Thursday, August 16, 2012

Small Home

Love this home of Jessica Helgerson.  Only 540 square feet and with a great history too!  It's very cool what the owners are doing with trying to live as self-sufficient as possible.  Check out the link for more pictures!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fresh Eats

Our first heirloom tomato this season - A Striped German!

Veggie wraps with the siblings - colorful and full of flavor!  Definitely worthy of a more permanent place in our meal rotation.  Components: tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts, lettuce, onions, green peppers, carrots, green hummus, vegan cheese sauce, and spinach wraps!

Gifted quail eggs (Thanks Maribel!).  They became a delicious mini omelet that we used as the first course of our date night meal :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Garden Meals

Just a few pictures from what we've been cooking lately.  As you can see, there have been lots of tomatoes around here these days!  Also pictured are plums (which were quickly made into plum jam), leeks, peaches, and fresh herbs being made into a yummy lasagna.  The garlic sauce on top of both the lasagna and the pizza is the same incredible stuff that I posted about last week - what a revolutionary sauce it has been!

Lasagna in the making

A new backyard friend!

A cute slipper tomato!

Tomato hats!

Four pounds of backyard produce about to be roasted and made into tomato sauce!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"To Live Content"

“To live content with small means: to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common–this is my symphony.”

-William Henry Channing

Friday, July 6, 2012

Garlic Cream Sauce (Vegan)

I have a confession to make.  I've been holding out on you.  I haven't yet shared this incredible, amazing, delicious, over-the-top garlic cream sauce that I found.  I first described it as akin to an alfredo sauce - but I think it's better than that because it's vegan and doesn't feel as heavy.  We've eaten it in some form or another almost every week since I found it!  It has showed it's creamy self on many things: pizza's, lasagna's and more.  But this baked pasta dish takes the prize.  Mixed with sun-dried tomatoes (my favorite!), spinach or peas, and pasta, this vegan cream sauce almost makes me want to become an opera star so that I could sing it's glories to the world!

Creamy Garlic Sauce

2 whole heads of garlic, roasted
1 block silken tofu*
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
onion powder, cayenne, paprika, pepper, etc to taste

Breadcrumb Topping
2 pieces stale, hardened bread
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1-2 TBSP McKay's Chicken seasoning
1-2 TBSP Brewer's yeast
1 TBSP garlic herb seasoning

-Roast the garlic as follows: wrap the whole head (unpeeled) in tin foil and then bake at 400 F for 30 minutes.  Remove and open the tin foil package.  Once cool, the individual bulbs of garlic squeeze out very easily.
-Blend garlic, tofu, oil, and seasonings until smooth.
-Mix with pasta, sun-dried tomatoes, and greens (spinach, peas, etc).  Place in baking dish.
-Coarsely blend all breadcrumb topping ingredients.  Sprinkle on top of pasta dish.
-Bake at 350 F just until top is slightly browned.

A few notes:
*I've used regular tofu and it works well, just not quite as creamy
** This sauce is endlessly versatile - I've added tomato paste, sundried tomatoes and the oil they come in to the sauce before blending (in lieu of the canola oi) and it makes the sauce into a delicious tomato garlic cream sauce.
***The pasta will absorb quite a bit of the sauce while baking.  To counter this, I only bake it for a short amount of time and, if making a large dish, I'll double the sauce.  It's also handy to save aside a little extra for spooning on top if things get too dry.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


Studying for my Step 1 board exam unduly consumes me at times. Even when I'm not studying, the mass of accumulated information continues to bang about in my head, producing previously unimaginable associations. To me, for instance "blueberry muffin" is not a tasty breakfast treat; it's a buzzword for congenital Rubella. Butterflies may be delightfully delicate and beautiful creatures, but they only remind me of the classic facial rash of Lupus (a "butterfly" distribution over the nose and cheeks).

Thankfully, Christy makes regular forays into my brain's cyclone of medical facts. One of her more effective techniques is to come into the study and sit on my lap. This treatment methodology has a remarkably rapid onset of action. With a beautiful woman sitting on my lap, concentrating on the pathophysiology of congestive heart failure becomes a singularly irrelevant pursuit. Other matters of the heart become overwhelmingly more compelling.

