Chia-meatballs? Yes!

Jeannie –

A couple of days ago, D accidentally bought ground chicken breast (instead of ground turkey) and i don’t like it. This has happened before so I’ve already tried all sorts of ways to cook it and it always came out dry or rubbery or something unpalatable (to me). Interestingly, the kids have liked it every time (go figure). But the kids are at my mom’s this week while i catch up on work.

I looked for another recipe – though I briefly considered freezing it, hoping I’d come up with something someday… I knew that would basically mean I’d never do anything with it and I can’t afford to lose the freezer space since it’s half-full of ice packs for my leg.

Then i saw a recipe on epicurious.comLinguine al Limone with Grilled Chia-Chicken Meatballs – that not only listed ground chicken, but chia seeds and rolled oats, along with the other basic things i’d normally put into a meatball like onions, parsley, garlic, parmesan cheese (which D always puts into meatballs). wow! amazing! (though, i wouldn’t mind replacing the parm cheese with something else. any ideas?)

Turns out that epicurious reprinted the recipe from The Chia Cookbook – i might have to check it out!


btw, here’s what they looked like – i don’t know if i’ll ever learn how to make round meatballs!

chia chicken meatballs


DIY Style: Sweatshirt to Skinny Sweatpants (A Few Notes)

Sweatshirt to skinny sweatpants |

On Saturday I got it into my head to make some skinny sweatpants out of a ginormous sweatshirt I hadn’t worn since college. It took me three hours of measuring, cutting, sewing, swearing, ripping out, and sewing some more, but I was pretty pleased with the result.

On Sunday I Instagrammed the before-and-after pics with a not-at-all-humble-just-straight-up-bragging caption.

On Monday I happened to mention my feat to the style director for All You, one of the magazines I work for when not fighting crime in my secret identity as a green blogger. She asked me to send her the pics and promptly went bananas for them.

On Tuesday, she pitched my pants feat to our digital team, who asked me to blog about the project.

On Wednesday, I finally got my act together and did it, and the post, DIY Fashion: How I Turned an Old Sweatshirt Into New Sweatpants, is now live! I’m thrilled that my coworkers, DIY and crafting and money-saving pros, thought this project was worthy of featuring.

A few additional notes that I didn’t include in the All You post for the sake of streamlining, but that might be helpful to anyone who actually wants to attempt this refashion:

1. If there’s even the slightest chance that your before shot will be featured on the website of a major national brand, maybe brush your hair and put on a little makeup before taking it, hm? 😉

2. I cut off the lower band of the sweatshirt first, before making any other cuts, so as not to accidentally cut through it while cutting the other pieces, since I needed it for my waistband.

3. When tracing my pattern pants onto the sleeves of the sweatshirt, I lined up the inseam of the pants with the top (shoulder side) fold of each sleeve, so the curve of the neckline followed the curve of the crotch on the pants. (It sounds confusing, I know—I wish I had taken some process pictures—but when you lay your pants on the sweatshirt you’ll see how they fit together.) That let me go all the way to the center of the sweatshirt for each leg piece.

4. Even using the entire width of the sweatshirt, each leg piece was still a little shorter in the rise than my pattern pants. That didn’t really matter in front; since I was adding such a wide waistband, I knew it would make up the difference. But when I tried the pants on before adding the waistband, I could tell that I needed a bit more coverage in the back. (Pants always have a little extra fabric in the back, for obvious reasons.) So I cut a wide triangular shape from the remaining scraps of sweatshirt and sewed it to the back of the pants, like this:


5. My waistband was smaller than the top of the pants, so I had to pin it a lot and stretch it as I pinned and as I sewed, to get it to line up evenly. That was fine, just a little time consuming. Except that I pinned and sewed it on backwards and had to rip it out and redo the whole thing. ARGH. Pin the waistband to the OUTSIDE of the pants.

6. The waist is still a little loose, I think because the band was so stretched out to begin with that it isn’t really strong enough to hold the pants up. I may add a drawstring or extra elastic so that I can wear the pants out of the house without them falling down. My current plan is to sew a 1″ casing along the top of the waistband, then snip a hole and thread through some 3/4″ elastic. A drawstring would look cute but I don’t have anything handy to use as the drawstring and I do have a lot of no-roll elastic lying around, so the free option wins.

I hope this isn’t too confusing! It’s a pretty forgiving project fit-wise, so as long as you have a decent idea of how the pieces of a pair of pants fit together, it’s very doable. Really!


Beach Bunny

Our co-blogging families had a fabulous trip to the beach! Sun, fun, books, games, and for me, knitting. I love this yarn… So a square became a bunny! (And a beautiful memory – I hope G likes it!)


