Recent Projects

Over Christmas break I’ve had more time for crafting…here’s a few of my recent creations:

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Fleece bunny for my six-year-old sister. Inspired by this pattern. Right-hand photo illustrates how much of a mess I made finding fabrics for this project.

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This bowl was not created by me…it was a gift from another of my sisters who has been learning about pottery! It is tiny and beautiful and I’m so impressed with her skills. I took a pottery class as a girl but that is the extent of my knowledge. I can’t wait to see what she creates next.

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I’ve been working on sewing seven clutches for bridesmaids’ gifts for a friend’s upcoming wedding. We’re using this pattern  and lining them with a really stiff interfacing. A quick and cute pattern than I would recommend!

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As far as crocheting goes, I’ve been making a lot of cowls (upper left-hand photo). It’s been a ridiculously cold winter (it’s -17 F today!!) and these are the best way I’ve found to keep warm. No pattern…just a tube of double-crochet stitches made out of bulky homespun.

I’ve also been working on decorating my craft/school room with a row of granny squares along the upper edge of the wall. Between that and a row of inspiring photos/quotes along the lower wall, I’ve managed to add some height and interest to a pretty boring room.  It still needs some work but I’m happy with what I have so far.

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Gluten-Free Cookies and Cream Tart

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If you don’t already know this, Trader Joe’s is awesome. There wasn’t one where I grew up but since I moved to Wisconsin I have access to a TJ’s and I love it. When I was there the other day buying the cookies for this recipe, the employee offered me a list of all their gluten-free items. And he asked me about my day in the genuine sort of way that seems almost uncomfortably intimate until you realize how much you miss it in everyday interactions.

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This tart is simple, pretty, and delicious. It’s a sandwich cookie in tart form….because that needed to happen. I wanted to make a traditional cookie crumb crust, but opted to add cookie crumbs to an almond-flour crust because I didn’t want the crust to crumble when I un-molded the tart.  It worked perfectly! The tart is filled with sweet and creamy vanilla pudding, which then gets covered with more cookie crumbs.

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Here’s a tip for un-molding a tart from a pan with a removable bottom…..set the pan on a bowl or cake pan that is smaller than the base of the tart pan. The tart (with the removable bottom of the pan) can then sit suspended on the bowl/cake pan while you carefully remove the outside edge of the tart pan.  This picture should help that make more sense…

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GLUTEN-FREE COOKIES AND CREAM TART 

Crust ingredients:

1 box Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Joe Joe Cookies

2 cups almond flour or almond meal

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 egg

Pudding ingredients:

1 cup cold milk

½ cup cornstarch

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

3 egg yolks

3 cups milk

1 tablespoon butter

¾ cup sugar

Make the crust:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place all the cookies in a blender or food processor and blend until crushed into fine crumbs. Dump into a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the almond flour, coconut oil, egg, and 1 cup of crushed cookies until mixture forms a ball (I like to use my hands, but a large spoon would work too).

Press this crust mixture evenly into a 10” tart pan, using a knife to level off the top edge. Place the tart pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until set. Let cool.

Make the pudding filling:

Whisk the 1 cup milk, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla together in a bowl. Set aside. Combine the egg yolks, 3 cups milk, butter, and sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and continue whisking as the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding. Remove from heat, allow to cool briefly, and then pour into crust, spreading with a spatula if necessary.

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Place the tart in the refrigerator until ready to serve (three hours is ideal).

Before serving, sprinkle remaining cookie crumbs over pudding filling and remove tart from pan. Slice and enjoy!

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DSC_0562^ Poorly-lit photo of my late-night tart slice ^

Gluten-Free Quinoa Granola

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This is the healthiest granola I’ve ever made. Usually when I eat granola I have this foreboding in the back of my mind that I’m just eating junky boxed cereal with a better PR profile. Probably over-dramatic. But we all need to admit that granola is so good because of that wonderful trifecta: fat, sugar, and carbs. This recipe is an improvement! And it’s really delicious.  I’ve eaten it everyday this week. It’s also gluten-free and a 1/2 cup serving has 4 grams fiber and 5 grams of protein.

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Make it. It will make your kitchen smell wonderful and your meals more tasty.

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GLUTEN-FREE QUINOA GRANOLA

 *Adapted from this recipe*

Dry:

2 cups quick-cooking gluten-free oats (Not instant! You can use old-fashioned oats, but I like the extra crunchy/clumpy texture quick-cooking oats bring to this granola)

½ cup chopped nuts (I used pecans)

½ cup uncooked quinoa

3 Tbsp. ground flax

½ tsp. sea salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

Wet:

¼ cup applesauce

¼ cup maple syrup

3 Tbsp. nut butter

½ tsp. almond extract

Stir dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir wet ingredients together in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for about 2 minutes, or until nut butter is melted. Whisk wet ingredients together to combine, then stir into dry ingredients until mixture is clumpy and well-combined.

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Bake on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 325 F for about 25 minutes, stirring if necessary to prevent excessive browning (stir less if you want chunkier granola). Let cool on pan and then store in an airtight container or plastic bag.

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Vacay

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*Sorry my pictures are so small. I forgot to pack the appropriate camera cord!*

Zach and I decided for our first married Christmas to spend Christmas Eve at his family’s big yearly party and then fly to Florida Christmas Day to stay with my family for nearly two weeks.

We foolishly made this decision in the summer before our work/school schedules had fully materialized and I’m so glad we did. It’s good to be forced to make getting away happen. The more I read that sentence the less it makes sense but I trust you understand.

