Friday, March 25, 2011

earth hour - march 26 @ 8:30pm

switch off your lights & electronic devices for one hour tomorrow, to show support & bring awareness about how we use & produce energy.

earth hour: march 26, 2011 8:30pm - 9:30pm

Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries/territories participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour. (source)
what will you do for earth hour (or beyond one hour)?

here are some of my ideas:
  • have some friends over for some snacks, sandwiches or beverages. make your snacks ahead of time if they need cooking (chocolate chip cookies? truffles? maple bacon party mix?), and serve beverages that don't need to be too cold or too hot, like red wine, or juice. i don't know if shutting off the lights includes not using electricity, but i think not using the oven, electric kettle, or microwave during the hour would be a good idea.

  • play some cards by candlelight. with friends. or by yourself (solitaire!)

  • sit in the dark in silence and let yourself be alone with your thoughts. scary, i know, but a good time for reflection.

  • go to sleep early. you probably need it (i know i do)

  • discuss (with friends) ways to live more environmentally responsible. simple things, like remembering to turn out the lights in rooms you aren't using (i'm horrible at this :P), bringing your own mug to the coffee shop, re-using your old clothes as rags instead of throwing them out, etc. then share your ideas (with me!).

  • read a book by candlelight. alone or with friends. classics like c.s. lewis' narnia series, or children's storybooks, or your favorite book of poems.
those are my ideas. tell me yours! and tell me what you end up doing for earth hour...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

thursday thrift: laundry soap

i'm sorry to disappoint anyone stopping by who was looking to view some delicious food photos. the following post contains photos of laundry soap. not delicious in the least. and while i tried my best to make the laundry soap appear elegant, it is for cleaning your clothes, not filling your stomach. however, i have gotten complaints from people saying my blog makes them hungry, so i guess this post is for you people. you cannot possibly walk away from these photos and be hungry as a result. (right?)

thursday thrift is not just about eating well for cheaper. it's also about the home, and living well for cheaper. my sister and i recently decided that laundry soap (the stuff that's not harmful for the environment & full of chemicals) is a bit expensive. so she found a recipe for homemade laundry detergent. it's very, very simple, and you can pick up the ingredients at your grocery store. (i think)

what you need:
  • 1 bar of soap (we used unscented baby-mild hemp pure-castile soap by dr. bronner's. feel free to use scented soap, but stick to a simple soap with no parabens or unnatural colorings or scents)
  • 1 cup of washing soda (sodium carbonate - DIFFERENT from sodium bi-carbonate, which is baking soda)
  • 1 cup of borax
grate your soap as small as you can. this part takes the longest, and the smaller you grate, the longer it will take as well. mix everything together, and put in a container you don't mind smelling soapy, & store in your laundry room.

the finished product - aptly put in a re-used container (ugly as it is). when using, since it is a powder, remember to put your detergent in first (1 or 2 tablespoons per load) & swish the water around before adding your clothes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

sunny & beautiful

sunny & beautiful outside today. hurray for spring!

my sister & i worked on our garden - fertilizing & planting. we planted mint & thyme plants, and seeded some carrots, lettuce, peas. i'm not the most diligent of gardeners, and don't have great luck (examples: my rosemary plants have grown less than a centimeter since i planted them 2 years ago. i frequently forget to water. my mint turns ugly & brown because i forget to water. i don't like it when dirt stays under my nails & in the creases of my hands after gardening, so i use that as an excuse sometimes.)
however, i hope to have a bit more luck in the garden section of my life this year. i love having fresh herbs available anytime i need. and produce straight from the garden not only tastes fresh & delicious, but its also cost-effective.

one thing i really want to plant this year is lemon verbena. haven't found any yet. last year i bought lots of lemon verbena from the farmer's market and dried them to make tea. incredibly delicious & fragrant. if i could grow my own, i could have lemon verbena tea any time. do any of you gardening this year have something specific you'd love to grow?

this is the part where i should be ending with some gardening tips for you. unfortunately, you will be disappointed. i'll try to let you know how things go, though, and tell you what works for us and what doesn't!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

thursday thrift: bread


i love it. who doesn't? it's so versatile, you can eat it with any meal. i'd venture to guess bread, or some form of it, is one of the top 3 comfort foods for 98% of north america's population.