God certainly brought Christy into my life for many reasons. One of those reasons was balance. I was unbalanced before marrying Christy. Workaholism was real in my life. Everything I did seemed to center around maximizing my personal productivity, squeezing the maximum amount of work out of each day. Beauty was important to me, but I refused to soak it in. There was too much work to do.

With Christy in my life, I can't help but stop to appreciate beauty. Not only is she beautiful, but Christy has an eye for beauty and a heart with the depth and capacity to receive it. This explains why Christy brings so much beauty into my tired brain when she interrupts my frenzy of study by sitting on my lap. I notice first her own beauty but she will then talk to me and point my thoughts to other beauties in the world.

My experience with Christy in medical school has led me to conclude that beauty is an essential ingredient in the simple life lived well. Life is, after all, about producing beauty through a cycle of creative relationships with the natural world, each other, and God. This reality is both simple and beautiful.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Small Spaces

Here is an example where a small apartment, when done right, can be beautiful, open, and even more enjoyable then a huge and spacious mansion.  This little apartment (from nordic design co.) uses space to its advantage.

Barry and I live in a tiny apartment that we've come to enjoy immensely.  We've come to appreciate the small space as an asset (less to clean, more interaction) and not a detriment.  A small space forces you to only keep the most useful and beautiful items because a small apartment just can't handle clutter.  This simplification process is not always easy, but it's worth it!  When we do move into a larger home in the future (almost anything will be larger then our current spot!), the lessons we've learned in our small kitchen will definitely guide our decisions regarding space and its use in a larger area.  But for now, we are appreciating the benefits of a small and cozy home.  You can see more about our simple kitchen space redesign here.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Roasted Vegetables

I love one-dish dinners.  They're filling and simple.  One of my favorites that I go to when guests are coming or I'm feeling the need for a wholesome, veggie-packed meal is Roasted Vegetables.  It's vegan, gluten free, nutritious, and super yummy.  Plus, I try to use vegetables that I don't often eat - parsnips and beets being two examples.  Most vegetables take on a flavor that's hard not to love when they are roasted.  I usually make this as a main course but you could have it as a side as well, just simplify it and don't include as many types of veggies.

The chopping process can take a little bit of time, but the simplicity of the ingredients really shine through.  You could easily prep your vegetables ahead of time as well.  Here's a rough outline of how I go about the process.

Pick Your Vegetables: Sometimes I make the mistake of trying to have too many types of veggies.  3-5 varieties is best.  Sometimes it's nice to go with bright, contrasting colors (see last photo) while other times I try to have more muted, neutral colors like the one below.

Make a basting dressing: That's basically a fancy name for what I mix the vegetables in before roasting them.  This helps the vegetables to caramelize as well as giving them an additional depth of flavor.  It usually consists of the following:
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt/pepper
  • seasonings (garlic herb, thyme, rosemary, basil, a dash of cayenne)
  • Seeds (sesame, sunflower, etc.  You can add these before or after roasting.)
Plan your baking times: Not all vegetables bake at the same rates.  I normally start with my root vegetables (potatoes first) that will take longer and then move on to the softer veggies such as onions, asparagus, or peppers.  I also check a roasting chart such as this one or this one.

Baking method: Roasting is accomplished at around 450 F.  There are two ways to go about roasting your veggies.  One is simpler and the other improves caramelization.  I've used both methods but I usually prefer the second if I have enough time.
  1. Start with your longer-cooking veggies and then add in the other veggies as needed.  For example, start with your potatoes, which need about 30-45 minutes.  When 20 minutes has passed, stir your potatoes and then add your carrots and onions.  After another 10 minutes, add your asparagus.   By the end, your pan will be very filled.  This has pros and cons.  It is easier and less time consuming.  However, a higher vegetable to pan surface ratio increases the delicious caramelization that occurs when the vegetables are in direct contact with the hot surface of the pan.  This can be enhanced by using the second method.
  2. Place vegetables on several cookie sheets.  Avoid overcrowding them.  Remove each vegetable type after they have roasted and add in the next type on it's own.  This method is the best for flavor and caramelization.  Sometimes I'll combine two different vegetable types if the roasting times are similar.  When everything has cooked, you'll combine all the different veggies and reheat for just a few minutes more. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Organizing: Spices!

As we began the new year of 2012, I (Christy) felt the need for some additional organization, especially in our pantry and kitchen cupboards.  We buy a lot of bulk goods and it's hard to neatly organize the numerous bags and little containers that we collect.

