Thursday, May 31, 2012

Completely Non-Paleo Recipe

Less than 24 hours left until my trip to Tucson!

While Mike and I are gone, our neighbors will be taking care of these little beauties.


I hate having to leave them for so long. Weasel is afraid of new people, so she'll steer clear of our neighbors. And when we get back she will have temporarily reverted back to a feral cat. But it will all be worth it when we find a new house in Tucson for them to explore!

Since our lovely neighbors won't take money for watching the cats, I made them some delicious banana muffins. I didn't bother with a paleo recipe, since I thought it might be off-putting to them. Instead, I found the recipe here on the Cat Can Cook blog, and let me tell you, it's a good one!



I tried a muffin fresh from the oven, and I definitely agree with Cat; these are the best muffins I've ever had. I think the secret is that it calls for 4 bananas (I used 4.5). So don't skimp on the bananas! Though, if you're going to try out this recipe, I would wait to make them until right before you need them because when I had another one several hours later it wasn't nearly as good as the one right out of the oven. Don't worry, I saved the rest for my neighbors, but I couldn't give them away without making sure they tasted okay!

I have quite the to-do list to complete today, including trying to pack 8 days worth of stuff into one carry-on bag. I am quite far from being a light packer, so this will not be an easy task for me!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Long Weekend

I'm a bit overwhelmed with everything I have coming up. First is our trip to Tucson to find a house to move into, and as soon as we get back things will be non-stop crazy, too, while we pack up the house, get everything ready for moving and enjoy our last bit of time left on this side of the country.

I spent the weekend taking care of some trip preparations and random errands. Here are just a few highlights from the weekend:



I stocked up on Larabars for airplane/hotel snacking. It was risky buying so many since I'd never even tired them before, but Mike and I split one on the way home and it was pretty good. I chose cherry cobbler, bananas foster, ginger snap and tropical fruit tart. The rest were Mike's choices. I'm pretty impressed by the ingredients! The one we tried contained only cashews and dates, pretty neat!



We went to the farmer's market on Saturday morning to pick up some meat and vegetables for the week. This was dinner that night with a farmer's market lamb shank and rainbow chard.



And Sunday's dinner: garlicky salmon, roasted sweet potatoes and farmer's market broccoli.



I don't think I'll be able to get much (if any) clay work done this week with everything I have to do before we leave Friday morning. But who knows, maybe there will be some spare time here and there to at least get some glazing done since I still have many, many pieces in need of glaze. We'll see! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Today I discovered something amazing. Well, a few things actually. It all started with doing some searching around the googles. I was looking for some tips on staying paleo while traveling, since I will be leaving next week for an 8 day trip to Tucson (to attend a wedding as well as look for a house to rent). What I discovered was... LARABARS! How have I been alive this long and still not know about larabars?! You see, a lot of them are fairly paleo, it would seem. So this weekend I plan on heading out to whole foods and stocking up for my trip! Hopefully they don't taste like spiderwebs.

Usually I go off my diet when I'm on a trip because I basically have no self control. I don't know what I'll do on this trip. Maybe I'll shoot for being 50% paleo. I would be happy with that. And luckily the hotel we're staying at not only has a nice "fitness center" but also gives free passes to a real gym down the street. Awesome!

Another thing I discovered today is this:

What what! Paleo pasta! I cannot wait to try it. Though at $9 a bag, it's just going to be an occasional treat. They have a bunch of different flavors, too! I'm most interested in the spinach one. I just love green noodles.

I find it very exciting that the paleo diet is becoming more popular because there are so many paleo products coming out! Yeah yeah, I know, I should be eating nothing but fresh, whole foods; meat and vegetables, but I gotta say, I love me some fancy pants processed deliciousness.


I tried out a new recipe today, too.
Tapioca Bread! I saw someone on TV eating a tuna sandwich yesterday and it's all I've wanted ever since, so I got out my tapioca and rice flour and made a loaf of bread. I substituted butter for the shortening. And yes, there's sugar in that recipe. But I just didn't care. I halved the recipe to make one loaf of bread so there was only like 2 tablespoons of sugar in there. Not a big deal. I, like everyone else on the planet, love the smell of fresh baked bread. And that's just what this smelled like: real, yeasty, delicious bread! It was really really really good and I'll be making it again for sure.


And finally, some clay stuff.
Here are a few of the things that came out of my last firing:

New artichoke jar. I love the glaze on the inside.


Some new minis
Off to bed!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The best paleo chocolate chip cookies you will ever eat.

The other day I had a chocolate chip cookie craving and wanted to find a new paleo cookie recipe to try out. I'm always nervous when trying out a new paleo baked good recipe because a lot of them are pretty gross. 50% of the time when I try out something new, it's just good enough not to throw out, but doesn't really taste that great. And 25% of the time, it's so bad that after a bite or two, I end up throwing away the whole thing.

