Wednesday
Apr022014

Coconut Oil Granola 

Even as a kid I loved granola. But back then it was Quaker granola out of a box. I remember my mom buying it for my dad and it was supposed to be hands off for the kids since it was expensive on our family budget. I always snuck a little when I was up early and loved to shake the box to find the large clumps and pick them out. 

I baked my first batch of granola about 10 years ago, giving it as holiday gifts. Ever since then I have been hooked on having my own homemade granola in the house. It is incredibly simple to make and can be customized with so many spices, nuts and dried fruits. I love it with milk as cereal or topping yogurt and fruit. So versatile. 

Today I needed to fill my granola jar and decided to bake up a quick batch using what I had on hand. The only nuts I had on hand were cashews and for dried fruit I pulled out some cranberries. I always toast my nuts on a baking sheet at 350 degrees until fragrant. Watch them so you don'r burn them. Once they cool give them a rough chop. You will add the fruit and nuts once the granola is baked and cool.

Coconut Oil Granola

4 cups thick rolled oats

1/2 cup flaxseed meal

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

2/3 cup coconut oil

2/3 cup honey

1 cup toasted nuts

1 cup dried fruit 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Line baking tray with parchment paper

In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients. Warm the oil and honey in a small pan over medium heat. Pour warm oil/honey mixture over dry ingredients and mix to combine. Spread over baking tray. 

Bake for 10 minutes then stir and turn granola on tray. Bake for another 10 minutes. 

Let cool completely then add dried fruit and nuts. Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container for 2 weeks. 

Wednesday
Mar262014

Easy Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

As we get close to the arrival of baby girl I have been determined to fill the freezer with portioned meals that can be thawed as needed. Foods that freeze well are baked pasta dishes, many casseroles, soups and chili. One of our favorite big batch meals is this super easy Three Bean Chili. I will often make up a batch for weekday lunches - the first couple of days we eat it as a regular chili topped with avocado and sour cream. Then we portion it over rice or a baked potato. It is super tasty, filling and versatile. 

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

2 carrots 

1 large onion

1 jalapeno seeded

3 garlic cloves

olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano - crumbled

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 chipotle chili canned in adobo sauce - minced

1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes - drained and crushed

1 bay leaf

1 15oz can each - kidney beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans - drained and rinsed

2 1/2 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 

1/2 bunch swiss chard - stems removed and cut into 1 inch pieces

Toppings

diced avocado 

lime wedges 

chopped cilantro 

sour cream

Chop by hand the first 4 vegetables or throw them into the food processor and pulse until chopped. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in stock pot over medium heat. Add chopped vegetable mixture and cook until softened about 8 minutes. 

Add oregano, chili powder and chipotle pepper and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes.

Add the next 6 ingredients through pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour. 

Remove bay leaf. Add swiss chard.

Cook uncovered for 20 minutes to allow chili to thicken.

Serve chili with toppings such as avocado, lime and sour cream. It also is delicious over brown or white rice or a baked potato. 

This recipe freezes very well. It makes about 8 servings of 1 cup each. Let chili cool and portion into freezer containers or quart size freezer bags. Soups and chili portioned into bags lay flat when filled and take up less room in your freezer. Remove all air from bags when sealing and label with name of recipe and date. When ready to eat, just pull out and let thaw in refrigerator then gently heat on stove or in microwave. 

This recipe is sure to become a favorite of your families for weekday meals or super convienient freezer meals. 

Tuesday
Mar182014

Baby Shower Onesie Art Station

What happens when you invite all your talented friends to your baby shower and give them a chance to decorate baby onesies, t shirts and bibs? 

My friend Kalin planned all the games and activities for the baby shower. Since the shower was co-ed, she didn't want the shower to be silly game centric so she planned this awesome art station. 

With a guest list of close to 50 it made sense to have a variety of styles and sizes of t shirts and onesies on hand. From newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months and 6-12 months also. Also mixed up the styles - short sleeves, long sleeves and summer straps. She also ordered some bibs. This way baby would be able to wear these awesome art pieces throughout her first year. 

For the decorating she picked up several boxes of Crayola Fabric Markers. Kalin used mason jars to hold the pens. All of the items were washed and dried before the shower. The other concern was the possibility of the pens bleeding through the top layer to the back when decorating them. She solved this by laying out small paper bags and scissors allowing the decorator to place a protective layer inside the onesie or t shirt.

I could not beleive the amazing designs that were put onto these items. It was a big hit with our guests. At one point I looked around and saw everyone head down, quiet and drawing. It was being taken so seriously and fun at the same time. 

The last part of the process for these to be ready for baby to wear is to throw them all in the hottest clothes dryer for about and hour to set the ink.

This was one of the best activities I have ever seen at a baby shower. 

