Sunday, September 15, 2013

Peach Cake

The cool breeze this morning had visions of apple cider and pumpkin pie dancing through my head, but with it also the sadness that comes with the closing of another summer season.  And while we may have a few more Indian Summer days, they will be fewer and further between as we transition into fall.

And so also comes the last of the peaches.  For me that is the true end of summer, since it is the sweet and juicy tang of a peach I look forward to all summer and when they finally appear at the farmers market, I diligently purchase a peck every Saturday.  Now the last of the summer fruit has a dwindling presence at the local stands as I keep looking for ways to enjoy and preserve this flavor of summer. So far I have canned, frozen, dried, muffined (yes I just turned muffin into a verb), french toasted, syurped and just straight up eaten the peaches, but I am starting to grow peach weary and decided it was okay to turn on the oven during the cooler evenings to bake a cake.

I remembered making a peach cake a few years ago that was delicious, however had no luck in finding the recipe, so of course I went right to Google...which lead me to the most wonderful peach cake I have ever made!  This cake is so wonderful that there is nothing I would change about the recipe. I am providing the link and not posting it here because it is not my recipe, but I am including my pictures.  This little cake is truly worth the time involved in each step, and while not difficult, does take a bit longer to make because of roasting the peaches prior to assembling the cake.  I found I did not need to add the Panko bread crumbs to the roasted peaches.  Follow every step, you will not be disappointed!

Perfect Peach Cake recipe from My Pantry Shelf

Fresh out of the oven, I went back for seconds...then thirds.

Then for breakfast again this morning because fruit in cake = breakfast cake!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Biking and Sweet BBQ Sauce

I am a week into my clothing project and feel like I still have lots of options for work and weekend wear.  I have added to my efforts to save the planet by starting to bike to work.  Now that was not the original plan, however I was forced into it this week due to someone who decided to renew his registration on his car late and now has to wait an extra two weeks to get the the little registration stickers.  So I have graciously handed over the keys to my car and started biking...everywhere, like my girl DEW in Boston.

Luckily, I live about a five minute drive, ten minute bike and fifteen minute walk from my job.  Additionally, the weather has been beautiful, sunny, 80's and no chance of rain in the forecast.  So the decision to start biking was made even easier.

Not only has this transition been good exercise, but it has also been a money saver as well.  There are no quick after work trips to the grocery store, only to come home with twice the amount I planned to go in for.  I have been better at planning my trips, getting only that which will fit into my back pack and hitting up the farmers market (a safer bike trip than the grocery store) to most of our food needs.  I can't just pop into Target or any other big box store since it is too far to bike there.  I am, due to my new circumstances, forced to buy local...and I am loving it!  I feel better in the morning when I get to work from being outside.  I am spending less, getting more done around the house and am better about "making do" with what I already have on hand.

And that, my friends leads me to BBQ sauce.  See with the grocery store trip out of the picture, I have been foraging in my pantry and freezer for dinner.  Most recently I grabbed a container of frozen pulled pork out only to realize that there was no BBQ sauce in the fridge or spare in the pantry.  So of course, I turned to the internet to see what I would need to make my own.  One of the first entries I came upon was that of Ree Drummond's recipe from the Food Network.  I had everything on hand to make it...almost.  I was a bit short on Ketchup so what you see below is a modified version of the original recipe.

The result was a very sweet (just the way I like it) and tangy sauce with a bit of spice.  Needless to say, I am hooked on making my own BBQ sauce and am now searching out other recipe ideas and hope to come up with my own Bossy Sister BBQ sauce to share with family and friends around the holidays!

Sweet BBQ Sauce
Recipe modified from original by Ree Drummond

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1/2 onion, diced (I used one whole very small onion)
1 cup ketchup (I had about a 1/2 cup ketchup so ended up using a half can of tomato paste a to make a full cup)
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot Mexican chili powder...add more if you like a sauce with more kick
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Dash salt

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, being careful not to burn them. Reduce the heat to low. Add the ketchup/tomato paste, molasses, brown sugar, chili powder, vinegar (or less to taste), Worcestershire sauce and salt and stir. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring constantly because it will splatter, or use a pot with taller sides. Taste after simmering and add whatever ingredient it needs (more spice, more sugar, etc.).  Pour into canning jars.  Enough for two 8oz. jelly jars.

