New House!

It’s always been our dream to retire to the family orange ranch in Southern California, and we’ve finally achieved it!

We decided to move about a month ago, and ever since, Lelly has been talking about “new house!” It helped that we took pictures of the house and we showed them to her, so she could visualize what we were talking about. One thing I forgot to tell her about the move, however, was that it would be a six-hour drive to get to the new house. She was pretty upset when she found herself cooped up in the car and kept complaining, “no car seat! no car! all done!” She still says “no car!” every time we pass our car in the driveway, but she is thrilled to be running around exploring her new space and I hope she’ll soon get used to needing to drive more places.

These are some awesome things about our new house:

  • Lelly now knows what a rooster really sounds like, and when she hears it crow, she says, “rooster!” We can also hear chickens and goats, in addition to the other wild birds, neighborhood dogs, and coyotes.
  • We can watch all kinds of animals from our windows and porch: bluejays and squirrels in the persimmon tree, a rabbit leaping across our driveway, a turkey vulture soaring over the house.
  • There is a lot of natural light.
  • There is a lot of room to explore.
  • We have beautiful hardwood floors and a fireplace.
  • Daniel has his own office, and Lelly and I get to share an art studio.

These are some things that will take some getting used to or are just projects we’ll need to jump in and do now that we are homeowners:

  • The hardwood floors are very cold in the morning or the middle of the night. We need some rugs.
  • The tap water is very, very hard and we’re going to need to install a water filtration system.
  • I need to remember how to start a fire.
  • We don’t have a dishwasher.
  • Ants have found their way into our kitchen.
  • So I do dishes a lot.
  • We are going to start a garden, which means I’m going to need to learn to do backyard composting and build raised beds.

Lelly is still learning about the world of the outdoors. When we took a walk the other day, Lelly started walking on tiptoe and said, very sadly, “ants, hurt ants.” She was concerned that if she stepped on the ants on the ground, that she’d hurt them, and asked us to pick her up and carry her. After we explained that ants are strong and she only weighed 20 pounds, she felt better, and said, “ants strong.” She also picks up a bunch of rocks and sticks and carries them around like treasures, though I suspect that might be because she’s a little kid and that’s fun.

Here’s Lelly, on a walk in the orchard:

Lelly in the Trees

 

This is the outside of our house:

Outside our House

 

Here’s my nice, big kitchen with lots of cupboard space, and a window!! (We haven’t even used all the drawers and shelves. I don’t really intend to fill them, but it’s nice to know I have the space just in case.)

Kitchen

 

Lelly jumped into the bed just after I made it. We like our room a lot!

Bedroom

 

This is Lelly’s and my art studio, the only room I don’t mind showing in its unpacked state. I am looking forward to organizing it and even more so to when it will be a functional and cozy creative space.

My Art Studio - Before

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Vegan Sourdough Pancakes

I made a sourdough starter a few weeks ago, and so far I have made one loaf of bread that didn’t rise very high, some sourdough waffles, and some sourdough biscuits. I’ve kind of neglected it in the fridge, so I need to feed it a little more often this week and leave it out at room temperature. This means instead of once a week, I need to use up some of the starter on a daily basis.

So I invented this recipe for vegan sourdough pancakes, which is really quick and easy. Some starter instructions tell you to discard all but half a cup (or whatever amount) of the starter before feeding, so if you find yourself faced with discarding, this is a good recipe for that, since it uses a lot of starter. Even better, since it’s got a bit of baking soda in it, this will work well with young starters that aren’t quite powerful enough to rise all on their own, or neglected starters where the yeast is languishing.

Yum-yum.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup water (or you could use a non-dairy milk of your choice)
  • 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1-1/2 cups sourdough starter
  • oil for greasing the griddle

Directions

Preheat a greased griddle over medium-low heat.

Combine water and flax in a small bowl or measuring cup, and let sit for a few minutes. Mix flour, sugar, sea salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside. Stir the canola oil into the water/flax mixture and add all at once to the flour, along with the starter. Mix to combine. A few lumps are ok.

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter out for each pancake. The batter is thick, so you could either add more water so it’s easier to pour, or do what I do and use the back of the spoon to spread the batter out and make nice little circles. Cook until the top is bubbly, flip, and cook 1-2 minutes more.

