Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

Recently I had both a craving for chocolate banana cream pie, and some extra time at home. Wow, rarely do my food cravings actually match up with the time I have available to cook! I made the crust based on the recipe I found at  This Rawsome Vegan Life, but I made the filling using some banana pudding I had in the pantry. (Yes, I've written about getting rid of processed foods in our diet, but it was there and the husband hates coconut so I would have had to adapt the vegan recipe and I didn't have that much extra time for the kitchen. That's my story anyway.)

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Recipe

The recipe for the crust is at the link above, so I won't repeat it here. I did take some decent process photos though, so here we go...

The crust is made of nuts, dates and dried cranberries pulsed in the food processor, then smooshed into place in the pie pan.

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Recipe
 pretty mise en place

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Recipe
 in the food processor, about to be chopped up

For the filling, I used a packet of Jello banana pudding, and added in some chocolate chips. Here it is all melty and gooey:
Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Recipe

The pudding gets poured into the crust on top of some sliced banana:
Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Recipe

And then whipped cream on top!
Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Recipe

Chocolate Banana Cream Pie Recipe

I really liked the vegan crust, so I may try her full recipe sometime when I have people other than my coconut-hating husband to feed this to. But I'm also perfectly happy pairing this nut crust with other pies...maybe crushed pecans with an apple pie? Endless possibilities here!


An Avocado and the Future

I may have a slight obsession with avocados. I just ate a whole one by myself, and I could probably eat another if I had one. Ok, the avocado was inside a quesadilla, but still. The husband always thinks half an avocado is sufficient for a single quesadilla. Maybe it's a good thing he's still at work....

This avocado got me thinking. That's another "must have" tree for the house-of-the-future. Others include peach, orange, apple...does the lemon count even though we already have it in a pot? It would also be nice to have an apricot, maybe a dwarf lime...oh and a pear would be nice. I think I'm going to have a problem narrowing it down to fit in the yard of the house-of-the-future.


I've been thinking a lot about the future lately. This time of year does that to me, with graduations left and right, people moving (but not us, for one of the few times since the start of college. So happy to have a home and be settled in place!) My little sister just graduated from UCSD with her bachelor's, and is heading off to get her master's degree. Changes are everywhere, which leads me to ask myself: With just one more year of my master's degree left, where exactly do I want to take my life?

So far I've been given some amazing opportunities to build meaningful connections and work on shows that really stretch me, push me to new places in my creativity. I've worked with wonderful people whom I am pleased to call friends. I'm happy with where my career is headed.

But what about the rest?

For most of my life, my focus has been on school, which would lead to a career. Sure, I always had interests and hobbies outside of that. But as my time in school approaches its last year, drawing to a close after 22 years of education, I will be doing. Learning will naturally continue my whole life, but it will be practical, on-the-job learning rather than a classroom setting.

So, in facing this change in the focus of my life, I've been developing some goals. Well, they're not all phrased in a traditional "goal" manner, but they are ideas about what I want to do to keep myself active and well-rounded. (To keep ourselves from becoming just working stiffs, as Sean put it.)

Volunteering has always been a big part of my life, ever since joining Girl Scouts in elementary school. I still work with Girl Scouts occasionally, as a camp counselor or adult volunteer at various events. I know this will always be part of my life, whether or not daughters are part of my future. Working with Village Harvest (as I talked about here) has also become a way to give back, and a way to spend some quality time with Sean.

On our honeymoon last year, Sean and I decided that we wanted to visit all of California's state parks. And we could only count the ones we visit together, starting from the day of our wedding. And we have to spend enough time there to appreciate what makes that park unique and special (this rule is subject to our own discretion). This is a rather big task, considering that there are over 200 when you count up state parks, state beaches, state historical sites, state recreation areas...But it's certainly fun, and we love that it will keep us traveling and exploring new parts of the state.

