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from Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen by Ani Phyo

Coconut Breakfast Cakes
2 c whole flax seeds, or 3 c flax seed meal
2 tbsp liquid coconut oil
1/2 c agave or maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c water

Put flax meal, coconut oil, agave, salt, and water in a large bowl and mix well. Form four balls and flatten into a “pancake” shape, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.

To serve, top with Cashew Coconut Pudding (recipe follows) and fresh fruit.

Batter will keep for four to five days in the fridge. Makes 4 servings

Cashew Coconut Pudding
2 c cashews
1 1/2 c water
1/4 c pitted dates
1/2 shredded dried coconut or fresh coconut

Blend the cashews and water until smooth. Add the dates and coconut. Blend until smooth.

Will keep for three to four days in the fridge. Makes 4 servings

We recently had some friends visit who are pretty into raw food, so I was more than happy to bust out this cookbook in order to whip up a breakfast treat. I chose these two recipes because not only did I have all of the ingredients on hand, but Cleo has been totes gaga over cashews lately. And pancakes. She doesn’t seem to mind the other ingredients either.
We ended up making these the night before; I say we, because I put my guests to work forming the pancakes. They were huge! (the cakes, not the guests). We ended up making 5, and had plenty. So much actually, that none of us were able to finish our servings. Except for my husband, who has a hollow leg- he ate the biggest pancake, and probably the most pudding, before we even got up. He did have an early morning that he needed fuel for. Not that I’m complaining… The recipe for the pudding made enough for me to bring a bunch to share with my co-workers, several of whom are interested in raw food. I think they were pleasantly surprised (here’s the recipe, as promised, RF!)
I mostly followed the recipe… I might have added just a pinch extra salt (and it might have been divine) to the pancakes, and we chose to go with the maple syrup. Be sure that you measure out the coconut oil after you melt it (if it isn’t already melted in your cupboard…); the measurements are different when solid and liquid. And if your ingredients are cold, like mine were, the oil will solidify again. Mine did, since I keep my flax meal and seeds in the fridge, as well as the maple syrup. I just popped it in the warm oven for a few minutes to warm it up enough to melt it. You don’t want to cook it though! That wouldn’t be fitting of a raw food adventure at all.
This was a breakfast that I was really surprised by. I kind of thought I’d be hungry when I got to work, but I actually stayed full for most of the day. It was actually a little creepy how unhungry I was.
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Have you seen My Neighbor Totoro? I hope so. If not, please do. It’s the cutest movie EVER. Our daughter loves it, which pleases me greatly… because I’ve dreamed of throwing a Totoro themed birthday party since the time she was just a twinkle in our eyes.

Here are a few pictures of the simple Totoro-themed party that we threw for Cleo’s 2nd birthday party. Everything came together in the end very nicely, with a lot of help from grandparents and friends. We planned a late morning party, so we just had cake and coffee. It was really nice to have coffee talk with friends in the park before the day got too warm.

Look at the great cake that my friend Vince helped me make! Actually, this one I did by myself, but he came over and helped me make a trial run cake. The vegan “buttercream” frosting recipe (see below) that he came up with looked better than this one did, but it was so very tasty. I used a Dr. Oetker’s lemon cake mix, and instead of using eggs, I substituted 1 tablespoon flax meal mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water for each egg, which is turning out to be my favorite egg substitute. It came out really well! There’s also a layer of organic blueberry jam in there between the cake layers serving as the filling. One of our guests wondered why I decided to make a cake that wasn’t vegan. He looked pretty surprised that it actually was. And there was barely enough for all of the guests. Oops.

Vegan Buttercream Frosting
1 c Earth Balance margarine, at room temperature
3 c vegan confectioner’s sugar
1-3 tbsp soy milk
1 tsp vanilla (Vince suggested flavoring it with fresh grated ginger! It was really good, but didn’t play well with the cake flavors we had planned here)
food color

Using a hand mixer, beat the margarine until fluffy. Slowly add the sugar; it’ll be crumbly. Add a tablespoon of soy milk and mix, adding more if necessary. Add vanilla, mix more. If you need more liquid, by all means, add more, but slowly. If desired, add food color. Now get to decorating! Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

Soot Sprites are abundant in Totoro’s neighborhood.

