Monday Munchies – Garden Quinoa Salad

Another new favorite from The Simple Veganista, this quick and easy quinoa salad is filling and refreshing–perfect as a dinner side dish or a light lunch!  I didn’t have any edemame (soy beans) when I made mine, but since they are packed full of protein I definitely recommend adding them if you can.

If you’re not familiar with quinoa, it’s an amazing whole grain that doesn’t take long to prepare (I find it faster than rice) and gives you complete proteins–the only whole grain to do that by the way.  Just be sure to rinse yours first if you don’t purchase the pre-rinsed kind.  The outer layer can be bitter tasting, which can ruin the whole dish.

The zesty dressing can be made and used on regular salads as well.  I made a second batch for my spinach lunch salads all week. Yum!

Garden Quinoa Salad w/Zesty Garlic Dressing
 
Salad
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup edemame (optional)
  • 1 cup english cucumber, chopped
  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2  cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced

Dressing
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of two medium lemons
  • 3 rounded tablespoons stoneground or dijon mustard (I used stoneground)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • himalayan salt, to taste
  • cracked pepper, to taste

In a medium size pot, add quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Once done, remove cover and let stand 5-15 minutes, until all water is absorbed, then fluff with a fork.

While quinoa is cooking, combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, taste for seasoning and let set.

Chop and dice your remaining vegetables, except the edemame. Place chopped vegetables and edemame in a large bowl, add the dressing tossing gently to coat.

Once ready, add quinoa to the vegetables and toss together. Serve with a little more sea salt & cracked pepper and squeeze of lemon on top.

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Tuesday Tutorials – Party Favor Bags From Envelopes

I found this really nifty project on one of my favorite blogs, How About Orange.  Using some plain white envelopes and pretty washi tape, you can create little bags perfect for party favors or tiny gifts.  Go ahead a create a few today just for fun!

Envelope Bags

You’ll need an envelope, decorative tape, and scissors. I used 4 3/8″ x 5 3/4″ envelopes, but any size will work.

Seal the envelope and trim off one of the short sides to make an opening.

Wrap tape around both sides of the envelope. No need to cover the last inch, since it will form the bottom of the bag.

Fold about one inch of each side of the bag toward the middle; then fold the bottom upwards, creasing your folds well. You can vary the width of these flaps depending on the proportion of the bag you want. Flip the bag over and reverse the folds along the same lines for easier shaping in the next step.

Put one hand inside the bag, and with the other, push the bottom fold down. This will leave the bottom corners of the bag standing up. Press each corner into a triangle.

Fold both triangles down and secure them with more tape, covering the bottom of the bag.

 

Fill with whatever goodies your heart desires, fold over the top and seal with a small piece of tape.  Enjoy your new thrifty creation!

Monday Munchies – Holiday Pretzel Kisses

Need a quick snack for a holiday party or a cute gift idea for neighbors or coworkers?  Try these sweet and festive treats that are sure to be a hit this Christmas!

This cute idea is from Little Birde Secrets.  They have tons of tutorials and creative ideas, so I definitely recommend checking them out!

Holiday Pretzel Kiss Candy Recipe


Ingredients:

  • Small, waffle-shaped pretzels
  • Hershey’s Kisses (plain old chocolate are good, but my favorite are the Candy Cane Kisses–any variety of Kisses or Hugs will work)
  • Red & green M&M’s
  • Cookie sheet and parchment paper

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or wax paper). Spread out pretzels.

2. Put a Hershey’s Kiss or Hug in the center of each pretzel.

3. Heat oven to 170°. Place baking sheet in oven for 6 minutes. Kisses will just begin to melt and look shiny, but will not lose their shape.

4. Gently top each Kiss with an M&M, with the “m” side down. It should immediately push the Kiss’ point down, but if you have to press it into the Kiss, you may need to heat them a little longer.

Place in the freezer until the Kiss is hard again. Package them in a cello bag, add a bow and a tag, and you’re good to go!

 

Monday Munchies – 3 Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

My collection of recipes is growing a bit out of control really.  It started with a nice, organized 3-ring binder.  Recipes were grouped by meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts), and I even tried to keep like recipes together, so under the dessert section all the cookies were together, then all the pie, then all the cakes, etc.

Now new recipes get piled in the front of the binder, not in any kind of order or in a clear binder page.  It’s all I can do to keep them all from falling out when I put the binder back on the shelf with the rest of cookbooks.

As I searched for something new this week, I noticed how many healthy recipes I have.  Not that it’s a bad thing by any means.  I love to be healthy and share healthy meal ideas, like the Balsamic Lentil Mushroom soup I posted a few weeks ago.   I have vegan recipes, whole and natural food recipes,  recipes labeled as healthy, low-carb, watch-your-waistline type foods.  But today I wanted chocolate.  Nothing fake, or low-fat, or claiming I can eat 10 servings for no calories (an exaggeration of course, I don’t think that recipe actually exists).

