Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Illustration Friday - Capable

There were so many directions this could go and I had a much deeper post planned but in the end...this is what I am capable of creating while watching the Oscars, drinking wine and eating popcorn!
Watercolor on paper

Seen here with the original ink sketch

The Busy Lady's Curried Lentil Soup

Coming out of the yoga hot room into the blustery weather today put in a mind for soup.  I'm always starving after yoga and since Bikram takes up a large chunk of time during which I am away from my desk I'm always starving AND in a hurry to catch up on work.  When I'm hungry and in a hurry I tend to grab fast, easy foods that are not necessarily my best options nutritionally  so I came up with this quick soup idea today with pretty good results.  Not as good as when I take the time to make Curried Lentil Soup from scratch but a decent substitute that hit the spot and only took about 7 minutes to prepare.

1 1/2 cups ready to serve soup, in this case I used Creamy Corn & Roasted Pepper Soup
1/2 cup cooked lentils (I keep cooked lentils in my freezer for just such an occasion)
1/2 cup frozen cooked vegetables, I used a combo of carrots, peas, corn and green beans
1 teaspoon curry powder
dash of cinnamon
dollop of plain yogurt as garnish

Add first three ingredients to blender little by little, blending as you go.  I had to add about 1/4 cup water at the end because it was getting too thick to blend.

Pour into saucepan to heat or directly into bowl and heat in microwave.  Stir in yogurt and enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Composting in the veggie garden

I love to garden and used to spend evenings after work and hours on the weekends. My time is limited now but I've made an effort to get out there for the last few months preparing the vegetable garden.

I've had great veggie years when I am giving lettuce away and make bumper crop zucchini pancakes every day and I've had years when I feel lucky to get one tomato.
This year I've decided to invest extra effort into getting the soil ready and planting a bit earlier than usual to give my crop a chance to grow nice root systems while the weather is cooler.

First I dug out the entire bed - this is the lower of my two vegetable beds.  Next I prepared my compost. I've been an avid composter for about 15 years.   My current system seen below left were built by my husband.  These are stackable sections so that the bin size can be adjusted and moved around.  There was a third in the middle but the compost actually ate the wood and now we make do with two.  One is for new scraps straight from the kitchen and yard and the other is for compost that is getting ready to be used.

I hope the picture of the worms doesn't gross you out.  I love them!  When I see worms I know things are good in the garden. 

I emptied one whole compost pin into the bed, it wasn't fully composted but I knew I was going to cover it in a weed barrier and let it sit for awhile, composting further in the bed.  I cover the whole bed in a compostable layer of thick brown paper which I bought at a gardening center.  You can easily do the same with newspaper, layering overlapping pages.  Finally I covered the whole thing with organic wood chips.

I let the bed sit like this for a few weeks and have slowly been planting...some tomatoes, lettuces, parsley, kale, sage and onions so far.  I've mixed in some marigolds to attract beneficial insects. 

Today I will work on the upper bed which my husband dug out for me.  I will do seeds in the upper bed; varieties of pole beans, radish and carrots.

If all goes well I will have pictures of a lush thriving vegetable garden soon!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sunrise & Sunsets - February 2012

Here is another collection of amazing sunsets.  Oh, how I love a good sunset.

Sunset 2/3/10
Sunset 2/10/12

Sunset 2/10/12

Sunrise 2/15/12.  Taken by my friend Gus J. who rises early and watches the sunrise nearly every morning. 
 Taken with his phone (NOT an iPhone, he will have you know!!)

Sunset photos all taken by me using Canon EOS Rebel T3i
Oh, and by the way...I'll be doing another give away soon for followers of this blog...just in case you were on the fence... 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Days like this

Sometimes there are days like this, days that just feel, well...kinda yucky.  They come after the weeks which include losing a beloved pet, unbelievable family drama, work stresses, illnesses, close calls, major unexpected know.  On a day like this all I can do is take care of myself. 