Serve with syrup or jam. Lelly likes her jam with just a little bit of pancake. That said, she still ate five silver dollar pancakes this morning. Boom.

Makes about 16 4-inch pancakes.

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Stripey Monster (or: an adventure in re-doing my store, and then some)

Way back before Lelly was born, I knitted her a monster. When she was a newborn, she just sort of randomly reached out and touched it, but now as a toddler, she has tea parties with it and hugs it and makes it dance. The monster doesn’t have a name or a gender; I’ll let Lelly figure that out.

I created a very detailed, very organized pattern for this monster, and it was essentially ready for distribution, except that it didn’t have pictures yet. And there it languished for almost a year.

There were several problems:

1. I’m distracted by being a mom. If I can only get one or two things done in a day, it’s probably going to be feeding my child.
2. I got a new computer and it didn’t have an optical drive.
   a. So I couldn’t install the software for my camera, which was on a CD
   b. And Canon only has updates on their website, not the actual software.
   c. And I wasn’t into using iPhoto.
   d. So hundreds of photos languished in my camera.
3. I started art classes. So if I wasn’t busy with Lel (see 1) then I was doing homework.

So today I finished the pattern, and just in time, since school starts up again on Thursday.

The thing that got me going again was actually Google’s decision to discontinue Google Checkout in November. I have been using Google Checkout for my store and it got the job done, but it wasn’t particularly pretty. In fact, there were a number of problems with it, but at least it let me make some sales.

I looked into selling my patterns on Ravelry, but the sheer difficulty involved in taking the existing pattern page I had on their site, and editing it to somehow magically create a store made me give up on that avenue. Seriously. I looked at their help wiki for hours and fiddled with the pattern info, but to no avail. Sorry, Ravelry. You’re an awesome website to help fiber artists connect with one another, but you kinda failed me by not having an intuitive way to create a pattern store.

It turns out it was a good thing I didn’t use Ravelry, because I had a jewelry pattern to sell, too, which I can’t do on a yarn-focused site. Turns out the site Craftsy.com, purveyor of high-quality online craft classes, also had an option for designers to sell patterns. Boom!

Their pattern store took me mere minutes to set up and they don’t charge any fees. Best of all, this will probably result in more sales for me, since people can find my patterns through both Craftsy and My Name is Wool.

So I redesigned the store page with all my existing patterns, and thought: “Hey, I should really put up that monster.”

Which means doing the thing I’d been procrastinating: figuring out how to get all those images off my camera. It turns out to be surprisingly easy and I did it in under 15 minutes.

Boom! Pattern finished and in my new store in another 30 minutes. I made very awesome use of nap time today.

And now Lelly is awake and wanting to know what I’m doing:

Photo on 8-13-13 at 4.11 PM #3

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Pictures from Lelly’s first month!

Monday marked Lelly’s four-week birthday, and the time has gone by very quickly! She’s growing so fast. Please enjoy these photos I’ve taken over the past few weeks. I’m amused that this is the first chance I’ve had in a long time to get them uploaded, but that’s the way it is with a tiny beb. She had an unusually long nap this afternoon – enough time for me to upload photos, catch up on email, and make and eat dinner all before she woke up. I really, really hope this means she won’t be up all night wanting to play. :)

 

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She’s here!

My beautiful baby daughter is finally here!

It’s awesome being a mother, and Daniel is a really great dad. We’re so happy that Allelia is now a part of our lives. I’ve got a few moments of quiet while she’s napping, so I’d like to share my birth story!

I went into labor around midnight on January 30. At first I thought it was either Braxton Hicks contractions, or maybe even indigestion! I tried to sleep through it, but the contractions kept coming about every 5 minutes and would wake me up, so I was sleeping in itty-bitty stretches of 3-4 minutes. By 3:00am I thought it was probably the real thing, so I called my doula Michelle. She said to just keep trying to rest and to check in with her in a few hours as labor continued to progress.

By 5:30am I decided that the labor was sufficiently “real” to call my sister and let her know that she should probably start getting ready to drive up here with my mom instead of going in to work. At that point I was starting to have trouble carrying on a conversation, so I asked her to call my mom for me.

The contractions got stronger, but I was able to deal with them pretty well using the pain management techniques I learned from the book Birthing From Within.   I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to have an unmedicated, natural-as-possible childbirth!! My friend Kristin loaned me her copy and she deserves a prize for recommending it to me!