Balsamic Lentil Mushroom Soup

In my search I ran across a fudge recipe I got from my grandmother.  It’s got just 3 ingredients and 4 steps.  I even made it in a college dorm room one year and shared it with the floor.   Rich and indulgent, I do not recommend eating it all at once (or all yourself), but I will say it’s a great dessert to bring to holiday parties, and a change from all those cookies.  Wrapped up in a pretty tin, this fudge is a great gift as well.  Perfect for co-workers, in-laws, neighbors, and other people you don’t really know what to get.  Enjoy!

Easy 3 Ingredient Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Ingredients

  • 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 oz smooth peanut butter
  • 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

Directions

  1. Mix peanut butter and chocolate chips together in a large microwave safe bowl.
  2. Microwave on HIGH for 2 1/2 minutes.
  3. Stir in sweetened condensed milk quickly.  (I recommend opening the can while the chocolate and peanut butter are in the microwave so you are ready.)
  4. Spread in a 8×8 or 9×9 greased baking pan (or lined with waxed paper) and refrigerate until cool and fudge is set. You can use a larger or rectangular pan for thinner fudge.

Notes: The best part about this recipe is the ingredients are usually already in your kitchen! But feel free to make it your own.  Have a bag of peanut butter chips around?  Use it instead of the peanut butter, or sprinkle a few on top while the fudge is still soft.  You can also fold in nuts or mini marshmallows before spreading the fudge in the pan.  Have fun!

Monday Munchies – Super Easy Homemade Applesauce

Chilly rainy days are the perfect time to cook in the warmth of the kitchen.  One of my favorite cold-weather treats is warm homemade applesauce.  Just thinking about the sweet apples and aroma of cinnamon filling the house makes me hungry!
Homemade applesauce is much easier than I used to think it was.   It really only takes about 30 minutes (including all the apple peeling, coring, chopping), and is totally worth the time and effort.  Have a bag of apples in the fridge?  Get to cooking and enjoy some truly homemade warming goodness!

Super Easy Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 8-10 Gala apples (or other suitable cooking apples), cored, peeled, and quartered
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • juice of one lemon (or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice)
  • dash of salt
  • Optional: 1/4 cup brown sugar
homemade applesauce

My Homemade Applesauce

Directions

1. Place all ingredients in a heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the apples are soft.

2. Take off the heat and remove the cinnamon stick (if you used one). For chunky applesauce, use a potato masher.  For smooth applesauce, let cool and pulse in a food processor until it reaches the desired consistency.

3. Serve warm or chilled.

NOTES:

  • The finished applesauce freezes well.  Keep in a covered plastic container or zip-top freezer bag for several months.
  • To cook in a crock pot, place all ingredients in the crock pot, cover, and cook on low 8-10 hour or on high 3-4 hours.
  • Don’t throw away all those apple peels!  The peel is the most nutritious part of the fruit.  Try laying them out in a single layer on a baking sheet, sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar (or leave plain), and bake in a 200F oven for 30-60 minutes or until they are crisp (totally depends on how many peels you have and how thick or thin they are).
  • If you are really adventurous, take the peels AND the cores and try this apple jelly recipe.

Tuesday Tutorials – The Scrapbuster Scarf

Whether you knit or crochet or make yarn wreaths or just tie pretty bows with the stuff, you probably end up with tiny balls of yarn at the end of your project.  If you’re like me and always think “I’m sure I can use this for something,” then you also probably have a whole stash of colorful little yarn balls hanging around your house.
Lo and behold, the perfect solution! Add some color and a little quirk to your winter wardrobe with this awesome Scrapbuster Scarf!  I’m very glad I ran across this idea and pattern, and spent the past few days making my own.

The Scrapbuster Scarf

My yarn was of different weights and textures, so there’s some variation in the look and feel of the scarf, but it’s soft and warm nonetheless.  The pattern calls for whatever yarn you have and whatever size hook you feel comfortable with–I used a size I hook in case you were wondering.   It’s basically an alternating pattern of the shell stitch and V stitch on a foundation chain of 17 stitches, where:

Vst = dc, ch 1, dc in same sp

Shell = 5 dc in same sp

You can find the full pattern here at Sarahndipities (what a cute name, right?), and her other cute crochet projects here.

 

scrapbuster scarf

My completed creation!

 

I’m trying to think of other ways to use my future scraps of yarn too.  This was a pretty quick project (the longest part was weaving in all the ends), but I thought about making the scraps into small squares and eventually sewing them together into some kind of big patchwork blanket.