I went for a walk.  Turned my back on work emails, left a mountain of laundry waiting to be folded and just put on my earphones and headed out into the sunshine.  This is how it went:

an apricot tree in full bloom with bright pink blossoms
when a wave crashes, the white foam arcs out from the original crash point
pelicans frantically crashing into the water to take advantage of a bait ball
the first freesia of the season, golden yellow and smelling so sweet
the first wisteria of the season cascading right over the sidewalk

I began to feel better and then...the elderly man on the corner with the Chihuahuas had set out his wooden box of lemons free to passers by and I realize:

When life give you lemons....
...make lemonade 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

1, 2, 3

1. The view from my "studio" today

2. Fluid no.2 in progress

3. A peek at my sketchbook

Monday, February 20, 2012

Illustration Friday - Fluid

Fluid no.1

I do believe in a certain amount of serendipity and this week's word on Illustration Friday is Fluid.  When I first started painting I was painting mostly landscapes and seascapes and I love them but I always felt that there were SO MANY talented painters out there painting the very same local scenes.  I didn't feel like I could compete.  Over the years I have tried experimenting with other styles and medium but I was always keenly aware that people responded most favorably to my landscapes, especially if there was water involved.  For the last few months I have felt a strong pull to paint the ocean but something was holding me back.  I played around with different things for Illustration Friday and my days get hectic and the painting gets put on hold.  So when the word this week was fluid and I found myself stuck at home with a cold it felt very right to paint the ocean.  I had a bit of a mad weekend, my wonderful husband kept the kids busy and I painted like crazy.  Despite not feeling well it was so fun and I felt alive with creative energy.

The painting above is acrylic on 12x30 stretched canvas.  It is number one in what will be a three painting series (I'm well into Fluid no.2!)

The below painting is Butterfly Beach, also acrylic on 11x14 canvas.  I've painted 3 or 4 painting of this beach and so far it's on of my favorite subjects.

A busy weekend
Leave me a comment, if you'd like, I love to read them! 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spinach Pomegranate Salad

I've been sick this weekend and spent most of the day yesterday alternating between watching the first season of Downton Abbey in bed and painting seascapes (I've started something I am very excited about, stayed tuned!)  My wonderful husband took our kids on a bird watching adventure so I could lay low.  I was drinking large amounts of tea, besides soothing my throat, Downton Abbey put me in tea kind of mood and I didn't eat much.  This delicious salad was from a few days ago, I was thinking I might save it for another 7 Days, 7 Salads series but it was so good I want to share it now.

Spinach Pomegranate Salad
1-2 cups spinach
1/4 cup microgreens (sprouts)
2 Tablespoons pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds (I prefer roasted & salted)
1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional but so good for you!)
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette (I used Trader Joe's Fat Free version)

Served with Mary's Gone Crackers Caraway flavor.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sausage & Pasta Soup

When it's cold and windy and rainy I always crave soup. Lucky for me I was able to adapt a very old recipe with the ingredients I had on hand so I didn't even need to go shopping.

Served with gluten free crackers from Mary's Gone Crackers (Caraway)

-1 package (about 1lb) of sausage of your choice.  Use turkey sausage to save calories, I used sweet  Italian that I had in the fridge.
-2 boxes of low sodium chicken broth - 64 oz total (use boxes, not cans that can be lined with BPA!)
-1 cup potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces, I used red
-1 can low sodium or no salt added pinto or cannellini beans (I used pinto,) drained & rinsed***
-1/2 yellow onion, chopped
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 teaspoon oregano (I used fresh from my garden)
-1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 oz gluten free pasta

*** Thanks to Kristine for pointing out that I forgot to list the beans in my original post!  And two notes on canned beans.  First, if you do not use low/no salt beans rinse the beans very, very well to help remove as much of the sodium as possible.  Second, I buy Eden Organics canned beans because the lining on their cans is BPA free.  A great place to buy them is online at Vitacost, if you don't already shop at Vitacost I highly recommend can even email me for a link and I can get a discount on my next purchase.  :)
My sous chef peels
Remove sausage meat from casings and roll into one inch balls (see below).  Brown in a splash of olive oil, being careful while turning them that they don't break up.  Sausage does not need to be cooked through at this point, just browned.  If you are using very fatty sausage I would suggest cooking well to help remove as much fat as possible.  When they are ready, set aside and drain fat, leaving just a bit to cook the onions & garlic.  Add the onions and garlic and cook until slightly browned.  Add oregano, thyme, broth and potato.  Simmer covered until potato begins to soften, about 15 minutes.  If sausages were not cooked through add them now and continue to cook until sausages and potatoes are done.  If you did cook the sausage through just add them for the last 5-10 minutes.  Add the beans in the last few minutes, also.