I made about 40 of them, with fuzzy faux fur, felt for eyes affixed with embroidery thread. Very simple, too (see my instructions, below, to make your very own). Making them was a lot of fun, but seeing the looks on people’s faces when presented with one was even better.

To make the Soot Sprites, trace 5″ circles (coasters work really well as a pattern here), and cut out 2 pieces for each sprite. The eyes are patterned by a quarter, and then use embroidery thread to affix them in a star pattern to one of the faux fur pieces (if you’re into that. Dots would work too). After attaching the eyes, place the faux fur pieces right sides together, and tuck the furry ends in toward the middle of the sprite so that you don’t see any fur sticking out. Pin the pieces together. Stitch around the edges (if you use a sewing machine for this, you will want a bigger needle and a longer stitch length. And you’ll also want to dust it out really well after this project. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Soot Sprites can be messy!), leaving about a half inch seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 2-inch opening! Turn the sprite right-side-out, and stuff with the stuffing of your choice. They would make really great bean bags, but I opted for stuffing. Light and fluffy! Hand stitch them up. Voila! A Soot Sprite is born!

Acorns!

Acorns and seeds play a part in Totoro too. Cleo’s grandmother was so generous with her time and made a bunch of these! They’re about 2 inches from end to end, and made with such care. She is a crafty lady, and I think she really enjoyed the challenge of working on something so small, using a new pattern, and making them just right. She made almost 30 of them, and they’re amazing. They still sit up on our bookshelf to be admired. Here is the pattern she ended up using. There are a LOT of cute things going on on that site. I might have to learn to knit. Again.

It wouldn’t be a party without treat bags…

And our young guests seemed to enjoy them greatly. They’re just basic paper gift bags, filled with bubbles, Soot Sprites, the fabulous knitted acorns, and some stickers. The Totoros are made from heavy duty scrap booking paper. I sketched my basic  Totoro shape on one, cut it out, and then traced it to make some clones. I kept it very basic. Less is more, and when you try to do details on a reproduction, it looks so much more… reproduced. I did the same with the Totoro tummy, and then used a hole punch to do the eyes. After gluing them all together, I just used a felt pen to put on the finishing touches and customize them with the guest’s name. Finally, tape the Totoro to the full treat bag, and you’re done!
Our adult guests didn’t go home empty handed though. The night before, I cut down some flowers I got in bunches at the grocery store and grouped them in half-pint mason jars. So cute! I chose jars that would fit into a car’s cup holder. I’d hate for our party favors be remembered for the mess they made and not for the cuteness of the event!

Thanks to all of the help that we had, I was able to arrive at the party site just half an hour before the party started to unload everything. I enlisted a few friends to help with the tablecloths on the picnic table, and to arrange the decorations on top of them. My parents brought a huge party pot of organic coffee from a local roaster and coffee house, and I set up a little coffee station with a selection of vegan creamers and sweeteners. This party was a true lesson in keeping things simple so as to truly enjoy the day.
Here’s one of my favorite moments from the party- Cleo walking with my dad. At first she was really wobbly while maneuvering the perimeter of the now-unused wading pool at the park. By the time she got halfway around, she was feeling pretty confident; by the time she’d lapped it, she wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. She’s growing up so fast!

Happy Birthday Cleo. Next year you can pick out your party theme. xoxo Mommy

adapted from Supermarket Vegan by Donna Klein

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (7.25-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, well drained
1 to 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 (10-inch) flour tortillas, preferably whole wheat
several handfuls of spinach
4 Gardein Chick’n Scallopini
4 tbsp Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds

In a food processor fitted with the knife blade, or in a blender, process the beans, red bell peppers, lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, and black pepper until smooth and pureed. Transfer to a medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 30 minutes, or overnight.

When it’s almost chow time, toss the Chick’ns onto a lightly greased nonstick skillet, cook the first side for a few minutes over medium heat, and flip over. Top each with a tablespoon of Daiya shreds, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the “cheese” is melty. Remove from skillet and set on a plate with a paper towel to cool. Cut each into 1/2-inch strips.