 
If there are any knitters or crocheters out there, feel free to share what you do with your yarn scraps in the comments.  I’d love to here what other great ideas are out there!

 

Monday Munchies – 14 Fantastic Oatmeal Add-Ins

Nothing warms you from the inside out quite like a warm bowl of oats.  It’s definitely my preferred breakfast when the weather gets cold and nasty as is has been the past few days.  I even like half portions as snacks in the afternoon or as a warming snack before bed, it’s just that good.

Whether you make your oatmeal from scratch with old-fashioned rolled oats or whip it up super fast with instant oatmeal packets, there are plenty of great mix-ins you can add to give your breakfast a tasty (and sometimes nutritional) boost.

***A quick word on instant oatmeal:  avoid it if you can.  Sure it’s super fast and portable, but it’s usually packed with sugar and the oats are so broken down they don’t have a lot of nutrition left in them.  Certainly not enough for them to really “stick to your ribs.”  Many of the delicious variations below can be prepped ahead of time and taken with you to the office or where ever it is you usually take your instant oatmeal, and it only takes a minute or two to heat up. ***

Ways to Boost Your Bowl of Oats

For all of these I start with 1/2 cup of old-fashioned rolled oats or quick oats, which are both unsweetened, but if you are starting with instant oatmeal omit any added sugars or sweeteners.

 1. Cranberry Almond : 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, 1 tablespoon chopped almonds (raw or dry roasted), 1 tablespoon brown sugar, a drizzle of honey

2. Peaches and Cream: 2 tablespoons peach jam, 1/3 cup vanilla soy milk instead of water, a dash of nutmeg and allspice

3. Apple Cinnamon: 1 whole cubed apple (with or without skin, it’s your preference), 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 tablespoon brown sugar

     ~This one does take longer to cook due to the whole apple.  Smaller apple chunks will let it cook faster, and apples without skin will be softer instead of having a crisp crunch to them.

4. Peanut Butter and Jelly: 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter, 1 tablespoon strawberry jam

5. Banana Nut Bread: 1/2 large banana cubed, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

6. Cinnamon Raisin: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 tablespoons raisins

7. Savory Breakfast: 1 slice of crumbled bacon, 1 slice of cheese (preferably sharp cheddar) or 1/4 cup shredded cheese, chopped herbs such as chives or thyme

8. Chocolate Decadence (more for a snack than for breakfast): 1 tablespoon chocolate chips

9. Tropical Paradise: 1 tablespoon each diced dried apricots, dried pineapple, dried mango, and shredded coconut

10. Just like Fruit Crisp: 1 cup fresh fruit (apple, pear, peach, or any berry combination), 1/4 cup granola added after cooking –> try the Best Granola Ever

11. Pumpkin Pie: 1/3 cup canned pumpkin, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 1/4 teaspoon allspice

12. Coffee Cake: Add 1/4 teaspoon instant coffee to 1/3 cup milk before mixing it in your oatmeal.  Add granola or a crumble topping of 1 tablespoon cold butter, 3 tablespoons white flour, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar after cooking

13. Berries Galore:  1/4 cup fresh blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries, 2 tablespoons honey

14. Caramel Apple: 1 whole cubed apple, 2 tablespoons caramel topping

Adjust any of the measurements to your taste, as these are just guidelines to get you started.  Experiment with what you have in the cupboards, and never get bored with plain old oatmeal again!

BONUS

Want to take your oatmeal experience even farther?  Try this amazing steel-cut oats recipe from one of my favorite chefs, Alton Brown.  Be sure to toast the oats and don’t skip the buttermilk, it makes all the difference in the world.  It’s a recipe I make on lazy Sunday mornings when I have the time, and it stores and reheats beautifully!

Tuesday Tutorials – Personalized Initial Felt Notebook

Today’s awesome tutorial comes from Everything Etsy, where we are making personalized initial felt notebooks.  They are too darling to pass up!  I have not made one of my own yet, but it’s on my list as Christmas gifts to my family.  I think ones covered in darker colors (black and gray, dark brown and tan, etc) would be fitting for the guys.  Pair it with a nice pen for the adults and colorful pencils or crayons for the kids and you have a perfect little gift for everyone!

 

felt notebooks tutorial 6

 

You’ll need:

  • Notebooks
  • Wool Felt
  • Embroidery Floss
  • Stick Pins
  • Sharp Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Needle
  • Printed Initial

 

1.  Trace around your notebook on a piece of paper, cut it out and use it for your template.

2.  For the initial I found a font that I liked online and printed out the letter.  Then I used the copier to enlarge it to the right size.  You could easily size it before printing if you prefer.

bookmark tutorial step1

3.  Pin the notebook template and the initial to the wool felt and cut them out carefully.

4.  Line up your initial in the bottom corner of your template and attach it with two strands of matching embroidery floss and the stitch of your choice.

notebook tutorial step 2

5.  Once you have completely attached the initial it’s time to glue your cover to your notebook. Most scrapbooking glue sticks should be strong enough to work just fine.