Wednesday
Mar052014

Refinished Baby Armoire

I love the idea of a child sized armoire in little girls room and hanging some of her clothes eventually at her level so she she can choose her outfits. This gives her some independence and that feels great to me. When looking for any type of furniture for a nursery it is very clear that everything is made and designed for the adults. Just about everything we found under the title "armoire" was something I would use in my room. 

I have seen various vintage smaller armoire type pieces over the years on blogs and Pinterest boards but they are few and far between and even rarer in the real world. I started a Pinterest board with ideas and inspiration for what we wanted to find. I was open to converting a dresser to an armoire if we could not find one that was perfect as is. 

We are lucky to have a really great Goodwill in our neighborhood. We stop in often and have found some great deals over the years. We stopped in one Saturday morning and could not believe our eyes when we found this piece in the furniture section.

Wowzers!!!! It was exactly what we were looking for! It was priced at only $29! Other than the hideous paint job it only was missing one of the drawer supports - an easy fix. 

I was so excited to get this project started. First we had to pick out a paint color. We settled on Pantone Pool Green

I grew up in a family that built homes, managed remodels and refinished all sorts of furniture. So it is something I love to do. That said, I don't do this everyday so I want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row so the project turns out the best way possible. 

These are the supplies I gathered for this furniture painting project:

  • Sandpaper - usually 3 grits - rough, medium and ultra smooth
  • Primer - I love Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3 for all my painting projects
  • Tack cloth to get up all sanding residue
  • High quality paint brush
  • Paint in flat finish - I find it goes on with the least amount of brush strokes
  • Minwax Polyacrylic - I usullay use gloss for furniture
  • Blue tape 
  • Floor covering 

First I took the piece apart. Pulled out the drawers, took off the armoire door and the hardware to clean it of old paint residue. 

The armoire had a very thin coat of paint on it so it only required a small amount of hand sanding to get it smooth and ready for primer. Its important to take your time sanding and prepping your piece as every flaw will show through to the final coat of paint. 

Once my primer had a day to sit and dry very well I followed with 2 coats of the Pool Green paint. I used blue painters tape to tape off areas I did not want to get the gree paint on. Like the back side of the drawer fronts and the inside of the armoire door. 

Once the two coats of paint dry completely I inished the piece with 2 coats of polyacrylic. The reason I use polyacrylic over other types of top coats is because only polyacrylic does not turn yellow over time. I love the gloss on painted furniture and it leaves a nice stong finish for high use pieces. 

Mr. Ramon fixed the drawer support with a leftover piece of wood and we ordered these new white ceramic and gold trimmed knobs from Anthropologie. They made the piece just pop! I was so happy with the final results. It looks terrific in the room.

Tuesday
Mar042014

Reusable Baby Wipes

In our home we try and reduce our consumption of disposable paper goods. This means no paper towels or napkins. Instead we have a stack of cotton towels for cleaning and these great "bistro towels" from Ikea that come in handy for napkins and kitchen use. While there is a cost to washing and drying these items, I feel good that I am not adding to the landfill with more disposable items. 

When thinking about diapers and wipes for upcoming baby I totally understand the convenience factor of the disposable items. For our baby we have decided to go with cloth diapers so it made sense to add in cloth wipes to our plan. Along with the waste that comes with baby wipes there is also the ingredient list to consider. Classic wipes from major brands contain preservatives that can cause rashes on babies skin. They also contain other ingredients such as parabens, fragrance and propylene glycol. They also are subject to a bleaching process that is harsh on the earth. 

There are a few great "natural" disposable wipes if you want to go the disposable route. I really love the wipes from The Honest Co. All safe ingredients and they are compostable. 

When choosing to go with reusable cloth baby wipes you have a couple of options. There are plenty of pre made wipes to choose from and all you have to do is order a few dozen to get yourself started. You can find a variety on baby supply sites like Diaper Junction and even sweet handmade cloth wipes on Etsy. There are a variety of fabric choices all of them soft - flannel, micro fiber, bamboo and cotton are a few. 

I had some lovely flannel with an adorable tiny grey leopard print left over from a baby quilt a made for a friend and I decided to finish my stash by making my own.  I like 8"x8" as a size  and they fit into a conventional wipe container or a container made to hold wipes like this OXO Perfect Pull Wipes Holder folded in half. 

I washed and dried the fabric then cut it into 8" squares. I also made my wipes double sided, using 2 pieces of flannel on each wipe.

 Once I had the 8" squares I used my pinking shears to keep the edges from fraying when I wash them. 

Next I zig zagged them on my machine all the way around to attach both sides together and to help keep them from fraying.

 Now you have a set of soft and beautiful cloth wipes. Look for tomorrows post where we will explore wipe solution options as well as storage and washing.