I spent the next few hours dozing and getting some much-needed sleep, but by about 8:00am the contractions were waking me up too much. I ate crackers and apple juice for breakfast, very slowly because I was starting to feel sick to my stomach. Daniel called Michelle to check in with her, while I hopped in the shower and listened to (don’t laugh) Justin Bieber’s “Baby” slowed down 800% and other slowed-down tracks, which helped distract and relax me through the contractions.

Daniel, meanwhile, had been discreetly timing my contractions, which were coming about every 3-4 minutes and lasting for about 45 seconds. He stayed with me through just about every contraction, getting me juice and water and ice chips and comforting me when I needed it.

Once I was out of the shower, I started to have more trouble dealing with the pain on my own. Daniel called Michelle again and told her we were ready for her to come over. She arrived around 11:00am (times after this point are kind of fuzzy since I wasn’t watching the clock) and immediately helped put some extra pressure on my knees to counter the pain of the contraction. I have no idea why it works, but it was amazing how much easier this made getting through each contractions.

Michelle timed my contractions over the next 30 minutes or so. Once they got to about 3 minutes apart and over 60 seconds, she suggested I eat something with lots of carbs for energy, and then we could head to the hospital. Daniel ran across the street and got some fresh sourdough from the bakery for me. Later I found out he also got a sandwich for himself, too!

The trip downstairs, to the hospital, and into Labor and Delivery was a little slow, since I stopped every 2-3 minutes for a contraction. They admitted me around 12:30pm. At that time I was 7cm dilated and almost fully effaced. I labored for another hour or so in the hospital bed and then in the shower, and Michelle and Daniel were right there with the knee pressure and gentle shoulder massage.

At that point I started feeling the urge to push, so the nurse came in to check me. I think her name was Emily, but I may have remembered it wrong because I was so out of it by that time. I kind of just shut my eyes when I started feeling like I needed to push and all my focus shifted inward, so it was really hard to tell what was going on around me. She made sure that I was fully dilated to 10cm, and then gave me the ok to push. She and Michelle helped me learn how to start pushing, because I was putting more power into my lungs than I was into pushing out the baby!

As I was pushing, my water finally broke. It’s as a lot of people described it – a big gush. You don’t just think your water broke: when it breaks, you definitely know it did!

I pushed for a while, and it was pretty exhausting. It’s a lot of work getting the baby’s head through the pelvis. Emily and Michelle guided me through this part, until Lelly had gotten into position and they were ready to call my doctor, Dr. Raj.

At this point I think it was around 2:30pm. Dr. Raj had to leave at 3:00pm but I’d gotten so far they went ahead and called her instead of the on-call doctor, Dr. Weber. However, I didn’t push the baby out in time, and Dr. Raj had to go, so Olga, a midwife at the practice, came in and attended while we waited for Dr. Weber. At 3:00pm there was also a shift change, so I got a whole new group of nurses and a midwifery intern as well as a different birth attendant!

This was the time that it hurt a LOT. I mean, the contractions hurt, but when the baby’s head started crowning, that was way more painful. Here’s where having Daniel and Michelle there helped – there wasn’t much they could do physically other than hold my hand or stroke my hair, but emotionally they gave me the extra edge I needed to get through that last hour. Also, I reminded myself that soon the pain would be a memory and that the baby would be here! Those were the only things getting me through it.

When I finally got Lelly’s head out, the rest of her came really fast, and they plopped her onto my belly. She was born at 3:34 in the afternoon, after about 15 hours of labor, and about 7 hours of active labor, which is pretty great for a first baby. Daniel tells me that Olga actually “caught” the baby, and that Dr. Weber arrived shortly thereafter. Lelly cried a little bit, but mostly she just looked at me and I looked at her and talked to her, and she was so pretty! It was really amazing how quickly I was able to snap out of that extreme focus of giving birth, to open my eyes and immediately connect with my little baby girl.

A lot happened after that, like Daniel cutting the cord and the nurses collecting the cord blood for donation, but I was too busy looking at Lelly! My mom and Erin arrived about an hour after Lelly was born, and Matt and David maybe an hour after them. There were lots of photos, Lelly got a bath, and they moved me from my room in labor and delivery to a mother-baby unit.