While I was googling recipes, though, I found the absolute coolest thing ever on the Bakergal blog. She tries out 6 different paleo chocolate chip cookie recipes and compares them on flavor, texture and appearance. I was *so* excited when I found this. Oh, and perhaps the best part of all is that after comparing all 6 recipes, she then takes the best one and alters it to create an even better recipe.



The recipe calls for super finely ground almond flour. This was a problem for me since I make my own almond flour in my blender. I tried grounding it up a bit more with my mortar and pestle to make it finer, but it didn't help a whole lot. So I made the cookies with my not-so-fine almond flour and they still came out freaking delicious. The uncooked cookie dough tasted exactly like real (non paleo, I mean) chocolate chip cookie dough. I highly recommend this recipe. Seriously, go make them right now.



Thursday, May 17, 2012

I didn't do too much today. My sciatica was pretty bad, so I just did the one thing that really needed to be done-- finish making my second set of martini glasses.

I was thinking about using the last set I made as a wedding gift for a wedding I'll be attending in a couple weeks, but I decided I would make a new set that is a little more personalized instead. And here are the results:




Blurry!

I'm really happy with them and like them waaaay more than the first set. The chevrons on the base was what I had planned on doing to my first set of glasses, but I didn't get to because everything was drying too fast.

Now I'm just waiting for Mike to get home. Since I'm feeling bad he's bringing home some delicious dinner so I don't have to cook. Yay!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two recipes and other stuff.

Mike picked up my favorite coffee beans yesterday, so I started my day with a steaming mugful.

Tanzanian Peaberry!

I think I had a bit too much caffeine, because afterwards I felt jittery and nauseous, bleh. Drinking lots of water and eating lunch helped some though.


I'm sure a lot of people have already seen this, but I was reminded of it the other day, and since it's pretty much my favorite thing in the whole world, I must share it...




I'm pretty sure my constant singing of Iraq Lobster is driving Mike crazy, but I just can't stop.

Clay

Yesterday, I finished this piece:





Another chevron vase made from truncated cones. I tried out a much easier way to do the chevrons on this piece (sets of three instead of continuous all the way around), and I'm not sure if I like it more of less than my last vase.

Then today I made 3 cute little artichokes. I was so in love with the two completed ones from last week, that I decided I had to make more.



Food 

I tried out two new recipes for dinner tonight.

First was sweet potato soup. I have been craving both sweet potatoes and soup, so I decided to try putting them together.

Sweet Potato Soup


2 tbsp cooking fat (I used a combination of butter and coconut oil)
1 cup chopped onion
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed (mine weighed 2.3 lbs total)
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp - 1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
lots of onion powder and garlic powder
3/4 cup heavy cream

Melt butter in a large pot. Saute onion, celery and garlic. Add sweet potatoes, broth, and all the spices. Simmer for 20 mins until sweet potatoes are soft. Puree in blender and return to pot. Add cream and reheat.

Original recipe from here: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/creamy_sweet_potato_soup/


And on the side, I made this recipe for cheese buns from the Gluten Free Real Food website. They are similar to the tapioca hamburger buns I made a while back, but they don't use rice flour, and the flavor of these is better.

Cheese Buns

1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 tsp salt1 tsp baking powder
pinch garlic powder
2 egg yolks
2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese
half and half

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl mix the first 4 ingredients. Then add the egg yolks and cheese. Using your hands, mix it well. At first it will be like flour coated cheese. Then add half and half 1 TBSP at a time while continuing to mix with your hands. When the dough is well blended, uniform and able to stick together, roll into eight balls. Bake for 15 minutes until very lightly golden. Don’t brown them. Browning will change the flavor. Let cool for as long as you can stand to and eat warm.



I used cheddar instead of mozzarella and heavy cream instead of half and half because that's what I had on hand.

Both the soup and the buns were super tasty. The soup was really similar to butternut squash soup, which is pretty much what I expected. The leftovers will be feeding me for a couple days. The interior of the buns had a weird, too-chewing, gluey, spongy texture, but the flavor was garlicky-cheesy awesomeness.


And now I'm off to watch Mad Men with Mike before bed. I'll leave you with this...

Weasel play-time. I love the splayed toes. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lazy Weekend.

I've been very slowly working on redoing my website, and one of the things I've been needing is a picture of myself working. So on Saturday, I got Mike to take some pictures. Here's one of the horrible outtakes with me looking insane.


