Thursday, May 31, 2012

Just in time

It's the last day of May, and I just received my Eco Emi box for the month. That's what happens when a holiday messes with the mail service. I'm not complaining, though, as it was worth the wait.

I always think of Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer, so you may notice me slacking off a bit in the blogging department. For example, I usually do a rather lengthy post for my Eco Emi boxes (like in January, February, March and April), but today, I opted to go with just our video, along with links to the products inside (my favorites being the chocolat lip balm and The All Natural Face products; the lip balm and lip gloss were both full-size products).

Here's what we received:
You may have noticed the pink and blue tissue paper, as well as the green shredded filler inside the box. As with all our other boxes, we plan on making something with these items (here are some of the projects made from items in the past boxes - January, February, March and April). Stay tuned to see what we make this time :-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The "New Directions"

I have to admit that I am a total "gleek" when it comes to cupcakes, as well as the hit show "Glee," which was the theme for the latest episode of "Cupcake Champions." As promised, I took on another taste challenge, although in a "new direction."

For those of you not "gleeking out" over the musical sensation, let me explain; the "New Directions" is the name of the glee club on the show. It also is the perfect title for this post, since I took my Rawdorable cupcake-making in a "new direction." Instead of taking on the challenge in my usual cup-"cake" form, I opted to only maintain the classic cupcake shape.

To start, I found a way to "rawify" one of the inspirations from the taste challenge, serving them up in a cupcake-liner-lined (say that 10 times fast) ramekin with raw ketchup piped "icing" decor. On "Cupcake Champions," competitors had to make a cupcake inspired by traditional school lunchroom fare, such as sloppy joe's, tacos, mac n cheese and, of course, tater tots. None of them selected the tots, but I sure did (when I was in school, it was all about the tots; the same is true in "Napoleon Dynamite," but that's another story).

As always, I have to admit that this household is not entirely raw (my kids and I have all had our share of real tater tots), but it is fun to experiment from time to time. Therefore, I opted to make cauliflower tots by cutting cauliflower florets into "tot-like" shapes, marinating them in a combination of coconut oil, olive oil and sea salt (it gave the mixture time to soak in through the spaces in the florets), coating them in a thin dusting of almond meal (leftover almond pulp from making almond milk; ground flax would work well, too) and "cooking" them in the dehydrator for a couple hours or so.

It's crazy how much they look like tater tots when they are done. To serve, I piled them up in ramekin (lined with two cupcake liners for color), with some raw ketchup (I like the one from Ani Phyo's book, "Ani's Raw Food Kitchen"). Then, in the spirit of "Glee," I piped on the title of the show.

And to really get in the spirit, I decided to make a slushie-inspired cupcake, as well (the contestants on "Cupcake Champions" had to do this, too), but more like a slushie than a cupcake. I blended together frozen cherries and strawberries, along with some lime, in my old school food processor to make a cherry berry lime slushie on the fly. I mounded the slushie mixture inside and on top of a hallowed out lime to resemble a cupcake.

For the "cherry on top," I actually added a cherry, modified to look like a music note, and a strawberry heart. Then, I stuck a tiny straw in it, so you'd really know it was a slushie.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my new direction. Any other "gleeks" out there? (I'm going to miss watching the show this summer, but my hubby won't.)

Oh, and if you aren't a fan of "Glee," what is your favorite slushie flavor? Do you make your own? How do you like to serve it?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tees & tank you

Spring is already heating up like summer around here; time to break out the tees and tanks (and sundresses, swimwear, etc.). I got a cute one recently from LovingEco (I've been meaning to thank them - thank you LovingEco) that's a comfy way to show off your "Style for Change."

Here's the old LovingEco blog post with the lovely Shannon Elizabeth sporting her "Style for Change" (she looks much hotter in it than I do), filling in the blank on her shirt with "more animal protections and a world without hunger." You can't actually buy this shirt anymore now that LovingEco has teamed up with JP Selects (notice the code - LOVEJP - for 10% any purchase of $30 or more by the end of May in the link about it), but I wanted to post about it anyway in hopes that one of my readers might suggest what I should write on mine. So, what should I write?
I also just got my #BrokeCity tank in the mail today that I ordered from my favorite "Fashion Star" contestant, Orly Shani. I've dreamed of being a fashion designer for as long as I can remember, so it is no surprise that I am a huge fan of this show, along with "Project Runway," "Project Accessory" and "24-Hour Catwalk."

