zipper, yet still connected in the back so there's no top to take off and lose. I really like how this pouch turned out, although sewing the circles was a bit tricky and I accidently sewed the top ciricle on the outside instead of the inside - I went with it. The pouch holds about 20 of the pigma micron pens.

Oh pouches! Up next I have similar items, yet completely different!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner

Last year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. The meal was small, just my sister and myself, but it was a fun, long and busy day. When I heard that a few people in my life were possibly going out to eat for Thanksgiving this year, I decided I was up for cooking for a few more. Four people ended up coming for dinner besides myself, including my roommate from college and her boyfriend and my boyfriend and his brother. Woo! This group included one vegetarian and one vegan, so I decided to make most dishes vegan, which is to say, turkey was not part of the plan. Unfortunately because I was busy cooking, cleaning and having people over, I forgot to take pictures of most things. Ooops. Anway this was the menu:

  • Whole wheat crockpot bread - I used something like this recipe, cooking the bread in the crockpot on high for 3 hours. I'm not sure if my yeast was bad or what, but it didn't rise as much as I expected, and as a result the bread was a little more dense than I hoped. It was still ok with the soup and cut very thinly for grilled cheese sandwiches. I want to try this technique again at some later point I think.
  • Tomato & Delicata squash soup - I didn't really follow a recipe for this soup, but it was similar to this soup. I used fresh tomatoes and delicate squash instead of the butternut squash called for. I also used more veggies and spices in it since I didn't use the cheese or chicken stock. My trusty vitamix made the soup nice and smooth.
  • Israeli Cous Cous salad - This has become my go-to recipe for Thanksgiving potlucks since it's easy, can be made the day before, doesn't require any reheating and includes some fruits and veggies and the ever favorite carbs. I used dried rosemary and thyme, adding it when cooking the couscous, which seems to add more flavor than adding once it's cooked. I also added in some quinoa instead of all of the couscous (like Trader Joe's Israeli Cous Cous pilaf mixture.) Sometimes I also add some orange zest as well as pink lady apples instead of green, green onions and cucumber if it's on hand. If I have it around I also will use fresh squeezed orange juice instead of some of the apple cider vinegar. I usually forget the almonds. I really like this as a fresher, vegan version of stuffing/filling.
  • Green salad - Nothing crazy here. Just a green salad with strawberries, Asian pear, green onions and maybe some other stuff I'm forgetting with a vinaigrette.
  • Green Bean Casserole - The first and only time I had made green bean casserole before this was a few years ago with my cousin and sister for Christmas with a recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook. It turned out well, but I don't have the cookbook, so I found this recipe online instead. I took a shortcut, using the harcot verts from trader joes, which I steamed and didn't bother cutting any smaller. I also used 4 largish portabella mushrooms instead of the wild mushroom mix. I was so happy how this worked because the mushrooms added so much flavor to the dish and I wanted to make the dish a little more substantial. I also didn't use the veggie bullion cube, instead opting to use some dried thyme, sage, rosemary and a little nutmeg for seasoning instead. I also added some leek into the mix for more depth of flavor in conjunction with the onion and garlic. Finally, I made my own "fried" onions, gently frying some onions mixed with whole wheat flour and light seasoning in olive oil.
  • Sweet Potatoes - I pretty much used this recipe, except I used 2lbs of sweet potatoes and not as much topping as mentioned in the recipe. I also used a mixture of pecans and walnuts on top.
  • Baked Salmon with herbs -  I vaguely used a recipe similar to this for the salmon. For the herbs, I layered roughly chopped parsley, green onions and very thinly sliced lemon on the salmon. I was surprised at how much flavor these brought to the salmon.
  • Vegan almond Cream with fresh fruit & my friend brought a pumpkin pie! - I vaguely used this recipe for vegan almond cream. I had made it before without the agar, which was still tasty, but I wanted to see how it would change the texture. So I ventured into Little Tokyo to pick a few packets of agar agar powder at a fraction of the price of what Whole Food's had. I used already blanched almonds from Trader Joe's, which I soaked a little bit and then blended into an smooth cream with my Vitamix. I didn't bother straining the mixture before boiling it with the agar and sugar. After letting the mixture firm overnight in the fridge, I added a bit of lemon juice, lemon zest and apple cider vinegar for an extra level of tangy flavor and to losen the mixture (from what I've read, acids can cause the agar to not set if added in excess) a dash of cardamom while breaking up the mixture into a smooth cream after it set. It was delicious with both the cut strawberries and persimmon as well as the pumpkin pie.
Overall, I think things went well and I didn't have any major disasters. It was relatively easy to make nearly the whole meal vegan and I enjoyed making dishes from scratch since I like adding more fruits & veggies, cut down on the excess fat and enhance the spices. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal and I enjoyed the company and having the chance to cook for people since that's definitely a way I like showing my love (especially when it's foods I know are healthy!) I wanted to make sure I made some of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes while still remaining true to some of the concepts and cooking techniques I usually utilize. I experimented with some techniques and recipes that I want to continue using going forward (like the green bean casserole! That was my favorite leftover!) Overall, a Thanksgiving day success!

