Homemade Veggie Stock

I cook a lot, and I plan on sharing many of the things I cook here. I thought I should start out by sharing one thing that is a constant staple in much of my cooking: veggie stock.

Since we eat mostly plants, we often have a lot of “extras” leftover. Stems, shells, skins, etc. This stuff is not totally useless! You can use it to make stock.

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Any veggie trimmings I have, I put in a bag in the freezer. When that bag gets full, I make stock.

DSC_0135For this batch of stock, I also added some pulp leftover from juicing.

DSC_0136It is very easy to make. Just cover your veggie trimmings with water, then bring to a boil.

DSC_0137This batch had some beet stems in it, so the water turned purple right away.

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Add spices to your taste. This time I added salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning. There were some garlic and ginger trimmings in there, too, so that will influence the flavor.

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Once the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover for 40 minutes or more, depending on how much you have to work with and how flavorful you want your stock to be.

DSC_0149Then strain the stock.

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You may have to squeeze some of the juices from the veggies. If you have a compost pile, you can add what’s leftover when you’re done.

DSC_0155I keep my stock in jars in the fridge until I am ready to use it.

It’s that easy! Never buy veggie stock again.

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First Floor Tour: the Dining Room

DSC_0143Ladies and gentlemen, not only am I (finally) continuing the first floor tour, but this one actually includes a sneak peak of the living room as shown above! Since the dining and living rooms are open to each other, it’s really impossible to show one without the other.

As you can see above, the only alteration that has been made to the actual house is painting one wall navy blue (the other side is also painted, which you will see in the living room post.)

DSC_0144As for the furniture, this dining room needed a larger table than the one we already had. My parents kindly gave us this black table, which can be made smaller by removing two leaves from the middle and dropping the sides down, should we so choose.

DSC_0145The hoop back chairs also came from my mother. I painted them a bright blue to to bring some color in to the room. (Alsoturns out you can see some of that navy in this photo, too! Check it out.)

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That chair in the corner (affectionately named “the dog’s chair” since she is the only one who sits in it) is a side-of-the-road find.

The piano came from Jon’s mother. Sadly I have not been playing it as much as I should, but I am still very happy that we have it in the house!

DSC_0147I decided to try decorating with books for the top of the piano. I chose the books specifically for their colors. They are also pretty good books. That amazing wooden bowl was a wedding gift, and the hand once belonged to a Sak’s Fifth Avenue mannequin (before they closed in the mid-2000s.)

That’s our dining room! Like I said, you will be able to see the other end when I show photos of the living room.

Do you have a piano? How often do you play it? How about side-of-the-road furniture?

Trader Joe’s vs. Door to Door Organics: Which costs more?

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When I shared my first “What’s in the box?” post on Facebook, a friend noted that the total cost of $34.41 seemed high and wondered if that included extra for a delivery fee. Though I already knew the price was higher than if it were regular (non organic) produce, I decided to find out exactly how much more or less the box costs compared to organic produce from the grocery store.

Besides a small local health food store, Trader Joe’s is the only grocery store in the area that provides organic options for much of their produce. I thought they would be a good comparison since they have locations in many cities.

So here’s how it went down: I went in to Trader Joe’s armed with a list of produce and my camera phone. I then proceeded to walk around the store like a weirdo, taking photos of produce and crossing things off a list.

Unfortunately, my ancient phone sucks, and I don’t have photos of everything. However, I did manage to get the prices of every item from the first box:

4 organic Bosc pears: $3.16
4 organic Gala apples: $3.16
1lb carrots: $3.99*
1 Delicata squash: $0.99*
1lb mixed potatoes: $2.49*
4 organic Russet potatoes: $3.99
0.5lb green beans: $2.69+*
4 organic garlic cloves: $2.00
5 organic Roma tomatos: $3.49
1 green onion bunch: $1.29*
1 bag organic Lacinato kale: $2.29+

+ Trader Joe’s did not have yellow beans or organic green kale bunches. Instead I found regular green beans and a bag of pre-chopped Lacinato kale.
* Trader Joe’s also did not have organic versions of everything. According to the USDA, organic produce costs 10-30% more than regular produce. I added 20% to each of the non organic items, except the green beans to which I added 30% (since yellow beans are apparently more rare.) The adjusted prices of those items are below:

1lb carrots: $4.79
1 Delicata squash: $1.19
1lb mixed potatoes: $3.00
0.5lb green beans: $3.50
1 green onion bunch: $1.55

After adjusting those prices, I also needed to add the sales tax. I looked at my actual Trader Joe’s receipt (I did buy things) and saw that there is a 5% tax and a 2% tax.

