Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Quinoa, Tomato & Avocado Salad - vegan & gluten free

I hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable Memorial Day. I worked for part of the day, which was less than relaxing, but Mr Official Taster and I did have an enjoyable dinner in the city with some Seattle friends. Our trip was even (relatively) traffic free. Take that, I-95!

This salad is super simple to throw together, whether for a quick weeknight supper or for a summer picnic. To make it a more satisfying main course, consider adding some tofu (or sausage would be tasty), cheese, steamed spinach, or any other summer veggies.

Quinoa, Tomato & Avocado Salad - vegan & gluten free
This recipe serves 2-4 as a side. There's no reason not to make a larger amount to serve as a main course or to a larger group of people.  The oil and vinegar are totally optional- I like it with and without.

1/2 C quinoa (uncooked)
1 avocado, cubed
1-2 tomatoes or a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced
avocado or olive oil (optional)
balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar (optional)
salt and fresh ground black pepper

Measure quinoa into a fine mesh strainer. Rinse thoroughly and place in a small saucepan. Add 1 C water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer. Cook 15 minutes, or until the seeds (yes, it's a seed, not a grain!) are translucent and the germ has spiraled out from each one. Turn off heat. Use the fine mesh strainer again to strain the quinoa+water. Gently press quinoa to force out as much water and return to pot. Fluff quinoa with a fork and leave in the hot pan about 15 minutes. That way it won't get mushy.

Add avocado and tomato to cooled quinoa. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil and vinegar, if using. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Red, White & Blue Patriotic Drink or Cupcake Parasols - free printable

Happy Friday! Do you have exciting Memorial Day plans? We get to have dinner with some Seattle friends. They are making the drive down the coast on their way to their new life and jobs in LA. It will be nice to see them, and I know they'll appreciate the sunshine!

Today I'm sending you over to Hostess With the Mostess for these fun patriotic parasols that you can either use for drinks or for cupcake toppers, or really, any other fun thing you can think of. Might I suggest these patriotic cupcakes for the weekend? or these cupcake wrappers?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Strawberry Banana Muffins - vegan

I have a habit, in this new home base of ours, of getting to the farmers' market about 20 minutes before it closes. Sometimes that means slim pickings, and sometimes that means the strawberry guy is shouting very loudly about $5 three packs he's doing his best to get rid of sell before closing. This Sunday, that meant I came home with normal amounts of onions, cherries, tomatoes, and peaches (yes!! peaches! they even taste good!). And strawberries. Lots of strawberries.

And so commenced a strawberry muffin search. The first one I tried wasn't bad exactly, but it sure wasn't good. I had such high hopes; the recipe came with pretty pictures and from a reputable source. I couldn't see a way to improve it enough, so I just started over and trusted myself.

This unfussy incarnation turned out sweet and light. In fact, I would be tempted to reduce the sugar even further next time, and I think almond extract could be a nice addition.

Strawberry Banana Muffins - vegan

1 1/2 C (8 oz) chopped strawberries
1/4 C plus 1/2 C sugar
1 C (16 oz) very ripe mashed banana (about 2 small)
1/3 C vegetable, olive, or coconut oil
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C flour
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with liners.

In a two-cup glass measuring cup or small bowl, combine strawberries and 1/4 cup sugar. Lightly mash and set aside.

Whisk together the banana, oil, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, 1/2 C sugar, and flour in a large bowl. Add in the strawberry mixture and vinegar and whisk until just combined.

Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups. They should be about 3/4 full. Bake on center rack for 20-25 minutes. Muffins will be puffed and slightly golden, and a cake tester inserted into the middle will come out clean.

Remove from oven and cool for about 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pan and allow to finish cooling on a rack.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Garden Update

Happy Monday! I wanted to show of my little garden today. Look how far it's come! The picture on the left is from March 12, and the one on the right is from today. I'd say things are going pretty well. I recently added the wooden box (actually a free wine crate) and planted some sweet pea seeds. They're for flowers, not for food. I'm hoping for a small mass of sweet smelling beauties. 