You may recall my efforts to support my favorite "Project Accessory" designer Nina Cortes (I've purchased a number of her pieces since then), and now I'd like to do the same for Orly. I was lucky enough to scoop up one of her designs while she was on the show (the blue H&M dress; I can't afford the ones bought my Saks 5th Avenue, and from what I've read, neither can she) and then I bought one of her tees (#BrokeCity is perfect for all of us who can only dream of owning the clothes from Saks).

The note that came with the shirt requests that fans tweet a picture of themselves wearing the shirt to @orlyshani, so that's the reason for all these cheesy pics. If you end up seeing a tweet of me wearing this top, you know why. Ha ha :-)
Anyway, I hope that she is able to keep her label (Tuc+Wes, which is "cut" and "sew" spelled backwards) going and growing, and possibly making more of her convertible styles. I know some of the buyers on the show thought it was overkill, but I love having items that can be worn in different ways (she did design the successful zip mini skirt and this previous line that reminds me of American Apparel). How about you? Do you like the convertible clothing concept?

Sorry there isn't any food in this post. Sometimes it's nice to write about my other interests, too. Thanks for taking the time to read about them :-)

What are your other interests?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Up for the challenge

As you know from my last post, I've been watching "Cupcake Champions" and taking on the round one taste challenges in my own kitchen. Sunday's "Madagascar 3" episode, which airs again tonight, had contestants whipping up cupcakes full of African flavors, including at least three from the display table.

I have to admit that I got a little creative with this one, maybe even bending the rules a bit, but in the end, I came up with a simply scrumptious Rawdorable (mostly raw, but sometimes containing cooked elements; they are basically "unbaked") cupcake.

You see, the show rarely ever names off all of the ingredients on the table, and this time, most everyone used the same ingredients (coconut, yams, cloves, plantains and coffee), some which needed to be cooked. Also, I tend to use what I have available in my kitchen at the time of the challenge, and have my own rules about what I'll actually put into my cupcakes.

I guess I could have cooked the yams (I can't stomach them raw), but it reminded me too much of last week's pumpkin-based cupcake. I also didn't have time to allow a plantain to ripen enough (if you wait until the skin turns completely black, they become sweet and soft enough to eat raw), not to mention the fact that I didn't have one anyway.

Then, there was the coffee, which I gave up years ago. Therefore, I used my creative license and substituted raw cocoa powder, which sometimes tastes like coffee (this one tastes like mocha to me) and is my favorite coffee alternative. That left me with coconut and cloves, but since I think I saw cinnamon on the table, I used that, as well.

For extra good measure, I filled the cupcake with a coconut chia concoction, similar to tapioca pudding, since I believe tapioca is made from the cassava root from South Africa. I also was inspired by one of the competitors on the show who used molecular gastronomy to make coconut pearls to fill the inside of her cupcake.

In the process of "unbaking" my cake, I also ran into another issue, much like those on the show (there is always some kind of drama with messed up batters and such). My decision to use a 50:50 ratio of almonds to coconut flakes to make my "flour" resulted in too damp of a "cake." In the end, I added a Tbsp. of plain Sunwarrior rice protein powder to fix the problem and to pump up the protein in my final product (my body has been craving more protein lately anyway).

With the exception of these few snags, I am happy with the resulting cupcake. Here's the recipe, if you want to try it:

My "Cupcake Champions"
"Madagascar 3"
Taste Challenge Cupcake
*Makes one Rawdorable cupcake, inspired by the "Madagascar 3" episode of "Cupcake Champions" (must include at least three African-inspired ingredients featured on the show, such as coconut, yams, cloves, plantains, coffee, cinnamon, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. Sunwarrior Rice Protein Powder in natural flavor
  • 1 Tbsp. date paste
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (Madagascar vanilla is perfect for this challenge)
  • 1/4 tsp. organic raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • dash of sea salt
  • *coconut chia "tapioca" filling ( 1/2 Tbsp. chia seeds mixed with 2 Tbsp. coconut milk, 1/4 tsp. liquid sweetener of choice such as coconut nectar, and a touch of Madagascar vanilla; allow to set for about an hour)
  • *"Butterdream" or whipped canned coconut milk "cream" for frosting, mixed with raw cocoa powder or instant espresso powder, to taste (I mixed about 1 tsp. of raw cocoa powder into 1/4 cup of the "butterdream")
  • *a sprinkling of chia seeds and some coconut shreds for garnish (I arranged the coconut shreds to look like a flower on top)

In a mini food processor or blender, grind the almonds, coconut flakes and protein powder into a flour-like consistency, and transfer the "flour" to a bowl.