Prepare the wraps by placing the tortillas on a flat work surface. Spread equal amounts (about 1/2 cup) of the bean mixture on each tortilla, leaving a 3/4-inch border all around. Place a handful of spinach leaves (or, just two leaves if you wanted to follow the original recipe… I figured the more greens, the merrier) in the center of each tortilla. Place the “cheesy” Chick’n strips on the spinach leaves, and tightly roll up each tortilla from the edge nearest you, tucking in the sides and leaves as you roll. Makes 6 servings.

I found this while looking for recipes for sandwiches- I’m already fantasizing about what to serve guests at our toddler’s birthday party in a few months. I was drawn in by the beans and roasted red peppers. This recipe is probably too close to what we served at last year’s party to make an appearance at this year’s, but I still had to make it. This was so easy to make (as are all of the recipes I’ve made so far out of this cookbook), and lent itself easily to adaptation. It would be really good with some basil leaves mixed in with the spinach leaves, especially if you tone down the lemon juice a bit (I used just over a single tablespoon and tasted it more than the garlic, which I refused to limit to 2 cloves…). This really would make a great nibble for a play date in the park. Come on sunny days! Let’s have more than one in a row. Because spreading your picnic blanket on wet grass? Not so much.

Simplicity Pattern #2572

Look how big my baby is getting! I actually made this back in September, and it’s been hanging in Cleo’s closet waiting for her to grow in to it. Fortunately, the time came during the month that mommy went back to work, and baby went to day care. And brought home a variety of germs. Which brought the entire house down for about a month. Four huge cases of tissues, several prescriptions, and a few paychecks later, here we are.
Now- let’s talk hoodie. I always have SOME sort of problem with a pattern, now don’t I? This one was actually pretty easy to work with- though I got a little carried away gathering up the ruffle edges, and had to loosen them up. I always do that. It’s a very gentle gather, not some crazy circus petticoat trim, though that’d be fun! My only complaint is that the cuff edges are unfinished- you can see that just on the inside of her sleeve. I plan to clean it up with some bias tape, with the same treatment that the edge on the bodice received:

Can you see how challenging it is to get a photo of this busy little person?
My only advice for you, should you decide to make this hoodie, is that you choose a fabric that is not quite as dense as the flannel I’ve chosen. Those layers of (although gentle) gathers, sewn onto the bodice or sleeve, covered with bias tape, make for some challenging stitchery. And it’s not always pretty. And you might also consider choosing a bias tape that matches (rather than pops against, as I’ve chosen) your hoodie fabric.
Won’t this be the perfect little hoodie for a day at the coast?

from The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld and George Minot

1 medium spaghetti squash (2 pounds)
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
salt

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Place the whole squash on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

Halve the squash lengthwise and discard the seeds. Then use a fork to remove the stringy flesh.

Heat the oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes together in a medium skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the garlic begins to color, about 2 minutes. Add the squash flesh and salt and toss together until heated through. Serves 4 to 6.

I have a confession to make: I’d never before used spaghetti squash. I’d never even tasted it. I was tired of living in shame and needed to remedy it, and this looked like a simple recipe to free myself of this baggage I’d been carrying around. And it was! My dear friend sent me this book for Christmas, and though I really wanted to try the crepe recipe that she’d sent the book to me for in the first place, I needed something simpler to work into the kitchen between cookie baking and present making. It really was simple to make; I can’t think of how one could mess it up (ok, I could have burned the garlic. I’m no stranger to that…), but really, this recipe was EASY. And very tasty. Spicy and sweet, and healthy. And baby loved it. Triple win! I can see myself changing up the flavors to work with other dishes, the spaghetti squash no longer a stranger to my shopping cart. Thanks Christie! xoxo!

Happiest of Holidays to you, dear reader! Here are a few things that I’ve been working on this past month. The secret ingredient is LOVE! With a few shots of caffeine….

Here is a Cuddle Kitty Toy that I made for the lovely little girl that I watch regularly. I’ve missed her over Winter Break- her mom is a teacher. I’m sure they’re having fun together… Still, I can’t wait to see her next week.

You might know how fond I am of making multiples when crafting- and you might recall how much I enjoyed making this Collapsible Shopping Tote. Well, I had made a set of 4 since the original post, and given them away as gifts, and got such great feedback (and loved using the original that I made myself), that I just had to share the greatness of this tote with the rest of my loved ones. Here are nine of The Twelve Totes of Christmas. I hope that they are all well used!  This pattern alone has made One Yard Wonders one of my favorite sewing books so far!