We stayed that night and the following night. We were discharged from the hospital on February 1, Bryan’s 30th birthday. We’d originally planned to go out and get Korean BBQ to celebrate – I fully expected to be at least a week late! But instead Bryan and Tania came over for a bit, held Lelly, and we chatted for a bit while she slept. A much quieter time, but there was a lot to celebrate and be happy for!

I was so happy that I got to have pretty much exactly the birth I wanted. I had a spontaneous labor, and spent as much time as possible at home before heading to the hospital. I had no pain medication or medical interventions, and my water broke on its own. I was aided by doula and attended by a midwife, and Daniel was right there with me the whole time. I feel so fortunate to have had the expertise of nurses who’d worked with midwives a lot and were really comfortable with natural childbirth, and who read my birth plan, respected all my wishes, and never once offered me an epidural or other pain relief. I’m proud that I had a (relatively) short, textbook labor and delivery and glad that I had enough faith in my body to be able to say, “I’m strong, and even though it will hurt, I can do it.” And I did!

Erin and Mom were a huge help in the days after we came home from the hospital, but they left yesterday morning. My aunt Lyn and uncle Walt stopped by for a brief visit yesterday afternoon, and Daniel’s mom will be coming up next weekend, but for now, it’s just the three of us, getting the hang of being a family. I think we’re pretty awesome at it!

I will admit, I have much less free time than I used to, and most of it is currently being spent recuperating from giving birth, making food, feeding and changing Lelly, and trying to catch up on lost sleep! I originally thought I’d make the birth announcement and write this post from the hospital after I’d gotten settled into the mother-baby unit. Ha! I was so tired and out of it, anything beyond taking care of Lelly (including mindless movie-watching) was totally beyond me.

Now that I’m home, I’m a lot more clear-headed, but check this out: before the baby, this birth announcement/blog post would have taken me an afternoon. Now, it took me three days, and I’m surprised that I’ve been able to write so much this afternoon all in one go. I’ve managed to sneak in a quick bite of lunch, too, but Lelly is now awake and demanding sustenance, so I don’t get to proofread this. :)

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Tea Caddy from Recycled Cardboard

This morning after brunch I was overcome with the urge to clear out my tea cupboard and organize it. People who have had a cup of tea when they’ve come over to my house know very well that I have an overwhelming number of tea choices. I usually start helping people narrow it down by asking “herbal or caffeinated?” and then move on to “rooibos, chamomile, or fruit blend?” or “white, green, or black tea?” depending on what they choose.

The hard part is actually finding the tea once people pick what they want, and I’ve meant to rearrange everything for a while, but never got around to it. It was high time I did, though: look at this disorganized mess!

Many of my teas come in cardboard boxes, as you can see, and I had a ton of little boxes where I had a few tea bags left – not enough to justify saving an entire box. As I organized my teas, I saw how all the boxes were just about the same size and thought, why not attach them together to make them easier to store?

So here’s a simple project that will take under an hour with materials you probably already have around the house. You could do this with other small boxes, like those tiny, shallow jewelry boxes, and organize them in clever ways to make trays for office supplies, buttons, beads, or other little crafty treasures.

I think at this point I’m nesting or something, waiting for this baby to come, because doing this project was very satisfying.

Materials

  • 3-5 small cardboard boxes all the same height and length
  • tape
  • scissors
  • contact paper – OR – kraft paper/wrapping paper/grocery bag plus glue stick

Directions

If your boxes have extraneous flaps, cut them off.

Line up your boxes in the order you want them in – you can see the one on the left is a little wider to accommodate some of the wider bags.

Use your tape in long strips to attach the tops of the boxes together.

They should be neatly joined by their tops when you’re done.

Now flip the whole thing over and tape up the cracks between boxes on the bottom.

Tape up both sides as well. Now your caddy should feel sturdy. It’s functionally complete, but not very pretty. Let’s decorate it!

I had contact paper lying around the house, complete with a convenient grid on the back which helped me position the box on the paper and trace around it, and then extend the sides to cover all the surfaces. If you use kraft paper or wrapping paper, a long quilting ruler or other see-through ruler will help you make nice, neat edges. Add a “seam allowance” of about 1/4″ to 3/8″ on all sides. You’ll need to make a little clip in each inside corner so that it will wrap neatly around the edges of the box. (See later photos for a better illustration of this)

Cut out your cover. Basically it looks like an exploded box with no top! If you’re using contact paper, carefully peel off the backing and lay it down sticky-side up. Otherwise cover the wrong side of your cover with glue.