Organization does not always equal simplicity, but it can contributes a lot towards it!  However, I'm learning that organization often seems to require the acquisition of more stuff!  Containers for this and dividers for that.  I'm still working on a balance, but I think a middle road is good here.  My pantry is not going to get any better unless I figure out a way to store our bulk food in a neat and non-cluttered manner.  This will probably not happen without the purchase of some type of storage solution.  So my approach is this: buy wisely (quality), minimally (don't go overboard), and take it in stages.  The pantry doesn't need to be finished overnight!  I've made a few purchases so we'll see how it goes :)

One of my storage solutions is already in place, and it's one I'm immensely pleased with!  Uncle Tim created this beautiful spice rack for our overhead shelving (see below), but it's not enough for all the spices we have.

We previously stored what we couldn't fit above into a box in the cupboard but it was cluttered and time consuming to find each spice.  We don't have drawer space or counter space.  I've seen those magnetic fridge ones but I didn't want to clutter up the side of the fridge.  Here's the solution I found for a great price:

If you're looking for a similar solution, check out SpiceStor and look for the 20 extra clips.  They can be cut apart to accommodate larger spice bottles.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Life Lessons with Sammy

Today in my nursing class we were asked to write down five everyday experiences that we were thankful for.  My list included the following:
  • The snow capped mountains
  • Comfy covers
  • Barry's love
  • A recent patient on the cardiac ICU
  • Sammy's cheerful and faithful greeting every morning when I come home from work
Do you remember Sammy?  He's the Yellow Labrador that has brightened our lives for the past year of living here in CA.  He is really our neighbor's dog but, having both grown up with family dogs, we've enjoyed his presence so much.

Sammy would always sit outside our door while we ate meals, hoping that we would notice his forlorn and hungry eyes.  He loved food, frequently tearing green persimmons and avocados off the backyard trees and enjoying them for an afternoon snack.  A lot of my food photography has Sammy, just outside of the frame, eagerly eyeing my recent creation.  Sometimes I'd include him in the picture, just because.  Barry had a particular soft spot for Sammy and would often sneak him food.  I have never let Barry live down the time when he gave Sammy some of our precious ice cream.  Sammy loved it!

Another of his favorite pastimes was rolling from side to side on the grass.  He would roll and roll and roll with this look of pure delight on his face.  He was probably just scratching his back on the grass, but to all appearances, he was having the time of his life!

Sammy's the dog who taught me just how smart dogs really are.  He'd bring me his empty food bowl when I brought home groceries.  And on one particularly hot day, he dragged the water hose over to my feet and then looked up at me expectantly.

I've never seen such patience in a dog as I did in Sammy.  He'd lay down, put his paws across the threshold, and go to sleep, waiting for me to notice him and give him a pat on the head.  He wasn't pushy, he just asked quietly.  And that kind of asking usually spoke the loudest of all.

Sammy also helped to remind us what was truly important in life.  No matter how good or bad Barry was feeling about his studies or how stressed he was from medical school, Sammy always greeted him with a big smile and an affirming nuzzle.  When I was discouraged about my job prospects, Sammy would sit at my feet and help me ponder life.  For Sammy, life was bigger then grades and exams.  For Sammy, life was good.  And he never failed to tell us that he loved us no matter what.

Inside Sammy's body however, life was not good.  He was dying of cancer.  But each day, without fail, he would roll vigorously on the grass, trot around the backyard seeking for new ways to escape, and greet each of us as we came and went.

When I came back from class this afternoon, Sammy greeted me with those same cheery eyes.  I gave him a loving pat on the head, remembering my class assignment.  I wish I would have taken a few minutes to tell him how much joy he had brought to my life.  But I didn't.

This evening when I came home from spending time with a friend, my neighbor told me that Sammy had passed away.  No more chances to sneak him a cookie or feed him ice cream.  No more cheerful greetings at the gate.

But Sammy has taught us bigger lessons; lessons we'll try not to forget too quickly:  Life is good and the grass is green, make the most of it!  Even when all you can reach is green persimmons, chow down with enthusiasm!  Wait patiently and take a nap, things will start to look up.  And love, love unconditionally, love with cheerfulness and persistence, love even when there are no cookies or ice cream, love each and every day.

We'll try to remember, Sammy.  Thanks for all you taught us.

Barry & Christy