And last, but definitely not least, a gift for my sister. From (drum roll please…) Prudent Baby.

I just knew I had to make these for her when I first saw this tutorial. Jacinda sold me on those fabric covered buttons like nobody else could. And let me tell you, they were even more fun than I was expecting. So satisfying! I can’t really describe. I got so into assembling them that after I finished 10 of them (yeah I only needed enough for 8 napkin rings, but they came in packs of 5 and I COULD NOT STOP), my thumb was really sore from shoving them together. It hurt so good! I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Aren’t they fabulous? These are actually the completed napkin ring closures. A fabric button sewn to a regular button. I used embroidery thread and an upholstery needle- it got complicated with plain old sewing thread.

Here is the other side of the napkin ring, with the unexpected side of the button closure. How slick would it look with the fabric covered button here too? I wanted to show you variety though, so… Here.

Another reason that I was so interested in this one was the button holes. I haven’t done any on my new machine, which I got last March, and I figured it was time. One of my more recent goals is to challenge myself with sewing projects, so here we go, right? Due to the thickness of the project, the button holes did not come easily. But my mom came to the rescue! She suggested that I put a piece of paper under the project as reinforcement before I try to sew the button hole. Prior to doing so, the feed dog (those grippy teeth that hang out just below the presser foot that help to move your sewing project along while the machine stitches) wasn’t moving the project at all, and my blood was boiling! It was almost Christmas and I was supposed to be wrapping this gift, instead of being 16 impossible button holes away from finishing. NO! So, yeah. Plain old printer paper works. Just a little piece. Give it a try.

Now, to start scheming for next year’s gifts…

from Basil & Wine

Here is the recipe!

I have no idea how I stumbled upon this, but I’m so glad that I did! She’s got a lot of really great recipes, and I was really intrigued by this one. And just recently, I saw that our local vegan cupcakery has a similar treat in their case! With chocolate frosting! So really, it’s a fabulous idea. I made a few without chocolate chips for my daughter, and froze them. She loved them! The rest of them tasted mostly of chocolate, with a hint of avocado and banana, but really, they great thing about them is the texture. Dense and chewy and heavy (they taste like they’re a little underdone even!). Totally my style, and apparently my daughter’s as well. Sadly, the recipe didn’t quite make a dozen (it claims to make 10-12). Ten smaller muffins is what I got out of it, but so worth it! And really, for a treat they’re pretty healthy, and beyond easy to make. These will definitely be a staple in our house for snacks for baby, without the chocolate chips. But maybe with chocolate sauce as an option for us older folks.

from a tutorial on Prudent Baby

Here are the instructions!

Have I mentioned how much I love Prudent Baby? Oh, yes, I have. Almost every day a new project from them appears in my email box, and I swear at least half of them I plan on making. I don’t know when I’ll have the time… but I can dream, right?
These pants though, were a necessity. My baby girl wears cloth diapers, and so often regular pants in her size range don’t fit because of that diaper bulk. There are a few store bought pairs that we have that fit nicely, but they keep getting shorter! These pants are the perfect solution, and they’re so easy. SOOOO EASY! If you’ve never made clothes before, this is a great place to start; you can really get an idea of how pants are constructed with this simple tutorial. Also, it’s easy to see how adjustments in length of the pant leg or in the rise will change the fit- and since just half a yard of fabric is enough to make these for your wee person (Cleo is 17 months old), it’s not like you’re out $20 if you mess up (unless you’re using ridiculously spendy fabric). I plan to make some in heavier fabrics- jeans are the biggest challenge with our diapering system (which we love, BTW… If you have questions about cloth diapering, I love discussing!), so I’ll try some denim once I feel I have the fit just right for it. I do love how wide these pants are, but they do have a very lazy day pajama feel to them. Also, I need to add length in the next pair I make! Yikes! Stop growing, baby. As it is, your inseam is almost as long as mommy’s.