If working with any fatty meats I prefer to cook my soup early so it can cool and I can skim the fat.  If you cook a whole day ahead, the fat solidifies in the fridge overnight and can easily be discarded.  In this case, I let the soup cool for an hour or so and used one of those fat skimming cups with a spout (no idea what they are officially called!)

Now about the pasta - you can cook it in the soup for the last 8-10 minutes if you like.  The problem for me is that if you have leftovers, the pasta will be mush the next day.  I like to make the pasta in a separate pot and add to the soup when it's in the bowl just before serving.  I used De Boles Gluten Free Elbow shaped pasta.  Of the gluten free pastas I have tried I really prefer those made with corn.


“When I was five years old my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.” ~ John Lennon

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Remembering Annie

Here is a whimsical painting remembering Annie.  If there is a doggy heaven, this would be it for our Annie.  When I showed this to my 9 year old he got a bit emotional...I would never upset my child on purpose but his reaction to this little painting assures me that I got her spirit right. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Illustration Friday - Popularity

 I can't help but wonder if the birds sit in order of popularity.

A Place For Me

I am blessed in so many ways, not the least of which is the wonderful place I call home.  I am lucky enough to live in my childhood home in an amazing neighborhood.  The one thing we are lacking is space.  Our house is small.  Very small.  Finding space to do my art has always been a challenge.  With art supplies spread out all over the house I find what space I can...on the sofa, at the kitchen table...even in bed.  A few weeks ago I decided that if I am going to take my art to another level I need a dedicated space.  We took a road trip to our nearest IKEA and bought a cute little desk which fit perfectly in a bit of wasted space.  My new art studio even has an ocean view!  I'm in heaven.

a desk with a view

works in progess

Thursday, February 9, 2012

7 Days, 7 Salads - Mexican Gordita Salad

Today is the last day of my 7 Days, 7 Salads series.  I really enjoyed coming up with 7 interesting salads and my husband enjoyed eating them!  I hope you all enjoyed them, too.  Let me know what you think.  I love your comments!

Despite the fact that I count Mexican food as among my favorites and that I live within walking distance of at least a dozen Mexican restaurants I had never had a gordita before.  By definition a gordita is is a corn cake made with masa harina (cornmeal) and stuffed with cheese, meat or other fillings (according to Wikipedia.)

These gorditas come from Trader Joes and are vegetarian and gluten free. 


for the salad (serves 2):
baby romaine & spinach
1/3 cup corn
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 gorditas warmed according to directions
refried pinto beans
tortilla chips
lite Mexican blend grated cheese
avocado or guacamole

for the dressing:
1 Tablespoon red salsa
1 Tablespoon of low or nonfat sour cream or greek yogurt
splash of apple cider vinegar

Arrange salad ingredients on plate.  Place gordita on top and add a generous amount of refried beans, grated cheese and a dollop of guacamole.  Arrange chips around edge of plate.  Drizzle dressing on top.  Keep in mind that the dressing made with greek jogurt will be tart, use sour cream instead if you prefer.

If you don't want or can't get the gordita this salad would be just as good with a tostada (fried corn tortilla) or even just the chips with the beans on top...sort of a nacho salad.

Visit my Etsy Shop

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Illustration Friday - Suspense

The suspense is killing many days until Valentine's Day?

Pastel and pencil on paper

“This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.” Oscar Wilde

7 Days, 7 Salads - Day 6 - Spinach with Apples and Cranberries

I had this salad for lunch and ate al fresco in my backyard. It is adapted from a recipe called "Thanksgiving Salad" which has been in B's family for years and is traditionally served on (what else?) Thanksgiving.

for the salad:
1/2 crisp apple such as Fuji, cored and cut into small pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 Tablespoon dried cranberries
1 Tablepoon slivered or chopped almonds

for the dressing (enough for 1 serving):
2-3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2-3 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dijon style mustard
salt & pepper to taste

Whisk dressing ingredients in bowl.  Add all other ingredients and toss until everything is coated with dressing.