i am not a fan of all store-bought breads (like wonderbread - bread is not naturally that white - or the kind with 30 ingredients, half of which are chemical preservatives and colors), and the kind of bread i do like to eat (like a bread affair bread for those of you in the vancouver area. i mention them all the time. because they are amazing, that's why.), while amazing, is often expensive too.

i grew up with a mom who made our own bread all the time. when she baked, our kitchen turned into a factory and we had enough bread and rolls and cinnamon buns to last us weeks or months. although she did give a lot of it away. i love my mom. some of my best memories of childhood stem around bread. kneading my little ball of dough, making mini 'barbie-sized' bread loaves and buns, and eating fresh, warm bread, with fresh, homemade peanut butter. my mouth is watering now.

but over the last few years, almost every time i've tried to bake bread, its been a failure in one way or another. or if not a failure, i got a boring, tasteless loaf of bread. wait, yeah, that's a failure. needless to say, i was justifiably afraid to try baking bread for a while. and to bake in large batches like my mom does? i can't even fathom it. i'm a bit of a slow baker. i like to think that i just enjoy it so much that i savor each moment, but really i'm just slow.

my sister and i have recently discovered the wonders of no-knead bread. how is it wonderful? you don't have to knead it, and its not so picky. if you go over the specified amount of waiting/rising time, you won't be left with dense, flat, horrible bread.

i also tried the kneading bread again. three times. and it worked pretty decently!

so i'll give you both recipes below. the photos are from the kneaded bread. the no-knead bread isn't as pretty, cuz we bake it in a casserole dish.

basic white bread (kneaded):
adapted from reader's digest ultimate bread by eric treuille and ursula ferrigno


2 teaspoons dry yeast (i've been using active dry yeast)
1 1/3 cups water (325ml)
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  1. sprinkle yeast into 1/2 a cup of the water (lukewarm) in a bowl. leave for about 5 minutes, stir to dissolve.
  2. mix flour & salt in a larger bowl. make a well in the centre & pour in dissolved yeast.
  3. use a wooden spoon (not sure why its specifically wooden...) to bring in just enough of the flour into the dissolved yeast to form a paste. cover bowl with a dish towel, and wait 20 minutes. you want the paste to get spongy, frothy, and expand a bit.
  4. pour half of the remaining water into the centre, & mix in flour from the sides. stir in water as needed for a firm, moist dough.
  5. turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. knead until smooth & elastic, about 10 minutes. (i usually gave up around 7. oops)
  6. put the dough in a clean, lightly oiled, bowl & cover with a dish towel. let it rise until its' doubled in size, around 1 1/2 to 2 hours. punch it down (get the air bubbles out), and then let it rest for 10 minutes.
  7. shape the dough into a loaf. i basically took the punched down dough, flattened it a bit into a rectangle shape, and rolled/folded it into itself on a lightly floured surface. pinch the ends together, and that end becomes the bottom of your loaf. make sure the top is smooth. it helps to cup your hands over the loaf, and kind of roll it - the top of the loaf will just barely touch your hands. make sure the ugly side with the pinched ends stay on the bottom.
  8. place loaf on a floured baking sheet* and cover with a dish towel. let it rise again (proof) until its doubled in size, around 45 minutes.
  9. cut slashes in the loaf diagonally, & bake in a preheated oven (425 F) for about 45 minutes. a good test is to pick it up with potholders, and tap it underneath. it should sound hollow.
  10. cool on a wire rack.
  11. slice up a few slices, spread on the butter, and devour.
*you can also use a loaf pan if you prefer.

no-knead bread:

i'm actually not going to type this one out, because the new york times' article its from is pretty in-depth already. here it is. sometimes we mix rye or whole wheat with our organic unbleached, all purpose flour. one cup of rye flour gives it a nice flavor, and gives the bread the appearance of wholesomeness.

no photo for the no-knead bread. as i mentioned before, we bake it in a casserole dish, so it takes on a weird shape. it's ugliness doesn't affect the flavor, but it just doesn't like the camera all that much.

if you have any good bread recipes or bread-making tips, do share, or send me a link if you've blogged about it.

happy bread making!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

food blog love: gourmande in the kitchen

gourmande in the kitchen. a food blog with gorgeous photos, focusing on the details: crisp mint leaves, soft, chocolately crumbs of cake, vividly fresh green beans. and i swear i can smell the sweet, spicy cinnamon in her photo of cinnamon sticks. but sylvie's passion for food doesn't just stop with the gorgeous photos. her words flow so beautifully, and have so much heart. she is full of wisdom, and i am like a sponge when i visit her site - i just can't soak enough of it in.