aww. and a sweet little rat to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bird Floor Cushion

A few weeks ago, I came across the tutorial for this floor cushion from livingwithpunks. I had a pile of old couch cushions I kept in the corner as floor cushions, but this seemed like a nicer way to achieve the same thing. Plus, it's a chance to sew something new. It was on my mental list of things to do! Before I could start though, I needed some supplies.

For Black Friday this year, I once again went down to the Los Angeles Fashion District to explore it's wonders during a weekday. Black Friday isn't a big part of shopping there, although a few shops, like Michael Levine, had some discounted fabrics, it's mostly that some shops aren't open on the weekends, so it pays to visit on a weekday and the Friday after Christmas is the only non-holiday type day I have off of work every year. (I realize I should make a post about the Fashion District in general, because it's pretty awesome for crafty/sewing types! day!) I picked up some odds and ends there that I needed to finish projects, like elastics of all sorts and cording to finish off the floor cushion. I also managed to go to Joann's yesterday and came across this awesome canvas-type bird fabric in the Red Tag section. I immediately wanted to find some use for it and realized the floor cushion was a great candidate. (I think I might also have enough left over to make a couple bike seat covers as well!)

So last night I dug through my fabric stash and decided I liked the idea of making a floor cushion that was reminiscent of a tree stump with birds on the top and bottom. I managed to find a fuzzy green and brown corduroy scraps from a thrift store grab bag to finish off the tree stump look. I pretty much followed the tutorial, cutting out a 22 inch circle for my more adult bottom, cut ~11 inch sides and I didn't include the handle. I also didn't bother to pin anything together... because that's how I do things some of the time.

Overall, I really like it! I filled it with the insides of the old couch cushions as well as some leftover foam from recovering my kitchen chairs. I think if I had bought specific filling for it, it maybe would have looked a little less lumpy. Also, my circle sewing skills obviously aren't perfected yet. Despite those things though, it looks pretty cute, does what I wanted, allowed me to use an awesome fabric, adds more nature imagery to my urban-y apartment, used up some scraps and cost me less than $10 in materials to make. Sounds like a successful project to me!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

10 on 10, November 2012

10 on 10 for November 2012. Except I was enjoying taking fall pictures, so there's a bonus leafy picture!

little perpetual motion ratty : wooo. clear fall sky! : working on jewelery : walking around and doing errands : still walking : and still walking : designing bird fabrics : hanging out at home : putting negatives in sleeves : unfortunately blurry picture of a pair of earrings I made earlier : Blaaarrrgh. Don't eat me, even though eating me gave me the ability to see and talk!