So who won?

The total cost of the Trader Joe’s produce, with taxes and adjustment for organics, was $34.37. Without adjusting for organics, it would have been $31.61. Pretty close, but TJ’s is coming in at slightly less! Right?

But wait… there’s more. Driving to and from Trader Joe’s from our home burns about 1 galon of gas in my Outback (not to mention at least 40 minutes spent in the car total!) Gas prices here are currently $3.01/galon, adding $3.01 to the cost of the Trader Joe’s produce. That means…

Door to Door Organics wins!

That doesn’t mean we don’t still shop at Trader Joe’s for other things. It’s conveniently located in the same mall as Target, so the drive out there isn’t so bad so long as we need enough stuff. This time around, I bought Greek yogurt, whole wheat pasta, some Two Buck Chuck merlot, and cookies. Happy Saturday.

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First Floor Tour: the Kitchen (with a tale of woe)

DSC_0046Dun dunna-nunnnn!! The first room I would like to present to you is THE KITCHEN.

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As you can see, there isn’t much counter space, but that has forced us to do away with certain things like the microwave, which, in the long run, is actually a very good thing!

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As I mentioned in the empty house tour, the kitchen is basically what sold me on the house. There wasn’t a whole lot we wanted to do to it, besides get our stuff in there.

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Since we weren’t planning any kitchen renos, you might be wondering why there is a GIANT HOLE IN THE KITCHEN CEILING.

Well, lemme tell ya, this giant hole is not desired. Nope, we did not plan to cut a hole in our ceiling. We did not want this hole, but we had no choice.

About a month after moving in to the house, we noticed something strange. One of the light fixtures over the bar had what appeared to be a brown stain from some sort of liquid trickling all the way down its stem (cord? hang-y thing?) and settling around the bottom of the light bulb. It was dry when we noticed it. Not knowing what the heck it could be from, we promptly forgot about it.

A little while later, Jon said he heard dripping somewhere in the kitchen while I was taking a shower (the bathroom is right above the kitchen.) I looked everywhere but couldn’t find any water suggesting a leak. I didn’t hear any dripping when Jon took a shower, so again, we forgot about it.

Cut to a Sunday morning late in July, when I filled our tub hoping to take my first, much-needed relaxing bath in our new home. Just as I was starting to settle in while the tub filled, I heard Jon yelling from downstairs that I had to get out, NOWI sprang out of the tub and ran downstairs to see water all over the counter and floor, a wet line along the seam in the ceiling’s drywall, and water gushing down that same light fixture.

Turns out our tub had a leak.

We have a home warranty, and they sent out a plumber to assess the situation. Apparently the tub had been leaking for a LONG time, and the space between the new ceiling and the old (they lowered it) was absolutely covered in mold. The plumber guessed that the old ceiling had been holding in the water and finally burst, which is why we got a sudden gush of water and hadn’t noticed much else before.

We are still in the process of getting it all figured out (not an easy task when you’ve got lives to live) but in the meantime, we have temporarily patched the crack in the tub (with packaging tape—nothing but the best for House DeMonte), cut out the rest of the ceiling to clean out the mold, and are keeping it open so we can monitor the situation (and because, well, we haven’t fixed the tub yet.) Eventually we’ll get the tub patched properly and install the new ceiling ourselves, but in the meantime, we are living with a giant hole in our kitchen ceiling.

DSC_0047Despite all that, I still think it’s a gorgeous kitchen.

What’s in the box? Week II

DSC_0001The series continues with this week’s box!

DSC_0002Total cost: $34.41

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4 bananas

This order came with a disclaimer about the greenness of the bananas. They suggested we leave them out at room temperature for a few days so they ripen up. Personally, I like my bananas a little green!

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2 Roma tomatoes

These look much prettier than the ones we got last week!

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1 green bell pepper (U.S.A.)

Try to ignore the fact that this pepper is not in focus.

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1 green onions bunch

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1 green kale bunch (U.S.A.)

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2 large sweet potatoes (U.S.A)

When they say large, they MEAN large!

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1lb turnips from Rachel’s Garden

Door to Door qualifies Rachel’s Garden as local, but sadly I couldn’t find their website!

DSC_00111 russet potato (plus one bonus potato!) from Strohauer Farms (Colorado)

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2 Fuji apples from Stemilt Growers (Washington state)

DSC_00132 small apple (Asian) pears (U.S.A.)

This is the first time I have ever encountered these types of pears. At first, I was looking in the box thinking, “didn’t I order pears? Are these more bonus apples?” But no. They’re pears.