This is also fantastic with fresh cranberries when they are in season but needs a bit if planning.  The night before, cut cranberries in half.  Add a generous amount of sugar, enough to coat cranberries.  Let sit overnight.  Use in place of dried cranberries.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

7 Days - 7 Salads - Day 5 - Sesame Ginger Shrimp Salad

I enjoyed this salad for lunch...very light and low in calories but satisfying.

for the salad (serves 1):
1 cup baby romaine lettuce
1/4 cup edamame
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
6 large cooked shrimp, well chilled
a handful of sugar snap peas

Monday, February 6, 2012

7 Days, 7 Salads - Day 4 - Spinach wtih Quinoa, Grilled Chicken, Artichoke Hearts and Lemon Tahini "Italian" dressing.

I must have been hungry when I came up with this salad idea...I almost always need protein on my salad so I am not hungry 1 hour later.  This salad has ample protein from the chicken, nuts and quinoa.  Even with all this protein I decided to make a protein rich dressing with tahini AND serve the whole thing with my gluten free, dairy free version of what I call Texas Toast.



for the salad:
grilled chicken
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts - drained but reserve marinade
quinoa (cook according to directions) -  about 1/4 per serving
toasted pinenuts

for the dressing:
Lemon-Tahini "Italian Dressing"
1/4 cup reserved marinade from artichokes
1/4 cup tahini sauce
zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
(optional) salt to taste

for the Texas Toast:
dairy free, gluten free bread - I used Udi's White Sandwich Bread
Earth Balance spread
garlic powder
Italian dried herb seasoning

Spread Earth Balance on one side of bread.  Sprinkle with italian seasoning, garlic powder and a dash of salt.  Place spread side down on hot griddle or frying pan and heat until toasted.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

7 Days, 7 Salads - Day 3 - Mango, Blueberry, Chicken Salad

I hope this isn't considered a cheat.  When I said 7 Days, 7 Salads I never promised they would all be made by me, did I?  This delicious salad was from a lovely Saturday lunch with my wonderful friend Stephanie.  We walked from her house to one of my favorite breakfast/lunch spots taking pictures along the way.  This salad is easy to recreate at home.

7 Days, 7 Salads - Day 3 - Mango, Blueberry, Chicken Salad

grilled chicken
fresh mango
blue cheese
all on a bed of mixed greens tossed with white wine vinaigrette.

Couldn't say no to a Bellini.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

7 Days, 7 Salads - Day 2 - Fiesta Salad

This was dinner for B and I while the kids spent the night at grandma's house.

7 Days, 7 Salads - Day 2 - Fiesta Salad

for the salad:
romaine lettuce, chopped
1/3 cup grilled corn (I used frozen since corn is not in season now)
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 ripe avocado
Grated cheddar cheese
ground meat or protein source of choice - I used turkey meat (see below) but have also used tempeh or beans when I am wanting a meatless meal.

for the dressing:
1 tablespoon lowfat sour cream or greek yogurt
1 tablespoon red salsa
- Mix well

for the meat:
1 package ground turkey
1/2 yellow onion
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1-2 teaspoons each cumin, chili powder, dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of salt and cayenne pepper
- Cook onions in olive oil until they begin to turn brown and transparent.  Add meat and brown well.  Drain fat and return onions and meat to pan.  Add about 1/2 cup water and remaining ingredients.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed/evaporated.

I used half of the avo chopped on the salad and mashed the other half with lime juice, salt & pepper for a quick guacamole.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sunrise and Sunsets - January 2012

I've become a little obsessed with sunset pictures recently.  Often one of my Facebook friends posts a picture of a beautiful sunset that I could not photograph and I try not to be jealous...unfortunately sunset time is often the most hectic time in my household...trying to start dinner and get the kids settled into doing homework, it's hard to sneak away.  Here is a collection of sunset pics (and one sunrise) that I was lucky enough to see in person and photograph.

Sunrise from my kitchen window, January 24.
Sunset January 14

Sunset January 24

Sunset January 24
By happy coincidence someone took a picture of me taking pictures!  Sunset January 24. Posted on Edhat by Steve G.