Carefully line up the caddy in the middle of the cover and press to make a good, strong contact. Now you can see how the sides will fold up around the caddy.

Starting with the narrow ends, fold up the cover and press firmly. You can see that the cover extends about 3/8″ on either side and the top, and that I’ve notched the sides to make it look nice. Wrap these around the edges and top of the box. Repeat with the other end.

Now fold up the front and back sides of the cover and press firmly. I waited until the cover was in position before notching at the seams between boxes, so that they would line up perfectly. Press each of these little tabs down into the box.

Here you can see all the little tabs pressed down, for a nice, neat finish. You’re done!

Here’s another view of the finished caddy.

Fill with tea! Look how much better my tea collection looks already.

Here’s my caddy in the cupboard above the sink where I keep my tea. Look how nice it is, and how easy it will be to pull it down and hand it to a guest for them to peruse their tea options!

Have fun!

(BTW, my awesome new DSLR came yesterday so all these pictures were taken with that! I had such a blast making this tutorial.)

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Lemon Poppyseed Scones

I’m pretty amused that a good portion of my posts are food-related, since I initially set out to make this a mostly-craft blog. But cooking is edible crafting, and lately it seems to be the only creative thing I do, given that my hands are swollen and stiff in my last month of pregnancy. (See below)

My KitchenAid stand mixer, a gift from my dad several years ago, has proven very useful on many occasions, and pregnancy-induced laziness is indeed a great reason to use it more than ever! I used it to mix the gingerbread for the turtles, to make two batches of focaccia for Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners, and most recently, for a batch of scones.

Normally I mix scones, biscuits, etc. by hand, kneading just until the ingredients come together and erring on the side of under-kneading and lumpiness. I didn’t want to get in and mix the dough with my hands the other day, though, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the dough hook mixed my scone dough thoroughly without a very noticeable difference in the texture after they were baked.

So yummy. Make sure to use a large-grained sugar to add just the right crunch on the top.

The recipe for the scones is the same as the Orange Scones I posted a while back, with just a few simple modifications to the ingredients. All the instructions and baking directions remain the same.

  • Instead of an orange, use the juice and zest of a lemon.
  • The lemon will yield significantly less juice than the approximately 1/2 cup of juice the orange does, so add enough water or nondairy milk to the lemon juice to make 1/2 cup. (This is in addition to the 1/4 cup the recipe calls for – you should have a total of 3/4 cup water/milk/lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of oil in your wet ingredients.)
  • Add in 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract if you have it to boost the lemon flavor.
  • Add 1 tablespoon poppy seeds.

If you use a mixer, simply put all the dry ingredients in the work bowl and stir well to combine (the whisk attachment was good for this), then add the wet ingredients all at once and mix on a medium speed with the dough hook until the dough comes together and no flour is left. You may need to scrape down the sides once or twice to make sure everything gets incorporated. Then proceed with the cutting and baking!

Somehow Daniel and I managed to exercise restraint and eat the scones over the course of three breakfasts, rather than gobbling them all down on the day I baked them. A great pairing for the scones is Earl Grey tea or a gentle citrus-infused tea blend. I had Earl Grey rooibos tea, and it was delicious! (I have the Rishi Tea variety at home, but I’m sure any other brands would be equally interesting.)

Warm up your winter morning with some delicious scones!


Side note about creative projects

I have several projects in progress that I’m really excited to share when they’re done – a quilt,  two blankets, and a sweater for Lelly and a hooded scarf for me. Plus I started writing up a pattern for a really cute little striped monster toy that I knitted for Lelly, which will be posted in the store when it’s done.

The last trimester of pregnancy has been pretty tiring overall, but particularly in the last few weeks I’ve been noticing a marked decline in my energy for knitting, crocheting, and sewing (or anything else, really, besides simple household tasks, easy cooking, and blogging!) I’m hoping that once Lelly is born and my hands feel more normal, that maybe I can take one afternoon a week or something, let Daniel or one of her myriad real/adopted aunts and uncles take care of her, and keep going on my projects. Other moms that are reading this, please don’t laugh at me for my optimism!

I hope until I get into a good routine with this baby that everyone will be content with pictures of other projects that I’ve been meaning to post for ages, any new-mom-friendly recipes I come up with, and of course, tons of pictures of Lelly. :) I’ll be getting a DSLR soon (it was the one thing I asked for this Christmas!) and I’m looking forward to having even nicer photos in my blog in the near future!

