Saturday, March 31, 2012

Easy Salsa

Hi Friends!  Today I thought I would share my secret salsa recipe.  It is SOOOO easy and it is SOOOO much better than any store-bought variety.  We have been getting lots of cilantro in our CSA box, which is perfect in this recipe.

I don't really measure anything, but here we go!
In a blender, throw in some canned tomatoes (try Muir Glen for a BPA-free can or use fresh organic tomatoes-I just used what I had on hand for this batch), chopped onion, minced garlic, salt, a little lemon juice and a bit of hot sauce (we like Cholula sauce and I add probably about 3T).  Then throw some chopped cilantro on top, at least 1C.

Blend/mix and that's it!

Serve with purchased or homemade tortilla chips, raw veggies, or sourdough bread (if you are like my husband, who first tasted bread and salsa at the one and only Joe's Cafe in Santa Barbara probably 25 years ago!)...


I apologize for not having many design-related posts lately.  Work and family have become crazy-busy.  However, next up we are doing a partial remodel of the master bathroom so I will be posting some progress pictures as soon as we get started in a couple of weeks.  Honestly, this little room has really pushed the limit of my creative imagination and I am wishing I had more training so that I could envision the awkward space more out-of-the-box.  I'm really too left-brained!  :) 


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yummy Homemade Granola

Quite honestly, it has taken several tries to get homemade granola right.  They either don't taste great, burn too easily, or give me a tummy ache.  This one is the closest I have come and it is so good it is hard to put it down!  Just. Walk. Away.  ;)

While the batch was large, three out of the four family members enjoyed it nearly everyday for a week, so it did last.  :D

Here are the ingredients (modified from a recipe I found online that I can no longer find to cite!):
8C old fashioned rolled oats
1.5C wheat germ
1.5C oat bran
1/2C sunflower seeds
1C chopped pecans
1.5t. salt
1/2C splenda blend baking sugar (or 1C brown sugar)
1/4C maple syrup
3/4C honey
1/2C coconut oil
1/2C canola oil
1T cinnamon
1T vanilla
1-2C raisins (add after all of the above is finished cooking!)

Heat up/melt the salt, sweeteners, oils, cinnamon and vanilla.  Combine the rest of the dry ingredients and nuts/seeds in a large bowl and then pour the melted wet ingredients over them.  Line two baking pans with foil (foil is recyclable by the way!) and spread the mixture out.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, stirring once half way through.  Watch carefully so it does not burn.  Once cooled, add raisins (you could also add other dried fruit or chocolate chips).

Note:  if you look over the list, you will see that making granola is not cheap!  However, it does cost less than buying store-bought granola or even bulk granola and, best yet, you know exactly what the ingredients are.  :)



Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fireplace Makeover on a Dime

Oh, I have so wanted to improve our fireplace for so long!  While I do not mind some aspects of our circa 1970s "chic" home (such as our vaulted ceilings, unique windows, and asymmetry here and there...), the fireplace has really felt like an eyesore.  The fireplace sported floor to ceiling red-orange brick that just did not flow with the rest of our furnishings....

Several years ago I did have the mantle built up by a talented carpenter and stained a pretty brown; however, the "lovely" brick still remained.  Here is a before shot:

As well as here (it does not look too bad with fall decor even though the remainder of the furniture is primarily black and white:

I posted a while back about improving the fireplace (here, if interested), found some beautiful inspiration, and got to work attempting to draw out how I would love for it to look:


Then, because I work full time and lack a carpenter for a husband as well as those nifty saws, tile cutters and other assorted tools I would need to actually perform this job as a DIY type of thing, I went ahead and got two bids to actually transform my fireplace.

But the bids were farrrrrr more than I wanted to spend at this point.

So as a compromise, we painted it.  Yep, leftover primer and a quart of Behr Premium for $13.

I know some people really think it is awful to paint natural brick (my husband being one of those!). But after living with it for over 15 years, something had to give for me!

No, it is still not my dream fireplace.  However, it is less of a focal point now which helps tremendously.  Blending into the walls with a neutral color allows me to decorate it for any season more easily.  And the beautiful brown mantle now stands out more.  Here are some shots below as I attempted to add a few touches of spring:

I really do not like perfectly symmetrical mantle arrangements (with the same object replicated on either side of a mirror, flatscreen or piece of art), but I do like balance.  So I shopped the house for some objects that would supply balance as well as supply a hint of spring.  Could have done a better job now that I look at these photos, but here she is for now anyway.  Just keeping it real.  :)

Spring flowers....

Not bad for 13 bucks!

This link is a wonderful resource for painting fireplaces:

PS!  (below) I added this sweet little painting that I found today at a thrift shop for $2.99!!!  It's now happy at home on the spring mantle and love it.  :)

Thanks for visiting!



Monday, March 19, 2012

Day in Seal Beach

Today my hubby and I drove up to Seal Beach to see the Tax Man.  I am not the financial guru of the family, but I love to ask questions and especially to go out for lunch afterwards.  :)

This time, we actually went out for breakfast first.

Even the parking lot near the accountant's office is pretty with it's palm trees swaying....nearly looks like Hawaii here.  :)

The tax dude's office is down a pretty little hideaway lane that reminds me of many of the alleyways in Carmel, filled to the brim with flowers and plants...

naturally, I loved this topiary version of a bougainvillea....

There are cute shops on the main drag...

My eldest son would have loved this display of Hawaiian shirts!

The pier was quiet today, but was a nice little stroll even though it was a bit windy and cool out...

endless sand...

and waves of blue...

LOVEly seaside architecture...

a pigeon friend...

coastline dazzle...