I am not sure how the biking will fare once I have my car back and the weather turns cooler, but for now I am going to stick with it and enjoy the benefits.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Official Start to P333!

September first has finally arrived and with it a new wardrobe!  I spent yesterday morning packing up what was left of my closet and unpacking the Fall tub of clothing lil' sis and I put together about a month ago.

The official list is as follows:
Sep, Oct, Nov.
Dark Denim Skinnys
Khaki Skinnys
Express boot leg
Brown maxi skirt
Flower multi skirt
Emerald Cropped
Brown dress pants
Navy blue dress pants
Blue long sleeve dress
Red shift dress
Orange patterned dress
Orange Long sleeve t
Chambre blazer
Orange/red jacket
Polka dot button down
Tan sheer button down
Sheer pink w gold dots
Purple long sleeve
Blue dot sweater
Navy stripe long sleeve
Tan 3/4 sleeve sweater
White t
Chartreuse t
Teal t
Nude tank
Orange stripe tank
Pale pink ruffle tank
Light blue tank
Olive cardigan
Lightweight green vneck sweater
Grey sweatshirt

So now that I have my clothing in order the test will be to see how much I can get out of this wardrobe over the next three months.  I am thinking I may need to replace one or two items and those that do not get worn or are worn infrequently will get the boot.

I hope to post some of the outfit combos as well as other changes I have made around the house over the next few months.  I am also still baking and it is coming on colder weather, which makes me want to crank up the oven, so a recipe or two may find its way in as well!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Rules for Project 333

As a part of the process for getting my clothing organized into wardrobes for Project 333 (in my case 3-35) was to also set up a series of ground rules for how I plan to arrange and interact with the wardrobes for each season.  So here are the ground rules I established, which were used to guide me through selection and future replacements of items.

The Rules

  1. To start, all items were selected directly from the current wardrobe; no new items were purchased to start.
  2. Any future items which may be needed to replace damaged or worn clothing should first be sought through eco-friendly means from consignment or second hand shops.  If a new item must be purchased, it should be sustainably produced and of high quality, natural fabrics.
  3. No more than 35 items are allowed for each "Season".
  4. Shoes, accessories and jewelry do not count for the overall 35.
  5. Undies, bras and socks are not a part of the count for the over all 35.
  6. Workout clothes are a separate set of 35 items because they technically cannot be worn to work.
  7. An item can only be replaced or traded out for another, no new items may join the wardrobe to bring it above 35.
That is basically it.  I do have two white tanks and two white long sleeves for wearing under sweaters in the winter because of itching, but other than that, I am sticking to my 35 items.  One week from today I will be unpacking my Fall Wardrobe!

Some additional motivation :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Downsizing My Closet

My sister is convinced that the Zero Waste Home book has become my lifestyle bible and that I am now going around spreading the word like some crazy zealot.

Not. True.

I am however attempting to make changes to how I live in an effort to decrease the impact I have on the environment and to live a simpler and eco-friendly life.

Simple=less stuff
Eco-friendly=less trash

So now that I have cleared out most of the plastic containers which had accumulated in my kitchen cabinets, the next stop was my closet.  I know...probably the toughest spot to tackle because I looove clothes!  Like Bea in Zero Waste, I was NOT going to have a wardrobe which fit into a carry-on suit case.  That was just not possible for me.  So I started searching the internet for ideas on how to create a capsule wardrobe (where everything is coordinating giving you more options, but with fewer clothes) and came across a few inspiring websites.

The Project 333 - Less is the new black.
Be More with Less - A minimalist fashion project.
Into Mind - A minimalist approach to personal style and wardrobe building
Uniform Project - One dress, 365 days.  All to raise money to send kids to school in India.  Check out the Tedx talk on the site. - Sustainable fashion made in the USA.  The Versalette, one piece of clothing 30 ways.