DSC_00141 small avocado

I’ve got a few ideas about what I’ll be making with this week’s order. This sweet potato Chipotle soup will make good use of the yams and avocado. My favorite way to make turnips is to roast them with potatoes, but I may have to go to the store for some mushrooms to make my favorite mushroom gravy to go with.

What would you make with these ingredients?

First Floor Preview

After a busy weekend, I didn’t have much time to write up a post. I hope you will be satisfied with a sneak peak of the way our first floor looks now that we live here.

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Keep coming back for more posts this week, including tours of the first floor, details about what the heck is going on with our kitchen ceiling, a price comparison between Door to Door Organics and Trader Joe’s, and of course, this week’s box!

What did you do this weekend? Lots of work or lots of play? How are you celebrating the most wonderful season of autumn?

Handmade Gowns for Our Wedding Day

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I started my dress search pretty much immediately after we got engaged. My maid of honor set up appointments at several bridal salons in the area, and with no budget or preferences in mind, we went out and tried on everything the world had to offer.

I tried on many lovely dresses, but didn’t fall in love with any of them. I would like one element of this one, a feature on that one, etc. Then, as I started seeing them in bridal magazines, I realized how uncomfortable I would be knowing that my dress could someday be considered fad-ish, dated, or the “it” dress for 2013. Coupled with the fact that I had a tight budget, I realized that I would have to go custom to get what I needed.

When I first heard about Janay A Handmade, I was sure she would be out of my price range. She specializes in eco-friendly fabrics and her dresses are stunning. Finally I decided that it couldn’t hurt to ask. I came to Janay with my budget and to my delight she told me that she could work with it!

Beyond beautiful dresses and a green initiative, Janay is amazing because she works with you every step of the way to ensure your dress is exactly what you want. She was overseas when I contacted her, so we had our first meeting via Skype. I sent her a link to my Pinterest wedding gown board and we talked about what I wanted. She was drawing while we talked, and making changes as I requested them.

Initial Sketch for Lydia by Janay A

Afterwards she sent me an invoice and description. Initially, we planned on organic cotton for the entire thing, but after seeing the fabric in person I felt it wasn’t quite what I wanted. We ended up deciding on organic hemp silk and champagne tulle.

Lydia Sketch with Veil Janay A

Janay’s description:

Lydia’s gown is vintage inspired and elegant. It is created in champagne
tulle over silk/hemp fabric (satin side out).
The bodice of the gown features a wide-set sweetheart neckline that leads
into semi-sheer tulle rouched straps/mini cap sleeves. The bodice drapes
slightly over the belt, with a fitted and structured inner lining for support. A
thin sash accents the smallest part of the waist (sash material tbd)
The back of the gown is cut into a dramatic low V, ending a few inches
above the natural waistline, and has an invisible back zipper. The skirt falls
straight away from the body into a softly flared A-line, and drapes from the
waistband with small pleats (located in side-font and back-center) adding
vertical design lines to elongate the body. Triangle shaped godet inserts of
tulle fabric (two in front and one in back) add more interest to the hemline.
Train of the gown is approximately 1.5 ft in length at the center back, and is
in silk/hemp with an overhang of tulle.
The gown’s skirt has an optional hidden custom dyed tulle underskirt to
add flair and body to the gown (fullness and color tbd at or before first
fitting). Gown is constructed to include boning and bust cups for support. Fully
lined with soft organic cotton. All alterations included.
Includes a floor length veil.

We had multiple fittings throughout the process, making adjustments here and there along the way.

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Marguerite was very excited to be Maid of Honor.

Marguerite was very excited to be Maid of Honor.

Prior to contacting Janay, I had already chosen bridesmaids dresses. They were lovely, but after designing my dress with Janay, I was afraid that they wouldn’t work together because of the different fabrics. I asked Janay if she could make custom bridesmaids dresses for the same price as the ready-made ones I had chosen, and to my delight she said she could. She came up with custom designs for each girl based on what would look best with their body type. I chose pink for their colors and the same champagne tulle overlay that my dress had to tie them together.

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There were times when I was nervous. A dress that isn’t completely made can look a little funny. But when it was done, it was perfect!

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IMG_2896 copyI adored all of the custom elements.

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The veil Janay made had Swarovski crystals added to give it a little bit of extra sparkle.

IMG_2705My maids looked stunning in dresses made just for them.

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The champagne tulle had the glowy effect I wanted that was beautiful in the evening light.

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When we stood all together, it was obvious that these dresses were made to go together.

IMG_3007Ultimately, the most important test was whether they were danceable. Clearly, they were.

And a good time was had by all.