My peppers are flowering, and my tomatoes are working on being productive. One tomato has even turned red. Speaking of my Instagram photos, I've got a side project going. I'm trying to take a photo and post it every. single. day. So follow shortandsweets on Instagram to keep up, or visit my online gallery.

The puppies love the sunshine and taking advantage of the sun-warmed floor. Unfortunately, they also like to take advantage of having a view to bark at.

How was your weekend? Ours was pretty low key: homemade pizza, errands, reading, and planning a long weekend for later this summer. Do you have any vacations coming up? (perhaps over Memorial Day weekend?)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jam Labels - free printable

Happy Friday! This week just flew by for me, and I apologize for the light posting. Today I'm sending you over to Packagery for these sweet labels. If you're looking for free canning labels, this is another great resource. In the past, I've also found these and these, and here's a DIY tutorial.

Have a great weekend! Maybe it's time to make some jam?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Overnight Oatmeal - vegan & gluten free

Happy Monday Tuesday! I'm not sure how that happened. I hope you had a good weekend and said hi to your mom.

A quick note- I finally started using Instagram recently, and you can see my gallery via Instagrid. I'd love to check out the galleries of photobugs who follow me!

I know I'm also kind of behind the curve on this overnight oatmeal thing; it's all over the interwebs. When I first saw it, the idea of cold oatmeal totally turned me off. But then I started working early mornings. I'm not a morning person in general, and I'm also not someone who can jump out of bed and eat right away. So I've been starting my day with iced tea and eating breakfast a few hours later. Overnight oatmeal is the perfect solution because I put it together the night before and all I have to do in the morning is remember to grab it out of the fridge. At first I thought I would microwave it in the break room, but I discovered, much to my surprise, that I like it cold. I also admit to using it as a vehicle for fruit, kind of like crisp or crumble.

Overnight Oatmeal - vegan & gluten free

Instead of cooking oatmeal, the time in the fridge does the work of softening the grains. The flavor possibilities are endless. This satisfies me and keeps me full, and it provides a great mix of whole grains, protein, calcium, and fresh fruits. Here's a recipe to get you started, but please play around with toppings an mix-ins. Think: jams, spices, purees like apple or pear sauce, nuts, muesili, granola, dried fruit, chocolate chips.

If you're making this for someone sensitive to gluten, be sure to use oatmeal that's certified gluten free.

1/3 C rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/3 C non-dairy milk of choice (I like almond)
1/3 C yogurt (optional)*
drizzle of honey (optional)
fruit, etc to garnish

Combine ingredients in a small lidded container. If using frozen fruit, be sure to add it at night and it will be thawed in your oatmeal by the morning. Leave it in the fridge overnight and enjoy for breakfast. It should be edible after a few hours, but I haven't experimented with that. If you want to add dried cereal/granola, add it right before you eat so it doesn't get soggy.

*This is completely optional. The recipe works just as well with just oats and milk. I recently tried some coconut yogurt that was delicious.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day Card - free printable

Still looking for something for Mom? I'm not (bam!), but if you are, head over to How About Orange for this pretty card. No artistic skills needed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Like a Horse and Carriage

Obama's declaration today got me thinking about marriage. There's an old adage about how you can't really know a marriage or judge a marriage without being inside that marriage; every marriage is different.

I totally agree.


There are some things common to every good marriage. The obvious one is, of course, love. So it follows, who are we to judge another's love? How can we possibly be in another couple's love? There are other commonalities as well. Who vowed to hate? To deny? To judge? To persecute?

How many of you out there had Corinthians read at your wedding? Where in that passage does it say to tear down other peoples' love, hope, and faith?

I'm glad Obama came out and made his statement today, and I'm glad to see to much support for marriage equality online. I'm glad to see celebrations on tumblr and friends posting on Facebook. I'm glad not all North Carolinians agree with the vote there. I just wish it wasn't an issue at all.