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Gingerbread Turtles

Daniel and I have an awesome holiday tradition of building a different gingerbread creation every year. Basically the only rule is that there can’t be any repeats of a theme, so half the fun is coming up with what we are going to build.

Our previous years’ creations:

  • 2003: A classic house. It was just Daniel and me putting it together and we had NO idea what we were doing, so the house was gigantic, the gingerbread extremely thick, and it wound up being a huge chore to eat up! It was our first Christmas together: we started dating a few months beforehand and Daniel came to visit me right after Christmas for a few days before heading back up to UCSB.
  • 2004-2005: Sadly, we did not make gingerbreads during these two years.
  • 2006: A dinosaur. This guy was pretty cool, though the gingerbread was a little clove-heavy.
  • 2007: Pirate shipwreck, complete with Teddy Graham carnage, and a treasure trove of gummy root beer bottles, Gushers, and Nerds. This was the first year that our friends and family got involved in the decorating, and they’ve been excited to participate each year since. Picture in the gallery below.
  • 2008: Dr. Frankenstein’s Monster Gingerbread Man: A huge gingerbread man, appropriately assembled in pieces because it was so large it wouldn’t fit all on one cookie sheet.
  • 2009: Gingerbread of Amontillado: One of my favorites. A stop-motion animation we created as we helped the Montresor gingerbread man assemble gingerbread bricks into a wall that immured the poor Fortunato gingerbread man.
  • 2010: Meta-Gingerbread: We made a gingerbread oven with a jolly-rancher glass viewing window that had tiny gingerbread men inside. Look out, one’s trying to escape! Picture in the gallery below.

Which brings us to 2011 (which, due to my laziness, is “last year” already, even though it was only two weeks ago). We made gingerbread turtles!

The recipe we used was the very tasty Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I have learned to roll out this and all the other gingerbread doughs much thinner than I think I need to (like a heavy 1/8″), in order for the pieces not to bake up so horribly thick that they’re a chore to eat.

We draped circles of dough over six small Pyrex ramekins and two Corelle cereal bowls, forming the excess dough into protrusions that could be later formed into heads, legs, tails, etc. Pro tip: in addition to greasing the bowls, we should have first covered them in foil, since the dough stuck fast and we couldn’t remove the gingerbread from the bowls.

Despite this one setback, decorating the turtles was tons of fun. Bryan and Tania joined us one day to decorate some tiny turtles, and then Daniel and Donna did round 2 on Christmas day. Please enjoy these photos of the finished turtles!

 

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Seven weeks to go!

Throughout my pregnancy, people have said that I look way more pregnant than I am, and at my last checkup even my doctor agreed. I had an ultrasound today to check Lelly’s growth, just to make sure she wasn’t growing out of control.

Happily, the measurements today show that Lelly’s growth is average and my doctor estimates that she’ll be about a 7-pounder. Both my sister and I were over 9 pounds, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she winds up being a little bigger.

Most of what’s making me look big is apparently the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. For the record, I am not about to give birth any day now! I have about seven weeks to go, though with Christmas in less than two weeks I think the time will fly by!

Please enjoy this picture of my baby! (I love how she has that scrunched-up newborn look to her face even though she isn’t even born yet.)

For those of you who need a little extra help interpreting the photo, here you go. I’m not offended that you can’t figure it out, ultrasounds are tricky!

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Awesome vegan, soy-free pumpkin pie!

I love pie!

Despite the fact that I’ve relaxed my diet a bit during pregnancy and I’m now much more omnivorous, all my baking is still vegan. I don’t like eggs and I don’t drink milk, so why have them in the house just for baking? It’s too much trouble!! So this Thanksgiving, I wanted an excellent pumpkin pie that didn’t require me to buy either of these things.

There are a lot of vegan pumpkin pie recipes out there, but I can’t bring myself to make any recipes that call for a big ol’ brick of tofu or other ingredients which affect the texture and the taste of the pie. Why can’t there be a pie that tastes good, has the right mouth-feel, contains only ingredients you can get at your local grocery store, and doesn’t have tofu, dairy, or eggs?

Well, there can be! I made it!!