Monday, November 5, 2012

election propaganda - November 2012

Living in California, the presidential election isn't as big of a deal here now as it's taken as a given - the candidates show up to get money and that's about it. I also don't have a working tv anymore, so I have no idea what's going on there (although I did see a Romney ad on Youtube when watching a Grimes video.....) Regardless, I saved up my mailers (~50 total) to put together some collages for the election this November. Take the advice below. Listen to some Decode DC. Be confused and lead into moments of insight and don't forget to vote! Don't be like a friend that shall remain nameless that forgot Halloween last week after talking about their intended costume for days.

No on 37 - "Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and ballot measure which is designated by a *"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

New Mexico Red Chile Beans

During my recent trip to New Mexico I tried the famous New Mexico green chile in a few places and definitely understood why it was so popular. I didn't go as far as to order it at every single opportunity since that included Sonic's Drive In or on Frozen Custard, but I did want to bring some New Mexico flavors home with me. I also really enjoy the connection you get with a place by eating food that comes from and grows natively and better in certain environments and New Mexico holds a special place in my heart, so I picked up some dried green and mild red chile powder and some Anasazi beans while there.  I hadn't tasted them, but the Anasazi beans caught my eye as something I hadn't seen before, so I decided to try them (If you're in Taos visiting the Rio Grande Gorge bridge, visit the guy selling beans there! He's an experienced salesman but his beans are good, so I kinda don't mind. Otherwise, you can also get them online or from Arrowhead Mills at some natural food or Whole Foods stores and in other places throughout the Southwest.) It turns out there's competing stories over whether Anasazi (or the ancient ones) really were "discovered" in a cave in the 1900's and sold as a touristy thing or were grown by Native Americans for a while. Even if they were a touristy things, they're good beans, so I can live with it! They were cultivated in the Navajo area of New Mexico/Arizona/Colorado/Utah where the plants thrive in the dry environment. Some people like them because they supposedly are less-fart inducing than other beans.

I've been sprinkling the red chile in all sorts of dishes the last few weeks (scrambled eggs, soup, veggies, mixed with cocoa powder on popcorn! Yum!) I've really been enjoying the complexity of the sweet and slightly spicy flavor. Last weekend I let myself experiment with the beans as well and although my recipe isn't based on anything in particular, they're pretty delicious. I'm not sure if anasazi beans always turn out so creamy or if they were just extra fresh, but they were by far some of the best beans I've ever tried. The recipes's vegan, but incredibly flavorful and filling. Served with guacamole on tortillas or fresh tortillas makes for a super yummy, satisfying meal. I use no canned ingredients if you're worried about additives (canned tomatoes seem to be really bad when it comes to BPA leaching) or cost (a few cans of this and that adds up! I picked up "soft" tomatoes at the farmers market that still taste fantastic if used the same day and had no pesticides used on them, for only 75 cents a lb!)

Anasazi beans are such pretty beans!
New Mexico Red Chile Beans - 3 servings for main dish, more if served as a side dish

  • ~1 cup dried Anasazi beans (or pinto or whatever else you want to use, just note you might need to soak/cook longer), rinsed and picked through for rocks
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper/anaheim chile/poblano - whatever you have on hand!
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 4 medium-large tomatoes
  • few teaspoons olive oil
  • bay leaf
  • dried garlic powder or a few fresh garlic cloves
  • dried oregeno
  • salt and pepper
  • couple tablespoons of New Mexico Red Chile, or to taste

-Rinse and pick through dried anasazi beans. Put them in a pot and cover with water and let them sit about 4 hours.
-Wash tomatoes and puree in blender or some other device of your choice. Add a little water if needed. I also added a sprinkle of oregano here
-Drain the beans. Add the pureed tomatoes to the beans along with at least enough water to cover all the beans with bay leaf. Allow everything to simmer and check periodically to make sure there's enough water covering everything.
-Start chopping the onion, carrot and celery
-Warm up olive oil in a pan. Once warm, sautee onion, pepper, carrot and celery until soft. Add fresh garlic towards end if using it.
-Add the sauteed veggies to the beans. By this time, the beans have probably been cooking 30 mins or so and should be getting soft if using anasazi beans. Other varieties might need to cook for a bit longer.
-Add a few teaspoons of oregeno, the red chile, dried garlic (if using), and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.
-Continue to allow cooking until beans are soft. They can continue cooking after that point and they will likely continue to fall apart and make a yummy sauce if the beans are fresh. I think these beans taste even better after cooling and being reheated. Yuuuum.