Other than this, it was a pretty unproductive weekend. That's okay though. I got to do lots of reading and relaxing, which is completely necessary once in a while.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Rice and Potatoes.



source: http://perfecthealthdiet.com/the-diet/

I've decided that I'm no longer going to make any sort of restrictions on white rice and potatoes. They're delicious, filling, and totally satisfy my grain cravings, keeping me from giving in to a bad diet cheat.

So my dinners lately have been going like this:
Day 1: Cook a bunch of meat. Pork roast, beef roast, several chicken thighs, something like that.
Day 2: Cook white rice with onions, garlic, peas, and other assorted vegetables that I have on hand. Mix in leftover meat from Day 1 to make a pork/beef/or chicken fried rice. Douse with coconut aminos. Super delicious!
Day 3: repeat.

I've also been adding shredded or cubed potatoes to ground beef to make it go farther, and it's totally delicious. Especially with cumin. And ever better the next day.

Rice and potatoes have been a nice addition to my normal meals that would consist of a meat and a couple vegetables.

The only problem has been that allowing ourselves potatoes has made Mike and I want fewer sweet potatoes, because we think regular potatoes taste better. Too bad sweet potatoes are a million times healthier. I'm going to try to get back to eating sweet potatoes a couple times a week.


And now for recipe sharing time! Pressure cooker pot roast! I love using the pressure cooker. A roast  would normally take, what, like 6 hours to cook? In the pressure cooker you can have one ready from start to finish in just a little over an hour and it's just as good as one that's been cooking all day long.


Pressure Cooker Roast

This recipe uses a beef roast and a pork roast together, which is super delicious. If you only have one kind of roast, though, the recipe will still work great. It also works with brisket. 

2 lb Beef Roast, cut in half
2 lb Pork Tenderloin, cut in half
3 cups Broth (I prefer chicken broth, but any kind will do)
1/4 cup Cooking Wine
1/2 a large Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
several lumps of bacon grease, or any other cooking fat
garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

Heat a cast iron pan over medium high heat. 
Salt and pepper the meat on both sides then sear in the hot pan for 2 minutes per side, until a brown crust forms. 
Pour broth and wine into the pressure cooker.
After meat has been seared, sprinkle plenty of onion powder and garlic powder on both sides of meat then add to the pressure cooker on top of the broth and wine. 
Top with onions, garlic, and lumps of bacon grease (or other cooker fat). 
Put lid of pressure cooker. Cook on high heat until pressure has been reached and pressure cooker starts to whistle, then turn heat down to medium. 
Cook for 1 hour. 
Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. 
Run pressure cooker under cold water until pot unlocks. 
Remove lid, and take the meat out of the liquid.
Using two forks, shred the meat and drizzle with some of the liquid from the pot. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Martini glasses!

I fired my kiln again last night so I could send out an Etsy order today. Here's the kiln glowing in the dark. According to Mike, it's at the temperature of a cool star.



And this is what I unloaded from the kiln this morning:


Four new pieces! The larger sphere piece was the custom order. The fur sphere came out ok, but that blue glaze is so dark that it makes it hard to see the detail of the fur. I LOVE how the two small artichoke vases came out. That was my first time using solid-colored bright underglazes on these pieces and I'm so happy with the outcome. Makes me want to make lots more in a rainbow of bright colors.




I finished two new pieces today that I'm really excited about.


Martini glasses! I've had this idea in the back of my head for a while now, and decided to finally try it out. Hopefully they won't warp to death in the kiln. I really don't know what will happen; it was a risky project, maybe, but I had to try it! I was planning on adorning them much more than I did, but they were drying faster than I anticipated. I didn't want to attach decorations and have them crack off later, so I just left them alone. I love the outcome though and can't wait to see how they look when they're glazed and fired and done.




 Weasel kept me cute-company while I worked.



I ended my day with a movie. A terrible, terrible movie. Mike has been introducing me to Todd Solondz movies for the past few days. First we watched two he had seen: Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, which, despite being unarguably disturbing, I enjoyed. Then tonight, we decided to watch a slightly newer one that neither of us had seen before: Palindromes. For most of the movie I thought it was really bad. But then with the very last line it went from "really bad movie" to "one of the worst movies I've ever seen". So yeah, I don't recommend it. It will leave you annoyed, confused and angry.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Glazing day.


Whew. I'm exhausted.

It's weird... in my last post I wrote about how I wished I had more deadlines. Then the next morning that's just what happened.

In the last few days I got two Etsy orders and a custom piece request. I got started right away on the custom piece, and when the greenware work was done I let it dry over the weekend. I did a firing last night, and unloaded it this morning. And I now have all this stuff to glaze:

That's 18 pieces, ugh.