Start at the front edge of the notebook and line up your cover.  Be sure to lightly glue the whole edge and attach with pressure.  Slowly add more glue and work your way all the way to the back of the notebook.  It will stretch slightly as you go but don’t worry.

6.  Once you are finished with the glue just trim around the whole notebook.  Then trim again to straighten the few uneven spots you’ll have left.  Sharp scissors make it easier!

felt notebook tutorial 4

There you have it!  A simple project for a rainy afternoon that makes great gifts for friends, teachers, neighbors, family…the possibilities are endless with the right combination of felt colors and notebook sizes.  Happy note taking!

Tuesday Tutorials – Useful Origami Boxes

Ever just need a little box to hold something?  Odds and ends like paper clips, thumbtacks, pencils, loose change, and whatever else is floating around? Origami to the rescue!

These useful little boxes can be made in a variety of sizes to hold whatever you need.  With colorful or interesting paper you can use them to give gifts or hold candy for the holidays.

I’ve included a tutorial for a square box below (which I use for coins and paper clips and other office supplies), but if you want to make a rectangle one to hold stuff like pencils and pens, there is a great tutorial with printable instructions here.

Easy Origami Square Box

I also created a shortened printable version if you want to take the instructions with you.  Enjoy!

Step 1: Fold a Blintz Base. This is done by folding the square on both diagonals and then opening the square back up and folding each point to the center.

easy-origami-box-step-1

 

Step 2: Open up the paper.

easy-origami-box-step-2

 

Step 3: Fold in the 4 corners as indicated below.

easy-origami-box-step-3

easy-origami-box-step-3

easy-origami-box-step-3

 

 

 

Step 4: We’re going to fold the 4 corners in once again.

easy-origami-box-step-4

 

easy-origami-box-step-4

easy-origami-box-step-4

 

 

 

Step 5: FLIP paper over.

easy-origami-box-step-5

 

Step 6: Rotate paper slightly so that you see a square. Now fold both the top and bottom halves to the center. Crease well and unfold.

easy-origami-box-step-6

 

easy-origami-box-step-6

 

easy-origami-box-step-6

easy-origami-box-step-6

 

 

 

 

Step 7: Fold both the right and left sides to meet in the center.

easy-origami-box-step-7

 

easy-origami-box-step-7

 

 

Step 8: Now bring the top flap over from the right to the left.

easy-origami-box-step-8

easy-origami-box-step-8

easy-origami-box-step-8

 

 

 

Step 9: Fold the top and bottom right corners on the diagonal as shown below.

easy-origami-box-step-9

easy-origami-box-step-9

 

 

Step 10: Now bring both flaps over from the left to the right.

easy-origami-box-step-10

easy-origami-box-step-10

 

easy-origami-box-step-10

 

easy-origami-box-step-10

 

 

 

 

Step 11: Fold in the top and bottom left corners on the diagonal as shown below.

easy-origami-box-step-11

 

easy-origami-box-step-11

 

 

Step 12: Now bring only the top flap over from the right to the left.

easy-origami-box-step-12

easy-origami-box-step-12

 

 

Step 13: Here comes the fun part….shaping our origami box! Pry open the paper with your fingers.

easy-origami-box-step-13

 

easy-origami-box-step-13

 

easy-origami-box-step-13

 

 

 

Straighten the sides and like magic, you have your easy origami box!

easy-origami-box

 

easy-origami-box

 

 

You can find this and other fun origami patterns at origami-instructions.com.

Monday Munchies – Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie

Monday Munchies is all about food.  I love to eat, cook, bake, and try new ways to make interesting dishes, desserts, and snacks.  So here I post quick tips, fun treats, new recipes I’ve tried (and maybe adapted), or the occasional unstructured cooking adventure (i.e. I didn’t follow a recipe at all).

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie

As we all head back to school and back to work after the long holiday weekend, we need quick and healthy breakfast options to fit our busy schedules.  That’s where these delicious breakfast cookies come in!  I make these quite often, and wrap them up in plastic wrap so they are handy to pack as a lunch snack or grab for breakfast on the way out the door.  These cookies are BIG so they fill you up, and are packed with whole grain oats for fiber. With only three steps to make them, they couldn’t be easier to whip up ahead of time. Try some this week!

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups dry milk
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1. Mix all ingredients together in large bowl.
2. Spoon 4 large cookies onto greased
baking sheet.
3. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350°F