In the distance beyond the freighters, you can see Catalina.

LOVE Seal Beach!

Thanks for taking a mini trip with me.  :D

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Vegetarian Challenge for the Family...

This past week I challenged the family to eat all vegetarian dinners.  A family of four, my younger son and I find this rather natural (I was vegetarian through college and grad school and once I included meat in my diet after marriage I still pretty much never ate red meat....I might be able to count the number of burgers and steaks I have had since childhood on two hands...), but my husband and older son are total carnivores.  However, they have become increasingly open-minded in the past year or two.  :)

Here is our dinner menu for the week!  The entire CSA box was used up before picking up the new box late Thursday.  :)

veggies for soup

SUNDAY:  Vegetable Soup (made with vegan broth, onion, carrots, celery, swiss chard stems chopped finey, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs and a tiny bit of wild rice.  Served with homemade cheesy garlic biscuits.  They LOVED it!
MONDAY:  Quinoa with Black Beans and Corn courtesy of Leo Babauta from The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life).  Sour cream on the side plus salad.  They devoured this!
TUESDAY:  I made the Kale and Potato Casserole that I posted about earlier, except that I substituted my swiss chard leaves for the kale.  Everyone also got half of a cheddar cheese quesadilla (I think hubby got three halves!).  They LOVED it.
WEDNESDAY:  Asian-style stir-fry over brown rice.  The recipe I built this around is here.  This dinner was not loved, but it was agreeable and all eaten.  They also got homemade banana bread (recipe here) so that always helps.  ;)  Both dinner and banana bread were vegan.
THURSDAY:  Crazy day and late appointments.  Dinner was grilled cheese sandwiches for most (I had greek yogurt with granola) plus a yummy fruit salad I had made with oranges, grapefruit, apples and strawberries.
FRIDAY:  Homemade cheese pizza and salad.  Smiles all around!

homemade cheese pizza
Cooking from scratch and eating this way forces me to be more creative.  It also does require a bit more prep work than I am used to and sometimes after work I honestly just want to collapse because I am so tired!  If anyone has suggestions to help with this, I would LOVE it.  But I think that moving toward more vegetarian cooking will help the carnivores eat more of their share of veggies, help with everyone's overall health, reduce the grocery bill, and fit a bit better with my overall values.  We will see!



Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Flowers

Just love tulips....

(this beautiful vase was handmade by my physician neighbor, who was getting rid of excess pottery)

Sweet and perfect, they make me smile after a tough week of work and of wearing far too many hats...

....and similarly pretty, inexpensive plum mums below in a crystal vase that was a wedding gift long ago....

This Friday Flower thing is quickly becoming a habit.  I would forgo dinner for these flowers, truly.

Happy Weekend to all...
  our weather calls for rainy coziness!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Kale and Potato Casserole

My weekly CSA box often includes an amazing bunch of kale.  I have used it for Kale Saladveggie soup, smoothies, and kale chips, but I wanted to further branch out. 

This recipe is slightly adapted from one I found here.

First, slice up about 6 red potatoes.  Boil them for a few minutes and drain.  The recipe above asks to then plunge them into an ice bath and drain again.  I did do this one time, but rinsing them in cold water seems to work as well.

While the taters are boiling, cut up a large bunch of kale, discarding the thick spines (put them in compost pile!).

Yum (I love kale).  Next up mix about 1/4C of EVOO, some crushed garlic and a little sea salt and pepper and rub into the kale leaves.

Alternate layers of potatoes and kale in casserole.  Between layers sprinkle a small amount of bread crumbs (like 1/2C total or less) and sprinkle about 1/3C Parmesan cheese or some nutritional yeast on top for a vegan option.

Here is what it looks like before placing into a 350 degree oven:

Cover with foil for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.


Very healthy and nutritious and my kids like it a lot!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Faucet Love

Sometimes a detail can make such an impact, even if it is a bit subtle. 

So when our kitchen faucet began falling apart and leaking....
I took advantage of the opportunity to get one more my style.


Here is the BEFORE:

Fairly standard and worked okay for many years, actually, but then leaking kept on and parts became much  less solid/stable...

AFTER: thing o beauty...

Happily, I was able to save the stainless steel sink...

It reminds me of a faucet from the 1920s and is finished in polished nickel...

I will give away the old faucet because someone may be able to fix it up or even use it in it's less than perfect's certainly NOT going into the landfill...

I am also going to repaint the kitchen walls as I am tired of yellow after so many years!  I do LOVE my white painted kitchen cabinets even though I have to touch them up on occasion.  I will always have a white kitchen! 

With the kitchen sink faucet also came friends:  new fixtures (to replace old leaking and yucky ones) for our Master Bathroom Remodel (finally!) which I hope to begin at the end of the month.  Inspiration photos from over a year ago (!) here.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Signs of Spring

Daffodils, 5 dollars for three bunches (two  bunches are pictured here in the kitchen in an IKEA vase)...

So pretty.  They make me smile.  :)

The third bunch is on my entryway desk...they are a little greener than the others right now:

The view just outside my front door adjacent to a walking path is pictured below.  I do not know the proper names of these trees, but every spring they sport beautiful blossoms of pink before dropping them all, proceeding to fill their one inhabited spaces with lovely leaves of green.

As I was shooting these few pictures after work yesterday, a neighbor came by with her two little dogs and we just stood there and stared at these trees.  She commented "THIS is the kind of thing that we should notice everyday, not all the muck we pay attention to."

I quite agree.

The best art, the best design inspiration, the best cure for stress and anxiety is always found in the beauty of  nature.

 Have a wonderful weekend!

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