I always put off glazing because I find it horribly horrible. It's boring, tedious, takes forever, I have so much trouble deciding how to glaze things, and I just hate it. But it had to be done. I got 5 things glazed today, mostly the smaller stuff, but it's a start! Maybe I'll make it a rule that I have to glaze one piece a day from now on. It probably won't happen though.



I started some new pieces yesterday and was hoping to work on them more today, but with all the glazing, there wasn't time:


I am looking forward to getting back to them tomorrow.

I didn't finish working until 7:30 tonight, just a few minutes before Mike got home. We were both super tired, so we decided to go pick up dinner instead of cooking. While we were out, we stopped at World Market to look for these yummy little cookies that Mike tried in France. They didn't have the cookies we were looking for, but we did find my favorite ginger beer and these weird British "digestives".


I'm not sure what exactly is "digestive" about it, and I'm not sure what "great British taste" is supposed to mean and that's exactly why we bought them. We tried one on the drive home and it tasted like chocolate covered dog food, but in a good way.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Outside exercise.

Is it just me, or is exercising outside just way better in every way than exercising inside? I was dreading the circuit workout I had planned for today, so I decided to go for a jog instead. Not only is it easier to get myself to exercise if I go outside, but the workout also seems to be harder, I sweat way more, and I'm way more exhausted afterwards. Oh, and being out in the sun also makes me feel great. So it's really a win-win.

Lately I've been enjoying jogging around this park a few blocks away from my house. The park smells like hamsters. I think it's a combination of the crazy humidity and the wood chips in the playground area. It's a fine smell, I'm not complaining.

Hamster Park.


I love my heart rate monitor!

After my jog I was exhausted and starving so I opted for a quick lunch that came out of a can.
Soup! Every time I open a can the cats run in all excited thinking it's something delicious and they beg and beg until I give in and give them a taste. A lot of times it is in fact NOT something that they would find delicious, like green chile or something, so I let them sniff the opened can of food so they can see that it's not actually something they want. Today, since I'm sure they would love some soup, I tried to trick them by letting them sniff my tomato to make them lose interest.

Weasel hates tomatoes.

I think I fooled her. She immediately scurried off and left me alone with my soup.

Maybe someday I will get good at food photography. Maybe. 


It was a Wolfgang Puck brand vegetable soup, and turns out, just like everything else Wolfgang Puck makes, it tastes like butt. It is, sadly, the only organic soup that the grocery store by my house carries. And it has sugar in it. Stupid soup. I will not be buying that again.


After lunch, I worked on some ceramics for a bit and then got to straightening up the house in preparation for some out-of-town visitors. A couple of Mike's friends from undergrad, their baby, and their dog, Giles, were passing through town. I was excited to see how the cats would react to having a dog in the house (since we're planning on getting a dog after we move), but it was an extreme disappointment. They both hid and didn't come out the entire time! But at least I got some good dog-love time with Giles.



I tried to get a picture of him playing, but they all came out blurry because he moves so fast. I had to wait until he was worn out to get a usable picture.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Clay and paper.

I have three work-ish related things to show from the last few days. First is something similar to what I have been doing lately...




Just another miniature artichoke pot. The only difference is that this one has a larger opening. I'm getting really bored with these things. As well as just bored with my texture pots in general. So it is definitely time to move on to something different! And that's just what I did. 

The typical pieces I've been making for the last few months have mostly been spherical and that's one of the things that I'm getting sick of, so I tried out a new shape. 

I wanted to make a vase out of two cone shapes, so I started by making a conical plaster mold.



I made a cone out of paper and taped it into a large yogurt container for stability. Then I got to mixin' plaster. Stir, stir, stir, stir until my arm fell off. 



Once the plaster set up, and the mold was left in a sunny spot to dry out for a day, I got to work on my vase. 

Working, working...



And... done!
As you can see, I used a new kind of decoration that I thought of. You can see how it was inspired by my artichoke texture, but at the same time, much different. 




I'm pretty happy with how it came out. It felt soooo good to be making something other than a stupid sphere. I can't wait to do more experimenting with cones and my new surface decoration... chevrons? I think I'll call the decoration chevrons. That works, right?


What I have to show next is completely different from the work I usually show you.
My niece's 13th birthday is in a few days and I always make homemade cards for my family, so that's what this is:



Like this one, my cards are usually made from lots of bits of cut paper. Making things from cut paper has been one of my favorite media since I was a kid. Growing up, my room was always riddled with little strips and slivers of colored paper leftover from projects. It's a total pain to clean up, but I love it. 

I started this card late last night and stayed up working on it till almost 4 am, because I wanted to send it out this morning. I seem to work a lot better when I have a tight deadline. Kind of makes me wish I had more deadlines in my life. Mike was nice enough to stay up with me and play the piano to entertain me while I worked.