"Food makes my world go ’round: thinking about it, making it, eating it, photographing it, and talking about it. The name of my blog “Gourmande in the Kitchen” reflects my love of food. Gourmande is a French word that describes a person who has a great interest in food, someone who eats eagerly and with great passion. The blog is about celebrating the pleasure that food brings to our lives on a daily basis. My motto is: cook simply. I don’t think you always need a lot of time or a long list of ingredients to make satisfying and delicious food. The food I make is the food I crave: uncomplicated, comforting to eat, with a focus on quality ingredients and minimal preparation that let the natural flavors of the food shine. For me good food isn’t fussy or pretentious; it’s simple, it’s real and it’s made with love for those we love." - sylvie

sylvie was nice enough to answer a few tough questions from me. here's how our conversation went:

if you had to choose: chocolate cake or french fries?

Chocolate cake for sure. I have a huge sweet tooth, and whenever given a choice I always go for dessert.

chocolate cake*

what's the one place i should eat at/drink at when i'm in LA?

I don’t think there is just one “must go to” place in LA. The city has so many amazing places to eat. It’s one of the reasons that I love living here. I’m always discovering new places.

the ideal breakfast would be?

Oh that depends on the time of year for me. During the winter I love a warm bowl of oatmeal topped with toasted nuts and a bit of cinnamon. During the summer I like to have Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey.

coffee or tea?

Neither. I gave up caffeine a few years back so no coffee or regular tea for me. I do love to make herbal infusions with mint and different spices, I always have a cup right before bedtime.

top 3 places you would travel to purely for culinary reasons?

You know, I think everywhere I travel to is for culinary reasons! If I have to choose my top 3 right now, I would say Italy, Greece and Morocco. I’ve always loved Mediterranean and North African cuisine; simple, rustic cooking with bold flavors really appeals to me. I’d love to do a Mediterranean cruise. Imagine all the places you could visit and all the food you could try in a short amount of time!

favorite dessert?

Boy do you ask some tough questions! I couldn’t possibly choose just one, but I guess I could narrow it down to one type of dessert: pretty much anything that involves chocolate.

go-to internet source for food inspiration?

Other blogs. I spend a good deal of time reading other food blogs, and I am constantly inspired and amazed by how creative and talented the food blogging community is.

recipe book you use the most?

You know, I don’t really recipe books all that much. Most of the time when I’m cooking it’s based on what I have on hand or what I’m in the mood for. I will look through recipes to get inspired but I rarely follow a recipe exactly as it was written. I like to checkout lots of recipe books from the library, however, and I make notes of what flavor combinations I find interesting so I can try them out at some point. It’s a good jumping off point.

what has inspired you in the kitchen lately?

I’ve been going through a phase with nut milks. I’ve experimented making all kinds of different ones and I’ve been making nut butters as well. I go through phases like that. For a while it was all about ice cream and I made a new batch almost every day.

the one food item you refuse to eat no matter what the circumstance?

Bananas, don’t ask why, I really don’t know. I’ve never liked them, can’t stand the smell or taste and if it’s in something I’m not touching it!

spicy rosemary roasted nuts*

thanks sylvie!

check out gourmande in the kitchen, and definitely add it to your rss feed. you won't regret it. i think i'd like to take on her motto, too. cook simply. and make simple, real food with love for those i love.

*all photos in this post are © Gourmande in the Kitchen 2010. if you wish to use any of her photographs, please contact sylvie for permission.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

thursday thrift: paint

apologies for the late (& short) thursday thrift post.

today's thrift: paint. i've been working some odd jobs lately. in order to make money so that i can be more thrifty. making money is thrifty, right? ;) no really, i did some painting today, and it reminded me of the thriftiness of painting your own walls & furniture. for example, 2 of the dressers in our house. they were not only hand-painted (mostly by my sister), but they were also found in the alley (also by my sister). double-thrifty!

i've had a busy week, am just getting over a cold/sore throat/something rather, and am tired. i have a post half-written for next thursday thrift. i promise it will be a good one.

oh oh! i have a special post coming next week as well. i had so much fun writing about food.weekly. last month that i decided to write about a food blog every month or so. i'm excited to get to know my fellow food bloggers better, and i hope you are too. if you aren't excited, you'll just have to put up with my excitement... let it rub off on you a bit.

so come back next week when i'll stop whining about being tired or sick or busy, and i'll be better at blogging about things that will actually interest you.

have a lovely friday!