The Best Granola Bars

The Best Granola Bars |

Seriously. I mean it.

I’m a fan of granola in all forms, and I’ve even made my own loose granola in the past (Mark Bittman’s Crunchy Granola recipe from the New York Times). But my true love is chewy granola, and I’ve been searching forever for the perfect granola bar. Most packaged bars are either too sweet, not hearty enough (so many puffed grains!), or both. And I never found a recipe that looked good enough to attempt.

Then I found this chewy granola bar recipe on Smitten Kitchen and it was all over. (Actually, I first found another recipe that was clearly adapted from the SK version, or from the King Arthur original that inspired the SK recipe, but it didn’t credit either, so I’m not linking to it.) I’ve tweaked it a bunch and made it probably a hundred times and I can confidently say these are indeed the best granola bars ever. They are dairy-free and can easily be made gluten-free (if you use certified GF/uncontaminated oats) and/or truly vegan (if you sub maple syrup or another sticky sweetener for the honey). You can substitute the nuts and dried fruit of your choice, and change up the sweeteners. There’s still a fair amount of added sugar, which you need to make the bars cohere without getting rock hard, but I bet you could cut it a bit more and replace with nut butter.

Granola, baked |

The Best Granola Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Takes about an hour, not including cooling time

Grease a 9-inch square pan (I use a little olive oil). Cut parchment paper to the width of the pan and line the bottom and two sides of the pan, letting the ends overhang. Grease the paper.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients:
1 2/3 cup oats
1/3 cup oat flour or ground oats (blitz them in a food processor)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened dried cherries OR dried cranberries (sweetened with juice, if you can find them), chopped*
1/2 cup raw almonds, chopped
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa nibs
1/4 cup whole chia seed (optional)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

*I have the food processor out anyway to grind up the oats, so I blitz the dried fruit and nuts in there too.

In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients:
1/3 cup nut butter (I’ve used peanut butter and almond butter, they’re tasty with either)
6 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup honey (I use raw buckwheat honey)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until evenly coated. Dump into prepared pan and use your fingers to press down into an even layer. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes or until the edges are browned–the middle will still be very soft and you’ll think you underbaked it. It took me 2 or 3 tries, first overbaking and then underbaking before I got it really right.

Cool in pan on wire rack. After an hour or two you can lift it out of the pan and let it cool on your cutting board or a rack. You want it completely cool before you cut it, and in fact to get really clean edges it’s best to completely cool it, then put it in the fridge for an hour or two to let it firm up even more. (However, my husband prefers to dig it out of the pan while it’s still warm, and I can’t blame him because it’s delicious that way.) Cut with a very sharp knife. They will keep for over a week in the fridge in an airtight container; let them come to room temp or microwave for a few seconds before eating.

Upcycled Valentine’s Crafts: Mailboxes and Crayons

My daughter has a February birthday, but despite my hints she was always uninterested in having a Valentine-themed party. (I admit, I was motivated less by a love for V-Day than laziness: so easy to find appropriate party accessories!) Apparently age 7 was the sweet spot, though, because this year she finally asked for a hearts-and-love bash. Yes!

I like to keep parties simple–snacks, a craft activity, cake, done. For the craft, my first thought was to decorate crowns (Queens of Hearts!), but R had her own idea: She wanted everyone to make Valentine mailboxes, and then they would make valentines for each other, and hide the mailboxes, and…something complicated.

Decorating mailboxes, though, I could make that happen. I could have bought a kit of precut mailboxes online, but then I looked at my recycling bin and realized I had the raw materials on hand: milk cartons. I have a toddler with a big appetite, so it only took about two weeks to accumulate 10 half-gallon milk cartons–creative reuse FTW!

Valentine's mailboxes

There are lots of tutorials and Pinterest images for milk carton mailboxes, but in the end I decided to make my own life as easy as possible. I cut off the tops of the cartons, thoroughly washed and air-dried them, then covered them with plain white construction paper (stuck on with regular clear tape) and added a washi tape border around the edge just to fancy them up a bit. No lids or fancy shapes, and the paper-and-tape part was something I could do mindlessly while sitting in front of the TV one night. At the party, I let the kids have at it with crayons and stickers. They were so absorbed in decorating the mailboxes that I totally forgot about the valentine-making component of the activity, but no one seemed to mind.