This recipe has been in development for the past few weeks. I tried several iterations of spice blends and methods of thickening the pie until I got it just right. Today was a calculated risk, using my family as guinea pigs to test the final iteration, but it totally paid off – I made the perfect pie today!

It’s a bit time-intensive, but if you roast and puree the pumpkin a day or two beforehand, then all you need to do is prepare the crust and toss together the filling. Don’t be daunted! It’s great! The pie came out of the oven at about 11:30am, and I just let it cool on the counter all day, and served it at about 6:30pm, after we all stuffed ourselves with a downright tasty Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll admit, the dinner menu was largely dictated by my pregnancy cravings, but nobody seemed to mind. :)

Butternut Squash Pie

Is this not a beautiful pie? See the big butternut squash in the background – that was the size of the one I roasted up for this pie. All the veggies in this centerpiece were grown in Donna’s garden. Yum! Okay, let’s make a pie!

First, prepare the pumpkin

Get yourself a little sugar pie pumpkin. They are small, only about 8 inches in diameter. If you get a big jack-o-lantern pumpkin, not only will you have more pumpkin than you know what to do with, the pumpkin flesh itself will not be very flavorful. (More about flavor and the quality of your squash later.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Split the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and stringy bits, and place both halves cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast for about 1 to 1.5 hours, or until tender.

Let the pumpkin cool until you can handle it comfortably. Scrape all the pumpkin flesh from the skin. Puree in food processor. Line a colander with cheesecloth and allow pumpkin to drain for several hours to remove excess moisture. Then measure out pumpkin as needed for recipe.

One pumpkin will make enough puree for two pies, so make a double batch of filling, or store the puree in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze it for later.

Here’s my tricky little secret

You can also use butternut squash instead of pumpkin! I was disappointed with the flavor and quality of the pumpkin I’d purchased at the store – it was much more watery and bland than I was expecting from a pie pumpkin. My mother-in-law had a big harvest of butternut squashes this year, and I thought, “Why not use them?” The homegrown, organic squash tasted so much better.

To cook a butternut squash, proceed as for the pumpkin, splitting and scooping out the seeds, but place cut side up in a 13×9 baking dish with about 1″ of water in it before baking at 350 degrees for 1 to 1.5 hours. Puree as for the pumpkin, but you can skip the draining step since butternut squashes are much drier. Depending on how big your squash is, you can get anywhere from 1 to 3 pies from your squash!

Make the pies!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Crust

Make a half recipe of the canola oil piecrust found in the Peach and Dried Cherry Tartlet post.

Roll out crust until it is 1/8 inch thick, and place into a 9 inch pie plate. (An 8 inch pie plate will work also but you will have extra dough – use it to make leaves or other fun piecrust shapes to decorate the top of the pie when you serve it.)

Filling

  • ¾ cup organic cane sugar (you can also use plain granulated sugar without much difference in flavor)
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 ½ cups pumpkin (or butternut squash), prepared as above
  • 14oz can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, cornstarch, and spices together in a small bowl. Place pumpkin into a large bowl and stir in the sugar mixture, blending thoroughly to avoid any lumps of cornstarch. Add in coconut milk and vanilla, and mix well to combine.

Pour filling into prepared crust. If you use a 9 inch pie plate all the filling should fit. If you use an 8 inch pie plate, you may have extra filling, and if you do, pour into small 4-oz ramekins to bake alongside the pie.

Bake at 375 degrees for 60-65 minutes or until the crust is golden and the center is slightly jiggly but not liquid. (If you have ramekins, bake them for about 30-35 minutes.)

Let cool at least 3 hours before cutting, to allow the pie to firm up.

A final note

I realize that this pie is not gluten-free, nor is it corn-free for those with allergies to either of those foods.

If you bake the filling in ramekins, without bothering with the crust, that is gluten-free and very tasty (as my mother-in-law can attest). You can also make a gluten-free pie crust; I’m just partial to my classic canola oil crust that I’ve been using for pies my entire life.

I began the recipe development using arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch to thicken the pie, hoping to make a corn-free pie as well. However, arrowroot starch breaks down and loses its thickening power the longer it is heated, so that pie wound up having a texture similar to a thick applesauce. I do not recommend substituting arrowroot starch for the cornstarch in this recipe, but I would definitely be interested to hear if anyone makes it with yet another starch, maybe tapioca, and lets me know how that works.

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