I served these beans with some guacamole (avocado, salt, lime juice mashed together) and home-fried tortilla chips (corn tortillas, cut and cooked in a very shallow layer of olive oil and then drained on a paper towel)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dia de los Muertos Mask

Dia de los Muertos mask. The whole project was inspired by the mesh rose fabric. Sewn by hand and the sewing machine from a variety of fabrics.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Film! Black and white! 120mm! New Mexico!

So as the title might imply, this post comes with a lot of joy and exclamation points. A while ago, I was given a medium format Yashica Mat 124g by someone (I think my aunt). Obtaining 120mm film isn't the easiest task anymore, but I decided that the New Mexico trip was definitely a time to break out this camera.

I checked out the camera, cleaned it up a little, but I took a gamble and didn't shoot a test roll. I knew I wouldn't be able to get it developed before I left on my trip, so it wasn't really going to help much anyway. I was also unable to get the battery compartment open, so I was going to have use my DSLR, charts and intuition for exposure. Since the trip, the exposed rolls have been sitting in a bag, waiting to be developed.

This weekend I finally managed to get all the needed pieces together to develop the black and white 120mm film at home! It's been about 8 years since I developed black and white film, but it was something that came back pretty easily. In college I would regularly spend time in the dark room on saturday night while others were partying - it was more fun most of the time, holed up in the little room with music and the chemicals and lack of other distractions making interesting pictures appear on paper.

I hadn't used 120mm film before or the stainless steel film reels, so I did end up with a few half-moon kinks in my film. I was having some problems keeping the paper backing away from the reel while feeding the film until I finally peeled the paper off completely- of course I practiced on a roll 10 times and had it down pat, but it's always different when you can't turn on the lights at all. Overall though, I'm pretty happy with how things turned out and I had a good time developing the film and listening to some somafm. I only developed one roll so far, but plan on doing more this week hopefully. This first roll is completely from the 700+ year old Gila Cliff Dwellings in Gila National Park in New Mexico. My scanner is limited, so I ended up building a little light box substitute thing and taking photos of the negatives with my DSLR and then inverting them to get the positive images (that's why some of the images aren't the best with weird edges and sometimes a little blurry). Hopefully I can make some prints at some point (I still need some enlarger pieces.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

unbored hands, october

Been staying busy with various projects in the spare moments that I have. There's something very necessary about being able to work and finish on projects in my free time.

a necklace made from some of the turquoise I picked up in Gallup, NM, chain and hemp cord

 wrist cuff

book safes
 book safe in action, holding handmade bracelets I purchased from a Native American woman in Gallup

..... semi-halloween/fall inspired nails, after cleaning

 I guess I actually made these a little white ago, but they are glow jars of various iterations. The one on the left also has glitter and a solar light.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

10 on 10, October 2012

Skipped 10 on 10 last month because, well, 10 on 10's when I'm at work can be super challenging/boring (like #3 below, the carpet as I spun in my chair at my desk.) I pretty much can't take pictures during the day and if I do, they're of my little cubicle world or I'm busy and can't really do anything. So I've realized I can't really do consecutive hours on weekdays, but regardless, I do what I can and next month the 10th is a weekend day!

fall : the internet told me it would rain today! : spinning in my chair : decor at lunch : walking, still no rain : bussing home : walking home : making soup for dinner : eating soup for dinner : trader joe's trip for ingredients for pumpkin pie smoothies