For the goody bags, we made heart-shaped crayons, using up all the sad broken loose crayons rattling around R’s bedroom. I peeled the paper off the crayons, broke them into smaller chunks, and grouped by color family to satisfy my own OCD needs, and R filled the molds (we used a silicone heart-shaped cake/candy pan I bought especially for this purpose–the crayons leave a wax film on the pan that won’t wash off, so you can’t reuse the pan for food) with different color combinations. In the oven on the lowest heat setting until everything melted–I actually left them in a little longer than necessary (forgot they were in there while we were eating dinner!), but no harm done other than our kitchen stinking of melted crayon until the next morning. So easy and they turned out great!

Heart-shaped crayons


Valentine’s Day – Perfect Time for ‘Making’

Christmas-time gets busy with knitting projects for the kids and somehow I never seem to get it together to make candles for Feb 2nd but we have some fun picking and making Valentines. Plus, I have to admit that this year’s constant threat of snow here in the mid-Atlantic has made stand-by snow-day crafts a must.

This year, my little one didn’t seem to like my ideas, so we googled and googled and looked at lots of projects. He saw gardenmama‘s pine cone gnomes and wanted an army of them for his classmates. (He made himself a pumpkin for Valentine’s Day.)

3609093a92b511e3ae47120c9ccfee49_8  IMAG7003-1

My oldest wanted to do something a little different and these caught his eye from jen at paint cut paste:

IMAG6990-1   IMAG7010-1-1

These were great projects because the kids could do so much. My almost 5-yr old could find the pine cones with his brother and sew and stuff the gnome hats and hearts. (We didn’t make the hearts into pins). My almost 9-yr old found the sticks (in my parents kindling stack) and cut out the arrows and made the labels.

Thanks to gardenmama and jen for inspiring our Valentines!

A Little Late: Christmas Eve Mushroom Soup

barszczgrzybowy_przepisAll this snow is making me think of Christmas, and it wouldn’t be Christmas (or home) without this amazing soup. We call it grzybowy barszcz and it’s oh so yummy. These king bolete mushrooms come from the forests of Poland – we call them prawdziwki which stems from the word prawda for truth – we believe they are truly the best mushrooms in the world, that they are called “king” for good reason. You may know them by their Italian name: porcini.

Soak 2 or 3 handfuls of dried porcini/bolete mushrooms for 3-4 hours in hot water.

Sauté chopped onions,chopped celery and the optional, but flavorful, chopped leeks in a soup pot. (You might be wondering ‘how much?’ – well, that’s really up to you. I’d probably add a handful of chopped onion, maybe a little more and one or two celery stalks.)

Add rinsed mushrooms to the pot. and run the reserved liquid through a cloth or cheesecloth or coffee filter and then add that too. I like to chop the mushrooms. Also add salt, pepper and a bay leaf.

Cook until everything is almost soft. Add chopped carrots (maybe 3 carrots), and a chopped parsnip (optional, but one or two adds something to the soup).barszcz_serving

When everything is cooked and soft, add 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar (to taste; I like apple cider vinegar). Bring to a boil and turn off heat.

Put sour cream in a bowl and temper with some of the soup. (mix a little of the soup into the sour cream, mix it up, then add more soup and mix, do this a couple more times and add this mixture back to the soup.)

Add a lot of chopped parsley.

Potatoes for the soup: Boil potatoes, when they’re soft, drain, put back on the stove and dry them a bit by mixing them with a spoon or fork for a moment or two, add some salt. Some will fall apart, but it’s ok. Now they’re ready.

Serve on Christmas Eve when you see the first star in the sky by putting a spoonful of potatoes in a bowl and ladling the soup on top.

It might take a try or two to get it just right, but it’s quite worth it! And, though it reminds me of Christmas, it would be pretty wonderful anytime. Smacznego!

Channeling my inner Estée Lauder? Or maybe my inner Mrs. Homegrown.

It’s become obvious to me that as part of my natural crafty progression, it’s time to learn how to make creams and lotions. I already have so many ingredients I can use – I looked at a few websites for recipes &  inspiration and found myself utterly overwhelmed. There’s so much advice: use water, use only distilled water, use rose water, don’t use water, use a stick blender, just whisk, use an emulsifier, beeswax isn’t a good emulsifier if you want it to last, beeswax is good enough, if you don’t use water it’ll feel greasy, don’t worry if it feels greasy because your skin is soaking up the goodness. And then there are the options: almond oil, grapeseed oil. coconut oil. jojoba oil. shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax, essential oils, herb-infused oil. hydrosol, food-grade borax (omg, really?), aloe vera gel, vitamin E oil, and some other oils and extracts i can’t remember how to spell, let alone pronounce.