I also want to take up dancing again. I did ballet from the time I was three until around 22, when I traveled to Italy for a year long study abroad. After I came home, I started doing more ballroom. But since our wedding last year I haven't really danced. My crazy schedule has made it hard to sign up for classes, and I'm often too tired to go to the evening dance places I enjoyed. I need to get myself out there again though. Dance has always brought me so much joy, I'm crazy to not be dancing.

The future can be daunting, especially with big changes ahead. But I'm excited to see where it all takes me. I couldn't be happier about pursuing my passion for theatre, and I know that as long as I continue to explore all of my interests, I will be happy with where ever life takes me. Especially if there's an avocado tree in the backyard :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Homemade Sandwich Bread

Sean and I recently picked up The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. We started putting Post-it flags on the recipes we want to try, but we soon realized that we would flag the entire cookbook! Everything sounds delicious, and she writes the recipes in a very scientific way which is perfect for my engineer-baker-husband!

Our first recipe from The Bread Bible was the "Basic Hearth Bread." This is a simple recipe, and was perfect for my first try at sandwich bread. (Normally, our sourdough is free-form, so doesn't make the best sandwiches to pack in a lunchbox. This recipe can be made either free-form or in a loaf pan; I used a pan.)

Homemade Sandwich Bread

Homemade Sandwich Bread

It turned out beautifully, and was very delicious! My loaf pan does make a smaller loaf than you would get at the store (9"x4.5") so I had to adjust my lunchtime expectations accordingly. It's also a hearty bread though, with a dense crumb, so it'll fill you more than a standard store loaf will.

We're looking forward to trying more recipes from this book. Stay tuned as our baking continues!

If you bake, what are some of your favorite recipes? Favorite places to find new recipes?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Apricot Madness

*this post is not sponsored or endorsed in any way; what you read here are purely my own thoughts and excitement about this organization and it's mission*

On Saturday, Sean and I spent the morning picking apricots with Village Harvest. Village Harvest is a local organization that picks unwanted produce and donates it to local food banks. An amazing group of volunteers come together multiple times a week to pick produce in urban orchards and backyards in the Bay Area, and we are delighted to be new members of this great group of people.

picking apricots
Sean picking apricots

Statistics show that 1 in 10 people in the community receive food assistance. The fruit and vegetables picked by Village Harvest are able to provide balanced nutrition amid the typical shelf-stable donations of the traditional food bank.

We also prevent tons of fruit from going to waste. The orchard we picked on Saturday, for instance, was planted by the owner roughly 60 years ago. While it used to be a business for him, the land now is just used to feed his family. He has a small vegetable garden, and it sounds like he uses some of the apricots, but there are far too many for his uses now. Not wanting to waste the fruit his trees grow, he contacted Village Harvest. Instead of roughly one ton of apricots rotting, they can instead feed those in need.


Although most of us don't fantasize about the life of a farm worker, spending a morning or two each month picking fruit is very rewarding. The hours in nature, getting in touch with where our food comes's all something I appreciate. It's also a great time for Sean and me to spend some time doing good together. And we meet such interesting people at the harvests, who always make it fun!

One of the added bonuses of harvesting with Village Harvest is getting to bring home some of the fruit! There are always fruits that are damaged or over-ripe, making them unusable for the food banks. Instead of letting that fruit go to waste, volunteers are able to take it home.

picking apricots

After our first harvest picking oranges, we brought home a bag full of oranges with damaged peels. Since the oranges wouldn't last, we made a large batch of marmalade. This turned into a Mother's Day gift, as well as our own stash for the year. We learned from that first harvest: always find out what we're picking and have some recipes on hand for when we get home with damaged fruit.

picking apricots

This weekend, the apricots were so ripe that there were a lot of squishy "volunteer fruit". Sean and I came home with a large bag of apricots, all of which needed to be used right away! This turned into:

-apricot turnovers
-apricot jam (from the Blue Ball Canning Book)
-apricot orange conserve (from the Blue Ball Canning Book)

apricot jam & turnovers
apricot jam conserve yogurt
snack in the middle of canning: plain yogurt with pot scrapings of the apricot orange conserve. yum!
apricot turnoversapricot jam & turnovers
jam and turnovers
apricot jam
rows and rows of delicious cans

apricot jam canning
 jam on the left, conserves on the right

And we still have a colander full of apricots!

apricot jam canning
 conserves with their labels, look out for these to become part of holiday gifts!