Next, add the date paste, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, cloves, cinnamon and sea salt. Whisk to combine (a whisk helps keep the "batter" fluffier). The batter should be moist, but not so damp that it requires "baking" in a dehydrator (although you could if you desire).
Form the batter into a cupcake shape, using a reusable silicone cupcake liner or small ramekin, and leaving a melon ball-size hole in the center. Fill the center with the coconut chia "tapioca" filling (there will be a little left over for sampling).

Frost the cupcake with either "butterdream" or whipped canned coconut milk "cream" (allow a can of coconut milk to set unshaken in the fridge until chilled and the "cream" has separated to the top. Remove the "cream" and whip to a fluffy consistency) mixed with raw cocoa powder or instant espresso powder, to taste.

Garnish with a sprinkling of chia seeds and some coconut shreds. Enjoy!


And now for another challenge, Matthew, Hayden and I went to Jacob's school last Friday for their annual mini Relay for Life. We had fun walking the track, taking dance breaks and raising money for a good cause.

We also got a lot of sun exposure, so I made sure to bring our Dr. Robin sunscreen. We hadn't been able to test it sufficiently for our previous review, but it worked really well at this outdoor event. It's light, non-irritating to our sensitive skin and is fragrance-free. I barely noticed we had it on, except for the fact that Hayden's pale skin remained as porcelain as when we first got there. Thanks again Dr. Robin :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My spidey senses are tingling

I'm sensing yet another cupcake challenge, courtesy of "Cupcake Champions" (more "Cupcake Wars" episodes featuring winners of past shows). I, of course, couldn't resist trying it myself.

The latest episode highlighted the Broadway show, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," with a visit from the webslinger himself, who famously crept around the required ingredients for the first round. As he is a superhero, it was no surprise that the contestants would have to bake their first cupcake using superfoods, but with a catch; they had to use all six of the ones presented to them, including pumpkin, oats, molasses, apricots, currants and kale.

Unfortunately, the resulting cupcakes were far from the best featured on the show; however, that didn't stop me from making an attempt, as well. Honestly, I think it was just too many ingredients competing with each other, which explains the less than attractive unbaked cupcake (it's not entirely raw, so "unbaked" seems to explain it better) I came up with in a pinch.

The "cake" is similar to the one I did for my guest post on Charissa's site, as in has oats and protein powder for that extra superhero punch. I also incorporated the pumpkin, molasses and currants into the base, leaving me with just apricots and kale for the top (I originally planned on including the kale in the "cake," as well, but then I could hear Florian saying how didn't want all the required ingredients crammed into just the cake).

As much as I love kale, it didn't seem to fit with my initial vision for this cupcake, but it did add some texture and color to my frosting, not to mention a fun, natural way to garnish my creation. I cut some holes in a piece of kale leaf to resemble some web and coated it in a black molasses "symbiote" (Spider-Man fans know that a black "symbiote" was responsible for the origin of Venom).

Personally, I think this cupcake is much prettier garnished simply with some fresh apricot slices. That's actually how I served it to myself in the end ... although I did eat the "web," too :-)

My "Cupcake Wars"
Spidey Superfood
Taste Challenge Cupcake
*Makes one Rawdorable cupcake, inspired by the "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" superfood taste round on "Cupcake Champions" (must include pumpkin, oats, molasses, apricots, currants and kale)
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 1 Tbsp. Sunwarrior Rice Protein Powder in natural flavor
  • 1  1/2 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
  • 1 Tbsp. date paste
  • 1 tsp. blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. organic raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • dash of sea salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. currants
  • *"Butterdream" or whipped canned coconut milk "cream" for frosting, mixed with a hint of vanilla, very finely chopped curly kale ends and folded in fresh apricot puree (I mixed about 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract and 1/2 Tbsp. of the kale into 1/4 cup of the frosting, and then folded in 1/2 Tbsp. of fresh apricot I had blended into a puree)
  • Either fresh apricot slices or a molasses-coated kale "web" (a piece of kale cut to resemble a web and coated in a blackstrap molasses "symbiote") for garnish
In a mini food processor or blender, grind the cashews, oats and protein powder into a flour-like consistency, and transfer the "flour" to a bowl.

Next, add the pumpkin puree, date paste, molasses, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon and sea salt. Whisk to combine (a whisk helps keep the "batter" fluffier). The batter should be moist, but not so damp that it requires "baking" in a dehydrator (although you could if you desire).