I know that marriage equality is a hot button issue for many Americans, and, frankly, I don't know why. Someone else's marriage? None of my damn business, and, really none of yours. As long as you let them have one.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Pasta with Roasted Sweet Potatoes - vegan & gluten free

I'm not sure how it's Monday already, but it seems to be so. I hope the transition from the weekend wasn't too rough this morning! The weather has been gorgeous here, and Mr Official Taster and I have enjoyed dining al fresco among our plants. It's a bit of a balancing act (literally), since we don't have a table outside, but it's always pretty.

This recipe is super easy, and you don't need to spend too much time at the stove. Feel free to use any other kind of potato you'd like, but I especially like the rosemary and sage combination with sweet potatoes.

Pasta with Roasted Sweet Potatoes - vegan & gluten free
adapted from How to Cook Everything

olive oil
2-3 medium/large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper
1 lb pasta, any variety (whole wheat, gluten free, regular, etc)
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
rosemary and sage (fresh or dried)

Preheat your oven to 400F. Smear a large roasting or rimmed baking pan with a little bit of olive oil. It should be large enough to hold all the potatoes in a single layer without overcrowding. Add the potatoes to the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat. Roast the potatoes until they brown on the bottom sides (about 20 minutes), then stir and continue cooking until tender (approx. 20-30 minutes).

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot. Toss the pasta, sweet potatoes, garlic, and another 2 tablespoons olive oil together. Add herbs to taste, toss, and serve.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Design Your Own Canning Label - free printable

Good morning, and happy Friday! Since it's now May (!), that means if you haven't noticed already, fruits and veggies are starting to be abundant and canning season is right around the corner. In fact, strawberry jam is already doable. In the past, I've found Well Preserved to be a great resource.

So today I'm sending you over to Jam Labelizer. It's pretty awesome. Andy Biggs has designed a bunch of customizable labels that you can print out and stick on your home canning projects to beautify your pantry or make them gift-worthy. There are a couple free options, or you can go Premium for a measly $5 and get many more labels. There are even some that allow you to add your own photo (of your smiling mug? ripe berries? a cute puppy?). And even though it's technically a Jam Labelizer, there's no reason not to use it for pickles or jelly or mustard or tomato sauce. Try printing onto something like this Full-sheet Sticker paper - 100 Sheets for easy application.

Looking for more? Try my canning labels round up or make your own from paint chips!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dog Biscuits - gluten free & corn free

Last time I made dog treats, they were a big hit at Chez Sweets. Both our dogs love peanut butter, but I wanted to make something different this time. I found basic recipe and then researched and played around a bit and came up with this wheat free version. As far as I can tell, these treats are wheat, corn, soy, and dairy free, so they should be safe for sensitive pups.

Even though this recipe uses flours that are more expensive than all-purpose, it's still less expensive to make these than to buy treats at the store. These take hardly any effort and only one bowl. Look at the ingredient list - nothing strange in it. I can't help but think chemical-free foods are best for our puppies, and (I can only hope. really, really hope) maybe they'll even keep the number of dog-vomit-incidents down.


Dog Biscuits - gluten free & corn free
When they see these cookies, both dogs hurry to obey as quickly as possible. I think that means they're a hit! 

2/3 C hot water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 egg
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/3 C brown rice flour
2/3 C Tapioca flour (sometimes called tapioca starch)
2/3 C Sourgum flour

Preheat oven to 400F and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. The dough will come together, and it's not sticky. It will roll out, but unless you're more skilled than I am, cutout cookies will not work. SO. Drop tablespoon sized mounds of dough onto the prepared baking sheet about 2-3 inches apart. Press them flat with a fork, twice, at 90 degree angles. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool and store in a sealable jar. Bribe or train doggies as needed.

Yield: 25-30 tablespoon sized biscuits

*If you're making these for a dog who doesn't have a problem with wheat, then feel free to substitute 2 2/3 C all-purpose flour for the three flours I used here. You might even be able to roll them and cut out cute shapes.
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