Needing some moral support for the project, I called on my sister (a costume designer) to come and help me start the process of simplifying my closet.  I decided to go with a system based on Project 333 - 33 items for 3 months - and created a wardrobe for each season.  Fall - September, October, November. Winter - December, January, February. Spring - March, April, May. And finally the summer - June, July, August.

We started with a full closet and pulled out several items which I counted as "must haves" for each season and then built the rest of the wardrobe around those items, using what I already had in my closets and drawers.  Whatever was left after that, was either recycled, donated or consigned.  That meant, the cute top which matched only one other item usually went in the discard pile. Tear.

I am including a before picture and will show a true after picture when I get started in September.  While I do have a seriously pared down wardrobe for summer right now, I wanted to start fresh with the fall cycle.  I will include a complete list of my fall items and the basic rules in September.

So here is to a year (hopefully longer) of living with less.

P.S. This was a very difficult area to tackle, I spent most of the summer thinking about it and mentally preparing myself to part with almost half of my wardrobe.  This is not for the faint of heart!  We will see how I feel about it come the end of November :)

P.P.S. Some additional resources I forgot to include last week.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Giving Waste the Boot

It has been almost a year since I have posted last and while I am still baking up a storm, thanks to Pinterest, I have not taken as much time to post or take pictures of what I have made.  I did decide however to change slightly the focus on the blog.  I will still be posting about baking and cooking and all things tasty, however I wanted more flexibility to write about things which inspired me I have changed my tag line and given the page a face lift of sorts.

Now with free reign to write as I please I want to share a book I have reciently finsihed reading and which I am sure my friends and family are sick and tired of hearing about.  It is called Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste.  Blogger Bea Johnson was doing an interview on WYPR to promote her new book and when I caught some of her message I knew I had to read it.

Since completing the book, I have started to re-evaluate all of the "stuff" which has accumulated in my house and started taking small steps to produce less waste and keep what is truly necessary.  The message from Zero Waste Home is not necessarily about minimalist living, but rather about decreasing the amount of waste you or your family produces to have a positive impact on the Earth.  It is about having less "stuff" to worry about or clean, so you can spend more quality time with your family and friends.

The first step I took was to clean out all of the plastic containers from the cupboard where they had been piling up for that day-when-I-would-need-them.  In the spirit of Zero Waste, I recycled what was there and have switched over to storing my leftovers in glass containers, which are reusable, instead of the plastic which will eventually have to be disposed of.  I would post a picture, but I did not take a "before" shot, but I am sure you can just look in your container drawer and get your own visual.

So what is the problem with plastic containers?  Well...eventually they break down and give off gasses which could be harmful to your health when heating food, but additionally it takes much more energy to recycle those plastic containers, no matter how long you may re-use them and so in the end your carbon foot print is a size 9 opposed to a size 8.  Along with getting rid of the plastic, I am making the conscience choice to avoid items packaged in plastic when possible to keep it out of the house.  It is taking some adjustment, but I am slowly getting the hang of it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kind of Fancy Grilled Cheese

It took a new pan and some amazing homemade bread to finally motivate me to post again.  I was looking around my favorite discount store, Gabriel Brothers, and happened upon a very reasonably priced coated cast iron griddle.  I am a fan of cast iron pans, even more so of ones that are coated because they cook like traditional cast iron, but don't need to be seasoned.  I have a pot that is like this and love it, so I figured it was worth the $20 I was about to shell out.  Well, it definitely turned out to be an excellent purchase.  I have been making grilled cheese like a mad woman!

The griddle is a great tool because of the lack of sides like a traditional frying pan, making it much easier to flip things, like pancakes or grilled cheese.  In addition to the pan, I also have come across some of the most fabulous bread.  At the local farmers market there is a woman who makes home made flavored breads that are quite amazing.  They remind me somewhat of the no-knead bread that has become popular.

This week I picked up a round loaf of sun dried tomato basil bread and have two new combos of grilled cheese that have been great.  First I put a layer of mayo on the outside of the slices, this is much easier than using butter.  This bread crisps nicely on the outside and the inside gets soft, but not too mushy.  Then I add the cheese.  Tonight it was white american, with ham and some fresh basil from the garden.  Last night, I had colby jack cheese with tomato and pesto.

Let me know if you have any favorite grilled cheese combos!