Monday, March 7, 2011

saigon noodle restaurant - pasadena, ca

i tried pho for the first time in my life this past january, when i was in california. my boyfriend and i were visiting my best friend & her boyfriend for a couple short days. our first evening, we set out to eat korean barbeque in pasadena. when we got there, we discovered it had disappeared. goes to show the internet is not always updated. so we went to saigon noodle restaurant instead.

pasadena has really interesting crosswalks. there's a crosswalk light for people to walk diagonally across the street, instead of crossing one way and then the other. it was bizarre walking in the middle of the intersection. but very cool. great idea for a place that has lots of walking traffic.

but i digress.

one thumbs up for these chopsticks.

what i loved about this place was the abundance of fresh mint. the chicken spring rolls we ordered came stuffed with fresh mint, among other veggies, and a peanut dipping sauce along side. i wasn't crazy about the sauce, but i think i was comparing it to indonesian peanut sauce, which is simply divine when made right.

my friend got the grilled beef salad. it looked tasty, and i know there was mint in it too.

i was a bit afraid to order the rare steak pho, so i ordered the well done flank pho instead. worst decision i ever made. it was mostly fat, and i did my best to avoid eating them. the broth was tasty though, and we got a plate full of extra goodies, to garnish our bowls to our taste-buds. lime, bean sprouts, green onion.... i don't know if i was expected to finish that huge bowl all by myself. maybe it was the flank, or maybe it was the bowl that was twice the size of my head, but i couldn't finish the thing.

everything we got off the menu was about $7 each. that feels very reasonable to me, but i've never had pho before, so i don't know how much it usually goes for. if i lived in the la-area, i'd probably go back. and now i will have to try some pho here in vancouver. anyone know of a good spot?

saigon noodle restaurant
28 n raymond ave
pasadena, ca, 91103
hours: mon-sun: 11 am - 9 pm
Saigon Noodle on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 3, 2011

thursday thrift: christmas what?

thursday thrift, the time of week when i share & discuss ways to be creative with small amounts of money in order to still enjoy good quality in the home & kitchen.

today's thrift is about christmas. (yes, thank you, i do realise its been 2 months since this last christmas, and almost 10 months til next christmas.)

last year my sister and i wanted to decorate for the christmas season, but we didn't have a lot of money to spend (not that we're the type to buy typical decorations anyhow, but that's not the point), so we made our own. out of felt. guess what we themed the christmas tree ornaments around??

that's right... food. because we love it.

we lived vicariously through our tree as it got to be lavished with chocolate cake, cupcakes, and all sorts of delicious foods.

can everybody tell what's hanging beside the swiss cheese? you get brownie points if you can. one of my sister's favorite foods.

and to grace the top of our tree, instead of putting the star of david (who was a king), we placed the king of fruits there. more brownie points for people who know what that fruit is. (and respect if you've actually eaten it.)

to make your own felt ornament, you need:
various colors of felt (generally purchased at $0.50 a sheet)
embroidery thread
needle with a big enough eye for embroidery thread
cotton balls, or other stuffing
paper & pencil for patterns
creativity :)

basically you are sewing 2 identical shapes of felt together, with some stuffing inside.
draw your pattern on paper, and cut out. with felt, cut out 2 of the shapes of your pattern. if your ornament has a little something extra on it, like the yolk on the fried egg, or the cake layers on the cake, sew it onto one piece before sewing both pieces together. thread your needle with a knot on the longer side. space your stitches well enough apart, for quicker sewing and prettier stitching. sew until you have an inch or so left & stuff with cotton balls. try to avoid lumps by pulling the cotton ball apart a bit before stuffing. finish sewing & stitch a knot at the end, as subtly as you can. re-thread your needle & pull it through the top of your ornament halfway. pull one end of the thread out, & remove the needle. you should have a piece of thread going through the ornament. tie the 2 ends together, & hang your ornament on the tree! or put it in a box & save it for christmas.

this next christmas season, months and months away, why don't you make your own ornaments? (and they don't have to be food themed) it not only saves money, but it adds a personality to your tree that only homemade ornaments can do.