Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My latest obsession: the easiest dress ever

Back in the fall, I discovered my new favorite fabric store, Girl Charlee (click here for a referral link, then I'll get a little credit if you're a new customer). They sell exclusively knits, and they're AWESOME!

I ordered two fabrics with nothing specific in mind. The chevron was so perfect that I was afraid to do anything with it. Finally, I'd had enough of winter and decided to make myself a really simple dress that turned out great! Before shirring the waist, it took me less than an hour to make :) Shirring wasn't 100% necessary; a nice thick belt would serve the same purpose.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Vegan Irish Potatoes

Ever since developing an allergy to milkfat, I've tried to make Irish Potatoes around St. Patty's Day and failed several times. You see, they're pretty much solid butter. And they're delicious.

In case you have no idea what an Irish Potato is, it's a cinnamon-coconut St. Patrick's Day treat that looks like a potato but doesn't contain any. Though they didn't originate in Ireland, they are Irish in the Irish-American sense. In highly Irish neighborhoods in the greater Philadelphia area, every bakery and candy shop carries their own version leading up to March 17th - the grocery store even carries them. The boardwalks of the Jersey Shore carry them all summer because it's always St. Patty's Day down the shore!

I first learned to make Irish Potatoes in 2nd grade. We had a substitute teacher, and we made Irish Potatoes and a green goo science experiment with corn starch and water (I think it has a name - it's both a solid and a liquid at the same time). That teacher later landed a permanent position, but she's always been the Irish Potato lady to me. My grandmother also made them when we were younger, and I picked up the tradition during college.

In the past several years, I've tried using margarine and a mixture of margarine and fat-free cream cheese, but they always ended up too soft and didn't taste exactly right. To compensate for the texture, I would add additional sugar, and then they'd be sickeningly sweet. Enter coconut oil. I LOVE coconut oil, both in the kitchen and out. I can be a little picky about using coconut oil because I don't like the subtle coconut flavor in all combinations, but for something which a strong coconut flavor it's perfect. 

This year, my grandmother actually had two boxes sent to me. I commented that I wouldn't be able to eat them because I'm allergic to milkfat, and she replied that they didn't have any, only sugar, coconut, butter.... Ummmmmm, yeah. What's butter? I was actually glad that when they arrived they were just the grocery store kind and not some fancy variety from a candy shop in the city!
Grocery store-brand Irish Potatoes my grandmother had sent. I'm allergic to them (butter), but it's no big loss, this brand doesn't really compare to the fancy candy shop varieties.
So without further ado, I hope you enjoy my milkless (and therefore vegan) Irish Potatoes!

Recipe (makes 25-30):
1/3 c. Coconut flakes
1/3 c. Confectioner's sugar
1/3 c. Coconut oil (warmed up until it's just about liquid but not quite)
~1/3 tsp. vanilla extract (a little under 1/2 tsp.)
~2 tbsp cinnamon 

Mix the vanilla into the coconut oil directly. Mix the sugar and coconut. Stir together with a spoon, and then put your hands in the bowl and knead it like a bread dough. It should come together easily but also flake easily. If it's too difficult to ball up, stick the entire bowl in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften the coconut oil a bit more. If it's too soft, place the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes.
Consistency of the Irish Potato "dough"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Individual Chicken Pot Pies for the Carrot and Pea Hater

Every once in a while, I totally crave simple American flavors, like a nice bowl of chicken noodle soup or a flaky chicken pot pie. Unfortunately, my husband hates cooked carrots and any form of peas, which are arguably the best part of a chicken pot pie.

I managed to come up with some tasty substitutions that ultimately required more work but appeased both of our tastes. I've made them twice, once with pumpkin for the orange-colored veggie, and once with butternut squash. I think I prefer the pumpkin, but both are good.

You'll notice that most of my measurements and times listed in this recipe are approximate. You can vary it to your taste - it's definitely more of an eyeballing recipe.

Chicken Pot Pies (6 individual pies)
2 refrigerated pie crusts (like Pillsbury)
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup chopped onions
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup all purpose flour
3-4 cups chicken stock (I use chicken base and dissolve it in water)
~5 refrigerated chicken tenderloins (about half a pack)
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2-1 cup chopped string beans
1/2-1 cup sliced pumpkin or butternut squash (I like to bake for 15 mins before slicing)
1-1.5 cups potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

The ingredients, other than the onions

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring is here, spring is here!

And that means I can start my seeds (well, that I started them nine days ago).
Basil, Cilantro, Chives (though I think two basil seeds might have escaped to the chives section). All growing well in their Chinese takeout container, basil especially!
String beans! Growing fast!

Snow peas
The string beans are in the black pot, and the snow peas are in the tan one. Both have teepees to grow upwards.

Wedding Rehearsal Dress

As I've mentioned in previous posts, the prep for my wedding last June was kinda frantic. Between defending/graduating/moving in the few months leading up to the wedding, there was a LOT to do right there at the end. Case in point: two days before we left to drive to the wedding location, I hadn't even designed my rehearsal dress yet. I threw it together using royal blue peach skin fabric. I am now completely in love with this fabric. The top didn't fit very well, so I added pleats after the fact. Overall, I'm pleased with how the dress turned out, and I wore it again to a friend's beach wedding later in the summer.

The skirt was the original "easy breezy skirt," and the top was modified from my standard bodice pattern that I use as the base of most tops.

The dress was perfect for my rehearsal. The only problem: in my haste to print out directions and contact information about five minutes before it was time for the rehearsal to start, I forgot the beautiful bouquet my attendants made me at my bridal shower :(

At the rehearsal
Re-wearing the dress at a beach wedding
Back of the dress
My lovely bouquet that I left right on the bed in my rush to get to my rehearsal on time!