While I was on a roll with my canning, I also made some kumquat marmalade with some kumquats my in-laws gave us (from their neighbor).

apricot jam kumquat marmalade canning
kumquat marmalade cooling on a towel
All this canning and we're out of sugar! Good thing it hasn't been too hot lately, otherwise slaving over the hot stove making all these preserves would not be fun. As it is, I think that's enough canning for the rest of the month.

Now, what to do with the rest of the apricots? What are your favorite things to do with bunches of apricots?


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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Recipe: Currywurst Sauce

Today I want to share with you a recipe for currywurst sauce. Currywurst is a dish the husband and I were first introduced to while traveling in Germany. He had come to visit during my year abroad in Italy. We tried currywurst at a street faire, and loved it! When we moved in together after graduation, we searched for a recipe to recreate this awesome dish. I no longer have the original source, but I have adapted it a bit anyway. 

(Full recipe for easy printing after the photos)

You will need oil, an onion, curry powder, paprika, 1 can of tomatoes (whole, halved or diced) with their juices, sugar, red wine vinegar, and some salt.

First, heat the oil in a pan, then add your diced onion and cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is soft.
Add the curry powder and paprika and cook another minute.
Add the tomatoes and crush them and their juices into the spices.
Add the sugar, vinegar and salt, stir thoroughly.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thick, about 25 minutes.
Puree using a stick blender

Currywurst Sauce Recipe

Serve over bratwurst, with any side dish you choose.

Currywurst Sauce Recipe

Currywurst Sauce Recipe

Currywurst Sauce Recipe
 Getting fancy with serving - currywurst sauce in the creamer!

Currywurst Sauce Recipe

Currywurst Sauce Recipe

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Paint your Dreams

Some design inspiration:

Snapped this at Cost Plus World Market. I always find so much inspiration there! I love the saying and would love to put this up in the office, but the size of the piece is too big for the wall space available. Maybe a DIY piece in my future? In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the quote. I hope it inspires you to "paint your dreams," whatever they may be.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Packed Lunches for Adults

As my husband and I try to eat only real foods (see one of my favorite blogs 100 Days of Real Food), one of the challenges we've faced is packing lunches to take to school and work. The husband's office has a microwave, so he is frequently able to reheat leftovers for lunch. I, on the other hand, do not have consistent access to a microwave. And packing sandwiches day after day can be boring, hence all those blog articles out there about packing creative and healthy lunches for kids. I haven't seen much in the blog world about packing lunches for teenagers and adults though, which inspired this new series, "Packed Lunches for Adults". I will try to document my packed lunches and share them every few weeks to help inspire you to pack healthy, money-saving lunches. I'm hoping this will inspire some more creativity in my food too!

Here are the first three lunches I've photographed (I have a lot to learn about photographing food too...these are often snapped as I'm heading out the door though, so hopefully the quality of the images will improve as I get more practice!)

 Lunch #1: Turkey sandwich on homemade bread, plain yogurt with lemon curd and blueberries, fruit salad and trail mix

 Lunch #2: Leftover steak sandwich on homemade bread, mini peppers, fruit salad, trail mix

Lunch #3: Turkey & cream cheese wrap with peppers inside, fruit salad, trail mix, sugar snap peas, crackers

You'll notice I take trail mix every day. It's a great addition in case the day goes longer than expected because it can pack a great protein boost. My trail mix is always changing based upon what I have on hand. Typically it includes one or two kinds of nuts, raisins or dried cranberries, chocolate chips or some mini candy, and other dried fruit. This current batch also has some dried coconut in it.

I also always include a bottle of water, which typically gets refilled throughout the day.

Do you pack your lunch for work? If you have any tips or ideas for packing healthy, real food lunches for kids or adults, please share them below!