A week before Halloween, I decided to make this costume. In the past, I would have these HUGE costume birthday parties the weekend before Halloween, and in the last few years, I’ve somehow lost the urge to spend an entire month preparing for my birthday drinking weekend. I was actually really let down by myself; that I wasn’t eager to find or make the perfect costume for my little one- something that I’d always looked forward to doing as a mom. But that urge kicked in as I was dredging through the limited selection of reduced price costumes online a mere seven days before my favorite holiday. I saw a costume like the owl one pictured above in a virtual shop that my bestie showed me back in August, but it was too springtime flowery and too spendy. It haunted me as Halloween got closer. Finally, when it seemed that I already had too much on my plate between trying to finish up a commissioned portrait, taking a watercolor class, and the rest of daily life, the urge really struck.
Six days before the holiday, we headed out to the fabric store to purchase our fabrics. I used scrap felt for the eyes and beak, a scrap of fuzzy fleece for the chest and face, and the rest is purchased flannel, perhaps about a yard in total. I did a few sketches, and used an existing hood from one of her sweatshirts and a tighter hat as a guide for the owl’s head, and then constructed the rest of it on my own. I must say, I work best under pressure. Because in those six days, I was able to finish a 3×4 foot portrait of my nephew dog, prepare this cake (for the 4th time, with raisins, BOMB!) for mine and my mom’s birthday, spend a day with mom, learn some new watercolor techniques, carve some pumpkins (see below) and bust this costume out.
I’ve taken some pattern drafting classes in the past, and I must say, if you like to sew, and want to learn to sew your own clothes that fit perfectly, I highly recommend seeking some out. It definitely helps if you are one of those people who enjoys visualizing and translating a three dimensional idea into a two dimensional pattern and back into a three dimensional product, but it’s something that you can definitely get better at. I found my class at our community college, and learned SO much in just two trimesters.
I don’t have a pattern for this costume 1) because I didn’t have time to make one and document as I worked, and 2) because it’s so similar to the one I was inspired by. Next year though, I’m thinking ahead. I’m going to start early. It’s going to be fabulous. Hold me to this. Please.
Another festive thing that took place were these bars:

Salted Caramel Popcorn Pretzel Bars adapted from Shutterbean

Nonstick cooking spray
12 cups plain popped popcorn (from 1/2 cup kernels or 2 microwave packages)
4 cups coarsely chopped small salted pretzels
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
2/3 cup Unsweetened MimicCreme
2 cups (1 package) Dandies vegan marshmallows

Coat a 9 x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large (your biggest!) bowl, toss together popcorn, almonds and pretzels.  In a medium saucepan, bring sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil over medium high.  Boil, undisturbed, until mixture is amber in color–8-12 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and slowly pour in cream (mixture will sputter).  Immediately add marshmallows; stir until melted.

Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pretzels and quickly stir with a rubber spatula to coat.  Transfer mixture to dish and use a dampened hands to press the mixture into the pan.  Sprinkle with a heavy dose of kosher salt.  Let cool completely before cutting into bars.

They were SO GOOD. I veganized them, using this awesome product called MimicCreme that I found recently at my market, in place of the heavy cream, and Dandies vegan marshmallows in place of the regular marshmallows. Those marshmallows have the best flavor, I had to resist eating half the package. It paid off, and these made such great treats to share with friends and family. As Shutterbean shared with me, the recipe claims to make 12 servings, but those would be HUGE. I ended up with 24. And I’m the queen of out of proportion portions! I’d recommend chopping up the marshmallows so that they melt more easily- though they aren’t jet-puffed, they’re not minis either! They’re much denser with a better flavor than the regular nastioso marshmallow. A special thanks to Bean for coaching me through this- from not disturbing the boiling sugar mixture to reassuring me that this concoction really WILL fit into that 9×13″ pan!
And, here are my pumpkins. I like to wait until just a few days before Halloween so that they don’t get all yucky and moldy, needing a shovel to be disposed of. Also, I was smart this year and wore vinyl (Latex would work too, if you aren’t allergic like me) gloves to guard against that awful dry skin that I always get from carving multiple pumpkins. I can’t believe it took me so many years to figure this out. I always do a kitty as my warm-up pumpkin. It’s tradition:

I hope that you had a happy Halloween!

I’m a guest blogger over at Almost All The Truth, for Make Things Monday!

Come and learn how to make an easy hooded baby towel from an old bath towel! I promise, it’s easy and fun.