My family is from Iowa, not Florida, but my dad works down here part of the year so it’s a business/fun trip for them. Neither of us have much money budgeted for vacation (thank you, Christmas) so our trip has involved a lot of library trips, cooking at home, and BYOB beach days. This suits me fine. We’ve also had the flu circulating through our group, so it’s a good day when all of us feel like doing something exciting anyway.

READS

Vacation is the perfect time for book binging. The three I have in circulation right now:

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The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece

This was a random find on the New Non-Fiction shelf and it has proved fascinating. It follows the parallel stories of science’s attempts at re-animation and Mary Shelley’s literary creation of Frankenstein’s monster in the 19th century. True to history but with enough intrigue, romance, and the macabre to keep it interesting.

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The Help

I’m late on this bandwagon, I know. I recently re-watched the movie and decided to read the book, and a coworker was kind enough to lend me her copy. I feel incredibly nervous when people lend me books because I love to eat while I read and I take books everywhere with me. So far I haven’t damaged it! *Fingers crossed*

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 Start.

This book, surprisingly by the author of the Stuff Christians Like blog/book, was another random New Non-Fiction find. I’ve been a long-time Seth Godin fan, which drew me to this book. It is similar to Godin’s work and very readable. If you’re looking for a kick in the pants to start off the new year, this will provide it.

PURCHASES

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Juicy Couture Cross/Sword Necklace

I’m not usually a big Juicy Couture girl, but I have been looking for a cross necklace for a while and this was the most interesting one I’ve seen. And it was somehow marked down to $12. Sold.

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J. Crew Phone Wallet

 Another after-Christmas steal. This is my first phone wallet and it’s super convenient! I feel inspired to buy a cheapo plastic phone case and make my own out of felt and fabric.

EATS

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 Thai Kitchen Rice Noodle Cart

This was a late-night grocery trip throw-in-the-cart purchase – you know. It was delicious, particularly with some extra stir-fried veggies thrown in, but tasted processed and has 26 (!) grams of sugar in one serving. Not a keeper.

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Trader Joe’s 0% Greek Yogurt

Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond Granola Cereal

Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt is my absolute favorite – it doesn’t have that vomit-y flavor Chobani can sometimes have, and the texture is perfect (Fage is a close second but I think it’s a little more expensive). I like to buy the 16 oz. tubs of Vanilla and Plain and mix them to keep the sugar in check. This, along with TJ’s Vanilla Almond Granola and fruit, has been my go-to vacation breakfast.

The Vanilla Almond Granola tastes almost just like a rice krispie treat – no lie. It is gluten-free (not strictly) and lower fat, but kind of high on sugar. When I keep it around at home I tend to eat large bowls of it in the evening and pretend it’s healthy, but it’s a good vacation staple.

The former residents of our condo were apparently also gluten-free because they left this:

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Jackpot! My first thought was cookies. A quick trip for eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, chocolate chips, and baking soda later…

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Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (with vacation-appropriate instructions) 

2 cups brown rice flour

3 cups gluten-free rolled oats

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F, thankful for the fact that it’s the same model as your mother-in-law’s so you know how to operate it.
  2. Realize that the condo you’re staying at only has a single ¼ cup measuring cup and that measuring is going to require multiplication and be a pain in the butt. Proceed to mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Notice also that there are no measuring spoons; use a normal spoon to measure baking soda and salt and hope your cookies don’t taste metallic.
  3. Forgot to soften butter and don’t have a mixer – microwave butter and “cream” it together with sugar using your hands. Works surprisingly well and hands feel soft and smooth afterwards. Stir in vanilla and eggs loudly by hand and wake sick sister sleeping on couch.
  4. Stir dry ingredients into butter mixture and be pleasantly surprised by how nice the dough looks. Scrounge around for cookie scoop and decide that the coffee scoop will work. Be pleasantly surprised that the condo has parchment paper and cookie sheets. Scoop cookies onto parchment-lined trays and bake for about 12 minutes, or until set and lightly browned.
  5. Set cookies on granite countertop to cool. Be shunned by four-year-old sister who wants spinach salad instead of your cookies (?!). Feel placated when she eats one after lunch. Return to normal schedule of sitting around and reading.

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New Things to Try in 2014

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Resolutions inevitably seem burdensome to me, so this year I decided to take a few new projects I’ve been wanting to tackle and assign them to 2014. Putting a deadline on my hobbies, I guess you could say. It seems more exciting than burdensome!

1)    Read two new books a month.

Although he does like to read, Zach prefers watching TV in his downtime, and since we’ve gotten married I’ve followed suit (reading a bunch for school doesn’t help motivate me either). However, I miss my books and want to be intentional about personal reading.

2)    Try (and file if I like) the recipes/projects I have pinned/clipped instead of gathering new inspiration.

Of course the joke that none of use the ideas we get from Pinterest has become so true it’s now cliché…but I am in real need of some inspiration decluttering.

3)    Run a ½ marathon in the fall.

This has been a goal of mine since I ran a seven mile race last summer. I’m not a great runner but I made friends with a girl who ran a ½ a few years ago and I’m hoping she’ll be my marathon buddy.

4)    Learn how to make candy.

Since I work at a bakery, I am often too burnt out on baking to pursue my own floury projects at home. However, I know next to nothing about candy-making and find it fascinating. It’s just different enough from baking to keep me from mistaking it for work.

5)    Post on my blog 2X per week.

I love blogging, but I don’t make it a priority and all too often school, work, marriage, and lounging around take precedence. Not this year!

What are your dreams/goals/ideas/thoughts about 2014?