Stir in the currants, and then form the batter into a cupcake shape, using a reusable silicone cupcake liner or small ramekin. Frost the cupcake with either "butterdream" or whipped canned coconut milk "cream" (allow a can of coconut milk to set unshaken in the fridge until chilled and the "cream" has separated to the top. Remove the "cream" and whip to a fluffy consistency) mixed with vanilla, very finely chopped curly kale ends (the curly ends of the kale are fluffier) and fresh apricot puree.

Garnish with either fresh apricot slices or a molasses-coated kale "web." Enjoy!


*Note: Next time I might put the kale in the "cake"
rather than the frosting. Let me know if you try it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The best gifts are made with love

This weekend was full of ups and downs (I can't believe our washing machine decided to break this weekend, leaving a full load of laundry swimming in soapy water; thank goodness we had some family members nearby, who were willing to let us finish a few loads in their machines), but my kids always find a way to make me smile.

On Mother's Day morning, Jacob and Hayden gave me the biggest hugs, while telling me how much they love me. Jacob presented me with a "You and Me" book that he made at school (he knows my favorite gifts are the ones made with love), and Hayden quickly decided to whip up a gift from her, too (they are so competitive sometimes).

Knowing that her mommy is a big smoothie fan, she blended her special recipe for me. Don't worry; she didn't use the real blender by herself. Instead, she pretended with her wooden blender set (you can see an old photo of Jacob peeking through the toy blender in the pic at the top of this post), complete with sliceable fruit (banana, orange and strawberry, of course).

Here she is making the smoothie in a dress I wore at her age (I'm amazed at how new it still looks, considering that I would play in it all the time, everywhere and anywhere, not to mention the fact that both my sisters did, too).

Good thing this is a toy. Please don't put your hand
in the blender like that.

Mmmm ... gotta test it first.

Where's that other cup?

Try it, you'll like it :-)

Friday, May 11, 2012

My guest post for Charissa

Just wanted to let everyone know that, although I don't usually do guest posts, I did make an exception for my blogging friend Charissa, who's currently on a singing tour with her family band (sounds like so much fun). We've gotten to know each other online over the years, and now she seems like a member of my family, too.

Of course, I couldn't say no, as I was honored to put something together for her and very touched that she asked me. Please stop by her blog, Colourful Palate to check out my post and wish her luck with her travels (she seems to be tweeting along the way, so don't forget to follow her at @ColourfulPalate).
Oh, and since I probably won't be posting this weekend. Happy Mother's Day! <3

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Making something for mom

As you know, Mother's Day is this Sunday, so I've been hard at work, making a gift for my mom. I even took this photo of it to share. There's me in the reflection. Ha ha. Hi mom! :-)

My mother loves earrings (like the ones at our local Artsfest), especially since she cut her hair very short (her modern pixie cut is perfect for her, as she likes to swim a lot; it dries so fast and is really cute). Therefore, I decided to make seven pairs for her, a new style for each day of the week.

I also displayed them in a shadow box frame, inspired by the glass cases in the jewelry stores. All I did was wrap two brightly colored rubber bands around the back piece of the frame to hang the earrings on, like a clothes line (but for jewelry, instead of clothes, of course). She can add more earrings, or remove the rubber bands to use the frame for something else.

Speaking of frames, the kids are painting frames for Matthew's mom. Here are some pics of Hayden, the artist.

Anyone else making something for their mom?
If so, what do you have planned?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Cinco de Mayo & the Renaissance Festival

Okay, so I didn't go all out celebrating Cinco de Mayo (I just had some salsa and avocado), nor did I go to the Renaissance Festival (although I have in the past). They just happen to be the inspiration for today's Rawdorable cupcake.

As you know, I like to make my unbaked version of various cupcakes featured on "Cupcake Wars." Therefore, it's no surprise that the flavors and decoration for this cupcake were based on one from the first round (the taste round) of this past Sunday's episode, which highlighted the Renaissance Festival in Southern California.

The cupcake I liked most was the honey cupcake with a cardamom and black pepper custard filling, caramelized top (it was sprinkled with sugar and caramelized with a blow torch) and candied ginger sprinkles. It was garnished with a cinnamon stick "sword" and a flower that this cupcake "knight" was bringing home to his lady.

I stuck with the idea of a "honey" cake, but without actually adding the honey. I think good quality dates tend to taste like honey anyway. I also kept the cardamom and black pepper in the filling, although my base wasn't a custard. Instead, I came up with something simple (a combination of banana, dates, flax and spices) that I thought complimented my alternative topping.