<deep breath>

The reality is that there is some chemistry here – like everything else I seem to make, I should know the ratio of one thing to another so it works. I’m guessing this is where Estee Lauder’s uncle, the chemist, would step in for her, but in my overwhelmed state, I decided to wing it.  So I channeled my inner  Mrs. Homegrown at Root Simple , only I didn’t know it at first.

I looked around my kitchen to see what i could find.

Ingredients for cream on my kitchen counter

Coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, beeswax, lavender essential oil, sweet almond oil

I decided on a recipe and got started. I put a 1/4 cup of coconut oil in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. But I noticed that this recipe didn’t ask for water and since I have distilled water, maybe I should do something else. But the coconut oil was already on the stove… I added a tablespoon or so of shea butter and maybe that much cocoa butter (well, cocoa butter’s really hard and comes in a jar, so i basically chipped at it until I didn’t feel like doing that anymore).

That’s when I frantically searched for some new advice – happening upon Mrs. Homegrown, I warmed some distilled water. I probably should have measured it and done the little bit of math to figure out how much water it needed, but things were melting and i was in the thick of it.

I added about a handful of grated beeswax. Again <another deep breath>, I should have been more precise in figuring out how much of this I would need. And since i had forgotten the almond oil, i added some at the last minute (1 – 2 tablespoons?). My scientific process was non-existent by this point. i secretly hoped it wouldn’t be awesome because i’d never be able to reproduce it.

Once everything was melted, I took it off the stove and added a few drops of lavender essential oil. i wanted it to have a light scent, nothing heavy.

Now I had a problem – I had no idea how much water to add. no recipe i saw had the ratio of ingredients I’d used so i was on my own. I started whisking and  adding the warm water. It turned out that i added a little too much.  I finally had to switch to my stick blender, next time i’ll just start with that.  And guess what? It was still pretty nice. No, not the perfect cream – but usable and though a little greasy, I like it. I used great ingredients so I’ll gladly use it up and try to make something else, especially since it took longer to write this blog post than it did to make the cream and the cost makes it worth it.

I plan on using this pretty quickly (no preservatives) but if I don’t, I can put it in the fridge to extend it’s shelf life.

I have to admit that i found it really surprising that I could make a face cream off-the-cuff. Yes, I had to know a bunch of things to get that far, but a year ago, I couldn’t have imagined this so I’m grateful to have found a new way to create something natural for my family and to save a few pennies too.

Whipped Cream Finished Cream

(yes, that’s a recycled baby food jar. the lid is painted with chalkboard paint.)


post by lizard | | 0

Greening Gifts

Yesterday, i received a beautiful gift and when i saw that wrapping paper with the pineapples and the dark green ribbon, i was very excited because i knew immediately where it was from. I opened it to see this:

I’m a little salt cellar obsessed so this made my day! Now what to do with the wrapping? The box will be easy to reuse, as will the ribbon, but the tissue paper… i can use it as packing paper, but it’s too pretty for that.

As luck would have it, i had a few presents to send to my awesome co-blogger’s kids. Maybe we’ll talk about how green they are after they receive them, wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise!


Earth Day Yogurt

Though not officially planned for Earth Day, I’ve learned how to make yogurt with some good timing. Not only will it stop me from buying more plastic, the taste speaks for itself.

There are many methods for making yogurt:

The electric blanket.. The crock pot… The oven… Or some variation.

But that’s just too much for me. I couldn’t do it. I decided to go with the gadget. I will beg Alton Brown‘s forgiveness later (he, btw, goes the electric blanket route).

With the yogurt maker, you follow the manufacturer’s instructions – though it seems that most instructions are quite similar. For mine, I had to heat up the specified amount of milk to 180 degrees in a pot. Translated for the busy mom: a kid started screaming once I put it on the stove and I forgot about it briefly and caught the milk as it started boiling. Since I couldn’t find my thermometer to be sure what the temp was and it was bedtime, I took it off the stove to cool to the suggested 110 degrees, but by the time I got back to the milk, it was room temp or something like it. I kept moving forward thinking If this is that precise of a science, it will never work for me anyway.

There is a yogurt:milk ratio that you have to follow, so I did the math ahead of time. (when no one was screaming and it wasn’t bedtime. What was I thinking?) You add some of the milk to the room temp yogurt and then add it back to the pot and mix it all up. Pour into the adorable little jars – I opted for glass:

Then I put the dome on it, set the timer for 8 hours and went to sleep.

I overslept. And had to get the kids fed and out the door to school, so I have no idea how long it actually was by the time I made it back to my yogurt, but I do know that it was more than 8 hours and it was creamy and tasty and for the sake of experimenting I made yogurt cheese for lunch:


What are you doing for Earth Day?