The caramelized top reminded me of the faux "fried" ice cream (banana n'ice cream rolled in flax, coconut flakes and spices) on Lisa's Raw on $10 a Day blog (she always comes up with simply delicious recipes perfect for anyone's budget). I don't know why I didn't try it for Cinco de Mayo, but at least I got around to sampling it only a couple days later.

Anyway, here's how to make this cake and n'ice cream cupcake:

Cake & "Fried" N'ice Cream
Cardamom "Honey" Cupcake
*Makes one Rawdorable n'ice cream topped cupcake, inspired by the Renaissance episode of Cupcake Wars and Lisa's faux "fried" ice cream.
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup cashews (cashews go so well with cardamom)
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut flakes
  • 1 Tbsp. date paste
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. organic raw apple cider vinegar
  • dash of sea salt
  • *cardamom & black pepper filling (1 Tbsp. mashed banana mixed with 1/2 tbsp. date paste, 1/2 tsp. ground flax seed, 1/4 tsp. cardamom and fresh ground pepper, to taste)
  • *"banilla" n'ice cream (in a mini food processor, whip up frozen sliced bananas and vanilla bean seeds. Allow to set in freezer prior to constructing this cupcake)
  • *1 Tbsp. ground flax seed for making the "fried" topping
  • *chopped crystallized ginger (I used some organic orange ginger chews I received in this box), a cinnamon stick and decorative flower for garnish (I used a primrose from my window sill)
In a mini food processor or blender, grind the almonds (you can also substitute some of the almonds for leftover nut pulp from making nutmilk to result in a lighter cake texture) cashews and coconut flakes into a "flour." Remove 1 Tbsp. of the crumbs to reserve for making the "fried" topping, and transfer the "flour" to a bowl.

Next, add the date paste, vanilla, apple cider vinegar and sea salt. Whisk to combine (a whisk helps keep the "batter" fluffier). The batter should be moist, but not so damp that it requires "baking" in a dehydrator (although you could if you desire).

Form the batter into a cupcake shape, leaving a melon ball size valley in the center and a small amount to the side to top it off. Fill the cupcake with cardamom & black pepper filling, reserving what doesn't fit for the topping. Add the excess batter to cover the filling, and carefully blend the seams.

Remove the "banilla" n'ice cream from the freezer. Scoop up a rounded mound and place it on top of your cupcake. Frost the n'ice cream with a thin layer of reserved cardamom & black pepper filling, and cover it in "fried" topping (1 Tbsp. ground flax seed mixed with the reserved 1 Tbsp. of almond/cashew/coconut crumbs). Make sure to press the "fried' topping into the n'ice cream, coating the entire surface.

Garnish with chopped crystallized ginger, a cinnamon stick and a flower. Enjoy!


On another note, I had some fun making jewelry this weekend. Most of what I made is for my mother (don't forget Mother's Day is right around the corner), but I did make these earrings for yours truly. So pretty :-)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Punk Rawk guitar pick jewelry

I know it's been a while since I mentioned Alissa of Punk Rawk Labs Kickstarter campaign. It was such a success that I'm only now posting about what I received as a gift for my donation (she had a lot to send out; thanks to all who donated). I got nut milk cheeses, a special treat and some swag from her band, including a CD (Hayden is a big fan), stickers and guitar picks.

The guitar picks are the inspiration for today's post. Since we already have a ton of guitar picks around here (my hubby plays guitar and is teaching the kids, too), I decided to showcase them as jewelry, rather than just strumming some strings with them.

One reason why we have so many guitar picks is because I got Matthew a guitar pick punch for Christmas. It can turn any piece of thin plastic (old credit cards or gift cards, plastic lids and other items from the recycling bin) into a guitar pic with one quick punch, as you can see I did out of some clear and white plastic packaging. These were perfect for expanding the number and variety of picks on the finished necklace.

Since the plastic punched picks were thinner, it was easy to make a hole at the top for jewelry-making. However, I needed to drill one in the top of each of the Punk Rawk Labs picks. 

Then, I used jump rings to link all the picks onto a basic chain I purchased from the craft store (although I think old guitar strings would have been amazing, as well, much like these bracelets). I love how this one reminds me of a key chain; something casual with just the right amount of edge. What do you think of the finished piece?

After making the guitar pick necklace, I had some more fun, thinly slicing carrots to resemble the guitar picks. They're great for scooping up some Punk Rawk Labs nut milk cheese (so jealous of those of you who live in areas where you can actually buy it in the stores). Yum!

I also strung some on a necklace, similar to when I made that strand of grapes, a.k.a. "nature's candy necklace." Edible necklaces look so fresh and are quite tasty, too. You should try it :-)